Thursday, March 15, 2007
WINE AND SHEESE PARTY (WITH DESSERT!)
Last Saturday night we invited five vegan friends over for dinner for a "Wine and Sheese" party, to taste and review the Scottish vegan cheese that we've heard so much about. Sheese comes in two versions, hard and "Creamy Sheese", and in many varieties. If you have been missing a vegan cheese with a punchy taste, it's here!
The company is on the Isle of Bute in Scotland, which boasts a population of under 8,000. Their website says about "The Team": "Sheese is made, for the most part, by four guys who were brought up not eating animals...They care passionately about animals and fervently about making healthy foods for people who are lactose-intolerant or want to stop eating dairy." They are young (at least to me!) and they have made a wonderful product which is now available worldwide.
5 varieties of hard "Sheese" are available in the USA at Food Fight, and 6 varieties at veganessentials.com (+ 2 creamy varieties), and some health food stores carry Sheese. Sometimes amazon.com carries it, so check that out. Unfortunately, the "Creamy Cheese" doesn't seem to be available from many stores. So, badger your HFS to carry all the Sheeses! The US distributor is Black Duck Imports. The Canadian distributor is Skyranch Foods in Pemberton, BC.. Here is the Sheese international supplier page.
The varieties are mind-boggling! The hard Sheeses are (they come in a nice little round block): Blue, Cheddar with Chives, Cheshire, Edam, Gouda, medium Cheddar, Mozzarella, Smoked Cheddar, and Strong Cheddar. (Unfortunately, the Edam and Cheshire [one of our favorites] don't seem to be available in North America.)
The Creamy Sheeses are: Original, Cheddar Spread, Chives, Garlic & Herbs, and Mexican Style.
Ooops-- forgot to put the Cheddar Spread in this photo!
If you click on each variety on their website, you will see the ingredients (very simple, actually), and the nutritional info.
The Tasting Party:
Suzanne, Gordon, and Sarah are serious about tasting!
We tried each variety one by one, with crackers and homemade bread. We had some raw organic zucchini slices and celery sticks for the spreads, and some peppery olive oil on the side, too. We had a nice Australian Shiraz, a South African Merlot, and an Australian Chardonnay, with mineral water for the non-drinkers.
We were really pleasantly surprised by the firmness of the hard Sheese, and the depth of flavor, which is usually missing from vegan cheeses. (BTW, there are no hydrogenated fats in Sheese.)
Our favorite hard Sheeses were: Cheshire, Smoked Cheddar, and Gouda.
We liked all of the Creamy Sheeses, but especially the Garlic & Herb, and the Mexican, which was nice and spicy!
But how does it perform in cooking?
Good question! I have only cooked with it three times so far, but have been very pleased with its performance. Last week I topped a casserole with some of the Strong Cheddar:
I made a grilled Sheese sandwich with the Cheshire:
Very yummy and melty-soft!
And last night I used the Mozzarella on homemade pizza:
We hadn't expected much of the Mozza (vegan Mozza is usually pretty dull), and it is mild. But on the pizza, it was creamy and rich-tasting-- we loved it! I put it under the veggies, BTW, just in case it got dry in the very hot oven.
More experimenting to do-- darn it! I have frozen some of the hard Sheese, and it seems to be fine after thawing, if wrapped really airtight.
One of our party was never a fan of dairy cheese, so I made one of our favorite bean dishes, thinking that everyone might have a little. I doubled this recipe and only had about 3 servings left!
BRYANNA'S GIANT LIMA BEANS, PEASANT STYLE (WW CORE PLAN COMPATIBLE)
From my books "Nonna's Italian Kitchen" (with regional variations) and "The Fiber for Life Cookbook" (with Greek and Macedonian variations). Giant lima beans (sometimes called "gigantes") are delicious even to those of us who claim not to like ordinary limas. They really blend well with tomatoes, herbs and a little hot pepper. This recipe is such favorite in our family that I often take it to potlucks. This is the version I used for the party.
NOTE: You can also make this with white kidney or Great Northern beans.
1 lb dried giant lima beans ("gigantes") OR butter beans, "Christmas limas" or "chestnut limas"
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, coarsely chopped or sliced
3 large green bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips (you can use red or yellow ones instead, or a mixture)
28 oz canned diced tomatoes and juice
2 cup water
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4- 1/2 tsp red chile pepper flakes
freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 cup fresh whole grain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup vegan soy Parmesan, such as Galaxy Vegan
OR minced hazelnuts (filberts) or walnuts
1/4 cup ground golden flax seed (optional)
2 Tbs minced fresh Italian parsley
Soak the beans overnight or for about 8 hours in plenty of cold water. When ready to cook, drain the water off and rinse the beans.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large heavy skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onions in the oil until they are translucent. Mix the beans and the sauteed onions in a medium Dutch oven, or small oval roasting pan with a lid. Pour the water into the skillet and scrape up any brown bits, then pour the water into the beanpot and add the peppers, tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes. Cover and bake for about 2 hours, or until the beans are soft inside. Add a little more water if they get too dry. Taste for salt and pepper.
During the last 15 minutes or so of baking, mix the breadcrumbs, nuts or soy Parmesan, flaxseeds, and parsley and sprinkle over the top. bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
Serve hot with crusty bread.
Nutrition (per serving): 370.3 calories; 17% calories from fat; 7.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 623.3mg sodium; 1459.9mg potassium; 57.8g carbohydrates; 15.4g fiber; 12.3g sugar; 42.4g net carbs; 17.5g protein; 7.2 points.
For dessert, I tested two recipes:
Triple Chocolate Threat Peanut-Butter-Filled Cupakes (ganache icing)
Ginger Treacle Tart (a spicy version if the English classic-- UPDATE: the recipe is in my book World Vegan Feast)