I am always intrigued by books that provide options for people who have allergies to certain foods or choose to make ethical choices about their food consumption. I also find it interesting to know why someone takes the path to an alternative approach to eating.
I was given a book to review by Claudia Lucero, “One-Hour Dairy-Free Cheese” It says “includes nut-free options” on the front cover. This book promised to provide me with something different, as most of the dairy-free cheese alternatives I prepare are made from nuts.
Claudia Lucero is the founder of Urban Cheese craft. Urban Cheese craft started as a business to provide consumers with “Do It Yourself” cheese making kits.
A book review says, “The author of this book took an unconventional path to becoming a dairy-free maven. A desire to know what was going into her food led her to master the ancient art of cheese making and share her wares with curious friends. She honed her skills at making cheese with dairy. But, her partner’s anti-inflammatory diet motivated her to create cheesy dishes with non-dairy ingredients when she discovered that grocery store options were not to her liking. She started developing dairy-free recipes for cheeses that melted, stretched, and crumbled just like traditional dairy cheese.
According to Lucero, “My goal was to make the cheese more complex in flavor without necessarily having to age them or make a fermented starter every time. Though I liked using nuts and seeds, I wanted to make my cheeses less dense and nutty, less like hummus. Enter veggies! Fiber, color, texture, flavor-fresh veggies offered so many improvements along with mouthwatering flavor from sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, vinegars, and even wine. I finally knew that I could make dairy-free cheese to be proud of.”
I liked the idea of making these cheeses in one hour. Actually, some of the cheeses take more than one hour, but there are some that don’t and they are clearly marked.
This book contains a make-it-from-scratch philosophy and is completely illustrated, easy-to-follow step-by-step techniques that are unique in a world of dairy-free recipes because they replicate the rich flavor, tangy goodness, and luscious texture of traditional dairy-based cheese.
Claudia Lucero creates magic with her recipes as she offers the reader wheels, blocks and rounds, melts and dips, schmears and spreads, shakes and grates, along with recipes for dry mixes.
The specialty ingredients in the book focus on texture and basic cheese-like flavor. Substitution quantities are given in every recipe.
Tapioca starch is starch from the cassava tuber. It is one of the main ingredients in making these cheeses. While this starch, sometimes called tapioca flour, comes from cassava, it is not be confused with cassava flour, which is made from the plant’s fiber. Tapioca starch is flavorless in the amounts called for in the book’s recipes, and it thickens liquids into a gravy-like texture and provides a stretchy quality to the heated firm cheeses, as well as the melts and dips.
Lucero calls for whole potatoes and white rice in a couple of recipes because they have similar starchy qualities. They stand in for tapioca starch in those cases.
Other ingredients include refined coconut oil, avocado oil or not cold-pressed olive oil, lactic acid in the form of powder, fermented brines, yogurt, vinegar or fresh lemon or limes, nutritional yeast and agar powder.
She provides a list of pantry basics and a list of what is left out of the pantry.
The list of what is left out of the pantry is a guideline for people with allergies with “The Top 8” allergens. The top exclusion is dairy. Theses allergens are:
Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
Throughout these recipes, seed, bean, and/or vegetable substitution options are always given for tree nuts.
The instructions are clear and easy to follow.
In this beautifully photographed and superbly organized book, the non-dairy cheese recipes can be adapted to fit many dietary choices and needs. Allergies and preferences will still come into play, but the recipes themselves all include substitutions to accommodate those with allergies – and to offer delicious variety.
I chose the Margherita Pizza Melt recipe to include with this article and added a Cauliflower pizza crust recipe cut into wedges. A different twist on Pizza Pie!
Try any of the recipes in Claudia Lucero’s book and I think you will be very surprised and pleased with the quality or taste and beauty in appearance!
Margherita Pizza Melt (Claudia Lucero)
This is one of the great recipes included in Claudia Lucero’s book, “One-Hour Dairy-Free Cheese.” Each recipe, like this one, includes ingredients and their substitutes, equipment needed and full photo instructions. (Love the photo instructions!) She also suggests variations for the recipe. You can slice and eat as is, or dip into or spread this Pizza Melt.
Yield: 8 pizza wedges
Time: Less than 1 hour prep once ingredients are set
Strong blender or food processor
Measuring cups and spoons
Sturdy wooden spoon
Silicon scraper (optional but useful)
Nonstick pan or heavy-bottomed stainless-steel pot, 2 quart capacity
Heat-resistant serving container or storage container with lid
Fondue pot, crock, or skillet for serving
¾ raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 8 to 12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes, drained)
1 cup water
½ cup peeled and steamed zucchini (optional)
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
¼ cup light olive oil or avocado oil
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
1 clove garlic, diced
¼ teaspoon dry oregano
¼ teaspoon lactic acid (lemon or lime juice)
½ cup or more halved fresh cherry tomatoes
¼ cup or more fresh basil leaves
For the sunflower seeds:
¾ cup raw or roasted macadamia nuts (soaked 8-12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes and drained)
½ cup blanched almond flour, no skins (not almond meal)
¾ cup blanched almond slivers (soaked 8-12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes and drained)
¾ cup raw or roasted cashews (soaked 8-12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes and drained)
Not as dense and rich, but still very tasty:
1 cup cooked drained white beans (cannellini, navy, or Great Northern)
1 cup cooked veggie blend: ½ cup soft cooked, well-drained cauliflower plus ½ cup peeled, cooked, mashed potatoes
For the Tapioca Starch:
3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
COMBINE the sunflower seeds, 1 cup water, zucchini (optional), tapioca starch, oil, salt, garlic, oregano, and lactic acid in a strong blender or food processor.
