Tag Archives: joyous vegetarian food

Salute to tofu

Tofu is delicious.  As a vegetarian who likes good food and cooking, tofu is an essential building block.  I want to talk about making fried tofu and tofu scramble.

Fried tofu should start with pressing out the extra water from the soy cake.  Buy firm or regular tofu, anything but soft tofu (which is great for smoothies and certain recipes where structural integrity isn’t the thing).  Open up the package and rinse your tofu.  Slice it into slabs and then lay it onto a clean towel and gently press the water out of the tofu.

Cut tofu into chunks and then add to hot frying pan with a little oil.  You’ll be getting the pan pretty hot, so I recommend a seasoned cast iron pan and an oil with a high smoke point like peanut or canola.  But anything will do, if you happen to be cooking with olive oil then just turn down the temperature a little.

One CRUCIAL tip is to leave the tofu alone for a minute or two.  Most of us want to stir and shake all the time.  But the first minute of cooking is when the tofu develops it’s developing delicious crispy skin.  If you move it before that happens you’ll tear up the tofu because it is still sticking to the pan.  Let the tofu sit until it gently moves in the pan with a little shake of the handle.

Flip the tofu chunks with tongs or by shaking the pan.  But remember to leave the pan alone after moving your tofu to let that tasty skin develop.

Tofu scramble is really a matter of taste.  There are a couple of health food store semi-corporate seasoning packets that you can buy to get inspired.  If you investigate this way, just note the seasonings on the back and you can usually remake the recipe with your own changes.

When I ate scrambled eggs I preferred them to be a medium for cheese and vegetables.  So my tofu scramble comes out the same way — more heavily seasoned and with a lot of vegetables mixed in.

Step one: sauté a few veggies — whatever you want to eat for breakfast.  Here is some cabbage and zucchini.

Step two: add tofu.  Once you get the veggies a little soft crumble the tofu on top and then stir it all together.

Step three: seasoning.

The most important addition in tofu scramble is nutritional yeast.  I’ll add it into the scramble at various points. It adds salt, fermentation flavor, sweet, color and it dries up the tofu bits making more browned (maillard reaction) flavor.   Start with a tablespoon and add more to your taste.

Turmeric doesn’t add much flavor but it gives a great color and smell.

Hot peppers, chili flakes, hot sauce, any kind of heat.

Soy sauce.  I’ll just splash in soy sauce and mix it around.

Italian seasonings usually go just fine — oregano, marjoram and thyme.

Cook and taste, adjusting seasoning along the way.  If you like runny eggs, then just leave a little of the moisture from the tofu and veggies going.  If you want a more crumbly dry scramble, then cook a little while longer and add a little more nutritional yeast.  Enjoy!

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Italian seitan links

Seitan take 4.

I’ve documented my seitan adventures in three other posts (sauerkraut and vegetarian barbecuevegetarian noodle bowl with seitan and seitan refined).   I have a short list of what I want out of this refined seitan project:

– more firm texture

– more italian style seasoning infused into the seitan

– sausage “link” shape

– increased salt flavor in the seitan

With these needs in mind, I added a ton of spices to the dry wheat gluten.  I also ground the spices up in a mortar and pestle.  Oregano, basil, marjoram, salt, pepper, fennel seeds, and chipotle pepper (for smoke and heat) were my spices of choice.  Do your own darn thing.

I was hoping that the small pieces of spice would just absorb into the tissue of the seitan.  And I remembered that the whole fennel seeds in the last seitan experiment seemed to cut up the gluten strands.

I had seen an Australian youtube video where the cook wrapped the seitan loaf in some cloth to help shape it into a particular form.  So I chopped up a couple of old pillow cases (well washed).  I pressed the cut chunks of kneaded seitan into logs and then wrapped them tightly and tied off between each link.

I cooked the wrapped sietan links for about 45 minutes in stock that was just short of boiling.

RESULTS:

The addition of ground up spices seems to have flavored up the seitan.   Kneading the seitan until quite firm seems to have toughened up the dough and the final project.  Within a few seconds I could see that the cloth wrapping was billowing around . . . I think I could have just dumped the links into the broth without bothering to use the cloth.  I also had mild chemical fears about halfway through the process . . . afraid that some dye would get into my food.

Next time I’m going to knead even more and increase the salt in the broth.

