Tuesday, January 24, 2012

(not) Nacho Cheese Sauce

Nachos are one of those things that I think I cannot live without.  Saturdays and nachos seem to go hand in hand - easy to make and everyone loves them.  Yet, they make me feel lousy afterwards, almost every time.  It's mostly the dairy that is bothersome to me, but pigging out on a pile of tortilla chips can't be so good, either.  I know, portion control matters, but with salty, crispy chips, it's like asking an alcoholic to have just one sip when a tray of cheery martinis is made available.

Recently I Googled, "raw vegan nacho cheese" and came up with a ton of great recipes.  This is the one I chose because I had all the ingredients on hand.  I've altered it a bit to suit my taste and each batch turns out a little different based on what seasonings I play around with.  The fun part, this is one of those really good Raw vegan recipes that most people will eat up without caring a fig whether it is dairy free, raw, vegan or whatever.  I don't have to explain myself when I serve it - just whip it up and watch it disappear.

Here is the basic recipe:

IMG_0557 by dominique ap

This is taken from notes from my iPhone.  I copy all my favorite recipes into there because I move frequently from home to farm to friends' homes, etc and I always want my best recipes at hand.  It also makes it so easy to share.  Whenever I've tried to make from memory, disaster occurs and then I mourn the loss of those fresh, (sometimes expensive) beautiful ingredients.

A few of my fussy notes:  About 2 hours beforehand I'll soak the cashews in water.  I think it can be done on the fly but the results won't be nearly as creamy.  These babies seem to sprout fast, so if I've soaked them, but don't use them, I pour off the water and refrigerate in a sealed container.

I've always used the entire pepper which will typically yield more than 1/2 cup.  I love the flavor and it gives a great color to the sauce.

With the lemon juice, I stick to the measured amount.  When I've used too much, I'm always unhappy with the result.  Always use a fresh lemon versus bottled lemon juice - such a difference in flavor.  I'm now in the habit of keeping a bag in the fridge at all times.

Why onion powder and not fresh onions?  I haven't tried it the other way.  Onions are one of those things that I really don't like raw no matter how I mix or dehydrate them, so I'm grateful for the suggested powder.

I can't really tell what the turmeric adds except the color looks very "cheesy".  The taste, not so much. 

What I do add to the recipe:  A good dose of chili powder (tsp, tbsp? depending on my mood) and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Here are the ingredients ready at the start:
Untitled by dominique ap

I start with the peppers because they blend so easily and help the cashews along.   Note the Vitamix blender.  I love, love, love my Vitamix and makes a huge difference in how creamy this recipe can get.  However, I made this at my sister's home with a regular blender and the result was still great.  I may have stressed her machine a bit, though.  If not a Vitamix, add a little more water to help with blending.  The result will be a little thinner in consistency, but still delicious.  Now, recently I went to a good Mediterranean restaurant that served up a similar dip that was a little chunky, like a good pesto sauce, which made me think this might work in a food processor as well.  I'm going to try that next week.

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I have to include my juicer because it's shape and color is so cheery.  I use a reamer often, as well, but then have to deal with the seeds in the juice.  Just one tiny step, to juice fresh, makes such a big difference in flavor.

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As it appears in the blender before firing it up.  Oh, I should mention that if you're not using a Vitamix, chop your veggies smaller.  Be kind to your machine.  Notice my little punk rocker?  He cleans the Vitamix blades - they're too sharp to want to get my fingers even close.

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Yum, all blended and creamy.

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Here it is again.  It's always a challenge to get the thicker, creamy sauces out of the Vitamix.  I've got small spatulas, chopsticks, long handled spoons (bad, bad, bad for the blades).  I get the most that I can get out of it and then lick the rest as if I were three and my mom just gave me the bowl of remaining cake batter - that is before we were all terrified of salmonella.  No salmonella in this stuff, though.  Just nuts, veggies and spices.

Untitled by dominique ap

I serve this with a crisp flax bread that I make weekly and a bowl of fresh pico de gallo and maybe some sliced olives.  I'll work up those posts in the future.  In the interim, serve up with some crisp romaine like I did here, or a platter of colorful crudité.

My best variation to this recipe, yet, happened when I made this for my lovely sister-in-law, Mara, and her husband, Danny.  We had no chili or cayenne for seasoning, so I dropped in a packet of tandoori seasoning mix.  It was amazing, but obviously not nacho cheesy.  I've got to get up to Devon Avenue in Chicago with someone who really knows their Indian cuisine to fill out my spice drawer.

Except for the soak time, this whips up in less than ten minutes.  Really.  I'm not fast, just ask my mom.

Eat well.

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