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Quick dinner of broccoli and chickpeas with polenta

14 Nov

Sometimes I struggle with quick-and-easy weeknight dinners that are reasonably balanced, but I was very pleased with how this turned out, mostly using things I had on hand. The recipes below will make enough for two servings.

The spice sprinkle on the polenta is something I do variations on now and then. It’s a nice way to add color, flavor and texture (and some beneficial fats), especially when the fresh herbs you might otherwise use for a tasty garnish are harder to come by and pine nuts are running $30 a pound at the co-op. Use any kind of nut or seed you want, pairing its flavor with herbs and spices of your choosing to complement the dish you’re serving it with.

Roasted Broccoli and Chickpeas

Medium head broccoli, cut into florets
1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about one can)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked if not oil-packed, and chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. fresh lemon zest
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
pinch salt
pinch or more red chili flakes

Toss everything together and bake 15-20 minutes at 400, stirring once, until broccoli is crisp-tender and starts to brown on the ends. While this is baking, make the polenta.

Polenta

1/4 cup dry polenta
1 cup water
1/8 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly once it starts to simmer (I like to use a whisk to minimize lumping). Polenta is done when thick. Pour directly onto serving plates or onto an oiled pan to cool and cut before serving.

Spice Sprinkle

2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds, raw or toasted
1/8 tsp. garlic powder or granulated garlic
1/8 tsp. smoked paprika
Pinch dried whole rosemary
Small pinch fennel seeds
A few grinds of fresh black pepper and/or red chili flakes
Pinch salt

Pulse everything in a mini food processor (I use the one that came with my immersion blender, similar to this) until coarsely ground. Make in small batches and use quickly so the flavors and beneficial oils stay fresh.

Autumn salad with apple and avocado

6 Nov

After a weekend of super-delicious food that was not super-big on fresh fruits or vegetables, I decided tonight called for a dinner centered around salad.

Salad:

Red leaf lettuce
1/4 Honeycrisp apple, cored and thinly sliced
Several shavings from a small bulb of fennel
Several very thin slices of white onion
1/4 avocado, sliced
Handful raw pecans, coarsely chopped

Dressing:

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2-3 Tbsp. canola oil
1-2 Tbsp. agave nectar, to taste
1/2 tsp. finely ground golden flax seed (optional; you can also use some flax or nut oil with the canola)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground fennel seed
1/8 tsp. powdered ginger (or use fresh if you have it)
1/8 tsp. white pepper, ground
pinch salt

Whiz the dressing ingredients together in a mini blender/food processor until homogenized, and taste to adjust for sweetness and spices.

Obviously, salads are the ultimate improv food, so change this up any way you like. Try adding or substituting raw or cooked beets, different nuts, pears or dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds or orange segments, different greens for the lettuce, etc. A little lemon juice or zest in the dressing would be great.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

29 Oct

A couple weeks ago PCC tweeted this recipe from the Detroit Free Press for “Enchiladas Calabaza.”

Here’s my tweaked and veganized version of it, which turned out great. It made a lot (the original recipe calls for WAY more squash than you’ll need. I’ve scaled it down here, but you’ll still have enough for lots of servings). Feed a crowd or freeze individual portions for quick lunches and dinners later. I used canned sauce but made the tortillas from scratch. The recipe could easily be gluten- and soy-free with the right sauce.

Makes: about 22 small enchiladas

Filling

3-4 pounds butternut or favorite winter squash
3-4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 cups diced onions
1 cup sliced green onions
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt

Cashew Cream
(I have always hated cream cheese, so this is the sub I used rather than a more direct vegan replacement for the cream cheese. If you like it, feel free to use 8 oz. of your favorite brand of vegan cream cheese instead.)

1 cup raw cashew pieces
1 cup cold water
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt, or more to taste

22 corn tortillas (4 to 5 inches in diameter)

14 oz. can red enchilada sauce (Be sure to check ingredients, as not all commercial sauces are vegetarian. This amount made for minimally saucy enchiladas, which I liked because it let the flavor of the filling really come through. If you want them saucier, you might want as much as double this.)

