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Argentinean-Inspired Seitan


When I asked my friend Patty, a native of Buenos Aires, to tell me about her favorite foods growing up, I expected to hear about all kinds of exotic South American fare. Instead, she told me her favorite meal was pasta with marinara sauce. She explained that Italian food is popular there because of the Italian immigrants who settled in Argentina in the late 1800s. Argentine cuisine varies further due to the influences of other European settlers, such as the Spanish and British, along with the native Indians.

Patty also told me about a popular spicy lemon-marinated beef dish, for which I mentally substituted “seitan” for the beef and quickly set about to making my adaptation a reality. The tangy lemon flavor permeates the seitan which is then dredged in seasoned breadcrumbs and pan-fried or broiled until crisp and brown. It turned out so well that I included the recipe in Vegan Fire and Spice.

When I made it recently, I served it with sides of sautéed red chard and potatoes sautéed with red onion, red pepper flakes, oregano, and lemon juice, which complemented the seitan nicely.

In the book, the seitan for this recipe is broiled (with sautéing or grilling optional). Here’s the recipe the way I made it the other night, pan-fried:

Argentinean-Inspired Seitan Cutlets
This recipe is adapted from Vegan Fire and Spice.

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 plus 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces seitan, cut into 1/4-inch cutlets
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Lemon wedges, for garnish

1. For the marinade, combine the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl. Arrange the seitan cutlets in a baking dish without overlapping and pour the marinade over them. Marinate for 1/2 hour at room temperature, or several hours in the refrigerator, turning once or twice to spread the seasoning mixture evenly.
2. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the oregano. Remove the seitan from the marinade and dredge in the bread crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the cutlets with your hands.
3. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cutlets, in batches if necessary, and cook until crisp and golden brown on both sides, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.

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Eatin’ of the Green

Even though I’m not Irish, I’ve always enjoyed making a fun meal of Irish-inspired dishes. Actually, it’s just an elaborate excuse to make soda bread — (yum!) which I plan to make later today — it’s best eaten soon after it’s made.

Yesterday, however, I felt like playing in the kitchen, so I decided to make “corned seitan and cabbage” using my basic slow-cooker seitan pot roast recipe (see earlier post) and then coating the seitan with a layer of coarse mustard and brown sugar topped with pickling spices. I also added some ground coriander, mustard, and allspice to the seitan mixture. It turned out great, as you can see in the photo — I love the way the whole spices look on top! There’s lots leftover for tonight to go with the soda bread. If you’re looking for a great soda bread recipe, check out my Global Vegan column on Irish food in the latest issue of VegNews Magazine, where there’s also a good recipe for Colcannon.

On another subject — “vegan” is the “Word of the Day” today on Wordsmith.org. The guest wordsmith is Matt Ball, co-founder and executive director
of Vegan Outreach. Here’s the link: http://wordsmith.org/words/vegan.html

Slow-Cooker Seitan Pot Roast


Whenever I know I have a busy afternoon coming up, I know I can rely on my slow cooker to help me get dinner on the table. I love seitan any way I can get it, but a seitan pot roast made in the slow cooker has to be near the top of my list of favorites. It was an easy choice for last night’s dinner menu. Within minutes, I was layering onions, potatoes, and little carrots in my slow cooker, seasoning them with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, and vegetable broth. I then made a quick batch of seitan (from vital wheat gluten, which I buy in bulk). After shaping the seitan to fit in my cooker, I set it on top of the vegetables, turned on the cooker, and walked away. Within an hour, the house smelled amazing. Within 4 hours dinner was ready, even cooking it on low (I have several cookers — the one I used cooks quite hot, even when set to low). Fortunately, I had rubbed a little olive oil on the inside of the crockpot because the seitan wanted to stick to the sides, but it came loose easily after running a knife around the edge.
Instead of a sauce, I served the cooking liquid from the crockpot, which I later thickened by mashing some of the cooked veggies into it. The rich flavor of this meal is absolutely amazing and so easy. My only lament is that the potatoes and carrots don’t get that nice roasted brown crispness from oven roasting, but the rich slow-cooked flavors more than make up for it. To satisfy that crisp roasted craving, however, closer to dinnertime, I switched on the oven and roasted some asparagus. The photo shows a spoonful of horseradish in the foreground of the platter. I also served some applesauce on the side. What a great dinner!

Slow-Cooker Seitan Pot Roast
This is an easier version of the pot roast recipe in Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.
Important:  You may need to adjust your cooking time according to the quirks of your own crockpot. The one I used for this recipe cooks fast — if I had used one of my other slow cookers, it would have taken nearly twice as long.

