Pining for Parm

Having the rare privilege of dining with the one and only VeggieGirl at One Lucky Duck a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yes, I knew for sure that I would have excellent company and engaging conversation, but the food? Still a newbie to the whole concept of the raw food movement, it’s more of an intriguing curiosity than realistic eating style for me. Nonetheless, there’s something so familiar and comforting about such an approach, a real devotion to using quality ingredients and treating them with respect, that keeps me coming back to learn more.

Needless to say, the meal was an incomparable success, each morsel prepared with care and conscious thought. It was one component that I didn’t order, however, that really caught my eye. The way that one particular salad was delivered to an adjacent table dripping with what seemed to be real parmesan flakes, the presentation alone gave me pause. Of course, their “cheese” is very similar to the standard vegan Parma, but in large flakes, providing much more crunchy goodness along with that indescribable cheesy flavor. Resolving then and there in that tiny restuarant to make my own version, I was dreaming up recipes the entire train ride home.

And just like that, easy as can be, I had my own highly passable facsimile. No, not just passable, but exceptional! Slightly tangy and more complex than the typical crumbly sprinkle of plain walnuts, nooch, and salt, this all-purpose topping will undoubtedly see a lot of use in this kitchen. Just imagine a cheesy topping on that otherwise drab pasta dish, or a nice crunchy accent to that fairly plain bowl of soup. Anywhere one might use parmesan, flakes or otherwise, it’s a job perfectly filled by this vegan alternative.

Of course, my version isn’t raw, lacking the patience necessary to run it through a dehydrator, but should such things be of import to you, it could very easily be made that way as well. Just expect drying time to range from 6 – 10 hours.

Parm Flakes (Parmesan Substitute)

1/2 Cup Sunflower Seeds, Soaked for at least 6 Hours
1/2 Cup Blanched Almonds, Soaked for at least 6 Hours
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1 Teaspoon Tamari or Soy Sauce
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Once your seeds and nuts are soaked, thoroughly rinse and drain them in a fine wire mess sieve or colander. After removing as much excess water as possible, toss them into your food processor. Add in the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, tamari, and salt as well. Pulse until the mixture is fairly smooth, but still relatively chunky, sort of the consistency of a rough pate. Spread the mixture as thinly as possible on a silpat-lined baking sheet, taking care to ensure the paste is evenly distributed on top.

Bake in a 250 degree oven for 35 – 45 minutes, until dry and firm but not browned. Let cool completely on the sheet before breaking up in large flakes. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to a month. If your flakes become soft, just toss them in the oven again for a few minutes and they’ll crisp right back up.

Printable Recipe