If someone told me two years ago that I'd be making vegan grilled cheese sandwiches that tasted just like grilled cheese sandwiches out of coconut milk, coconut vinegar and agar powder and blogging about it, I would have thought they were out of their mind. The first assumption I would have made is that it would taste like coconut, which would be incorrect. The second assumption I would have made it that it would taste like cheese, but in weird, fake and compromising way, which would also be incorrect. This cheese is simply fantastic and has been an obsession of mine since I whipped up my first batch of it last February (although I tweak this version a bit each time based on the type of cheese I'm trying to recreate). Serve this grilled cheese by itself or with the best accompaniment—homey and comforting smoky tomato soup—for a perfect lunch or light dinner that's easy to make and amazing to eat.
for the cheese (this version tastes best when melted and warmed)
1/2 can full-fat coconut milk (6.83 fl. oz.)
1/2 tsp coconut vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp agar powder
1/2 TB tapioca flour
1 TB nooch
for the soup
1 TB olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
a few dashes of liquid smoke
1 cup of prepared crushed roma tomatoes (I used Eden brand)
2 cups of homemade stock or Imagine brand No-Chicken broth
for the sandwich
4 pieces of sandwich bread
Earth Balance vegan butter, softened at room temperature
To make the cheese, combine all of the cheese ingredients except for the nooch in a small saucepan. Whisk briskly continuously until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove it from the heat, stir in the nooch and transfer it to a small pyrex dish. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
To make the soup, heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add in the onions and saute until translucent and slightly browned, about seven minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low, then add in the garlic, spices and liquid smoke. Allow to saute for about 3 minutes, stirring occassionally. Now add in the prepared roma tomatoes and vegan broth. Return the heat to medium until the soup comes to a very small boil. Then dial the heat back down to low and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.
At this point, you can remove the soup from the heat and blend well with an immersion blender. You can also transfer to a blender, just make sure that the soup has completely cooled before doing so.
To make the sandwiches, place a 1/2 Tb of Earth Balance into a skillet over medium heat. Spread one of the slices of bread with a thin layer of the cheese, then place the bread, cheese side up, on the skillet. Swirl it around to ensure it gets coated well with the vegan butter. Spread the other slice of bread with the softened butter and place it, butter side up, on top. Allow the bread to nicely brown on one side before flipping it over with a spatula, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt on top if desired.
Serve immediately with the warmed soup.