Equivalent of one package Daiya cheese (we used a combination of cheddar and pepperjack flavors.)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the filling: Peel and seed the squash. Cut squash flesh into 1-inch pieces and spread the pieces out on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil and toss to coat.

Bake about 30-45 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from oven (leave oven on) and transfer squash to a large bowl. Mash up the squash a bit, then set aside.


Roasted squash cubes, ready to go. In the background, purple cauliflower for a side and chopped green onion for filling and garnish.

While the squash is roasting, blend the cashew cream ingredients together into a smooth, thick cream. You can save a bit of loud blending time by doing a quick grind first for 30 seconds or so, then letting the tiny cashew pieces soak in the liquid until the squash is nearly ready before blending the rest of the way to a silky consistency.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sauté the diced onions. When soft and nearly transparent, add the spices and sauté for 5 more minutes.


Onions and spices, smelling fantastic.

Remove from the heat and stir in the mashed squash, green onions (reserve a few for garnish), and cashew cream.


Filling is a just few stirs away from being ready to go.

Pour a thin layer of sauce in a large, shallow baking pan (a lasagna pan works well). Freshly made tortillas will be ready to go, but if using store-bought ones, steam or microwave them to soften so they don’t split when you roll them. Place about 1/4 cup (more if using larger tortillas) of squash filling in the center of the tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in a lightly oiled baking dish.

Pour sauce evenly over enchiladas. Bake 30 minutes, until just starting to brown on the edges. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake ten more minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and serve.

We went a little crazy with the sides, but they were all great! From the left, there’s purple-cabbage slaw with sriracha-Vegenaise dressing and orange slices, garlicky black beans spiked with Flameboy XXX hot sauce (which has a nice smoky note in it) and topped with counter-ripened tomato (amazingly juicy and flavorful!) from a neighbor’s yard, and roasted cauliflower with chipotle-flavor Yumm! sauce. Both sauces are made by Oregon companies and highly recommended if you can get them!

Chipotle-Peach Barbecue Sauce

7 Oct

Last summer, just as I maxed out my patience and storage space for canning, I threw together some produce I had for dinner into a chunky peach barbecue sauce, baked onto tempeh. It was so good I vowed to make and preserve a regular batch this season, and last week I did just that. The recipe below shows what I put in. Adjust to your taste–and what you have on hand–but this should point you in the right direction.


Ingredients mostly ready to go. Because I was making the recipe up as I went, not everything here made it in, and the agave nectar isn’t pictured. But you get the idea.

Chipotle-Peach Barbecue Sauce

1-2 Tbsp. oil, optional
2-1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (one large onion)
1/4 cup chopped garlic (I used four huge cloves of my favorite garlic.)
1 Tbsp. cumin, whole
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard seed, whole
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns, whole
1 tsp. smoked paprika (use more to sub for chipotle if you want smoky flavor without heat)
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
3 canned chipotles in adobo sauce, adjusted to taste (I’m a spice wuss, so I seeded my peppers and wound up with roughly a 2.5- or 3-star sauce on a scale to 5.)
2 tsp. celery salt
5 lbs. peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes (using canned tomatoes would save a lot of time and often a bit of money, unless of course you grow your own tomatoes or have access to others for free or cheap)
2 lbs. peaches, (be sure to get freestone ones, or you’ll go nuts getting the pits out) peeled and chopped
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup or more roasted sweet peppers, any color, seeded and chopped (I used these from a jar)
3/4 cup agave nectar
3 Tbsp. molasses

Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large, nonreactive pot (I used my 7-quart enameled Dutch oven). Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, translucent, and just starting to color. Meanwhile, grind the whole spices finely in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. When the onions are ready, add the garlic and spices (including the powdered ones and the whole chipotles) to the pot. Cook another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, to bring out the flavor in the spices. If you skip the oil and saute the onion and garlic in water instead, dry-toast the spices in a small pan before grinding and adding to the recipe to maximize their flavor.


Onions, garlic and spices. My kitchen smelled so good at this point!


Skinned yellow peaches, ready for pitting and chopping.


I decided to go for it and use only fresh Romas from Alvarez Farm, skipping the fire-roasted canned tomatoes I’d gotten as a back-up. Skinning and seeding tomatoes takes a fair bit of commotion and time. You can do whatever you’d prefer.

