This series is now complete. If you want to read the other posts, you can find them here:
Yes, you heard me right. Vegan that I am, I can admit it. Sometimes, tofu sucks, especially if you are not used to eating it. And there’s two very good reasons why tofu out of the package can suck:
- It’s flavor (it has a very subtle soy bean/water flavor)
- It’s texture (it’s mushy)
Still, making good tofu is within reach of everyone, even those who don’t think they like it. But it’s going to take some work and maybe a bit of practice.
This post will begin a series on how to make better tofu. Tonight I want to address the prework that should go into any tofu preparation. If you are a big tofu eater and cook it all the time, these steps will probably sound very basic. However, what I have noticed is that there are a large number of open-minded eaters who refuse to eat tofu because of either #1 or #2 (or both) from the list above.
There is hope. Once a cook masters these critical precepts, she will be ready for further tofu enlightenment which I shall supply in forthcoming posts.
Precept 1: Beware the soft tofu
Silken tofu has a number of homes: flourless tofu cakes, tofu smoothies, tofu cannoli mix (it’s coming, I promise.) However, if tofu is going to be the main protein or be prevalent in the dish, avoid silken tofu unless your eaters are VERY accustomed to it. I eat a lot of tofu and I still can’t get over the way silken tofu squishes in my mouth.
The answer: unless you know your eaters well, get extra firm tofu. It will be close to something most people expect.
Precept 2: If you ain’t frying, get to saucing
Tofu by itself is not what most poeple call “good.” That’s why you have to think about really bold sauces. My personal favorite is a mixture of sriracha and chili garlic sauce (some people call it Chinese ketchup, but it’s basically a little chili and a lot of corn syrup.) Other favorites include chili oil, soy, and oriental mustard, soy and honey, and barbecue sauce.
If you are deep frying the tofu, sauce matters less as long as the tofu is breaded with something that will bring a little flavor to the party. Still, having a little rice wine vinegar/soy dipping sauce cannot hurt. Or like me, go with the soy, chili oil, and oriental mustard. I love that stuff.
Precept 3: The Press
Once you have the extra firm tofu, you need to get the water out of it. To do this:
- Take the tofu out of the package and drain
- Wrap it in a clean towl (not paper towels)
- Set a cookie sheet on top of the tofu
- Put several cans of something on top of the tofu
- Come back in an hour
If you master this techique, even though it takes time, you tofu will be better for it.
So, anyone have any good tofu sauces to share?
Recipe: Vegan Cheese Sauce RevisitedAuthor: CommonDialogSeptember 15, 2008
In this post on Nutritional Yeast, I gave a recipe for cheese sauce from How It All Vegan!: Irresistible Recipes for an Animal-Free Diet. Well I got to chatting with Wordvixen, a Twitter buddy of mine, about the recipe.
Apparently Ms. Vixen grew up on nutritional yeast (good for her) and said she would try the recipe. To make a long story short, we go to talking about how to make it more cheesy. Personally, I think the sauce is great, but I don’t eat a lot of dairy. (You know, the whole vegan thing .) So I have no problem with it’s mild cheese flavor.
My wife, the cheese-a-holic…she did not care for it. I want her to have the tools to be vegan if she decides to give it a try, so I mentioned to Wordvixen my thoughts about kicking the cheesy up a step. (Not a notch, a full step.)
My thought was to increase the amount of nutritional yeast, which I still plan to do at some point, but Wordvixen went and made it herself. In her recipe, she added 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne and 1/2 can of diced green chilis.
As far as I am concerned, this is the new official recipe.
Oh, and if you want to follow me on Twitter, my name is the name of the blog (you know blog well done) without spaces.
Recipe: Bragg’s Amino AcidsAuthor: CommonDialogSeptember 12, 2008
I thought it would be a good thing to talk about since until only the last few weeks did I actually become aware of how to cook with them. Even then I went ahead and did a little research into what they are since all I knew is that they are a replacement for soy sauce in a number of recipes.
What I found is that Bragg Liquid Aminos is a raw, fermented soy-based sauce. While the sources I looked at would not break down exactly how they are made, it is basically thought to be a chemical process in which the proteins in the soy are broken down with an acid and then nutralized (likely with baking soda.)
