I was in bed, shuffling around to get cozy under the duvet when I realized I forgot to do something important: share this recipe. True story. Writing a blog post isn’t something I should lose sleep over, I know. Time seems to be my nemesis lately, though. I feel like my internal clock fell behind along the way, and I can’t seem to catch up.
I’m hoping our trip to Cape Cod this weekend will rectify things a bit (a lot would be even better!). The salty, sweet air of the bay is already working its magic some 500 miles away, awakening a part of me. This will be my 20th summer out there. Twenty years. It may not sound like a big deal to anyone who grew up with annual vacations, or some sort of family rituals. I didn’t have any of that as a kid, so to have the pleasant predictability and be able to give our girls this consistency means so much.
In the next few days I deliver the first part of a new project I began a few weeks ago. I’m not really sure how much I can share about it, but to answer the pressing question: no, it’s not a new cookbook, not yet. I’ve been working on a proposal for the next book that I’m very excited about. I think this is a book you’ll all want, and one that’s not been done before, at least not with this creative AND useful spin. I’m hoping to address the last round of edits from my agent while on vacation, so this baby can finally get some wings and fly into the inboxes of potential editors.
But back to this project I’m in the midst of working on. It’s a recipe development project with a focus on dairy-free cooking. It’s like I’m alive again, so energized by doing what I do best—creating recipes that everyone can enjoy. I get annoyed when chefs complain about accommodating allergies and food sensitivities. Cooking professionally, especially when guests are plunking down money, shouldn’t be about the chef’s ego (I know, I’m a naive little one). I simply don’t understand that approach. Cooking comes from the heart for me, and I’m very emotionally invested in the kitchen.
I’ve been exploring recipes outside of the ones required for this project. Ricotta cheese crossed my mind last week. I wondered—could it be possible to create a dairy-free version that delivers the same delight as my tried and true, dairy-rich recipe?
I’m so happy to say the answer is yes. I rather surprised myself with this one. I went into the test kitchen very skeptical, a non-believer, just expecting I’d prove my hunch to be true. I even closed my eyes on first taste, and not in that “oh my gosh this is going to be so amazing” way of gently resting your eyelids together. I clenched my eyes closed, over the sink, fully expecting to be disappointed.
Well, that first spoonful, it made me moan. Yes, really. I might even go so far as to say this will be my go-to recipe when I want a quick homemade ricotta fix. No more keeping a close eye so a pot of milk doesn’t over boil (happens more often to me than I care to admit). Just soak some cashews for a few hours, and give ’em a whiz in the food processor with some water, lemon juice, oil, and a splash of agave. You can skip the agave if you want, but a smidge adds that subtle sweetness I’ve come to expect from the local milk and cream I normally use to make ricotta. Don’t skip the soaking part, though. Softening up the cashews in this way helps make them a creamier “curd” when processing them into the “cheese”
And on that note, it’s time for me to get some shut-eye. My work here is done, for now.
Five Years Ago: Freezer Preserved Tomatoes
Four Years Ago: Another Life is Possible
Three Years Ago: Watermelon Gazpacho
Two Years Ago: Easy Peach Jam
One Year Ago: Cantaloupe Sorbet
Homemade Vegan Ricotta Cheese
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
Music Pairing: One Foot by The Mynabirds
In case you’re curious why I call for filtered water here, it’s because I notice the tap water at my apartment in Maryland has a very chlorinated scent to it. I find that very off-putting, and use this kishu charcoal filter for our drinking water. If I were still in NYC, I’d use regular tap water with no worries about the taste (or safety).
Before you ask, I have no idea how this will hold up to cooking into a recipe (i.e. baked ziti, pizza, lasagna). I have a good feeling about it though, and will let you all know if, or when, I give it a try. Please let me know in the comments if you do, too.
1 cup cashews
1/3 cup filtered water
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Splash of agave (optional)
Add the cashews to a bowl, and cover with enough water to rise 1-inch above the cashews. Let them soak for at least 4 hours, or overnight (I found 6 hours to be just right, which also tells you something about how much sleep I actually get daily).
Drain the cashews, discarding the water. Add the nuts, filtered water, lemon juice, oil, and salt to a food processor. Pulse until smooth and creamy, but not fully pureed (you want some texture to mimick the tiny curds in fresh ricotta). Taste, and season with more salt and the agave, if you like.
The cheese is ready to eat immediately. Otherwise store in a covered, glass container in the fridge for up to three days.