Sarah’s Vegan Sunflower Seed-Tofu Cheeze
Ingredients* (for my cheeze – some are optional and can be interchanged depending on the type of cheeze you are hoping for):
Agar Agar (A type of seaweed stabilizer) – about 3 tablespoons of finely chopped strands**
Firm tofu – about ¾ of a 18-oz container (I recommend not using the whole package right away, because if you go overboard on salt or lemon juice, (as I did initially), you can add a little more of it to compensate.)
Raw sunflower seeds – about 5 tablespoons
Canola oil – somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon (this is where I start forgetting things..)
Lemon juice – around 2-4 tablespoons – best to start with a little less and taste until desired acidity
Vinegars (red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, white vinegar) – around a ½ to 1 teaspoon of each
Salt – about a teaspoon – again start with a less and taste as you go
Raw garlic – 1 clove
Onion powder – about 1.5 teaspoons
Dried chives – about 1.5 teaspoons
Dried rosemary – a pinch (the following ingredients were what I had and helped add flavor, but depending on the use for your cheeze you may want to use different ones)
Dried dill – a pinch
Black pepper – a pinch
Maple syrup – 3 drops (literally – I counted. Could likely be omitted, or add more if you want it a bit sweeter)
First, using a food processor, blend tofu, sunflower seeds, oil, lemon juice, vinegars, salt, garlic, onion powder, and chives until very smooth. Taste and adjust acidity and saltiness as necessary. Add other herbs depending on the type of flavor you would like (for example, I was aiming for something “feta”-like; feel free to experiment with other seasonings like nutritional yeast, basil and oregano, etc!), until you reach your desired flavor.
In a pot on the stove, boil agar agar with a small amount of water (start with about ¼ to 1/3 of a cup, you can always add more if it starts getting too thick before the agar agar dissolves), and boil gently until the strands dissolve. For agar agar strands (which I bought since they are much cheaper!), this will take around 10-15 minutes. Once the seaweed has dissolved entirely and the water-agar agar mixture has started to thicken like jello, pour the contents of your food processor into the mixture and stir thoroughly. Allow the mixture to come to a boil (it should be fairly thick), and boil gently for a few minutes, then pour back into the food processor and blend briefly to make sure your agar agar is thoroughly incorporated.
Scrape the mixture into a baking dish or even onto some plates, and allow to cool to room temperature, then put into the refrigerator.
*I know the recipe looks pretty long and complicated, but a lot of the ingredients are dry spices and herbs which can be used for other recipes later on, and most of the ingredients can be put in the blender together, so overall this recipe was easier than I had thought a vegan cheeze recipe might be! I hope you enjoy it!
**This recipe uses agar agar, which is a gelatinous algae used as a vegan substitute for gelatin. I used agar agar strands, which I got (quite reasonably) from Chinatown, however if you would rather skip the time of dissolving the strands in boiling water, you can buy agar agar powder from Whole Foods. I haven't tried it, but I have heard you can use about 1 teaspoon of powder for every 1 tablespoon of cut up strands, and that it dissolves within a minute of heating in hot water.
Once it has cooled, your cheeze is ready to use! You can crumble it into a salad, as I did, slice it thinly for a sandwich or crackers, or even top a vegan pizza (because of the agar agar, this cheeze even melts!). So far it has featured in my brown rice salad below (sorry for the low lighting), and with basil on top of tomato above. Happy experimenting! :)