Say “cheese” but mean something different. A staple of our vegan kitchen, both “cheeses” use the same ingredients. The uncooked mixture is our house ricotta; the baked mixture is our feta, which makes a stunning appetizer. Either version can be added to other dishes for a satisfyingly cheesy texture and flavor. Because these can be frozen (see notes), we usually make a double batch.

Makes one 6-inch round

Prepare in advance

1 cup whole almonds, soaked in cold water for 24 hours

Ingredients

1 cup whole almonds
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
¼ cup cold water
leaves of 2 sprigs fresh thyme
leaves of 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Method for ricotta

  1. Place the almonds in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover. Let soak for 24 hours. Drain the soaking liquid, rinse the almonds under cold running water, and drain again.
  2. Remove the almond skins by squeezing each almond through your fingertips.
  3. Put peeled almonds in a food processor along with the lemon juice, 3 tablespoons oil, garlic, salt, and cold water. Purée for 10 to 12 minutes, or until very smooth and creamy. The ricotta is ready to use, freeze, or bake to make feta; recipe follows.

Method for feta

  1. Follow the three steps for preparing ricotta.
  2. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dampen your hands with cold water, then flatten cheese to form a 6-inch round about ¾-inch thick. Drizzle ¼ cup oil on
    top, and sprinkle with thyme and rosemary leaves.
  3. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is slightly firm.
  4. Let cool, then wrap and chill in the refrigerator.

Note

  • It’s important to use fresh-squeezed lemon juice here; it adds a brightness of flavor that you just can’t get from bottled lemon juice.
  • Cheese can be made up to two days in advance. Keep refrigerated.
  • Freezes well; make a double batch.
  • You can freeze the baked rounds or the uncooked mixture; but do not bake after freezing.