Joe Stepaniak’s “Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook” was among the first cookbooks I bought after deciding to adopt a vegan diet 3 years ago. For those not familiar with the term “uncheese”, Stepaniak uses it to describe high-tasting spreads, dips, sauces and blocks produced with dairy-free whole foods (chiefly beans, nuts, or grains).
Cheese lovers be forewarned: you may be in for some disappointment if you’re expecting tofu to taste like Feta cheese or chickpeas like Havarti. The book’s introduction already acknowledges that “uncheeses are not going to be like dairy cheeses, so please adjust your expectations consequently. “
Unfortunately I skipped Stepaniak’s well-intentioned introduction and plowed in to the recipes, attempting Tofu Ricotta, Chick Cheez, Swizz Cheez, Buffalo Mostarella, Brie, Betta Feta, White Bean Boursin, Monterey Jack and Port Wine uncheeses. And while all were tasty (my favorite is the sharp Chick Cheez spread–made from Garbanzo Beans) they left me slightly disillusioned and wondering whether I could truly live without real cheese.
As a consequence of not closest finding perfect non-dairy replacements for my most beloved cheeses, “The Uncheese Cookbook” sat idle on my shelf for some time. Little did I realize that I would come back to Stepaniak’s book later (many times), finding it had improved with age. Its most valuable lesson is that it introduces unfamiliar elements, and uses them in addition as more standard items–including raw nuts–in groundbreaking fact.
For example, I had never heard of nutritional yeast, an ingredient employed in many of the book’s recipes. Nutritional yeast is a high source of vitamins and minerals that has a pungent cheesy taste, too. I later learned that Stepaniak is slightly of an aficionado on the subject of nutritional yeast, having authored “The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook.”
Among other new elements (and slightly challenging to acquire) were agar and kuzu (both plant-based thickening agents used in place of gelatin), and umeboshi plum paste, used for adding saltiness. Chickpea flour (a.k.a. Chana Besan) while shared in Indian cuisine, is also employed in many uncheese dishes.
The introduction to Uncheese Cookbook provides a detailed and useful reference to all the aforementioned elements in addition as others. It also contains a well-proven background of how the dairy industry has influenced the evolution of the American diet (echoing T. Scott Campbell’s “The China Study”), and provides detailed nutritional data on the benefits of non-dairy supplies of calcium, protein, fat, and carbohydrates vs. dairy products.
Moving on to the recipes, I found many of the “Uncheese Dishes” to be superb. Among my favorites are:
- Chocolate Almond Cheeze Cake (p170*) with Granola Nut Crust–Everyone who’s tasted it are astounded it tastes more delicious than real cheesecake, without using eggs or dairy products (maple syrup is the secret).
- “Besto Pesto” (which imperceptibly substitutes cheese with miso)–How can a vegan diet be considered sacrifice when you can nevertheless enjoy a dish of linguine with Genevose pesto sauce?
- Chickpea Flour Pizza (p128), eaten alongside vegetable curries–It takes all of about 5 minutes to prepare, so it’s very functional, too!
- Beannaise (p150)–Used as mayonnaise substitute within other recipes, and also by itself, as a dip for vegetables or salad dressing.
*observe: page numbers refer to the 10th edition of the book.
Other recipes I would recommend include: Parmezano Sprinkles (p50), Eggplant Parmagiano Stew (p80), Spinach-Tofu Manicotti (p117), Zucchini Chedda Soup (p77).
Upon re-perusing “The Uncheese Cookbook”, there are nevertheless many dishes I plan to sample, including: typical Quiche (p102), Lemon Teasecake (p169)-the “meaningful Lime” variation, Quick and Easy Alfredo Sauce (p63), Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip (p49), and Curried Cauliflower Cheez Soup (p76).
Other features of the book you will appreciate are the charts of nutritional values for each of the recipes, and the listings of food allergens (gluten, soy, nuts, corn). however, the book contains only 4 pages of photographs, and certainly could assistance from more.
If you already own “The Uncheese Cookbook” but haven’t picked it up for a while, I suggest it’s worth another look. If you don’t, please get a keep up of a copy and try its inventive and healthy recipes based on plant-based elements. Just remember to put aside your expectations of dairy-cheese taste, and you won’t be disappointed!