Cheese dishes for the Nine Days

Dairy recipes to make for Tisha Be’av, to commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

By FAYE LEVY
July 4, 2013 15:14
TWICE-BAKED potatoes with broccoli and cheese filling.

TWICE-BAKED potatoes with broccoli and cheese filling 521. (photo credit: Courtesy Patrick M. Gookin II)

My mother faithfully followed the custom of avoiding meat during the Nine Days leading up to Tisha Be’av, to commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. We sometimes ate a fish meal or two, but the food that stands out in my childhood memories of that time of year is cheese.

I loved those dairy meals.

Sometimes we had toasted cheese sandwiches or scrambled eggs with cheese. Other meals were centered around macaroni and cheese made with yellow cheese, which in those days was American cheese.

On some days my mother made noodle kugels with cottage cheese, either savory ones with sautéed onions or sweet ones with apples and cinnamon.

There’s another way to go meatless, and still have rich cheese sauces and casseroles with cheesy toppings. Instead of ordinary cheese, you can use dairy-free cheese. Most often these cheeses are made of soy, but I’ve cooked with almond-based and ricebased cheeses as well. These kinds of cheeses are used primarily by vegans and people who are sensitive to milk. They are also favored by those who consider plant-based dairy foods healthier than foods made from cows’ milk.

The quality of these cheese alternatives has improved in the past decade. I’ve used vegan cheeses to make my mother’s macaroni and cheese and other dishes I grew up with, and the results were fine. I also use them for grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches and for quesadillas (cheese heated in tortillas).

Go Veggie Foods, a producer of kosher non-dairy shredded yellow cheese and cream cheese, provides an easy recipe for macaroni and cheese. The sauce does not need a butter and flour roux. It is made of two kinds of dairy-free cheese – cream cheese and shredded mozzarella cheese, which are heated with non-dairy milk, sea salt and mustard. Their broccoli, brown rice and chickpea casserole is enriched with dairy-free cream cheese and with onions sautéed in olive oil, and baked with a topping of dairy-free shredded yellow cheese. This casserole sounds like a kind of savory rice kugel that should make an appealing entree for the Nine Days.



JENNY ENGEL and Heather Goldberg, the authors of Spork- Fed, make fettuccine Alfredo that is unlike any I’ve ever eaten. Their non-dairy cashew-based cream sauce is made with almond milk, soy milk creamer, light miso, nutmeg, mustard, lemon juice and cooked shallots. It’s combined with fettuccine and spinach, and garnished with cheese crisps made of baked, shredded non-dairy cheese.

The authors, who teach vegan cooking in Los Angeles and online at www.sporkonline.com, make barbecue pizza with caramelized onions by topping pizza dough with homemade barbecue sauce, shredded dairy-free cheese and browned onions, and serve the baked pizza sprinkled with chopped fresh basil. Vegan cheddar cheese enriches their twice-baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese filling. (See recipe.) Dairy-free cheeses – both the cream-cheese type and the grating and slicing types, such as cheddar, Gouda and mozzarella – are available in Israel at natural foods stores such as Nitzat Haduvdevan and Eden Teva.

You can even make your own non-dairy cheese. Miyoko Schinner, author of Artisan Vegan Cheese, provides recipes that are surprisingly easy to prepare. Her cashew cream cheese is composed of cashews blended with water, a little non-dairy yogurt and a pinch of salt; the mixture is left to culture for one or two days. Even easier is almond ricotta, which is made of two cups soaked blanched almonds, one cup water and a pinch of salt, blended until not entirely smooth; this vegan cheese is ready to eat right away.

Schinner’s “classic” baked macaroni and cheese is easier than my mother’s, as no white sauce is needed. She simply layers cooked macaroni with grated non-dairy cheddar cheese in a baking dish, pours unsweetened soy milk over the mixture and sprinkles it with salt and pepper. As the casserole bakes, a sauce forms in the pan.

Schinner uses homemade nondairy cheddar, but you could use a store-bought cheese as well.

