I’ve been slack about posting the Change the World Wednesday Challenges from Reduce Footprints, but this week the challenge involves food. This week if you are an omnivore then go vegetarian one full day, and if you regularly eat veg then go vegan one full day. Our household will go vegan as much as possible this week (cheese is something I cannot live without).
My extended family and the other meat eaters in my life seem to get hung up on the “missing” protein and fear of tofu. Just like chicken that isn’t properly cooked and seasoned, tofu will not taste good. Another issue with tofu seems to be texture; we use extra firm almost all of the time even for marinara (it gets pureed in with the rest of the veggies using the immersion blender). To make tofu more firm and chewy, press it to remove excess water (between your hands or with a weight) then freeze it. My husband also likes to bake it for 30 minutes on 350F in a flavorful liquid then add it to the stir fry or salad.
Earlier this week I threw together a nice fresh little meal of quinoa and baked tofu; I messed up by not making enough for lunch the next day. We had two servings each for a dinner. Below is the recipe.
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1 cup papaya juice (feel to substitute the fruit juice of your choice)
- .25 cup water
- 1 pound extra firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- 2 gloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1″ fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and minced
- 6 or so leaves of kale, de-stemmed and chopped
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
Preheat the oven to 350F. Pour the quinoa into a strainer and rinse it for a few minutes to remove the bitter coating (better safe than sorry on the rinsing because if you skimp you will ruin the entire dish; I speak from sad experience). Move into a medium sized saucepan and toast for a few minutes over medium heat. While the quinoa is toasting, slice the tofu into four slabs and press the excess water. Back to the quinoa, add .75 cups of juice and the .25 cup of water to the pan then increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once it boils, stir it once or twice then reduce heat to medium and cover and allow to cook until the liquid is absorbed (twenty or so minutes). Once done set aside.
In the meantime, place the tofu in a glass baking dish and cover with the rest of the juice, tamari, garlic, and ginger. Turn the tofu to be sure both sides are exposed to the liquid. Bake for about thirty minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through. It is done when it has a nice crust and smells yummy.
After you turn the tofu at the halfway point, heat the oil over medium heat in your favorite skillet (we can’t live without our seasoned cast iron one). Begin preparing and cutting your vegetables then add them as you cut them. Grind the pepper over the veggies and allow to cook over medium-low. By the time the kale’s green has brightened, your tofu should be done. Cube it and add the entire baking dish to the veggies. Stir in the coriander and the quinoa and serve.
The next vegetable protein I discovered was tempeh. While it is still a soy protein, it has a solid texture and more of its own flavor (although still very mild). We usually get the flax seed flavor for its omega-3 punch. The first tempeh dishes I cooked I just subbed tempeh for tofu in stir fry. However, I think tempeh lends itself to sandwiches since it comes in nice square or rectangular packages, and I would much rather have tempeh in my burrito than tofu.
- 2 tablespoons miso (I prefer something milder than red, like chickpea or white)
- 4 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 pound tempeh
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1-3 cloves garlic
- eight slices of thick, hearty bread
- 1 ripe avocado
- half of a red onion (or less depending on taste)
- 1 cup spinach
Combine the miso, water, and lemon juice to make a paste. Stir in the tahini. This is a riff on a dressing recipe from Miso Master, and I usually don’t measure it but rather taste it. Slice the tempeh into half crosswise, making two rectangles then divide those into four thinner pieces (like dividing a cake layer). Cook these in a skillet with oil and garlic until they have a nice crusty exterior or bake or grill them. Divide all of the ingredients for four sandwiches and assemble them without the miso spread as heat kills the beneficial bacteria in miso. Toss as many onto a panini press as it will hold and toast the bread for a few minutes. For our wedding we received a Forman grill which works great as a panini press, but before that I would’ve tossed the sandwich into the skillet and used a spatula and some elbow grease and flipped it to toast both sides. Once it has been toasted spread the miso spread on the top slice then reassemble and cut diagonally for eating ease. For a vegetarian option, I love this with manchego.
My most recent vegetable protein find and probably my favorite is seitan. It is the meatiest of the vegetable proteins, and as such it lends itself to more fine dining applications, although I think it is just perfect in my lentil and peanut butter stir fry and seitan phillies (even without cheese). The Laughing Seed works magic and turns seitan into soysage, which I think is so similar to grocery store sausage patties from my childhood that they are perfect for someone scared of vegetarian cuisine. In the winter I make a delicious stew that I envision should be made with game, but between the mushrooms, seitan, rosemary, and red wine there is no need for game. The Co-op has had some amazing shiitakes for the past few weeks, so for my honey’s birthday I made him the mushroom bourguignon from SmittenKitchen (I didn’t take any photos, though). With shiitakes being a bit pricey, I added much cheaper seitan to fill the dish out. Homemade seitan is really easy to make, especially if you purchase the wheat gluten rather than make your own, but unless you have a pan and the storage to make pounds I think it is more cost effective to purchase it.
mushroom bourguignon from the archives
When thinking about vegetable protein, please don’t limit yourself to the “meat substitutes”. Lentils, chickpeas, fava beans, mung beans, and quinoa among other grains and beans are fairly good sources of protein with none (or substantially less) of the fat found in animal protein (not to mention the cost benefit).