Although I am by no means or vegan or dairy-free, I do like to incorporate vegan meals and snacks into my family's diet. I've found that when I create a vegan dish out of a familiar favorite, my husband and son get more excited to eat it. I usually stay away from nut-based cheeses because I can get carried away, and before I know it I've eaten a pound of nuts in one sitting. That's not exactly a healthy choice. In this recipe, however, I've bulked up your typical nut-cheese with peppers and carrots so I don't feel as weighed down after eating more than my fair share. Plus the bold spices keep me from overdoing it.
This pimento cheese-inspired spread is delicious in sandwiches, on top of a veggie burger, or as a dip for veggies, chips, crackers, and bread.
Combine soaked cashews, garlic, water, olive oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, sea salt, paprika, and cayenne (if using) in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until a paste forms (if you want a smooth texture, use a powerful blender rather than food processor), scraping down sides often.
Add carrot and roasted red peppers and pulse until finely chopped and incorporated.
Transfer mixture to a bowl, stir in shredded zucchini (if using). Adjust seasonings to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve. Best served cold.
NOTE: To soak cashews, place in a medium bowl and cover with water. Let rest on the counter, covered, for at least 8 hours, up to overnight. Drain thoroughly before using. I use jarred roasted red peppers in this recipe; there's a good organic brand available at Earth Origins. Be sure to pat them mostly dry before using. I really like this spread with the shredded zucchini stirred in at the end, but my husband gets so upset by the addition of the zucchini that I make two batches, one with and one without. I'll leave it up to you to decide what your family will like.
About this recipe
I'm a pretty big fan of nutritional yeast (see my recipe for Vegan Crab Cakes to learn more), but in moderation. A little bit of this goes a long way. But it's a surprising secret ingredient in recipes that need to be fortified with additional amino acids and gives a nice umami flavor. You can find it in the seasonings section and bulk bins of health food stores like Earth Origins or Whole Foods.
Miso is another one of my favorite secret ingredients. When used sparingly, no one can detect it, but it adds a salty, umami flavor that can't be beat. Plus, it's a very healthy ingredient. Miso is fermented soy, so it has all the benefits of fermented foods (promoting a healthy gut) and of soy (antioxidants, protein, fiber, to name a few). Make sure to always buy organic soy products, miso included.