In practical use, Bragg Liquid Aminos is a very deep, salty sauce. First and foremost, Bragg Liquid Amino acids taste like heavily concentrated soy sauce. It is also slightly bitter and I think has an almost alkaline aftertaste. Still, the sauce brings a lot of flavor to the party and is useful in a number of dishes. It still hasn’t unseated tamari (low sodium, right Sue?) as my weapon of choice when it comes to making most Asian foods, but there are times when I will use it, especially when that is what the recipe calls for.
Recipe: The Joys of Nutritional YeastAuthor: CommonDialogSeptember 9, 2008
I’ve been trying to branch out and try new ingredients, especially those typically associated with vegan cooking. During my experimentation, I ran across Nutritional Yeast in several recipes (including my spicy “buffalo wings”.) I had no idea what it was, so I consulted my friendly local Internet and found out all sorts of interesting tibits.
- Nutritional yeast is made from letting certain strains of yeast feed on mineral-enhanced molasses. After the yeast has grown to a certain size, it is pastuerized to kill it.
- Nutritional yeast is high in B vitamins and has enough amino acids to form a complete amino acid chain, making it a good nutritional supplement for vegans.
- According to the link above, nutritional yeast also contains elements which regulate blood sugar and can aid in stress reduction.
The first recipe in which I ran across nutritional yeast came from the book How It All Vegan!: Irresistible Recipes for an Animal-Free Diet (lest you think that’s a typo, it’s a play on words. Replace vegan with began.) Give it a try, I really liked it.
Eazy Breezy Cheezy Sauce
You will need:
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 4 teaspoons arrowpowder or corn starch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- In a small saucepan, whisk together the yeast, flour, arrowroot powder, and salt.
- Add the water and oil and continue to whisk thoroughly.
- Stir over medium heat until the sauce becomes thick.
- Stir in the mustard and stir 30 seconds.
Yield: 2-4 servings
1. Be careful with step 3. I thought the sauce was never going to get thick and the BOOM! glop.
2. Next time I make it, I will increase both the Dijon and the salt.
3. If you using corn starch, my advice would be to add another teaspoon at least. Arrowroot is a much better thickener than corn starch.
Try it and tell me what you think!
So I’m vegan. I don’t really talk about it too much on Blog Well Done because I am afraid I might scare off some of my hypothetical readers.
I wasn’t always vegan. In fact, when I was still doing blogspot.wordpress.com, I was a carnivore, though given that my wife was vegetarian, I was at least veg-friendly.
In this post, I could recount my path towards going vegan or I can drone on endlessly about my vegan manifesto, but suffice it to say, I am not one of those vegans. If you eat meat, more power to you. I choose not to and I have good reasons for it which I will gladly share. If you ask.
That being said, I find something awe-inspiringly frustrating about being vegan and life I guess. When I ate meat, vegetarians called me a murderer (seriously.) When I became a lazy vegetarian (for me this meant the kind that eats fish), true vegetarians and vegans told me it wasn’t enough. When I became a true vegetarian, vegans told me I was stupid to eat dairy. When I became vegan, the raw foodists told me I was stupid because I cooked things that were killing me from the inside.
(Of course, many of them eat sushi so I could have chosen to turn my nose up at them. I instead asked them how they justified use of a dehydrator. I highly suggest asking this if you ever want to see a gaggle of raw foodists go on the defensive. I swear it was an honest question.)
Oh, and now, of course, as a vegan, meat eaters make me a target for their scorn as well. I have relatives apologizing that I have to eat disgusting things like portobello mushrooms and veggie burgers. I have friends who worry about going out to restaurants with me.
I do not believe I realized how political this decision was when I made it. I fully expected some backlash, especially from others who had had military veg*ns call them murderers. What I did not expect was the food-circle-of-finger-pointing. I naively believed that non-meat eaters were basically a unified front. Silly me. In fact, at one point, it was a bunch of veg*n animal rights activists that nearly drove me to eat meat again, just because I wanted to disassociate myself from their behaviors.
I guess what I am doing here, besides ranting, is reaffirming my personal creedo. What you eat is nobody’s business but your own since you doubtlessly are going to upset someone. (This doesn’t apply to cannabals. I would kindly ask them to consider changing their diet.) If you eat veal wrapped foie gras, great! If you eat nothing but what falls from the trees, great! If you are a vegan, great!
Ultimately, I have made my dietary choice and I believe it was the right one. If you disagree, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. I’m going to feed you vegan food. And you’re going to love it. Then we’ll talk about the benefits of a vegan diet.
