No clowns allowed
So much of the best food is in ball form. You've got your meatballs, hush puppies, onigiri, doughnut holes, arancini, fish balls, falafel balls, bourbon balls, popcorn balls, and at the holidays, you've got cheese balls. Only that won't quite work if you've got a dairy-hostile gut like mine, so you have to trick it with nuts. Yes, that sounds nuts on the face of it, but with a few savory, smoky additions, damp cashews attain the consistency and flavor of cheese in a semi-alarming manner. The vegans in your life will feel so well tended to. The gut-challenged folks will feel seen and cared for. The nut lovers will feel nutted up. Your mouth will feel lied to because this is unnervingly cheeselike, but just go with it.
Nut Cheese Ball
For the false cheese
2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Juice of one decent-sized lemon
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon annatto
2 tablespoons oil (nut, avocado, or olive)
4 ounces nut-based cream cheese (Treeline or Kite Hill work well)
½ teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
1 small jar pimentos or sun-dried tomatoes in oil
Salt to taste (and if you possess smoked salt, even better)
For the nut crust
⅓ cup nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
¼ teaspoon pimenton (more if desired)
Salt to taste
To make the nut cheese: Drain and pat the nuts and add all the "cheese" ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until thoroughly incorporated, scraping down the sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings. When the flavor and consistency are to your liking, scoop the mixture onto a double layer of plastic wrap and form into a disc using your hands and the plastic. Wrap completely and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until firm.
In the meantime, pulse the crust ingredients together until nuts are chopped, but not mealy.
Remove the false cheese disc from the refrigerator and roll it in the crust mixture, pressing in gently to affix it to the surface. Chill for 1-2 hours until firm. Serve to Paul McCartney. Do not share with Morrissey, no matter how pitifully he begs.