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Swiss “Cheese” in a Mosaic Salad

When it comes right down to it, (and like most Canadians), I’m pretty happy living in this country.  Oh, sure, I complain about the health care system and the excessive taxes, but secretly I’m proud.  When I went to Europe, I openly displayed a Maple Leaf on my backpack (in those days, only actual Canadians did that). I don’t mind the stereotype that we’re all hockey-and-beer obsessed (both of which I can’t stand), since it seems to be balanced by another stereotype, that we’re the peacekeepers of the world

Over the years, I’ve also appreciated the fact that, as opposed to a “melting pot,” we here in Canuk Country offer a “multicultural mosaic.” Because Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, its denizens contribute generously to that multi-faceted, multi-colored variegation.  A quick mental tally tells me I’ve taught students from six continents and almost 70 countries over the years. 

In an English class a few years back, I received a collection of essays from students who’d immigrated to Canada.  They told stories about landing at the Toronto airport on December 25th, wearing only a T-shirt and shorts; or having an in-house bathroom (with running water!) for the first time; reuniting with siblings they hadn’t seen for a dozen or more years; or being introduced to “Canadian” food (ie McDonald’s).  They also told stories about the information pamphlets they’d received from the government before they arrived. 

These days, they informed me, our multicultural populace is no longer referred to as a “mosaic.”  In fact, these days it seems Canada is more than just a peaceful, tolerant, polite country.

Canada, you see, is a salad.

Yep, that’s how the Canadian government, in all its gubernatorial solemnity, describes our great land.  Does this sound suspiciously like an episode of Rick Mercer’s Talking to Americans?  Would that it were.  You see, a salad is presumably the perfect metaphor for our diverse population:  just as with a colorful tossed salad, people from all around the world are welcome to join us in this big bowl o’ Canada.  Once squished together in that ol’ Salad Bowl of the North, we mingle and mix, yet the separate elements each retain their individual characters, colors, and flavors–a harmonious coexistence, the sum greater than the individual parts; yet we never meld into each other.  As Doug and Bob McKenzie might say, Beauty!

So when I came up with this idea for a salad to contribute to Lisa and Holler’s No Croutons Required event, I immediately thought of this Canadian metaphor.  Not only is the salad a fusion of different colors and flavors, it’s also filled with items hailing from countries around the globe–Swiss “cheese,” mangoes from Southeast Asia, basil (originally) from India, balsamic vinegar from Italy–and perfect for a Canadian salad. In my mind, I envisioned a newfangled version of Caprese salad , except with a twist–the combination of mango and tomato offering an unexpected contrast in both color and flavor alongside the mild cheese and perfumed basil. (In this case, of course, the cheese in question would be “Un-Cheese,” the “Mostarella” from Joanne Stepaniuk’s Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook). Since Holler was asking for salads with cheese, this seemed the perfect occasion to finally try one of the “block” cheeses in the book.

The “Mostarella” started out well: I ground some oats and mixed them with nutritional yeast, soymilk, and a few other ingredients.  And while the mixture did appear a little too soft when I spread it in the mold, the recipe had cautioned that it needed overnight refrigeration to set, so I popped it in the fridge and waited. 

To my horror, the next morning it was still more like cheese sauce than cheese.  Oh, well, back to the cutting board.  Attempt number two: this time, I used a recipe for mild Swiss “cheese.”  With 5 tablespoons of agar, I had a feeling this one would set.  And set it did!  It produced a mild, firm yet soft, slightly tangy cheese with a hint of that acerbic zing characterizing most Swiss cheese.  I cut it into cubes and prepared the salad.

Based on this recipe (and switching basil for the cilantro), the salad sounded as if it would be a perfectly compatible match for the cheese.  Unfortunately, this international vegetable bowl didn’t produce the same harmonious result as a tossed Canada.  The mango and tomato competed for gustarory prominence, while the dressing seemed out of place against the sweet mango and basil.  In fact, I must admit that the only part of this salad I truly enjoyed was the “cheese.” 

I know the event asked for salad with cheese, but I just wouldn’t feel right recommending this salad recipe.  However, if you’d like to try some homemade vegan Swiss cheese, here’s a terrific choice.  I know: just eat it in Toronto, Canada, and you can pretend it’s surrounded by tossed salad.

Vegan Swiss Cheese

This cheese is lighter than dairy cheese, and not as filling (so you can eat more!). It holds its shape perfectly, so it can be sliced, cubed, or grated–and it lasts up to 5 days in the fridge.

 1-1/2 cups (375 ml.)  water

5 Tbsp. (75 ml.) agar flakes

1/2 cup (125 ml.) chopped raw cashews

1/4 cup (60 ml.) nutritional yeast flakes

3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) sesame tahini

1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) onion powder

2 tsp. (10 ml.) dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) garlic powder

1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) dry mustard powder

1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) ground coriander

1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) salt, or to taste

Lightly oil a 3-cup (750 ml.) plastic storage container and set aside.