Recipe: Stir Fry SeitanAuthor: CommonDialogFebruary 17, 2008
Part of my challenge with vegetarianism, especially as I head towards more strict vegetarianism, is getting protein. For the human body to function, even at rest, the USDA recommends 50g of protein per day. For those who do not eat meat, ingesting that much protein can be tough, especially when many vegetarian sources of protein (notably beans) do not contain complete proteins and must be paired with other foods to get all the required amino acids.
The go-to protein food for many vegetarians is tofu. Which is great, but the problem is that the way I like it (firm or extra firm tofu put into stir fries or fajitas) takes about 2 hours to do right. When the boy is hungry, that’s way too much time.
Enter Seitan (pronounced, unfortunately, as say-tun or as everyone’s favorite bringer of evil, Satan.)
Seitan has allowed me to keep my vegetarianism once already and may be what lets me stay vegetarian a second time. The first time occurred maybe two months after I decided to stop eating meat. I had taken my son to a restaurant for dinner and sat down next to a man enjoying a slab of ribs. The smell of the sauce from those ribs nearly threw me into an absolute frenzy to the point I wanted to reach across the aisle and take the ribs. On pain of death if necessary.
After complaining to my wife that I could not do the vegetarian thing anymore, she reminded me of an article in Vegetarian Times where they did vegetarian pulled pork with seitan. One trip to Whole Foods later, I had a package of seitan which I cooked in some barbecue sauce and voila! vegetarianism saved. Crisis averted.
Anyway, I am finding myself in a situation where I need more protein. Suddenly things I would not normally eat, namely kidney beans and cheese sandwiches, taste like gourmet food fit for royalty. My wife again reminded me that seitan, made from wheat gluten, is very high in protein and that I should consider fixing it and eating it more often.
Last night gave me the chance to try out her suggest. We invited a vegan friend over dinner. My wife said she was going to fix stir fry, but when our son needed her attention, I ended up fixing dinner. This is what we had:
- 1 Package Seitan, cut into 1/2 inch squares
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons low sodium tamari
- 2 tablespoons of soy ginger sauce (may substitute with 2 more tablespoons of tamari and 1 teaspoon of ginger)
- 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium or 1 large onion, diced
- 3 pinches of kosher salt
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4in. coins
- 1 leek, sliced into 1/4 in coins
- 1/2 cup of broccoli florets
- 1 broccoli stem cut into 1/4 in. coins
- 3 portabellas cut into 1/2 in. wide strips
- 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
- Boil the seitan over medium low heat in the 1/4 cup of tamari, soy ginger sauce, ginger, and garlic powder for 10 minutes or until it is soft all the way through.
- Bring the heat to medium high, add the olive oil, and sautÃ© the seitan for three minutes to give it a little structure.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions. Add 1 pinch of kosher salt. Cook until the onions are soft.
- Add the green pepper, carrots, leeks, broccoli florets, broccoli stem. and another pinch of salt. Cook until carrots reach desired softness. This step is pretty much up to each individual cook. I like my carrots to have a bite to them, so I cook them for maybe 10 minutes. Some may want them to cook longer.
- Add the portabellas and the final pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid about 5 minutes.
- Add the corn and cook for about a minute.
- Add the last two tablespoons of tamari and cook for another minute.
Serve over rice and enjoy!
Oh, and on a side note, I can’t wait to tell my family that liking seitan keeps me vegetarian. Especially when I pronounce it properly.
Recipe: Happy World Vegan Day!Author: CommonDialogNovember 1, 2007
That’s right, it’s back again for another crazy year. It’s World Vegan Day.
I know many of you, my readers, are not vegans, which is just fine. Neither am I. However, there is nothing wrong with trying vegan recipes every now and then (like my soyrizo taquitos for instance…)
I was vegan once for about three days, but I was just not ready for it. The diet felt restrictive, but that was before I started to learn how much is out there fore the vegan to eat. Make no mistakes about it: there is no such thing as a bad vegan cook because eating out vegan is so hard, they must prepare their own meals.
I will admit, some of it takes some getting used to. Some of the meat replacements appear to only fool those who have not eaten meat in a long while (I’m looking at you tofu dogs), but vegan cuisine made from good local ingredients and well prepared tofu is every bit as gourmet as a $500/plate meal.
So, if you’re stuck in a rut or looking to challenge yourself, try vegan for a meal. Your tastebuds and your body will thank you.