As I continue recent experiments with nut-based “cheeses,” this new version certainly competes with any elegant appetizer that may grace a holiday table or wine pairing event. I served this appetizer at a recent gathering of Les Dames d’ Escoffier (a world-wide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality), an organization of which I have been a member for several years; the response was unanimous – everyone loved it! As my personal tastes lean more “vegan” as time passes, I am passionate about bringing innovative new flavors to the table. It is a time-consuming and totally satisfying experience! I continue to owe a surge of gratitude to my many chef friends and an ever-growing group of food bloggers who continue to inspire me daily!
This recipe requires several days to make, but actual preparation time is quick!
Herbes de Provence “Infused” Almond Feta
(Adapted from Vegetarian Times – April 2009)
1 cup raw almonds, blanched*
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus cup more
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 ¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. Herbes de Provence
few grinds fresh black pepper
1 tsp dried lavender, slightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
- *Heat water in a saucepan to boiling. Drop almonds in water and let sit one minute. Drain and squeeze almond skins off.
- Put almonds in a non-reactive bowl, and cover with water. Let soak for 24 hours. Drain soaking liquid, rinse again, and drain.
- Purée almonds, lemon juice, 3 tbsp. olive oil, garlic, salt, in a food processor for 4-8 minutes, or until very smooth and creamy. Add Herbes de Provence and freshly ground pepper to the almond mixture. Place into a “nut bag” – (or jelly bag, found in stores that carry canning products), or several layers of cheesecloth, and squeeze into a ball, secure with a rubber band, chill and drain for another 12 hours. Discard the excess water.
- Preheat the oven to 200° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a melon baller to scoop, and roll into approximately 20 -1” balls.
- Heat for 40 minutes until slightly firm. Let cool.
- Warm 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil and the crushed lavender over very low heat in a small saucepan for about 5-10 minutes.
- Let cool on the counter in a non-reactive bowl. When olive oil is at room temperature, strain through a fine strainer (optional). Place the cheese balls in a jar and pour the oil over them. Store in the refrigerator and bring back to room temperature, as the oil often solidifies, and serve with crackers or baguette. The texture is similar to feta in it’s “crumbliness” Keeps up to a week.
- You can also sprinkle this cheese on salads, grains, or pasta.