Tag Archives: vegetarian

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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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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Vegetarian noodle bowl with home made seitan

Vegetarian noodle bowl OR the seitan chronicles part II.

BROTH: I wanted a beef-like vegetarian broth.  So I started with oil, salt, pepper, and flour in a roux.  I added scorched onions chopped fine and let the whole thing start to brown in the bottom of the pan.  Basically I’m making fond and letting it almost burn, then scraping it up with some more liquid.  Then cook down and repeat.

Along the way I constituted some veggie broth out of some miso and bouillon.  I added soy sauce and hot chili peppers.  Sauté the onions and fond down and then add fluid, then reducing until goo appears.   Repeat to your comfort.  I cooked down the base of the broth three or four times.

By the way, when I say scorched onions, I mean it.  Onions and ginger were burned on the stove burner.

I took the ginger and peeled it then diced it up.  Flame roasted ginger loses a lot of the gingery burn and mellows to a sweet hot flavor.  It’s nice.

I added the ginger and some other veggies (carrots and zuccini) to the broth, lots of fluid, soy and veggie broth into the pot.   I made a spice sack out of the corner of an old pillow case.  (Cinnamon, cardamon seeds, hot chili, a nob of burned ginger, and a little coffee went into the spice sack — basically everything that I worry will overpower the broth).  Test the flavor and remember that when you add noodles it will become 25% less salty and hot, so err on the side of spicy!

Start a pot of water boiling for noodles.   Once it’s going, I blanched some broccoli.  Set aside (broccoli in most soups becomes over-powering.  I just want a little bit as a topping for our noodle bowl).

TOPPINGS:  I chopped up some raw cabbage, raw bean sprouts, and diced up cilantro (from the garden none-the-less).   Stir fried some thinly sliced seitan  to be set into the broth.  Also I bought a pack of corporate vegetarian egg rolls, baked them in the oven, chopped them into quarters and then tossed on top of the noodle bowl.   Don’t forget peanuts, garlic chives and loads of lime to finish.

Once everything is set, cook noodles, strain and then plop into the bottom of the bowl.  Ladle on some broth and top with veggies, egg rolls and seasoning.

Enjoy!

 

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