Add the tomatoes, peaches, roasted sweet peppers, vinegar, molasses and most of the agave nectar. Hold back maybe 1/4 cup in case you want your sauce less sweet than mine.


Getting saucy. Everything’s in; it’s time to cook, cook and cook some more.

Now is when you realize, if you’re me, that you should have started this process sooner. Or taken shortcuts. Or done this project on a Saturday. All that delicious juice from the tomatoes and peaches needs to be cooked down so the sauce is nice and thick. Keeping the heat relatively low to avoid scorching the bottom, and stirring now and then, cook for a couple hours, until most of the liquid is cooked down. At some point you need to blend the mixture (unless you want chunky sauce, which is tasty also), and it’s best to do this as late in the process as possible to keep the spattering to a minimum. If you have a spatter guard, you should use it with this recipe. If you don’t, this recipe will inspire you to buy one, and meanwhile you want to wear an oven mitt and long sleeves when stirring the pot.

When you think the sauce is about as thick as you want it (probably in 2-3 hours), purée it with an immersion blender or by pouring batches into an upright blender, being careful to vent the top of the blender jar to allow steam to escape when you run it. Once blended, check and adjust seasonings, and check the consistency. If needed, cook a bit more to achieve a nice, thick sauce that holds its shape at least a bit when you stir it.


If it hadn’t already been so far past bedtime, I would have cooked this a bit longer and blended it a bit smoother before processing.

While the sauce is cooking down, prepare your canning jars. This batch made just over 12 half-pints. Sterilize the jars, and heat the lids in a pan of water. Also bring your canner of water to a boil near the end of the cooking. When the sauce is ready, fill the jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.


Almost ready to process.

Clean rims and threads, add lids, and screw on rings finger-tight. Process 20 minutes; once cooled, check for good seals and remove rings for storage.


A dozen jars of spicy, tangy, sweet goodness, ready for grilling or for gifts.

Autumn White Lasagna

2 Oct

What with all the autumnal weather and winter squashes on sale, it seems high time for lots of warm, filling, comforting food. I said “acorn squash”; Jud said “lasagna?” and we were off.


Served with Jud’s signature roasted-beet salad with fresh dill.

The lasagna turned out great, and it’s a recipe that would be easy to make soy free and/or commercial-cheez free, if needed or preferred.

Autumn White Lasagna
Makes a 9″x13″ pan, easily serving six

12 lasagna noodles, precooked (I wouldn’t recommend the no-boil ones for this recipe since the dish might turn out dry. Bonus if you can find whole-wheat noodles)
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. oil
pinch of salt
2-1/2 lbs. winter squash, peeled and roasted until very tender (cutting in pieces first will speed up this process and help avoid excess moisture in the finished product, but if you have precooked squash or want to just throw the thing whole into the oven to peel and seed once cooked, go for it.)
1 lb. chopped frozen spinach, thawed
1/3 cup Earth Balance or oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh garlic
1/2 cup flour
3 cups unsweetened soy or other milk (important to use unsweetened here, since the other ingredients are already fairly sweet)
dash nutmeg
salt to taste
1 tsp. dried whole thyme (or rubbed sage, or a mixture of two)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1-2 tsp. garlic salt
2 Tbsp. lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 package Daiya mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400. Combine cauliflower, onion and oil and pinch of salt in a shallow pan and roast until tender and starting to brown. We roasted the squash at the same time. Stir once or twice during cooking. When done, reduce oven temp to 350.

While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the béchamel sauce. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, sauté the garlic in the margarine or oil 1-2 minutes, not allowing the garlic to color. Add the flour and stir well, cooking mixture while stirring until the color deepens slightly to a light golden brown. Quickly whisk in the soy milk and continue whisking to smooth out any lumps while the sauce thickens. Add the nutmeg and a dash of salt, then check seasoning. Cook until sauce is the consistency of heavy cream.

When the squash is ready, mash it coarsely together with the spinach, thyme, pepper, garlic salt and lemon juice or vinegar. Check seasonings and adjust as needed.

To assemble, pour a couple tablespoons of béchamel into the bottom of the pan and spread thinly to coat. Lay down a layer of noodles (three fit perfectly for us, but trim noodles as needed to fit), then carefully spread on 1/3 of the squash mixture followed with 1/3 of the cauliflower and onions.

