Monday, April 28, 2008

Some Musings on Seitan...

Not too long after I became vegetarian (the first time, prior to my brief slip back into the Darkness) I picked up a package of prepared seitan on one of my infrequent trips to Whole Foods (it is "only" 13 miles to the one nearest us, but no joke - it take 30 minutes to get there with out traffic). Anyway, we tried it, and ICK. It was squishy and weird tasting. I didn't eat it again for a long time. And the second package of it languished in the garage 'fridge.

Since my return to the Light I've noticed I'm becoming more adjusted to the "alternative" foods that are staples for many vegans. I also like the fact that seitan is packed with protein. I exercise regularly, including weight training, and so it is important to me to make sure I'm getting adequate protein to build muscle and keep me feeling full longer. And so when it seemed like every veggie blog out there was making Julie's sausages I decided to give seitan another chance. Verdict: I love it! This time it was not the least bit squishy, if anything, it was a little too firm (the recipe suggested that the dough was likely to be on the drier side, so when mine was pretty wet I added more vital wheat gluten flour and I think perhaps I should have just left it wet) so next time I'm going to play with the spices and resist the urge to add more vwg flour. It was the fabulous, chewy texture I was craving.

And so last night, with much trepidation, I brought that languishing box of seitan out of the depths of the fridge. It was White Wave chicken-style seitan, which I was planning on slicing thinly, but when I opened it I found it already in pretty thin slices/chunks (yay! less work on a tired night). I pan "fried" it with a healthy dose of cooking spray until it was browned and crispy. And guess what? Yum! I was pleasantly surprised and actually found myself eating the crunchiest bits right out of the pan. I removed half of it for later use (I was only cooking for myself last night) and mixed leftover pasta sauce (about 1/2 cup) into the rest. I piled it onto a piece of toasted ciabatta bread, topped it with a slice of toffutti mozzarella, and put it under a low broiler until melty. I sauteed a bunch of kale to go along side. Yummy and quick.

So the moral of this story is: if you "had a bad experience" in the past with a particular food, don't completely write it off. If your issue with seitan, like mine, is the mushy factor I recommend that you try making your own. The recipes which call for vital wheat gluten are super easy and pretty fast and you get to control the flavor and texture (depending on the cooking method you choose). If you can't get vital wheat gluten in your local market check online, there are numerous stores which carry it including amazon. I'm planning on making a couple of batches here pretty soon.

Tomorrow: Black Bean Brownies (kind of)!

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