But it is pretty dang good.  And nice to have vegetarian Italian sausage hanging around for meal prep.

Keep eating and experimenting party people!

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Seitan: refined

Swiss chard, mashed potatoes, fried seitan and vegetarian gravy. Everything is Humboldt locally grown except the flour.

 

The life of refinement is about making things better.  It takes practice for most of us to get good at the things we want to do.  It requires that we try and try again in order to achieve our goals.

So I’m back in the flour aisle of the health food store looking for vital wheat gluten to make seitan.  There are thousands of flours that have the gluten removed, but only one brand of wheat gluten.  Casual evidence that the  anti-gluten side is winning in the gluten vs. non-gluten wars.

For the second time around I pick up up some Bob’s Red Mill vital wheat gluten.  I don’t usually promote any brands on this website, but I think Bob’s is a fairly positive corporation, and the dude gave his flour factory to the workers.   Not to mention if you are out in the boonies and don’t have access to a local health food store to buy vital wheat gluten, Bob’s will mail you a bag.

STOCK

The basis of my stock is usually a browned fond — onions, oil and flour.  Cook the three on a lowish heat with regular stirring to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

As I added vegetables for the stock, I cooked it down with a little white wine each time, reducing and then browning each time.

Thinly sliced carrots, cooked down until the pan was browning and then douse with white wine.  Then I added a couple local potatoes (chopped with skins!), browned and then added more wine.  Repeat with chard stalks, and then I added oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, chili powder (personal preference), and some chili flakes.

What you get is a thick goo — a seasoned foundation for a vegetable stock.

I added water to almost an inch of the pot.  Dropped a giant frozen nub of ginger into the soup, and added some soy sauce and a spoon of miso to taste.  I let it sit for a while, just simmering while I made the seitan.

SEITAN

Last time I felt like the dough came together too quickly and not all the flour got moist at the same time.  The seitan was tough, and I knew I wanted a more loose dough.  I wasn’t sure if the broth I added to the seitan was too hot or if didn’t add enough broth at one time.

So this time I put the flour in a wide bowl, added recommended herbs from the package and stirred the whole thing gently with a whisk.   Concerned that the stock might have been too hot last time (potentially cooking the dough strands into seitan before kneading), I chilled two cups of stock.

This time when I added the cool broth, the seitan was a joyous mass of juicy chewy-ness within seconds.  I made sure everything was moist and stirred together and let it rest for ten minutes.

I’ll acknowledge my chief conspirator in this experiment, my sweetie who happens to be an artisan bread baker.  With decades of dough experience, I asked her to knead the seitan.

I strained the stock and after a quick rest (another ten minutes), I chopped up the dough into slices and slipped it into the simmering broth.

I let it cook for an hour or so, and then shut it off.

The result was pretty tasty.  The seitan is tasty by itself, rich with the broth and a little taste of flour.  This seitan is wonderful to fry, staying moist inside while getting a crispy exterior.  Next experiment is to try to bread and deep fry seitan — make a nugget so good that I don’t want to share it with other people.

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Consciousness and eating animals

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost twenty years.  For me it is easy, fun and a delicious.  I no longer see vegetarianism as a sacrifice in any way.  Eating is celebration and to eat vegetables is delightful.

Mark Bittmann, the New York Times food critic seems to be building a path to live with joyous cruelty-free food:

Many vegan dishes, however, are already beloved: we eat fruit salad, peanut butter and jelly, beans and rice, eggplant in garlic sauce. The problem faced by many of us — brought up as we were with plates whose center was filled with a piece of an animal — is in imagining less-traditional vegan dishes that are creative, filling, interesting and not especially challenging to either put together or enjoy.

My point here is to make semi-veganism work for you. Once a week, let bean burgers stand in for hamburgers, leave the meat out of your pasta sauce, make a risotto the likes of which you’ve probably never had — and you may just find yourself eating “better.”

These recipes serve about four, and in all, the addition of salt and pepper is taken for granted. This is not a gimmick or even a diet. It’s a path, and the smart resolution might be to get on it.

via No Meat, No Dairy, No Problem – NYTimes.com.

Kudos to Bittmann for the column, approach, and recipes.  To have veganism be the suggestion for New Years resolutions is wonderful.  The New York Times, one of the most venerable newspapers in North America offers a marker of the persuasiveness of vegan choice in the current public dialogue.

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