Do you ever have meals that just stick in your head? Even if they weren’t necessarily fancy or for special occasions? Sometimes I just get ideas, or cravings, stuck in my head. Ever since we went to Smorgasburg and I have been thinking of the food there pretty frequently. Perhaps I’ve been thinking the most about a delicious kale salad I had because there was a pretty inventive spin on cashew cheese – they fried it! It’s basically a take on vegan goat cheese I never knew was possible. Now, I was never a huge fan of goat cheese, there was something about the flavor that just does not agree with my tastebuds. But everyone always raved about the salads with warm gooey goat cheese and once I had the idea put into my head that it could be done without actual cheese, and done well, I simply had to give it a try.
I was amazed this was one of those recipes that I hit right on the first try. That doesn’t always happen. It’s a rare and exciting thing when it does. Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside, the fried “cheese” was exactly what I was looking for.
I decided to mimic the salad I had at Smorgasburg exactly, using kale, a light dressing, and a pickled topping as well. I believe the original salad had pickled red cabbage, I used a pickled beet concoction I picked up at the farmer’s market. Don’t worry if you don’t have anything pickled – just add a bit more vinegar to the dressing and that should give you the same tang. Keeping with the original salad, I also added basil to the cashew cheese. All the flavors together were simply delicious.
Now, I can’t exactly claim this salad is particularly healthy. Cashews are, of course, pretty high in fat. Not to mention the fact that I did roll them in breadcrumbs and decided to fry them on top of that. But sometimes even a salad can’t be all good for you. Everything in moderation, right? You could definitely bake or broil the cheese if you prefer to make the salad a little less guilt-ridden. Or just use a two or three cheese balls in the salad and that works too. I have to say, I do endorse the frying for the full effect. The extra crispy outside is hard to pass up.
Fried Cashew Cheese Kale Salad with Pickled Beets
What You’ll Need for the Cheese:
- 1 cup cashews, soaked 3+ hours or overnight (if you didn’t have time to soak you can boil them in hot water for about 10 minutes to soften them up)
- 1/2 cup fresh basil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tablespoon white miso paste
- 1 tablespoon warm water
- juice from 1/4 a lemon (about 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons)
- dash salt
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (for gluten-free option, use gluten-free breadcrumbs)
- 2-3 tablespoons canola oil
What You’l Need for Salad:
- 2 cups kale, chopped
- 2 tablespoons pickled beets (if you don’t have them on hand, any other shredded red food works – like red cabbage. If you’re not using pickled beets adjust the dressing to include more vinegar for that tangy taste)
What You’ll Need for Dressing:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon agave
What You’ll Do:
- Start by soaking the cashews in water overnight or for a few hours while you do other things. I like to use this time to clean, grocery shop, or walk the dog. 🙂
- Take all of the cheese ingredients and place in a powerful blender or food processor. Blend until everything is mixed together and the mixture becomes more like a paste. You’ll likely have to stop a few times to scrape down the edges. The mixture shouldn’t be runny and should actually be a bit sticky.
- Roll the mixture into small balls in the palm of your hand. (Your hands will get very full of cheese mixture!)
- Roll each ball into breadcrumbs – this will make them less sticky and easier to work with.
- Put one tablespoon into a skillet on medium-high heat. Allow the oil to heat up to a point where if you splash a small drop of water on the pan the oil spits.
- Place 1-3 cheese balls onto the skillet and fry. I like to work in small batches, with as little oil as possible to keep the frying as “healthy” as possible. I found 3 to be the max I could fry at one time without burning everything.
- Flip the cheese so it is evenly browned on all sides about 3-4 minutes.
- Place fried cheese on paper towels to absorb any excess oils.
- While your cheese is frying (or before if multitasking isn’t a strong suit) whisk together the dressing ingredients, chop the kale, and add dressing and kale together. Top with pickled beets and fried cheese. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Note: the cheese will last a few days in the fridge and can be re-heated by baking or microwaving. I also enjoyed a couple cold. But then again, I also like cold pizza. Take that for what it’s worth.