Good-tasting vegan 'cheese' is no longer a dream

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"Many's the night I have dreamed of cheese — toasted mostly — and woke up again and here I were," says the cheeseless, shipwrecked Ben Gunn in the children's classic "Treasure Island."

Many's the vegan who's echoed his sentiments. Until now.

Luscious, plant-based cheese is no longer a dream.

• Florida now has its very own artisan vegan cheesemaker, SunRAWise. Creator Kathy Marino, a fitness competitor from a cheesemaking family, combines traditional cheesemaking techniques with plant-based ingredients, and behold: VeganSun Artisan, seven handcrafted vegan cheeses, ranging from nutty Original to a truly zesty Smoke and Spicy.

Made from cultured cashews, sea salt and herbs, Marino's vegan cheeses are deep-flavored and firm, with a granular texture like aged Parmesan. All are aged, organic and raw; no cow, no cholesterol. One ounce contains 140 calories, 10 g of fat, 220 mg of sodium, 1 g of fiber and 5 g of protein.

• Awaken your inner cheesemaker with Miyoko Schinner's "Artisan Vegan Cheese" ($19.95, Book Publishing Co.). Her recipes have dairy cheese's complex flavor and rich, unctuous mouthfeel, but no dairy. They're made with nuts, nutritional yeast, plant-based fermentation and more than a little patience.

• Not into DIY? Daiya cheddar (7.1 ounces, $4.99) remains the gold standard for commercial vegan cheese. It's available in both blocks and shreds and is served up at local vegan eateries where it appears on vegan pizzas and quesadillas.

A 1-ounce serving contains 90 calories, 6 g of fat, 220 mg of sodium, no fiber and 1 g of protein. It's soy-free and made from tapioca starch, coconut and canola oils, pea protein and starch, vegan lactic acid and B-12.

• Nutritional yeast, that cheesy-tasting, golden, plant-based powder, still takes the cheesy edge off for many a vegan. Shake it on popcorn or mix into tofu scrambles.

It's dairy-free, soy-free and uber delish. Brands like Red Star (5 ounces, $5.49) are B-12-fortified, too. Find it at Whole Foods and other natural food stores.

Because plant-based cheese doesn't have to be a dream.

Vegan Cheese Scones

Your new brunch favorite, these scones are quick to make, addictive to eat, vegan and versatile. Change it up by adding a pinch of cayenne or curry powder or half-teaspoon fresh chopped dill or other favorite herb.

1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (see note)

1/4 teaspoon ground mustard

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) vegan margarine (such as Earth Balance, see note), chilled

1/2 cup grated vegan cheese (see note)

Pinch sea salt

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment or a Silpat. In a small bowl, mix together soy milk and cider vinegar. Mixture will clabber and become the tangy vegan equivalent of buttermilk. Set aside. In a large bowl or food processor, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground mustard, nutritional yeast and sea salt. Work in the vegan margarine gently and quickly, until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Blend in clabbered soy milk and sea salt just until a dough forms. Lightly mix grated vegan cheese into the dough; you'll still see shreds, which will melt gorgeously into your scones as they bake.

Turn out dough onto baking sheet and lightly press into a 6-inch round. Use a knife to score the top to form six equal wedges. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the kitchen smells cheesy and the edges of the scone round have turned golden brown. Cool briefly. The scones will easily separate into sixths. Makes 6 servings.