Top with 1/4 of the sauce, drizzled on as evenly as you can. Lightly sprinkle with 1/4 of the mozzarella.

Repeat with two more layers of noodles, vegetables, sauce and cheese. Top with a final layer of noodles, thinly coated with sauce and sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

Bake 45 minutes at 350, or until bubbling around all the edges and just starting to brown on top. A glass baking pan will make it easier to see when it’s done.


Rich, velvety, vegetable-filled lasagna.

Blackberry-apricot jam with ginger

26 Sep

The good news is that this is the best jam I’ve ever made (and right up there with the best I’ve eaten), and I’m going to tell you how to make it. The blackberry flavor is much more noticeable than the apricots, but you get beautifully varied color, complex flavor, and far fewer seeds than with straight-up blackberry jam. The crystallized ginger adds bright little bursts of flavor that contribute even more complexity and knocked this one out of the park for me.

The bad news is that it’s now past apricot season (at least in Seattle), so it might be hard to make with fresh ingredients as is. When I made this over the weekend with a friend, we used fruit I’d bought over a month ago and frozen. But I bet it would also be stellar with nectarines or peaches instead, and those are plentiful right now at farmers’ markets, along with enough blackberries to get you going. Truth be told, when we made this batch we used 1 cup peaches to 3 cups apricots since we had run through most of my apricots on the previous batch. I think any mixture or just one or the other would work great.

This recipe assumes basic familiarity with boiling-water canning. If you’ve never done this before, Canning Across America has a great page of resources to get you started.

Blackberry-apricot jam with ginger

4 cups pitted-and-quartered apricots, crushed to measure without air pockets (no need to peel apricots, but I would peel peaches or nectarines if using)
2 cups blackberries, likewise measured without air pockets
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 box Sure-Jell Pectin for Less or No Sugar Recipes (important to use this type, in the pink box, for this recipe)
3-4 Tbsp. minced crystallized ginger

Combine the fruit and lemon juice in a large, non-reactive pot (we used my 7-qt enameled Dutch oven; a 5-qt one would work fine also). In a small bowl, combine the pectin with 1/4 cup of the measured amount of sugar. Stir well to mix, and then add to the fruit. Over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, bring the mixture to a full, rolling boil (the box instructions define this as a boil that doesn’t stop while you’re stirring). While stirring, use the spoon to chop up any large pieces of apricot. Small chunks are good, but full quarters are more than you’ll want.

Once the fruit is at a full, rolling boil, add the remaining sugar and the ginger all at once, and stir well to combine. Return the mixture to a full, rolling boil, and time for exactly one minute at a boil. At that time, remove from heat and immediately pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ head space. Wipe any drips off the tops and sides of the jars, add lids and process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes.

We got just under 8-1/2 cups of jam from this recipe, packed in half-pint and half-cup jars. Note that you can’t reliably multiply jam recipes, so if you want more jam, repeat this process rather than multiplying ingredients.

Early-autumn dinner: Spaghetti squash with pesto and marinated tempeh

25 Sep

Despite today’s blustery, sometimes wet weather Jud and I had a great time spending all kinds of money with local farmers (and even a local vintner) at the Ballard Farmers Market. When the cash ran out, it was obviously time to cook and eat!

Here are basic outlines of recipes; just let me know if you want any more detail.

  • Roasted spaghetti squash topped with freshly made pesto. Instead of directly replacing the parmesan, I used two ordinary green olives (minus the pimento stuffers) per 1/4 pound of basil to add a little saltiness and tang. First time trying that, but I’d do it again!

  • Tempeh marinated in equal amounts red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and EVOO plus dab of Dijon, a pinch of salt and a pinch of dried rosemary and a couple good grinds of pepper. After marinating (about 45 minutes cut to half thickness before cutting triangles) it was baked at 350 about 30 minutes, turning once.

  • Roasted broccoli, tossed with just EVOO, salt and pepper and then roasted about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.

It all hit the spot after lots of delicious-but-greasy-and-starchy restaurant food this weekend, and the skies stayed clear long enough to enjoy it with sun on the stoop.

