In my other life, as the editor of two leading journals for chemical and structural biology (I know, sounds intimidating!), I once used Caprese Salad – tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella – as an example of how simple is incredibly powerful, beautiful and irresistible, in an emphatic attempt to convince scientists to implement principles of simplicity when writing their scientific papers.
Here, my interests are purely culinary as I set out to recreate the Caprese salad out of plant based ingredients only. I started from a batch of vegan fresh mozzarella, following a recipe developed by Jules Aron and included in her “Vegan Cheese: Simple, Delicious, Plant-Based Recipes” book.
The path to fabulous vegan fresh mozzarella is long and slippery- meaning that it will take you about two to three days to have ready to eat batch of cheese on your hands, and there are few places along the way where a little mistake can derail your cheese making process. Having said that, I found Jules’s recipe to be clear and helpful, and the final result AMAZING!
I made only some minor adjustments to the recipe, as I used cashew yogurt for fermentation stage of the mozzarella, and agar powder and tapioca starch to firm it up – Jules recommends Kappa carrageenan powder and tapioca flour (which I think is the same thing as tapioca starch but it’s worth mentioning as a point of difference)!
The process starts, as many vegan cheeses do, by soaking some nuts. I usually cover the nuts, in this case cashews, with water and leave them in the fridge overnight. The next step for this cheese is blending the well soaked cashews, that have been drained and rinsed, with some almond milk or water until nice and smooth – I used almond milk.
Then, you add yogurt – here I used an amazing Cashew Yogurt by Forager – cover with cheese cloth and leave on the kitchen counter for a day or so. Make sure that your yogurt contains live cultures as you want the bacteria to start the process of fermentation and acidification, yielding a nice, subtly tangy flavor.
The penultimate step is adding the thickener to the cheese mix, cooking it until it starts to thicken to a consistency of very thick oatmeal, porridge or polenta.
While the cheese was cooking, with frequent stirring, I made the brine. I used tap water and ice cubes, plus a tablespoon of plain kitchen salt since that’s what I had handy, and mixed it all until salt was fully dissolved.
Once the cheese was cooked, I used my measuring spoon (tablespoon size) to measure out cheese balls, formed a bit with hand – watch out here as it may be hot, so you can form the balls using two spoons at the same time. Dump the balls into ice/water/salt mixture, cover with cheese cloth and leave in the fridge overnight. Jules recommends at least 4 hours, so I just left my fresh mozzarella cheese balls to rest until the next day.
Waiting wasn’t easy but it was worth it!!! I got some fresh baguette, fresh basil, a ripe tomato, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and my homemade vegan fresh mozzarella, and made myself a phenomenal sandwich for lunch.
I transferred the fresh mozzarella with the brine and all into a container with a tight lid, and stored it in the refrigerator. It lasted for about one week, at which point it was all gone!!! I will be making some more soon, but next one from Jules’s book I want to try is an almond-based baked feta!!!
Since this post is all about another person’s recipe, I am not sharing the notes, but encourage you to go visit Jules’s site, and get her book or better still borrow it from your local public library, which is what I did. I am happy to share what my Caprese Salad in a Sandwich looked like – it’s a real feast for your eyes!!!
Copyright ©Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017