Recipe Review: Gooey Grilled Cheez
Along with Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan with a Vengeance, The UnCheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak was one of the first cookbooks I bought when I started becoming interested in veganism almost three years ago. I remember being so excited the day I received UnCheese in the mail. I feverishly flipped through the pages, and immediately decided to try the Gooey Grilled Cheez recipe. I was, much to my chagrin, sadly disappointed. Why didn’t it taste like the grilled cheese sandwiches of my childhood?! Where was the stretchy, melty goodness of Kraft’s “processed cheese food”?! Why did this vegan version taste…different?!
Well, now I can clearly understand that this UnCheese grilled cheez didn’t taste like the fatty grilled cheeses of my youth because… Get ready for a shocker – It is made of different ingredients than dairy cheese! It now seems so obvious that they should taste slightly different, yet I remember when I compared this grilled cheez directly to a dairy grilled cheese, it seemed disappointing because the flavors were not identical. I used this as an excuse to continue eating dairy because “I just could never live without cheese!” But once I finally kicked the dairy habit (just a few short months later I when quit making excuses & finally decided to JUST DO IT ALREADY!), I came back & tried this sandwich again – and I loooooved it. It is rich, delicious, and filling – without sitting like a gut bomb in your stomach when you’re finished eating, which is what dairy cheese usually did to me. I think that for me personally, I needed to get the dairy out of my system & off my tastebuds so I could appreciate this vegan version on its own without expecting it to taste exactly like the cheese of my youth. (Plus, you all know that dairy cheese has been proven to be addictive, right?)
I think another thing that should be said is that while most vegan food is delicious to everybody (meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike), some things take some tweaking. And this, of course, is not exclusive to vegan cooking. I certainly remember making meat- and cheese-filled dishes & needing to switch some things around to suit my tastes; why should vegan cooking be any different? What I’m (long-windedly) saying is that just because a recipe doesn’t knock your socks off (yes, I talk like a grandma & use that expression) the first time doesn’t mean that it’s “bad” or that you shouldn’t try it again. For this recipe in particular, I like to use a little less tahini & lemon juice than called for, and a little extra nutritional yeast. That’s just me. Don’t be afraid to experiment with any food & change things to your liking!
So. I suppose that doesn’t sound like an off-the-bat, glowing recommendation of The UnCheese Cookbook, does it? However, I really can’t praise this book highly enough (the recipe for Gruyere cheese is seriously incredible, as is the Muenster, just to name a couple things). The author, Jo Stepaniak, is brilliant – and frickin’ nice, to boot! I emailed her to ask if she minded if we published this recipe along with a review of it, and she got back to me (a stranger to her) within a couple hours to say go for it! Very impressive, if you ask me. I started off this review with that story about me originally not liking this sandwich only because I want to make the point that if you have tried vegan cheese/cheez before & didn’t like it, don’t give up! There are several storebought brands that are delicious (more on that in a later post), but homemade ones are especially wonderful because they enable you to add/remove ingredients to suit your tastes & preferences! Keep on keepin’ on & kick that dairy habit – maybe with the help of this Gooey Grilled Cheez! This with a bowl of hot tomato soup – especially on a cold day?! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!
Gooey Grilled Cheez by Jo Stepaniak© – Reprinted with permission by the author
- 2/3 c. water
- ¼ c. nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 Tbsp. flour (white, whole wheat pastry, whatever)
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (remember that I use less – about ½ Tbsp.)
- 2 Tbsp. sesame tahini
- 1 ½ Tbsp. ketchup
- 2 tsp. kuzu, arrowroot, or cornstarch
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- ¼ tsp. each: garlic powder, turmeric, dry mustard, and salt
- Bread for sandwiches (this recipe is enough for 4 sandwiches, so you’ll need 8 slices of bread if you make it all at once)
Combine all ingredients, except bread, in a medium saucepan and whisk until mixture is smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with the wire whisk. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick & smooth [Jessica’s note: This only takes a couple minutes]. Remove from heat. Top 4 slices of bread with cheez mixture, and top those with remaining bread slices.
Grill in a large skillet misted with nonstick cooking spray or coated with a small amount of vegetable oil/vegan butter. Brown each side well, carefully turning over once [or 10 times if you’re impatient like Jessica & constantly check for doneness]. Slice sandwiches in half diagonally, and serve at once.
I eat mine with ketchup because it’s awesome & brings this sandwich to heavenly heights! My boyfriend, Nick, enjoys this most with sliced tomatoes & spicy dill pickles tucked inside before grilling. Really, I don’t think there’s a bad way to make this sandwich! I mean, it’s grilled cheez.