CASHEW MOZZARELLA CAPRESE
Serving size: 6
As an Italian, I grew up eating more caprese than I can count. It's such a simplistic classic and I've found a way to still enjoy that same time tested combination of fresh basil, melt-in-your-mouth cheese and balsamic-drizzled juicy tomatoes with a vegan execution of the dish.
What sets a quality caprese apart from the rest is using the freshest ingredients possible... and what could be more fresh than making your own "mozzarella"? That just so happens to be exactly how I make this plant-based version and it is well worth the time it takes to make it. There really is no store-bought substitute for this vegan mozzarella and as usual, I now prefer this to actual dairy based mozzarella.
VEGAN MOZZARELLA INGREDIENTS
• 1/3 cup cashews (soaked)
• 1 cup water
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
• 1 teaspoon white miso paste
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 6 tablespoons *refined* coconut oil, melted
• 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
• 1 tablespoon agar agar powder
Make sure you use *refined* coconut oil here. Refined coconut oil has a neutral taste with absolutely no coconut aroma to it which is exactly what we want for this recipe. Don't worry, both refined and virgin coconut oil have the same nutritional profile.
Agar agar is just a seaweed that's a great vegan gelatin substitute. Instead of traditional gelatin made from the tendons/ligaments/bones of pigs and cows (pretty gross), this type of seaweed offers the same thickening effect as gelatin and can be used in its place for a number of things like pies, jellies, and custards. I use this brand from Whole Foods.
VEGAN MOZZARELLA DIRECTIONS
After the cashews have been soaked several hours, strain and discard the water. Add the soaked cashews, only 1/2 cup of fresh water, the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, miso, and salt to a blender. Blend the mixture until very smooth.
Once smooth, add the tapioca flour and melted *refined* coconut oil to the blender and pulse until well incorporated then set the mixture aside.
Prepare an ice bath by simply filling a large bowl of cool water with ice cubes then set aside.
In a small saucepan, add 1/2 cup of water and the agar agar flakes and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook this mixture until it starts to bubble and thicken (approximately 4 minutes). Next, pour the mixture from the blender into the agar agar mixture in the saucepan and whisk to combine.
Stir this mixture continuously for a few minutes until it starts to look smooth, stretchy and slightly shiny. Once done, remove from the heat.
Now, to form the mozzarella into balls we will use an ice cream scoop. Take a scoop of the mozzarella mixture then immediately place the ice cream scoop in the ice bath, momentarily holding the scoop upright submerged in the ice bath for it to set. Then, turn the ice cream scoop over releasing it into the ice bath. Repeat this step until you have used all your mozzarella mixture.
You may want to use a spatula to help you scrape the mozzarella mixture in and out of the ice cream scoop.
Once done with all your scoops, place the ice bath with all the mozzarella balls in it into the refrigerator and let chill for approximately 30 minutes. Once cold, remove the mozzarella balls from the ice bath and they're ready to enjoy! These can be used for a number of plant-based Italian dishes but one of my favorites that I feel they are made for is caprese.
Caprese is one of the simplest things to throw together — so simple that I really don't think it calls for a recipe but I will write it out for good measure.
• sliced tomatoes (heirloom, roma, or beefsteak)
• vegan mozzarella balls
• fresh basil
• balsamic reduction
• quality olive oil
Simply arrange the fresh tomato slices, mozzarella, and basil on a plate. Drizzle with balsamic reduction, olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste.
Traditional caprese is actually made without balsamic vinegar but a drizzle adds such a nice touch. To make your own balsamic reduction, add balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat, simmer, and stir until thickened. This may take anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes depending on how thick you'd like it. Remember it will continue to thicken slightly as it cools.
Using a variety of different colored heirloom tomatoes will also make for an even prettier presentation.
I've never met anyone who doesn't love caprese. You can expand on it so many ways — turn it into a caprese pasta salad, caprese panini, caprese skewers, caprese pizza, caprese avocado toast, and so on. This vegan mozzarella recipe won't limit you from enjoying all the caprese goodness the world has to offer and the taste and texture of these is so delicious you'll be second guessing why you ever even ate dairy-based mozzarella before — I know I did.