BLEND the ingredients on low and gradually increase to top speed until the mixture is completely smooth. Depending on your machine, this could take 1 minute to 6 minutes. (Stop every minute or so to scrape down the side of the container if needed.)
POUR the mixture into a medium-size pot or pan. Stir frequently over low to medium heat as the mixture simmers and starts to change STIR the mixture continuously in order to eliminate lumps and create a smooth texture. It will thicken dramatically as it heats.
STIR the mixture for about 5 minutes to fully cook the tapioca. Lower the heat if you feel any sticking in the pan or if the blend “spits” too much. Turn off the heat when the pizza melt is shiny and coats the spoon thickly- you may even see stretchy strings.
ADD the tomatoes and basil to the pan and stir to combine.
POUR the hot pizza melt into a serving dish and enjoy it while it’s hot or pour it into an oven-safe dish or pan and broil until it bubbles and browns on top. Watch closely to prevent burning!
SERVE the pizza melt as a fondue or sauce. Dig into it with all manner of dippers or cool slightly and score with a pizza cutter before placing on the pizza wedges. You can also pour over steamed broccoli, baked potatoes or noodles. You can also use as a white pizza sauce.
STORE your pizza melt in a dry, covered container in the refrigerator and enjoy it within 1 week. To reheat, whisk 1 tablespoon water into the sauce as it warms in a saucepan. Stir thoroughly to make it smooth again.
Variations: Veggie Lover’s Pizza Melt: Omit the tomatoes and basil. In step 6, add to the pan: 2 tablespoons cooked chopped artichoke hearts, 2 tablespoons sautéed sliced mushrooms, chopped red onions, and diced bell pepper.
Rosemary and Roasted Garlic Pizza Melt: Omit the tomatoes and basil. In step 6, add to the pan: 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary, 4 cloves roasted garlic, roughly chopped.
Cauliflower Pizza Crust (Detoxinista.com)
Yield (1) 6 inch pizza crust
Time: 20 minutes prep and 30 minutes cook
2 cups cauliflower florets
3 tablespoons ground chia or flax seeds, divided
3 to 6 tablespoons water, as needed
½ cup almond meal
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
PREHEAT the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the cauliflower florets in the bowl of a large food processor fitted with an “S” blade, and pulse until a rice-like texture is created. Pour the cauliflower “rice” into a large sauce pot, add enough water to cover, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Drain the liquid, then transfer the cooked cauliflower rice to a freezer-safe bowl. Place in the freezer to cool for 10 minutes.
IN THE meantime, mix together 2 tablespoons of ground chia or flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of water, to create an extra-thick vegan “egg.” Set aside and allow the mixture to thicken.
REMOVE the cooled cauliflower rice from the freezer and transfer it to the center of a thin dish towel. Use your hands to squeeze the rice in the dish towel, removing all of the excess moisture from the cauliflower.
PLACE the drained cauliflower in a large bowl, then add in the vegan egg mixture, the almond meal, the additional tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds, salt, garlic and dried oregano. Add up to 3 more tablespoons of water, only if needed to make the dough stir-able. Stir well to mix, then press the mixture into the parchment-lined baking sheet. (Use your hands to shape the crust into your desired size, keeping the crust about ¼ inch thick.) For best results, press the crust together firmly, making sure that there are no “thin spots” where it might crack.
BAKE at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and dry to the touch.
YOU can use this pizza crust as is, but it will be crispier if you use a piece of parchment paper to flip the entire pizza crust and return it to the pan to bake for an additional 15 minutes.
ONCE the crust is firm and dry, add your favorite pizza toppings and return to the oven briefly to let everything heat up for 5-10 additional minutes. If using the Pizza Melt, cool the crust and cut into 4 wedges. Take a wedge of Pizza Melt and place on top of each wedge before serving.
NOTE; Since the Pizza Melt makes 8 wedges, you should double this recipe to use all the melt.
You can skip the cooking and cooling process when using frozen cauliflower. Simply allow the frozen cauliflower to thaw in your fridge overnight, which creates a “cooked” texture without having to do the extra work. Pulse the thawed cauliflower to create the rice, then drain well using a dish towel.