The trouble with cheeze + chilled tomato and avocado soup

I bought Miyoko Schinner’s book Artisan Vegan Cheese, because I’d heard SO much about it.  I know it’s a fairly well respected book about vegan cheese-making and I thought I wanted to add it to my repertoire.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I love a challenge, I, obviously, love making things from scratch, particularly things people don’t usually make from scratch.  I understood patience was necessary in vegan cheese-making, and I’ve got lots of that, so I thought I’d try it.

Well, the first hiccup and a half was gathering the odd ingredients to begin.  Ms. Schinner gives a recipe for rejuvelac in the book, but the whole sprouting thing, washing the grains, waiting the right amount of time, blah blah blah, just seemed a little annoying and tricky, and I knew I could buy it, so I went to Whole Foods and looked for it.  Yeah, no.  I had to order it.  Fine.  I did.  And it was cheap, for once.  Fine.  That was the half hiccup.  The whole hiccup was carageenan.  In the chapter on melting cheese, Ms. Schinner says that you must use carageenan – and not agar – because that’s the key in getting a melty consistency.  Well, not only did Whole Foods not carry it, the grocery manager told me that there have been studies pointing to bad things coming from carageenan.  He told me to look into it myself.  I did.  Okay, then.  We’re going without carageenan.  And without melty cheeze.

My client had asked for a pasta dish with cheeze sauce (she actually used an “s”, not a “z” in her spelling) and cremini mushrooms.  Ms. Schinner actually featured a recipe for fettucine alfredo with gruyere and mushrooms.  Excellent!  That would be the one.  Also, I came into about 4 lbs of heirloom tomatoes that were unusually delicious, so I decided to try Ms. Schinner’s recipe for fresh, buffalo-style mozzarella, so I could make a nice caprese salad.  In the end, the gruyere tasted okay (sorry, I remember very well what *real* gruyere tastes like – and it is AWESOME), but the pasta came out meh.  It was fine.  In my cooking, I generally strive for better than *fine.*  The mozzarella was an entirely different story.  It TOTALLY didn’t do at all what she said it was supposed to do.  Instead of puffy white clouds of mozzarella floating in brine, I got globs of *solids* floating in milky liquid.  Ewww.  Again, it tasted okay.  Not worth the trouble.

I did end up using the *globs of solids* in a recipe for my clients in place of sour cream (I’ll be sharing below), then drained the milky white brine and globs in a fine mesh sieve, and kept the solids to use as cream cheese on my home-made bagels.  For lunch today, I had a home-made bagel, fresh-mozzarella-cum-cream-cheese, slices of heirloom tomatoes, diced cucumber, and a pinch of kosher salt AND IT WAS AWESOME.  So, there’s my bright side.

Chilled tomato and avocado soup (adapted from a recipe from Sunset magazine)

  • 2 lbs ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar, divided
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 firm but ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and chopped
  • 1 cup veg stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh vegan mozzarella (or plain coconut milk yogurt)
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 3 tbsp minced shallots
  • 1 tsp fresh minced tarragon

Puree tomatoes in a blender.  Add 3 tbsp champagne vinegar and salt to taste.  Transfer to another container and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Clean out the blender.  Add the avocados, veg stock, mozzarella (or yogurt), and lime juice, and puree.  Add salt to taste.  Transfer to another container and refrigerate for an hour.  Place the cucumber, shallots, and tarragon in a small container, top with last tablespoon of champagne vinegar, mix well, and chill for about a half hour.  To serve, pour a layer of avocado puree into a glass bowl or glass, top with the tomato soup, and then sprinkle the condiment on top.

Cool and delicious.  Enjoy!



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