Being vegan is much easier now than it was just ten years ago. Ten years ago I barely knew how to cook, didn’t know any other vegans, and although I lived near a health food store in Baltimore, I didn’t really know what to do with the stuff I found there. I don’t think food blogs even existed. The internet has been a boon to vegans since then, though: not only are the online resources for vegans themselves immense, but a lot of people who might otherwise never have come across the concept of veganism are exposed to it online, which helps greatly when I, as a vegan, am later exposed to those people. Ten years ago when I told people I was vegan, the response I most often received was, “What’s a vegan?” (followed by an astonished, “But what DO you eat?”) Now I can go into a restaurant and ask if a particular dish is vegan and get an answer – without a puzzled look. A lot of restaurants use the term “vegan” right on their menus these days!
Back in the dark days of my early veganism, the first cookbook I bought was Simply Heavenly!.
As you can see, my copy of this book has been seriously abused. Entire sections of it have come unattached from the spine and there are food and water stains throughout. In particular, the “Dairy Substitutes” chapter is completely removable from the rest of the book due to being opened to that part so frequently, and is also caked in lord only knows what. Although I’ve gone on to purchase countless other vegan cookbooks, I don’t know what my life would have been like if Abbott Burke hadn’t told me early on how to make several varieties of “cheez”, seitan to taste like every meat imaginable, and everything else you can imagine – 1,400 recipes in all. Along the way, I learned to cook. I still consider myself a novice cook, but I’ve certainly progressed from the Spaghetti-Os and cheese sandwiches of my pre-vegan days.
Unfortunately Simply Heavenly! is long out of print – and used copies go for a pretty penny – which is why I will be sharing the following recipe with you. This “cheez” will be used in another recipe I will be providing later today or tomorrow, but I’ll give it its own post. The text below is from the cookbook.
Pimiento Cheez 2
This Cheez should not be grainy from the ground (blended) cashews. If this happens to yours, then you did not blend long enough or your blender lacks the power to do the job. We use a Vita-Mix, and it works perfectly. (Renae’s note: I use a Sumeet Asia Kitchen Machine, my undying love for which I’ll be discussing at some point.)
1/4 cup agar
1 cup water
3/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup pimientos
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
dash garlic powder
dash dill seed
1/2 tsp corn oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Soak the agar in water about 5 minutes …
… and boil gently until clear.
Not yet clear
Place the other ingredients, except the oil and lemon juice, in a blender …
… with the agar and whirl. Slowly add the oil. Add the lemon juice last.
Pour immediately into a mold and set in the refrigerator to cool.
The cookbook doesn’t provide an estimate of how long it will take to firm up, but it doesn’t take long, perhaps as little as 15 minutes. Mine doesn’t look too pretty unmolded because I was planning to just shred it up anyway, so I wasn’t too careful about smoothing it out.
You know it’s good because Tigger only sits on cookbooks of which he approves!
(That’s a total lie. Tigger is completely non-discerning about he sits on.)