1 sweet yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 pound baby carrots
1 pound small red-skinned potatoes, halved or quartered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cup water or vegetable broth, or more as needed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup or tomato sauce

1. Arrange the onion, carrots, and potatoes in the bottom of a lightly oiled slow cooker. Season the vegetables to taste with salt and pepper and add the stock, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon each of the thyme and marjoram.
2. In a large bowl, combine the wheat gluten flour, onion powder, garlic powder, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of thyme and marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Add the water or stock, soy sauce, and ketchup. Mix well, adding a little more water if the mixture is too dry, then knead for 2 minutes until smooth. Shape the gluten to fit inside your cooker and place on top of the vegetables. (You can place it on top of a piece of aluminum foil or wrap it in cheesecloth, if desired, to keep its shape). Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 4 to 6 hours (or longer, depending on your slow cooker), or until the seitan and vegetables are cooked.
3. To serve, remove the vegetables and seitan from the slow cooker. Cut the seitan into slices and arrange them on a serving platter. Surround with the vegetables and spoon the cooking liquid over all or transfer the cooking liquid to a saucepan and thicken into a gravy.
Serves 4

A Spontaneous Shepherd’s Pie


Usually, the combination of cold weather and leftover mashed potatoes inspire me to make a Shepherd’s Pie. Yesterday I had one – the cold weather – but not the other. What I did have was a small piece of seitan and some leftover green beans, and that was enough to get me started. For the potato topping, I microwaved 3 medium-sized potatoes until soft, leaving the skin on. While the potatoes were in the microwave, I chopped some onion and cut a carrot into small dice and sautéed them until soft. I then I chopped the seitan and placed it in the bottom of a baking dish along with the leftover green beans, which I already cut into bite-sized pieces. I added some frozen corn kernels and frozen peas and set it aside to make the sauce. By the time the sauce was made the potatoes were cooked.

After coarsely mashing the potatoes with a bit of soy milk, margarine, and salt and pepper, I mixed the sauce into the vegetables and seitan. Then I spooned the mashed potatoes on top and smoothed it out evenly. After sprinkling the snowy top with paprika, I baked it in a preheated 375-degree F. oven for 30 minutes. It was so good that it was hard not to eat the entire casserole between the two of us. We finished up the leftovers for lunch today and enjoyed it all over again.

Here’s the basic recipe that I used, but if you don’t have seitan, you can use chopped cooked tempeh, chopped veggie burgers or frozen crumbles, or simply add a cup and a half of cooked chickpeas.

Simple Shepherd’s Pie
This recipe is an adaptation of Ultimate Shepherd’s Pie in Vegan Planet. Since the sauce can be made while the veggies are cooking and the potatoes are in the microwave, it can be assembled in a very short amount of time.

3 red-skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes, well scrubbed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped seitan
1 cup cooked green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon minced fresh marjoram or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon Earth Balance margarine
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Microwave the potatoes until tender.
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot. Cover and cook until tender. Set aside.
3. Spread the seitan, green beans (if using), peas, and corn in the bottom of a shallow baking dish. Add the reserved onion and carrot and set aside.
4. Heat the vegetable stock in the same saucepan you used to cook the onion and carrot and bring to a boil. Stir in the tamari, thyme, marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer, stirring, to thicken slightly.
5. Pour the sauce over the filling mixture and set aside.
6. When the potatoes are soft, mash them in a bowl with the soy milk, margarine, and salt and pepper, to taste. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the casserole and sprinkle with paprika. Bake until hot and bubbly and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Serves 4

My Special Valentine’s Day Dinner

I decided to make my special Valentine’s Day dinner a day early so it would be available for anyone who may want to make all or part of it for their own Valentine celebration.

There’s nothing quick and easy about the prep. Lots of cutting things into heart shapes, which is time consuming, but, hey, that’s what makes it special. I have heart-shaped cookie cutters somewhere, but I can’t find them since moving last Spring, so I cut everything free-hand.

The “Here’s My Heart Salad” features artichoke hearts, romaine hearts, hearts of palm, and heart-shaped red beets. You can use your favorite dressing — I used a vegan Caesar, but a balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette would be nice to cast a rosy glow.

For the Wellingtons, I cut seitan and portobello caps cut into heart shapes and sautéed them and let them cool. I then stacked them and wrapped them in a piece of puff pastry that I shaped like a heart and baked them at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.

At the last minute, I decided to pierce the pastry with an asparagus “arrow” (cute, huh? My husband thinks I go overboard.) The sauce is a red wine sauce.

The heart-shaped potatoes were cut out of a large russet and roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper. I placed a roasted red bell pepper heart on each slice of potato.

For dessert, I made a small plain cheesecake and then enrobed it with melted chocolate. The garnish on top is some heart-shaped cherry jam topped with a chocolate-cherry truffle, that I shaped into a heart, and “iced” with vegan cream cheese. More truffles and some dried cherries complete the effect.

Okay, so I told you about my special dinner – now I’d like to hear about your Vegan Valentines celebration.

Valentine’s Day Dinner — Over the top?

I must be a romantic at heart, but there’s something about Valentines Day that makes me want to prepare what some may consider an over-the-top theme dinner. Each year I try to outdo myself, setting parameters such as all the food has to be red, or all the food has to be heart-shaped. One year I tried for both, and it was a bit extreme, even for me.

This year, I’m going with a “heart” theme, too – everything I serve has to have “heart” in either it’s name or shape. I’m posting the menu now. I’ll post photos of the results on February 14th:

Valentine’s Menu
Here’s My Heart Salad
(artichoke hearts, romaine hearts, hearts of palm and heart-shaped red beets)
Heart-Shaped Wellingtons
(sauteed seitan and portobello cap cut in heart shape and layered between heart-shaped puff pastry and baked)
Roasted Heart-Shaped Potatoes and Red Bell Peppers
Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake topped with Chocolate Cherry Truffles
(I’ll shape the truffles like little hearts)

Let me know what you think of my menu or share one of your own.