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
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.
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
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
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.
“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
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.
substitute grated carrots, cauliflower florets, corn kernels or other vegetables
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
❖ 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
❖ 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
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
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,
❖ 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
❖ ¾ cup vegan cheddar cheese, plus additional for topping (optional)
❖ 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
❖ 1 Tbsp. brown rice syrup
❖ 3 Tbsp. fresh
❖ 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
Bake potatoes for an additional 15 minutes, or until cheese is
melted and tops are slightly browned.