Combine the water and agar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, until dissolved, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Transfer to a blender and add the remaining ingredients. Process several minutes until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender jar as necessary.  Pour into prepared container and cool uncovered in the refrigerator. When completely cool, cover and chill several hours or overnight. To serve, turn out of the container and slice or cut into cubes. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.  Will keep 5 to 7 days.


26 comments to Swiss “Cheese” in a Mosaic Salad

  • So America is considered a “melting pot,” and you say that Canada is a “salad” – haha, love it :0)

    Your salad looks wonderful – the vegan “cheese” component is especially enticing, since it’s soy-free! Perfect!


  • I’m happy that I understand all the references in this post. (Especially the one about Talking To Americans – I miss that segment!) =) I am quite proud to be Canadian, despite its many issues (like any other country). I would be happier if we weren’t one of the highest polluters, and if we didn’t hide behind the feeling of being “peacekeepers”, but I love that we are multicultural. I took a Canadian Studies course this past semester, and it really opened my eyes to this country. There is so little people know about their country of origin or birth! And unfortunately, the world sees us as nothing more than the friendly neighbours (Canadian spelling, hehe) north of the United States. My professor seems to think multiculturalism is a coverup for racism. Whatever the case may be, it is how we act. And for the most part, people seem far more tolerant of other cultures and embrace the diversity.

    Your analogy of a salad being much like our mosaic is wonderful! And it looks delicious!


  • great post on multiculturalism – I have never heard it described as mosaic but I like it! Australia calls this sort of cooking fusion cooking because we talk about fusing ideas from different cultures.

    And your cheese looks interesting – I come across onion powder and garlic powder in blogs all the time but have never seen them in my supermarkets – I guess I am just not looking! But would like to try a hard vegan cheese one day as i have enjoyed a few vegan cheese sauces


  • What a beautiful salad – even if it didn’t taste perfect, it’s still quite pretty. I’ve never tried making vegan cheese before, but I guess there’s a first for everything.


  • Celine

    Swiss “cheese”!! oh my, have to try that one.
    I like the maple leaf on the backpack, too. 🙂


  • Leave it to an educator to come up with such a metaphor!I love it!

    (And the salad looks quite good, too.)


  • beautiful – an creative – as always


  • (Whether it’s true or not,) I’ve heard America refered to as a “tossed salad” before, as well. Although I bet Canada does a better job being open-minded and letting people maintain their home cultures. 🙂

    I’ve never tried my hand at making faux cheeses — would you recommend a particular cookbook or other source for recipes?


  • Great idea for a salad, even if it didn’t turn out as you’d hoped! The cheese looks great. I’ve never even thought about making my own vegan cheese. I’ll have to try that!


  • I’m so curious! I wonder how it tastes. Sure better than the store bought ones – and cheaper too!


  • First time here – you have a delightful blog! your salad might start me eating salads regularly 🙂
    How do you think it would taste with paneer instead of the mozzarella as it’s a fresh cheese as well?


  • VeggieGirl,
    Sorry I can’t take credit for the analogy–I think it’s been around a while! But the cheese was really good (and the best part of the salad!) 🙂

    Glad you had some fun with it and recognized the references! I agree that Canada’s not perfect (though not sure I agree with your prof), but I’d still rather live here than most other places (if only the winter could disappear. . . ) 😉

    I’ve heard of fusion cooking here, too–seems to be the same definition. Funny that you’ve never seen those powders–wonder what you folks use over there? Is there garlic salt? This “cheese” is very different from regular cheese in that it’s nowhere near as dense, but it did have a lovely flavor (well, I thought so–the HH, not so much!)

    Hi Magpie,
    Thanks for the comment! It was my first time making the vegan cheese, too, and I have to say I’d try it again. There are lots of flavors in the book to choose from–I’d recommend it!

    Worth a try, I’d say–it would go well with one of your fabulous breads!

    Well, wish I could take credit. . .but it’s not my metaphor! A student actually told me about the “salad” analogy. But I do like it–does that count?

    Happy Herbivore,
    Coming from you (ie a new original recipe every day), that means a lot!! Thanks! 🙂

    Thanks so much for your comment, and for visiting! If you’re interested in faux cheeses, I think the Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniuk is great, though you can find loads of **free** recipes on other blogs. I often have Susan V’s (http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/) mac and “cheese”–it’s easy and very delicious! There are lots of others out there, too–just do a food blog search.

    Thanks–it did look better than it tasted! But the cheese was great, and worth the effort.

    Alice (inVeganland),
    Compared to the processed fake cheeses, I really liked this taste better, even though it was (a) much milder and (b) not as close to the “real thing” (it didn’t exactly taste like Swiss cheese, but I could tell it was in the same ballpark). Much less filling, too–and actually quite delicious cubed in a regular salad!

