Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Upside Down Vegetable Cheesecake

"We shall o'erturn it topsy-turvy down.
Yet all is well, yet all our joints are whole."

Today's offering is my quixotic conflation of two recipes from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest: Savory Vegetable Cheesecake and Vegetable Upside-Down Cake. Both of these casseroles are pretty ambitious in their own right, requiring several steps and reasonably long prep/cooking times; they also call for a lot of eggs and dairy. (In their original incarnations, these recipes call for 6 cups of various cheeses - ricotta, mozzarella, cheddar, and Parmesan - a pint of milk/yogurt, 5 eggs, and nearly a stick of butter. Yes, you read that correctly.) My primary challenges in combining these two dishes were 1. getting a sufficiently firm, sliceable texture for the cheesecake layer, and 2. gauging how long the assembled casserole would need to bake to ensure success when it's inverted on a platter: the crucial juncture necessary to the "upside down" part of the title.

I had made the Vegetable Upside Down Cake in the past with success, and wasn't worried about replacing the one egg called for in Mollie Katzen's recipe for the topping. It was my own hubris in deciding to make the dish in layers - first the cheescake, then the vegetables, and finally the biscuit layer destined to become the bottom of the finished product - that had me spooked. In the end, I opted to forge ahead and figure it out when the time came; if the casserole came out of the oven looking like it wouldn't survive the flipping over step, we'd just slice it with the biscuit layer on top. No harm; no foul.

Now, while I was theoretically resigned to this idea, I'll admit that it would have been disappointing because I really wanted this to work, dammit! So I took my time, devoting an evening to the process, and making sure to allow for longer baking and setting-up times as necessary. And in the end - O, frabjous day! - my faith and patience were rewarded because it TOTALLY WORKED. Not only did it work, it turned out easily, sliced beautifully, and was delicious and spectacular enough to qualify for center stage at a dinner party or holiday meal (it is definitely showing up on this year's Thanksgiving table).

So there you have it. Be bold! Be confident! Be fearless! Be vegan! 

The “Cheesecake"
~ 14 oz. firm tofu, drained and crumbled
~ 12 oz. firm silken tofu
~ 2 cups vegan mozzarella
~ ½ cup vegan parmesan
~ ½ cup nutritional yeast
~ 2 tbsp. cornstarch
~ 1 tsp. each: tarragon, oregano, onion powder, salt (if you like/have it, use black salt for "egginess")
~ 1/2 tsp. white pepper
~ Dash nutmeg
~ 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ Juice of one lemon

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13” casserole generously with cooking spray.
~ Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
~ Spread the mixture evenly into your very well-greased baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes while you make...

The Vegetables
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 onion, chopped
~ 3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 large carrots, grated
~ 1 red bell pepper, diced small
~ 2 large zucchini, sliced thinly into quarter moons
~ 4 large scallions, sliced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, basil, marjoram, thyme
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ ¼ cup flour

~ In a large, deep skillet, sauté the onion in the oil over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, carrots, and bell pepper and continue cooking 5 minutes more.
~ Add the zucchini, scallions, and spices; cook another 10-12 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
~ Mix in the flour, stir to coat, and cook another minute or so before removing from heat.

The Topping
~ 1.5 cups all purpose flour

~ 1 tbsp. each: baking powder, sugar
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dill
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, smoked paprika
~ 1 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk, mixed with 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil

~ In a mixing bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.
~ In a separate bowl, combine the soy milk/vinegar mixture with the oil and mix together.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined, being sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

The Assembly
~ Remove the casserole from the oven and distribute the cooked vegetables atop the cheesecake layer.
~ Carefully top with the batter. This might be a bit fiddly, so be patient; I found it best to do this with my hands and pat the batter evenly into place.
~ Return to the oven and bake another 30-35 minutes, until the topping is browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
~ Remove the casserole from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.
~ Now comes the fun/scary/exciting part! Find a platter that is just slightly larger than your casserole, and place it face-down over the top. Grasping the edges of casserole and platter with both hands, swiftly and confidently flip the whole business over and set down on a flat surface. Speed is of the essence here during the "upside down" part of this casserole, because as Mollie Katzen's original recipe tells us, it will smell your fear.
~ Once you've inverted your cheesecake, allow the upside down casserole to rest for another 5 minutes so the cheesy layer can pull completely away from then baking dish. If you've used a clear glass dish (highly recommended) you can watch this process as it happens: SCIENCE!!!
~ Carefully remove the casserole from the finished cheesecake and take a few moments - and pictures! - to bask in the glory of your accomplishment before slicing and serving to your admiring family and/or friends.


  1. Wow, that is quite the achievement! Congratulations on making it work - it looks delicious and perfect.

  2. I was ridiculously proud of myself! (It also tastes delicious, and heats up well as leftovers.)

  3. This looks delicious!! Such a great savoury option and a great take on the 'cheesecake'.

    Check out our take on the sweet option here: http://tobeanornottobe.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/ice-cream-cheesecake/

    I'd love to know what you think of it!