Saturday, November 12, 2011

Vegetarian Deli at Home - Mushroom Lunch Meat and Almond Cheese

As I've noted before, as a good Northeastern Jewish girl, I've spent a lot of time eating deli food.  Clearly, as a vegetarian, I'm not eating corned beef, BLTs or tuna melts any more.  But, I did have a curiosity about vegetarian lunch meats and if they would be a passable substitute in a deli style sandwich.  To that end, I decided to make myself a vegetarian melt.

Some of the more popular vegan and vegetarian items, like Tofurky Deli Slices or Light Life's Smart Deli brand are off limits to me because of the soy.  But, Field Roast Grain Meat Company makes vegan deli slices that are soy free.  Varieties include lentil sage, wild mushroom and smoked tomato.  The only version I saw available at Whole Foods was the wild mushroom variety, so I grabbed that.

I had been eating regular cheese on occasion, but it's been upsetting my stomach more and more, so I'm cutting back.  Daiya has been a terrific option for me (in fact, I'll be using it in tonight's vegan cooking experiment - stay tuned), but I was curious to try a "nut cheese."  The raw food and vegan communities have embraced this type of "cheese," which has a similar texture to dairy, but healthier fats and no animal products.

At Whole Foods, I was able to pick up a shredded almond cheddar style cheese by Lisanatti Foods.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that the cheese contains casein, which is milk protein.  So, this cheese is not appropriate for those who are strictly vegan, those with milk allergies or those avoiding casein for dietary reasons.  So, you may, ask - why bother?  Well, like I mentioned earlier, I've been having stomach trouble with dairy-based cheese, but I was curious as to whether I can even tolerate casein.  Also, if you do a side by side comparison of one serving (1oz or 28 grams) of almond style cheese versus regular full-fat cheddar cheese, it looks something like this:

Traditional Cheddar Cheese
Saturated Fat
25% DV

So, there are some nutritional advantages here, especially if you're looking to avoid saturated fat and cholesterol.

With all that background, back to my deli melt experiment.  Our local market has excellent fresh pumpernickel bread, so we picked up a loaf of that.  I fired up our toaster oven and put in two slices of the  pumpernickel, topping them each with a wild mushroom deli slice and a generous sprinkle of almond cheese.  I let it go in the toaster oven at 400 until the almond cheese melted to my satisfaction.  Like daiya and other soy cheeses, it didn't get as gooey as traditional cheese, but it did achieve a decent meltiness.

I topped my open faced sandwich with spinach leaves and sliced grape tomatoes.  The taste evaluation?  Fell solidly in the "decent" level.  I wasn't swooning over it, but it wasn't awful either.  The texture was good, and the cheese especially had a good mouthfeel to it.  The biggest bonus?  No allergic reaction whatsoever, which, after a week where I've been particularly soy sensitive, was a welcome relief.

I think the deli slices will be a good addition to my convenience product staples - sometimes, I may not have time to make a proper lunch, so it will be nice to have these handy if I want to make a quick sandwich. 

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