    Thanks so much for your comment, and for visiting! I think this might actually be better with paneer, as the paneer is very mild and wouldn’t compete with the other flavors as much. I found that, with the “swiss” cheese as well as the tomato and mango, there were too many different tastes going on for my liking. . .I’ll have to try this one again with a milder cheese!


  • Courtney

    OMG–I am in love with you! I cannot wait to try making this…I have been looking for a slicable “cheese” recipe! I have made the “Mostarella” recipe in the past too and had a similar experience. It was very disappointing!



  • Wow, you have some clever students!

    Oh, and thank you so much for the suggestion of eating the banana blender cereal hot. I took your advice and tried it today, and it was even better than eating it cold!


  • giz

    Although I laughed at the metaphor, I totally got it. The multicultural aspect of Toronto is certainly part of the charm. You/we can be visitors in our own city and get to enjoy nearly anything the world has to offer How lucky are we?


  • Bob and Doug! Quo-lu-cu-lu-cu-lu-co-co! I haven’t heard them mentioned since I was a wee lass! I grew up on a MI/ONT boarder town, and when I came to live in France for the first time in ’90 the first folly in the Golf was killing the innocent, and I sported my “country of adoption”‘s maple leaf with pride! Later when I lived in the desert SW in the US, people would instantly ask me if I was Canadian after asking them where I could find the washroom. Ha! Culural identification is a funny thing.
    And great cheese recipe!


  • Oh man!!! This is a work of art! Well, it’s got the look anyway, and I think maybe you’re being too harsh!! Even if it didn’t come out quite as you might have wished, if you shellac-ed it, it would be a sculpture with museum-worthy looks! 🙂


  • “Canada is a salad” is just about the best thing I’ve heard. Much better than the melting pot analogy of the US. Neat cheese, too!


  • Courtney,
    You’re a riot! (I’d ask you on a date, but I think we live too far apart 😉 ) This cheese is definitely sliceable (and cube-able). And sorry the “Mostarella” didn’t work out for you, either, though it’s nice to know it wasn’t just me!

    Glad you liked it as much as I did! (And I think my students aren’t quite as clever as you, Ms. All A’s!)

    Sounds like you love the city as much as I do. Are you IN T.O.?? So cool to “meet” another Toronto blogger! (Mmmm, I’m having visions of a TO-Bloggers meetup group. . . )

    That’s so funny about saying “washroom” (which no one seems to understand when I go visit my American cousins!). Were Bob and Doug REALLY that long ago–?? Feels so recent to me (yikes).

    An art compliment coming from YOU has made my day!! But I have to say, I think it might taste better shellac-ed. 😉

    I liked the salad metaphor, too (too bad I didn’t make it up!!). The cheese wasn’t half bad, either. 🙂


  • I shuddered at the thought of your trying to use mostarella in a salad! Too gooey, though it’s good on pizza and in grilled cheese sandwiches. But I’ve never tried the Swiss. That looks interesting. There’s an old 7th Day Adventist cookbook called “Ten Talents,” with a recipe for a sprouted chick pea “cheese” that would be addictive, except that it takes so long to make. If I can ever track down my copy, I’m going to post that recipe.

    Great post. I didn’t know Canadians were hockey and beer obsessed. That’s probably because I’m a beer and brat obsessed “cheesehead” from Wisconsin.


  • Very sorry to read your salad didn’t work out. Real cheese lover that I am, I would usually never be willing to consider fake cheese, but I am intrigued my your recipe. It does sound good!


  • Gosh, what a great ‘cheese’.

    Shame it didn’t work in the salad, but it does look rather good.

    You know, I love it when you wear your Canadian heart upon your sleeve. To be happy about, and proud of, where one lives is rare in a cynical post-modern world.


    Makes me want to visit you even more.


  • Hey Ricki, I am stealing your salad as an entry for the challenge anyway, because I think everyone should have a look at your uncheese. At first I thought the tomatoes were watermelon and actually, I think that might work well with the mango, basil and uncheese. What do you think?


  • AndreaZ,
    I wish I’d known about the Mostarella before trying it out! I was imagining soft, round disks that held their shape. . . oh well. And yay for Wisconsin-Canadian connections! 🙂


    I think my guy is with you. . . he hated it. I didn’t expect a “real” cheese taste, so I quite enjoyed it!

    I guess I am pretty happy about living here (except for the winter, of course). . . though believe me, I do have my (many) complaints at times!! (Um. . . exorbitant TAXES???). Lucy, jsut c’mon and get yourself over here already–promise to have a good wine and some great chocolate waiting!!

    Oh, I’m glad you’ll still use it–would hate to miss the roundup! And I LOVE the watermelon idea–as soon as we get some in season, I’m going to try this again!


  • It will be good! Especially with your uncheese! I can’t believe you made that, you are so brave! It sounds delicious, I think you have a lot of patience!


  • […] on my list of recipes to make from Ricki? Her “swiss cheese“. This really has me intrigued. Homemade vegan cheese cubes? I am seeing a salad very soon in […]

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