I went back to Scott Jurek’s book, Eat and Run for a new recipe, and his “Western States Trail ‘Cheese’ Spread” recipe jumped out at me. This recipe has a better story. It was early in Jurek’s career, and he and best friend and pacer Dusty Olson, the “Dustball,” lived out of Jurek’s worn Volkswagen camper van in the Sierra foothills while preparing for Western States. He wrote that he would make a big batch of this tofu spread at home to make sandwiches with for the long drive from Seattle to Auburn. I tried it, and my sister instantly raved that it was best vegan cheese spread she had ever tried. I concur. Using the original tofu recipe and thinning it with water makes an awesome pizza topping sauce that even a SAD eating cheese addict I know nearly swoon!
I am a recovering cheese addict, so I avoid vegan cheesy things, usually because they are no healthier than the original. This recipe originally used tofu, which I like. I do not fear or react to soy at all. Jurek also uses tahini, which gives a rich flavor. But soy and tahini are both rich, calorie dense foods that I like to limit. And some people react negatively to soy. But I knew the original recipe could easily be lightened up. Wanting a lighter version, I changed to whole garbanzo beans instead of tofu, and omitted the tahini, but otherwise kept the flavor profile the same. It works well, as a “cheesy” hummus, but since the beans are drier than tofu, you must add water to get the right consistency. It makes a great sandwich spread in the summer with greens, red onion and fresh slices of heirloom tomato. Oh, and the pickle. Because everybody knows that pickle juice cures cramps, right?
Cheezy Hummus Spread
Adapted from Western States Trail “Cheese” Spread” from Eat and Run p. 102-103
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, or homemade equivalent
4 T light miso
3-4 T lemon juice
2 T tahini (optional, see Notes)
1/4 C nutritional yeast
4 t paprika
3/4 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
2 t Dijon mustard
a tiny dash of Tabasco (see Notes)
water, as needed, a tablespoon at a time
Add all ingredients except water to a food processor or blender. Pulse a couple of time to break things up. Add a tablespoon of water and blend. Stop periodically to scrape down the sides, adding water as necessary to achieve the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. For a spicy cheese spread, add minced jalapenos, or a blast of your favorite hot sauce. For sandwiches, drier and thicker is better, as a dip, thinner is better.
Jurek makes his original recipe with tofu, tahini, and olive oil. This makes it far too calorie dense for my taste. As discussed elsewhere, I omit oil for reasons of cardiovascular health as well as calorie density. Tahini would make it richer and change the flavor a bit.