I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Que sera, queso


WTM has posted about (plant-based) queso before. As a matter of fact, it has been noted that it is a food group at my house. However the food group continues to evolve in the wild (i.e., on the internet) as well as here, and in the past few years quesos with vegetable bases in addition to, or without, nutritional yeast have gained in popularity.

Check out your favorite search engine for scores of plant-based quesos with potatoes and carrots (sometimes onions and/or cashews) in the base, and especially the VegNews post from 2008 for Best Mac 'n Cheese on the Planet. Many of the aforementioned have influenced the recipe below, as well as my previous queso post, which had origins in a Vegan Explosion post (a version of which eventually went commercial,  congrats to Food for Lovers!) but we have to go back much further to find the mother lode. 

Years ago I saw my first plant-based queso-y, cheese-y style dip/spread in Joanne Stepaniak's Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook (Unprocessed Cheese Sauce) published in 2003. I no longer have the version that preceded that (The Uncheese Cookbook, 1994), and cannot remember if it appeared in the original Uncheese Cookbook (Update: I repurchased the original version of the cookbook, and yes it had a similar recipe.) At any rate we should give credit where it is due and I send thanks to Jo for inspiring so many succeeding iterations of non-dairy, non-exploitative, yet totally scarfable chile con queso recipes. This version does include nutritional yeast and cashews, although if you have issues with either, they could be left out for a somewhat different flavor profile.

Applications will of course not be limited to just dippin' of chips. Think: taco salads, enchiladas, quesadillas, burritos, tacos, cheese fries, etc. 

And try not to feel too virtuous about gettin' yer veggies on in the meantime.

Chile con Queso

Makes about 4 cups (party size)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in 1" cubes (about 2 cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut in 1" cubes (about ½ cup) 
¼ - 1/3 cup chopped shallot or onion
1 large garlic clove, crushed
2 Tbs. raw cashews (these will be steamed with the vegetables for easier blending)

½ cup nutritional yeast
¼ cup sunflower or other neutral oil, or melted vegan butter
¾ cup plain, unsweetened soymilk or other plant-based milk
1 Tbs. coconut vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice, or ¾ tsp. lactic acid powder
1 Tbs. prepared yellow mustard
1 tsp. mellow white miso
1½ - 2 tsp. salt, to taste

10 oz. can diced tomatoes with chiles, well drained
¼ cup diced canned chiles (or 2 whole canned chiles, diced), well drained
1 tsp. New Mexico chile powder, or other chile powder to taste

additional plant-based milk to correct consistency, if necessary

Place about an inch of water in a large pot with a steamer insert and bring water to a boil. Add potatoes through cashews to the steamer insert, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and steam until potatoes and carrots are soft (about 15-20 minutes; check potatoes and carrots with a wooden skewer at about 15 minutes).

Remove ingredients from the steamer and place in a high speed blender with nutritional yeast through salt. Blend until very smooth.

Transfer blender mixture to a saucepan. Stir in tomatoes through chile powder and heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes to blend flavors (or transfer to a small crockpot and heat through if serving later). If a thinner consistency is desired, blend in additional plant-based milk to taste, a tablespoon at a time. The queso should be thick but 'dippable'.

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