Cucumbers are here: Make these easy and delicious dill pickles!

16 Sep

Almost a year ago, my friend Chris gave me a jar of the best dill pickles I’ve ever eaten. So when he organized a pickle party this week for a bunch of us to make some for ourselves, I was all over it.

These are cold-pack pickles, meaning that you have to keep them in the refrigerator rather than being able to store them in a pantry before opening like canned ones. On the other hand, it means they’re faster to make, and they hold both color and texture better than heat-processed pickles. And you don’t have to fill your kitchen with vats of boiling liquids.

Did I mention they’re delicious? They have a smooth dill flavor, but it’s expertly balanced with garlic, some sweetness from the onions and peppers, and just a bit of spice (or a lot, if you prefer). And they’re beautifully crisp. You want to make–and eat–these pickles.

So here’s the scoop: The TNT wrote up a nice explanation and also illustrated instructions for the spicy dills and some bread-and-butter pickles.


Here’s our set-up, midway into making the spicy dills.

If you’re looking at the list of ingredients and feeling overwhelmed, note that Duris Cucumber Farm in Puyallup, where the recipes originate, will sell them all to you, in appropriate quantities for whatever size batch you want to make, so you don’t have to go all over assembling them yourself. On the other hand, the produce at the stand is not organic, so Chris bought just the cukes and seasonings there, and picked up the other vegetables at PCC. Including the price of new quart jars (about $2 each, so you could save quite a bit with reused jars), our cost came out around $5-$6 per jar with the mix of organic and conventional produce. You pick out your own cukes, graded by size, so you can make sure the ones you get suit your preference and aren’t too curved to pack efficiently into jars. It’s a good idea to get a few extras since you may overlook a soft spot or two that won’t make for good pickles.


Almost ready to pack in the cukes for spicy dill pickles


Spicy dills, ready to start curing in the fridge. These need 3-4 weeks (longer is better) to soak up flavors properly, and then are good for about a year.


We also made these bread-and-butter chips, which will be ready in just three days.

Duris Farm expects to have cucumbers through the first week of October (frost permitting), so find time to swing through Puyallup (or gather the ingredients elsewhere) and make yourself some of these delicious pickles.

Biking glorious Lopez Island–and eating vegan there

7 Sep

On Monday Jud and I headed to Lopez Island, one of the beautiful San Juans, to take advantage of the wonderful weather and try out the bike I’ve borrowed for a couple weeks (for the Hungry Taurus’ vegan bike tour of New Westminster, which I’m super excited about).

Lopez has a reputation for bike-friendliness, and it’s well earned. Unlike other islands in the San Juans, Lopez is relatively flat, and the few cars you’ll encounter are easily outnumbered by the bicyclists enjoying rolling farmland, stunning water views and even peeks at Mount Baker. Another reason to leave the car in Anacortes is to guarantee a spot on the ferry both coming and going, which can be very iffy in a car (ferry tickets are much cheaper without a vehicle, also–$31 for two adults with bikes vs. $49.25 for two in a car). Roughly following a loop mapped out in Biking Puget Sound: 50 Rides from Olympia to the San Juans, we spent the day developing a huge crush on Lopez.

Not knowing what kind of food offerings to expect, we packed along plenty of food. I whipped up a bean spread (1 Tbsp. garlic; 2 Tbsp. EVOO; 1 medium red pepper, roasted, seeded and diced; 1 chipotle in adobo, deseeded because I’m a spice wuss; 3 cups cooked cannellini beans; 2 tsp. cider vinegar; 1 tsp. ground cumin; 1/2 tsp. salt. Saute garlic and peppers; add remaining ingredients; process in food processor until spreadable, and check seasonings) and made sandwiches:

Other than the spread, I used zucchini marinated in garlicky vinaigrette before roasting, fresh basil leaves, romaine lettuce, and a schmear of garlic sauce instead of mayo.

I also grabbed a bunch of peaches on sale at Whole Foods, sliced them up and dehydrated them:

With some Trader Joe’s chocolate-chip cookies, our latest chocolate-bar obsession, and assorted nuts we were ready for an absolute food desert.

Instead, we found plenty of food in “the village” (the main commercial area on the island) and saved those sandwiches for later.

