Italian-Style Hot Pepper Almond Cheese

1/3 cup raw almonds
1 1/2 cups water, divided
3 T. cornstarch
3 T. lemon juice
2 T. safflower oil
4 t. nutritional yeast flakes
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
3/4 t. sea salt
1/4 cup Cubanelle pepper, destemmed, deseeded, and finely diced
1 T. freshly chopped basil
1 T. freshly chopped parsley
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes

Begin by blanching the almonds: In a small saucepan, place 2 inches of water, and bring to a boil. Add the almonds and cook for 1 minute to blanch them. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside for 3 minutes to cool. Remove the almonds from the water, squeeze each almond between your thumb and forefinger to remove the skin, and set them aside for 5-10 minutes to dry and cool. Place the almonds in a blender or food processor and process for 1-2 minutes to finely grind them. Scrape down the sides of the container. Add 3/4 cup water and process for 1 minute to combine. Add the remaining water, cornstarch, lemon juice, safflower oil, nutritional yeast flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, and continue to process the mixture an additional 1-2 minutes or until very smooth and creamy.

Transfer the mixture back to the small saucepan and place it over medium heat. Cook the mixture, while whisking constantly, for 3-5 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the remaining ingredients, stir well to combine, and set the mixture aside to cool for 10 minutes. Pour the cheese mixture into a 2-cup (16 oz.) plastic container, cover, and chill the cheese for several hours or until firm. Unmold the cheese and use slices on sandwiches or in place of commercially made cheese in your favorite recipes, or as a spread with crackers, breads, or fruit. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Note that this is a semi-soft style cheese, not a brick style cheese, so it can not be shredded.

Yield: One 2-cup loaf of non-dairy cheese


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