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Crispy Stuffed Filet of Soy

You know how sometimes you hear an old song that you haven’t heard in awhile and then remember just how much you really like it? I’ve discovered that the same can be true of recipes. Case in point is the recipe for “Crispy Stuffed Filet of Soy” from my 2002 book, The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook.

I developed the recipe based on one taught to me by a fabulous Taiwanese vegan chef named Roger who had a restaurant in Virginia Beach back in the ‘90s. He called his version “crispy fish” because the nori lends a flavor of the sea to the dish.

I’ll say up front that this recipe is a bit time consuming, but well worth it: first you make a stuffing using shredded “bean curd pak” (a frozen bean–curd product found in Asian markets). If unavailable, shredded tofu can be substituted (as it is in the cookbook), although the texture and flavor will be a bit different. The stuffing is enclosed in a sheet of nori and then inside a sheet of yuba (bean curd skin — also found in Asian markets, the frozen whole sheet yuba is better than the dried kind).

The stuffed “filet” is first sautéed on both sides to brown nicely and then placed on a baking sheet and baked a bit longer in the oven. It is then cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices, arranged on a platter and topped with a spicy ginger sauce that’s so delicious, you want to drink it. Because the sauce and the filets can be made in advance, it makes a great company dish, because you can simply do that last bit in the oven and at serving time and just reheat the sauce as well.

Years ago when we lived in Virginia Beach (and near Asian markets), we used to enjoy this dish frequently, especially when we had friends over for dinner. After moving to the mountains and away from good places to shop, the recipe receded to the background. However when these same friends came to visit a couple of weeks ago, we decided it was time to make our old favorite “crispy fish” again.

Having been in Charlottesville recently, I was able to find both bean curd pak and yuba, so the recipe went together without a hitch. I made individual servings instead of one or two large “fish” and served them over rice, smothered in spicy ginger sauce, and surrounded by stir-fried vegetables. It was unbelievably good, and I know I’ll be making it again soon.

Sometimes the oldies really are the goodies!

Faux Pho

The popular Vietnamese noodle soup is traditionally made with beef, and that’s why my pho is faux. I usually make it with seitan, but when I got a craving for it the other day, I didn’t have any on hand, so I used tofu instead. I can’t seem to keep a supply of rice noodles in the house (I need to start buying it by the case), and I wasn’t about to drive an hour through the mountains in this weather just to get some, so I used cooked linguine (leftover from the day before) to make faux pho and it turned out great — just slightly more faux than usual!

Faux Pho
This version of pho, the yummy Vietnamese noodle soup, is a sure-fire cure for a cold winter day. Serve with additional hoisin sauce, Asian chili sauce, and soy sauce at the table so everyone can adjust their soup to suit their own taste. This recipe is adapted from a recipe in The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook.

1 tablespoon canola oil
8 ounces seitan (or extra-firm tofu), cut into strips
5 cups vegetable stock
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon miso paste
1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce, or more to taste
8 ounces cooked linguine
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the seitan strips and brown on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Bring the stock to a boil in a large pot. Add the onion, ginger, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes.
3. Remove 1/2 cup of the hot liquid to a small bowl. Add the miso paste to the liquid in the bowl and stir to blend well. Transfer the blended miso paste into the soup along with the chili sauce. Do not boil. Stir in the cooked noodles, lime juice, and the reserved seitan.
5. Divide the soup among individual bowls. Top with bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro, as desired. Serve at once.

A Colorful Twist on Salade Nicoise

I think we’re finally nearing the end of our green bean and tomato harvest. Even after eating them frequently for weeks on end, I still haven’t tired of them. One of the reasons, I think, is the fantastic Nicoise-style salad that I make at least once a week. Sometimes I just combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl and toss, but most often, especially when that’s all I’m serving for dinner, I prefer to serve a “composed” salad, arranging the various ingredients aesthetically on dinner plates.

Just for fun, I changed things up a bit the other day. I came up with a colorful twist on the classic salad, using roasted sweet potatoes instead of steamed white potatoes, yellow tomatoes instead of red, and dark red kidney beans instead of my usual chickpeas (which I use instead of the traditional tuna.) For comparison to the colorful salad above, I’m also posting a photo of my regular Nicoise.

Here is the recipe so you can make it either way:

Nicoise-Style Salad
(This recipe is adapted from The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook by Robin Robertson.) The colorful adaptation ingredients are in brackets.

1 1/2 pounds white potatoes [or sweet potatoes]
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces green beans
1 or 2 ripe red tomatoes, sliced [or yellow tomato]
2 tablespoons Niçoise or Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed [or dark red kidney beans]
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
Torn salad greens
Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch dice and steam over boiling water until tender. Alternately, the potatoes can be tossed with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet and roasted in a 435 degree oven until tender. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Steam the green beans until tender. Run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
Place a layer of salad greens on dinner plates. Arrange a portion of the potatoes, green beans, tomato slices and chickpeas (or beans) decoratively on each plate. (Alternately you can cut the green beans and tomatoes and combine all the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl, including torn salad greens.)
In a small bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, parsley, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until blended, then drizzle some of the dressing over each salad, or if making one large salad, drizzle on enough dressing to coat and toss gently.

Serves 4