Monday, October 15, 2012

Swiss Chard Pie and Making Vegan Cheese

I have written about this recipe I think twice now and finally, yesterday, I made it! I have also made some tweaks to the recipe from Colleen Patrick Goudreau now that I have actually tasted it and now I can post it too.

One of the reasons why I wanted to make this recipe so badly and why I had held off for so long was that it involved homemade vegan cheese. I don’t know why it scared me, but it did. In fact over the past couple years, I have been scared off by a lot of vegan ingredients, recipes and techniques. Vegan cheese freaked me out for a few reasons. Before going vegan, I was a self-proclaimed cheese addict. To me, adding cheese was how you could make any recipe better. It added flavor, fat and salt. It was my biggest fear when I went vegan… how do I replace cheese. The first couple months, I actually stayed away from anything I would normally add it to. I basically lived on Asian-themed dishes for a long time.

I attempted a couple times to make a vegan mac and cheese and while I guess it was a success, it never really killed the craving that still lingers inside of me. Also, anytime that I have faltered off the vegan wagon (yes, I have and one day I’ll even share more perhaps), cheese was what I went to.

The thought of making my own cheese seemed a little daunting. It couldn’t be easy to do, could it? Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s recipe is similar to many other cookbook authors. It is a combination of vegan milk, nutritional yeast flakes, something tangy (lemon in this case) and salt. A lot of vegans call this nooch and basically the end result is a cheese-y sauce.

One thing I will say for this recipe is that it definitely is my favourite one so far. Something about it seemed to hit on the underlying craving much better than ones I have attempted in the past. It has a good hit of salt and even though I don’t think it tastes like cheese, it doesn’t taste like an odd vegan concoction either. This recipe even has a modification to make it a slice-able cheese. I am very curious about that one and my next grocery run will have to involve some agar agar so I can try it.

When I made the Swiss Chard, I stuck to the original recipe, but I have now tasted, made notes and have a few changes that I would make to make this dish even better for me. Think of it like a crustless quiche or strata. The egginess comes for tofu and I am not totally sure that is my favourite way to go. You could nix the tofu and use white beans instead. Here is a link to a non-tofu quiche I made once and it have great results.

Swiss Chard Pie
* Serves 6, about 2 hours to make total if the cheese isn’t prepped.
  • 1 Yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch of Swiss Chard (Or spinach)
  • 1 block of pressed, firm tofu
  • 1 Tbsp Tumeric
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of cheese sauce (Your choice of type)
  • 2-3 Tbsp Bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Basil
  • Sundried Tomato

First thing you will need to do, if you haven’t is make cheese sauce. I don’t know if there is a store-bought version out there, but you could use anything that is a cheese-whiz consistency. To make a basic cheese sauce, bring 1 cup of milk, 1 Tbsp of arrow root (or corn starch), ¼ cup nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and a Tbsp of lemon to boil. Simmer it for 10 minutes or so until it becomes thick. While cooking get cashews or another nut and process to a fine grind. Add the liquid to the nuts while it is processing. Once fully combined, chill it for an hour or so.
Cooking the cheese sauce - kind of like making a white sauce

Grinding the cashews - this makes the right consistency


and done.. I realize this does nto look like traditional cheese.. but it tastes good.

Now to make the pie – pre-heat the oven to 375 F. In a large pan or wok, sauté onion and garlic in a bit of oil for 5-7 minutes. Add in the greens and cook them until they are wilted down. While this is cooking, put the block of tofu into a food processor and blend until it is a good mash. Add the turmeric, nutmeg and salt pepper and pulse to combine. Add this to a large bowl and stir in the vegetables.

Sauteing the vegetables

Now stir in the cheese sauce and stir until it is well-combined. In a small bowl add the bread crumbs, paprika and more salt and pepper.

Grease a 9” pie pan and add this mixture to the pan. Add the filling mix to the pan and top with the bread crumb mixture. Finally add the basil and the sundried tomato.
Ready to bake! Can pre-make this and keep it in the fridge until you're ready.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until it is golden brown.

This was relatively easy to make when I had the cheese sauce ready to go. It does make for a lot of dirty dishes, but sometimes there is no way to avoid this. I found the original recipe I used was good, but a little bland overall. The bread crumbs and sundried tomato help add some texture that that this recipe really needed.
And.. ready. Serve with veggies

One thing I really did like about this one was that it really didn't need a crust. I thought that would be the ultimate downfall of this recipe, but the bottom and sides of the pie actually crisp up enough that it is pretty tasty. You could definitely use a crust with this too. Store-bought vegan pie crusts are not easy to find in my area. I have made them before, but still working on perfecting that. This is a nice way to have a quiche without the hassle of making pie crust. That I definitely liked!

Clever Rabbit... I love you!

To finish this meal off, I had an awesome chocolate cake that I bought at Clever Rabbit. It was the first time I had seen a cake there, so I really could not pass it up. Have to say, it was delicious. I am so appreciative of having somewhere I can buy a treat once in a while. If it wasn't for the Clever Rabbit, I would have been baking an entire cake at home… resulting in me eating an entire cake at home. I have no will power when it comes to these things. 

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