Since these cheeses are parve, they are practical for nonvegetarians who keep kosher. They can be used to make such dishes as kosher turkey tetrazzini (cooked turkey baked with pasta and a creamy cheese sauce) and kosher cheeseburgers.

Faye Levy is the author of 30 Low- Fat Vegetarian Meals in 30 Minutes and, in Hebrew, of Aruhot Halaviot (Dairy Meals).

TWO-WAY MACARONI AND VEGETABLE KUGEL WITH CHEESE

This light-textured pasta casserole is made with sweet red peppers, zucchini and onions.

You can substitute grated carrots, cauliflower florets, corn kernels or other vegetables you like.

Use either dairy or non-dairy cheese.

Makes 4 main course or 6 side-dish servings

❖ ¼ cup (55 grams or 2 ounces) butter, margarine or olive oil
❖ 1 onion, minced
❖ 2 celery ribs, cut in thin slices
❖ 2 sweet red peppers, diced small
❖ 2 medium Mexican squash (Hebrew kishuim) or zucchini, unpeeled, coarsely grated
❖ Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
❖ 2 cups small elbow macaroni (about 225 gr. or 8 ounces)
❖ 3 large eggs or egg substitute
❖ 2/3 cup creamed cottage cheese or 1/3 cup non-dairy cream cheese
❖ ¼ cup sour cream, dairy or non-dairy
❖ 1 tsp. dried leaf thyme, crumbled
❖ ¾ tsp. paprika
❖ ¼ tsp. hot pepper sauce, or to taste
❖2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan, ¼ cup grated Swiss cheese or shredded non-dairy cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF).

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes. Add celery and sauté 5 minutes. Add peppers and saute 3 minutes. Add squash, salt and pepper, stir and sauté over high heat about 3 minutes or until all vegetables are just tender.

Cook macaroni uncovered in a large pot of boiling salted water over high heat, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until nearly tender but firmer than usual. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl.

Whisk eggs until just blended.

Whisk in cottage cheese and sour cream. Stir in thyme, ¼ teaspoon paprika and hot pepper sauce; mixture should be generously seasoned. Add mixture to macaroni and toss. Add vegetables and toss.

Transfer to a buttered shallow 6-cup baking dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese and remaining ½ teaspoon paprika. Bake for 25 minutes or until firm. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve from the baking dish.

TWICE-BAKED POTATOES WITH BROCCOLI AND CHEESE FILLING

This recipe is from Spork-Fed.

Authors Engel and Goldberg wrote: “This dish is the food of our childhood... Substitute some spinach for the broccoli, or add some black beans and corn for a little variation.” If you like, roast the potatoes in advance and scoop out the centers when they have cooled.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

❖ 8 to 10 organic potatoes, preferably russet
❖ Dash neutral tasting high-heat oil
❖ 2 to 3 cups broccoli florets, roughly chopped
❖ 1/3 cup (75 grams or 2½ ounces non-dairy butter (margarine)
❖ ¾ cup vegan cheddar cheese, plus additional for topping (optional)
❖ 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
❖ 1 Tbsp. brown rice syrup
❖ 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
❖ 2 tsp. dried basil or dill
❖ 1 tsp. sea salt
❖ ½ tsp. finely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 190ºC (375ºF).

Place whole potatoes on a large baking sheet and coat with a small amount of oil. Bake for about 45 to 60 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.

Remove from oven and let potatoes cool. When cool, slice each potato in half lengthwise and place back on baking sheet. Keep oven on.

Bring a small (2-liter or 2-quart) pot half full of salted water to a boil, and cook broccoli for about 2 minutes or until bright green. Drain and set aside.

Using a melon baller or spoon, remove filling from each potato half and place in a large bowl, leaving potato skins intact. Set empty skins aside.

Add butter to potato filling and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Add cheese, garlic, brown rice syrup, lemon juice, basil or dill, sea salt, black pepper and broccoli and mix.

Place about ¼ cup of mixture into each potato half, and top with additional cheese if desired.

Bake potatoes for an additional 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and tops are slightly browned.


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