VEGAN BOURSIN-STYLE SPREAD (French/North American Fusion)

Makes 2 cups
(© Bryanna Clark Grogan; from “World Vegan Feast”, Vegan Heritage Press, 2011)

This creamy vegan cheese spread is absolutely addictive! My #3 son-in-law, once brought some Boursin® Cheese spread to our house on a visit. He wondered if it was possible to make a vegan version that tasted as rich and delicious as this favorite of his. Always eager to prove that "it can be done" (especially to George, who good-naturedly teases me about being vegan), I went to work in the kitchen and developed this recipe.

George loved my vegan spread and he is definitely not a vegetarian, never mind a vegan! He actually said and I quote his exact words: "I would eat this every day!"  The bonus: 1 tablespoon contains 43 calories, slightly less than 4 g fat (1 g saturated), no cholesterol and 100 mg less sodium than the "real thing" (and only slightly less protein). In comparison, 1 tablespoon of the plain Boursin® Cheese spread contains 120 calories, 13 g of fat (8 g saturated) and 35 mg cholesterol.

Basic Spread Mixture:
1 (12.3-ounce) box extra-firm silken tofu, drained and crumbled
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons raw cashews or cashew pieces, ground very fine in a clean, dry coffee/spice mill or mini-chopper
1/2 cup vegan margarine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon miso (a light variety)
Basic Flavoring:
1 to 2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
1 to 2 teaspoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
Alternative Flavorings:
#1) Omit herbs and garlic and use more pepper
#2) Use shallots instead of garlic
#3) To the Basic Flavoring, add 1 teaspoon dried basil or dill weed (or other favorite herb) or use 1 tablespoon of the chopped fresh herb
#4) To the Basic Flavoring, add 2 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper or sundried tomato
#5) Make a sweet version with chopped nuts and dried fruit (Omit the Basic Flavoring, of course!). A holiday version of this might use chopped apple and dried cranberries, perhaps chopped toasted pecans and a pinch of cinnamon. Use no more than 1/4 cup of the chopped mixture, in total.

Before you do anything else, prepare the tofu – this is an important step! Transfer the crumbled tofu in a clean kitchen towel or piece of cotton sheeting, gather the ends up and twist, knead and squeeze for a couple of minutes to extract as much of the water from the tofu as is possible.

Process the squeezed tofu and the rest of the Basic Spread Mixture ingredients in a food processor at high speed for several minutes. Be patient-- it has to be very, very smooth. You may have to stop the machine a couple of times and scrape the sides and push the ingredients that have accumulated under the blade towards the middle.