Friday, April 29, 2011

Exploration: Nacheez

I am a sucker for cooking contests. It's always fun to experiment with a specific ingredient - in this case, Nacheez. Nacheez is an amazing food that is delicious and bright orange just like 7-11 nacho cheese - but is somehow healthy and free of animal ingredients. In short, it is amazing.

Full disclosure: Nacheez is the creation of my dear and lovely friend, Ilsa Hess.

I tried out a number of different recipes for a local Nacheez cooking contest and will list them all below. But personally, I think Nacheez is best just warmed up (or not) and put onto tortilla chips. But since you can't eat nachos every day of the week, no matter how good they are, here are some other ideas.

The first is the actual recipe I entered into the contest. It was the winner of my personal quest for the best Nacheez recipe I could develop, and it took second prize at the contest itself.

Banana Nacheez Empanadas

You will need:
Spicy Nacheez
Pizza dough (I used Trader Joe's brand, but you can make your own)

Heat the oven according to instructions for dough. On a floured surface, roll out dough into empanada-size rounds (hint: they need to be bigger than you think they do).

Chop up the banana and place a few slices on each empanada, covering less than half of the round so that you can later fold it over.

Top the banana with one or two tablespoons of Nacheez.

Fold the empty half of the empanada round over the filled half. Pinch edges down with fork.

Heat according to instructions for dough and enjoy!

Figure 1: Banana Nacheez Empanada How-To

Figure 2: The final product (after a couple bites)

Another good recipe was Nacheezy Scalloped Potatoes, adapted from my mother's Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes recipe. Originally, I used rosemary in the potatoes, but it interacted badly with the otherwise delicious tang of the Nacheez.

Nacheezy Scalloped Potatoes

You will need:
3 jars of mild Nacheez
4 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 cup Panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread two jars of Nacheez in the bottom of a casserole dish.
Layer potatoes and onion in dish, then top with rosemary, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.
Spread one jar of Nacheez over the top.
Top with Panko.
Bake until potatoes are tender – about one hour.
Makes 8 (3/4 cup) servings.

Figure 3: Nacheezy Scalloped Potatoes

I made the same recipe With cauliflower to great effect - I liked it better, but my boyfriend Nathan preferred the potatoes.

Figure 4: Here it is with cauliflower

And finally, my second-favorite: Baby Ghandi Hot Dogs. I grew up in a Christian household, and we would eat "Baby Samuel Hot Dogs" named after a story from the Old Testament. They were a scrumptious and simple dish consisting of a hot dog frank and a small slice of cheese, wrapped in a Pillsbury crescent roll. When we had them near Christmas one year, I called them Baby Jesus Hot Dogs. And it seems only fitting that this vegan version is a Baby Gandhi Hot Dog.

Baby Ghandi Hot Dogs

You will need:
Your favorite veggie hot dog frank
Spicy Nacheez
Store-bought crescent rolls (check the label, but most brands are vegan)

Preheat over according to instructions on crescent rolls.
Cut a slit into each frank, about half-way through to the bottom, and not quite reaching the ends of the frank.
Carefully (or not) fill the franks with Nacheez.
Roll each Nacheezy frank into a roll.
Bake according to instructions on crescent rolls.

Figure 5: A Baby Gandhi Hot Dog, a basic Nacheez crescent (also delicious), and the control: a plain crescent roll.

It is a testament to the beauty of Nacheez that as I was experimenting with all these recipes over the course of weeks, I never got tired of the stuff. And of course, there are a million other different ways it can be used. The winner of the contest was a Nacheez cream of broccoli soup. I'd recommend this stuff to anybody.

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