The Love Dog Cafe beckoned us with a large banner advertising vegetarian and vegan options. In we went. The prices on the menu were a little eyebrow-raising, but we reminded ourselves that island living ain’t cheap, and we were excited at the many options that were listed. The Old Bay Tofu Cakes immediately grabbed my eye, and Jud went straight for the Portabello burger (the menu online looks a little different from what we saw).

The tofu cakes were nicely presented with a delicious house-made sauce that mostly tasted of fresh red pepper, with a little sweetness and creaminess. The cakes themselves struck me as a little bland, but Jud liked them, and found the inclusion of nori to give them an authentic nod toward traditional crab cakes. For $14, though, they were really not much food. In most places, I would expect that serving as an appetizer rather than an entree.

Jud fared better with his burger (“A Portobello mushroom stuffed with soy based cream cheese, shallots, garlic, herbs and spices, drizzled with olive oil, and baked.”):

The sandwich was juicy, flavorful and satisfying, and the house-made ketchup was interesting and a good complement to the rest of the plate. Again, the $18 price seemed pretty hefty for a modest-sized plate of food, but we agreed we’d both go for it again.

After leaving the Love Dog we found two other spots of interest to vegans: Vortex Juice Bar and Cafe is just down the street and offers a variety of wraps and bowls in addition to juices. Food prices top out around $10 (unless you go crazy with add-ons), and my Lopez-native coworker attests that the food is good.

Right next to Vortex is Blossom Grocery, which is exactly the kind of cozy, co-op-style market you’d expect to find in a place like Lopez. It’s small and of course subject to island economics, but they make good use of their space, and this would be a great place to pick up things to fill out any gaps in your provisions for your time on the island.

Still not sold? Take a look at just a handful of scenes we rode through:


Views of Mount Baker along with the farmland


Miles of peaceful roads like this, plus some through shady woods and right along the coast.


Stunning coastline at Shark Reef Sanctuary


Mount Baker beckons you back to the mainland from the ferry.

Hold the cheese–and the cheez

30 Aug

When I first went vegan, I was living in Walla Walla. While a large local population of Seventh-Day Adventists made availability of vegan groceries better than it would have been in many similar towns, I can best describe the offerings of vegan cheese products in Walla Walla in 1995 as grim.

Thus, when I went vegan I went cold-turkey off cheese, which had been such a favorite food that a friend referred to me as “Cheese Girl,” and I’m sure I uttered that now-annoying refrain, “Oh, I could never be vegan. I love cheese too much!”

Vegan cheese has come a long way since the mid-90s, and Seattle probably has as many offerings of different types as you can find anywhere. But a funny thing happens when you go five years or so without eating any type of cheese: you kind of lose interest in it.

I do like pizza with Daiya, Follow Your Heart or Teese, and I love the vegan nachos at Bimbo’s, and an assortment of other uses of cheese-like fake cheese. But sometimes what I like even better is food that serves a similar purpose but doesn’t try to pretend that it’s dairy cheese.

Here are some favorites:

Homemade Parma: 2/3 cup walnuts or cashews, 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, 1/8 tsp. salt. Pulse in a mini chopper until the consistency shown. Dump generously on spaghetti as is, or combine one part sprinkle to two parts breadcrumbs for a delicious casserole topping.

Bechamel on pizza (in this case, with sauteed beet greens, caramelized onions and pecans). Be sure to use an unsweetened nondairy milk, and season with nutritional yeast, plenty of garlic and a bit of dry mustard.

And a couple favorite off-the-shelf products: Miso Mayo is fantastic on sandwiches, and gives you the salty/tangy/don’t-skimp-on-the-fat richness that cheese often provides. If you’re working with ingredients that would go well with Swiss or cheddar, give this a try! Similarly, Seattle’s own Karam’s Garlic Sauce (also known in my home as “liquid crack”) is phenomenal on anything Middle Eastern or Latin American, and frankly on most other things, too. It’s actually more like a sour cream than a cheese, but depending on what you want out of a cheese it might be just the thing. Looks like it’s only sold in the western US now, so Canadians will need to grab some while south of the border.

What do you use when you want something not-quite-like cheese?

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