Nope, I’m not angry. Agar-agar is an all-natural vegetable gelatin derived from seaweed, usually used in deserts like jellies, puddings, and custards…so I of course attempted to use it to make cheese to put atop my whole wheat lavash pizza.
So here’s what I used:
½ package of firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
2 TB nutritional yeast flakes
1 heaping teaspoon of yellow miso paste
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Agar-Agar flakes
½ cup of water
I simply blended all of the ingredients together with my handy dandy hand blender…you can use a food processor of course. Then, in order to activate the gelatin, the mixture needs to be heated so the flakes dissolve. In a small pot, I heated it slowly on low, stirring constantly, until it was slightly bubbling. Be careful, because the bubbling mixture tends to shoot out tiny specs of piping hot liquid that kept landing on my hand, so stirring constantly is vital. The texture at this point was smooth and creamy like an alfredo sauce. I kept it at the slightly bubbling level for 2-3 minutes.
I let it cool a bit, and then poured it into a small container in order to refrigerate. The goal is to have a block of “cheese”, so be sure to use a container small enough so that the mixture just barely fills it. I refrigerated the mixture for about 3 hours.
In the meantime I coated some fennel, asparagus, and zucchini with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and went out to the grill. When the veggies were done I chopped them up, in preparation of topping my pizza. I also made a pesto like this one.
When I determined that the “cheese” had chilled for long enough, I started topping my lavash. First a layer of the pesto, then the veggies, some chopped fresh oregano and then, well, what was supposed to be the “cheese.”
The end product didn’t quite gel up as firmly as I was hoping (I have since refrigerated the remainder of the mixture for the rest of the day with no change in texture), but, hey, it was my first attempt. I was hoping to be able to shred it, but I ended up spreading instead of shredding. I totally nailed the flavor though, it was very tasty, but the texture was like a creamier version of cottage cheese…that’s probably the best way I can describe it. I simply baked the whole thing in a 450 degree oven for 7-10 minutes, until the lavash was crisp. You can also throw the whole thing on a grill at medium-low heat. I then hit it with a little dusting of my fake parmesan.
The possible remedies for my semi-failure are numerous:
1. Could have used a firmer tofu
2. Could have used twice the amount of agar flakes
3. Could have dissolved the agar flakes in water first then blended it with the rest of the ingredients (I suspect they did not dissolve completely or evenly, hence the forming of lumps.
4. Could have used agar powder, which I suspect would distribute and dissolve more evenly throughout the mixture, also preventing lumps, and causing the whole thing to gel, instead of just little pockets.
5. Could have looked up a recipe like a normal person…but what fun would that be?
In the end, I enjoyed the whole dish. Roasted/grilled fennel is a gift from the Earth. The Earth is like, “Hey, even though ya’ll are kind of treating me like shit these days, I’m gonna’ give you this anyway, ‘cause I’m that nice of a guy…and I’m hoping that someday, maybe you’ll stop fucking with me.”
Maybe one of you out there want to give this one a shot using one of my possible remedies…let me know if you figure it out…I’ll continue working on it. Later.