Friday, May 16, 2008

Baked Spelt Macaroni with Cashew Cheddar Cheese Recipe

A couple things you should know before you jump into today's recipe. The cheese - one of this things I really loved about this nut cheese was that it is creamy without being oily. You know how hot cheese sometimes breaks, and you end up with globs of cheese that weep oil? That doesn't happen here. This cheese stays nice and creamy throughout all sorts of abuses. The next thing you should know is that agar is pricey - but you have options. We get the flakes in little packets that run roughly $5 a baggie / $5 per ounce. If it is any consolation, this recipe make a LOT of cheese - enough for two large Mac n' Cheese casseroles. If you are really on a budget, just get one ounce of the agar and follow the rest of the recipe the way it is written. Your cheese probably won't ever get firm enough to grate, but that's not what you are after for this recipe anyway. You just want a melty, creamy, cheese-ish, coating for the noodles. Lastly, go ahead and use any sort of short whole-grain pasta for the noodles. I didn't have spelt on hand, but we had brown rice penne, and that worked out tasty.

Baked Spelt Macaroni with Cashew Cheddar Cheese Recipe

12 ounces spelt elbow macaroni (heidi note: I used small brown rice penne)
2 1/4 cups melted Cashew Cheddar Cheese (see recipe below)
2 slices whole wheat bread
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley (heidi note: I used the chives I had on hand)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the macaroni with the melted cheese in a large bowl, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten and coat the pasta. Transfer the macaroni mixture to an 8-inch square baking dish. Cover and bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Meanwhile, chop the bread in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Toss the breadcrumbs with the parsley, olive oil, garlic, and pepper in a bowl to coat. Uncover the hot macaroni and cheese and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over. Continue baking, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and crisp.

Serves 6 to 8.

Cashew Cheddar Cheese

Header notes from Ann Gentry: This cheese is great for shredding or melting. Cashews work better than other nuts because they blend into such a creamy, rich consistency. If you're not satisfied with the cheese's final consistency or texture, blame the agar flakes; all store-bought brands of agar flakes are cut differently, which unfortunately affect's the amount added if measured by volume. If you'd rather not; learn the hard way as I did, go by the provided weight; rather than cup measure.

1 1/4 cups raw cashews
1/2 cup nutrirional yeast
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 1/2 cups unsweetened plain soymilk
I cup agar flakes (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup canola oil (heidi note: I don't like canola - used a mild tasting olive oil)
1/4 cup yellow miso
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about I lemon)

Using the pulse button, finely grind the cashews in a food processor; don't allow the cashews to turn into a paste. Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, and white pepper. Pulse three more times to blend in the spices.

Combine the soymilk, agar, and oil in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the agar is dissolved. With the food processor running, gradually pour the soymilk mixture through the feed tube and into the cashew mixture. Blend for 2 minutes, or until very smooth and creamy, and then blend in the miso and lemon juice.

For grated or sliced cheese, transfer the cheese to a container, cover, and refrigerate about 4 hours, until very firm. Once it's firm, grate or slice the cheese as desired.

For melted cheese, use the cheese immediately as melted cheese. Alternatively, make the cheese in advance, cover, and refrigerate. When you're ready to use the cheese, melt it in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth and creamy, stirring frequently. If needed, add more soymilk for a thinner consistency.

For Jalapeno Cashew Cheddar Cheese: Stir 2 tablespoons of minced jalapeno chiles into 2 cups of melted cheese. The cheese will keep for 4 days, covered and refrigerated

Make 4 cups.


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