Seitan Kofta

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I know a recipe is a winner when Curtis tells me he likes it more than once. Ever-efficient, the man is simply not one to waste breath on repetition, so when something gets a second round of praise, I know it’s going into our regular rotation.

Truth be told, I don’t even think I’ve ever had a “real” kofta, the little Middle Eastern meatball spiced with ingredients like cinnamon and nutmeg, but the urge to make a batch had gripped me suddenly on Saturday afternoon, a craving that demanded attention. I had to consult my copy of Jerusalem, drawing some inspiration from Sami and Yotam. They used a lot of ingredients that I don’t have on hand – pine nuts, chiles, and…you know, meat – but it allowed me wrap my brain around the prospective flavor. These are anything but authentic, so consider them more “inspired” by the traditional dish.

Don’t let the spice combination deter you from making these. This was my first use of cinnamon and nutmeg in a savory application, but it certainly won’t be the last. The addition of the spices make the whole dish feel delightfully exotic, even enjoyed from my West Philadelphia kitchen. They probably won’t win any beauty contests, but they are delicious for sure.

Curtis and I ate our kofta for lunch in our favorite summertime application – a huge, refreshing salad. This one included crisp romaine, sliced cucumbers, herbed zucchini rice, roasted red peppers, toasted sunflower seeds, and was covered in tahini dressing – all perfect accompaniments to the subtly sweet kofta.

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Seitan Kofta
makes 48 neatballs

12 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 cups vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups cold vegetable broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cold water
3 tablespoons mild-tasting oil
3 cloves garlic, minced

1. Bring 12 cups water/broth and 1/4 cup soy sauce to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine wheat gluten, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes. In a small measuring cup, combine cold broth, water, soy sauce, oil, and garlic. Add to dry ingredients and mix with hands or a spoon until the moisture is absorbed. The dough will feel pretty dry at this point – don’t worry! Turn the dough out and knead as best you can for 1-2 minutes.

3. Divide the dough into 48 even pieces and use your hands to shape into balls, torpedo-shapes, or just leave them as cubes. Drop the kofta into the broth and simmer for one hour, being careful not to let the broth come to a boil (nobody likes a spongy neatball). You’ll know they’re done when they poof up and bob to the surface. Remove from broth and let cool. Pat dry and fry in oil, or store simmered pieces in the fridge.

4. To serve, fry the kofta in a small amount of mild-tasting oil until brown on all sides. Tuck into a pita or place atop coarsely chopped greens. Drizzle with tahini if desired.

Nutrition per Kofta: 45 calories, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, 1g fat, 7g protein

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Sunday Scramble

Last week, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in beautiful San Francisco for a work event. In the less-than-48 hours that I was able to spend in the city, I explored (and ate) as much as humanly possible. I couldn’t help but feel completely at home in a city where single-use plastic bags are outlawed and the soy milk flows freely.

Aside from backpacks full of organic vegan donuts, the best meal I ate during my short time in SF was a big tofu scramble from The Plant Cafe. Every aspect of the tofu was on point down to the side of fresh watermelon (in December, who thought!), but the most memorable aspect – and the inspiration for today’s recipe – was the texture of the tofu. Instead of being crumbled, The Plant Cafe had shredded their tofu to resemble Daiya mozzarella shreds. At first bite, I knew I had to recreate it once I was back in Philadelphia.

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A salted caramel donut from Pepples Donuts.

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My hotel supplied this fabulous leopard-print robe.

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These shoes saw a lot of the Embarcadero.

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The view from our work event!

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  Sundays are usually my long run days. After Curtis leaves for disc golf, I lace up and head outside for anywhere from 6 to 9 miles along the Schuykill River. When I get back home, I love to take a long shower, make a big cup of coconut coffee and fix myself a huge plate of scramble. Today, I decided to take a page out of The Plant Cafe’s book and run my tofu through the box grater.

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  I’ll admit it, I don’t think I’ll ever crumble my tofu for scramble again. Not only do the little soy shreds create a fantastic texture, but in a way, I like that this scramble doesn’t even try to give the appearance of eggs – and it’s not even sorry about it.

  I used collard greens, mushrooms and grape tomatoes in this scramble, but you should use whatever veggies you have on hand. The Plant Cafe used a light and fresh basil pesto on their scramble, but with basil around $3.00 a bunch at my local supermarket, I did without.

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  I may have only had a few short days in sunny San Francisco, but I have a feeling that every time I make this scramble, I’ll be transported back to bayside dining.

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Sunday Tofu Scramble
Serves 1

1/2 package of organic super-firm tofu (you can use extra firm, but
anything softer just ain’t gonna cut it for this scramble)
2 cups collard greens, cut into thin ribbons
5 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
5 grape tomatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
sprinkle of himalayan pink salt (optional, for “eggyness”)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1. Wrap your tofu in a tea towel and place it beneath a few heavy books to drain for about 30 minutes. The drier the tofu, the better. Run the pressed tofu through your box grater or food processor attachment to create shreds reminiscent of Daiya.

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the tofu shreds. Add himalayan salt, cumin, garlic powder and dried thyme and cook until shreds are slightly golden.

3. Add the collards, mushrooms and grape tomatoes. Cook until collards are very wilted and mushrooms are soft.

4. Add nutritional yeast and cook for 3-5 minutes. Serve hot with a side fruit, toast or breakfast potatoes – or all three!

Nutrition per Serving: 216 calories, 29g carbohydrates, 11g fat, 18g protein

Sweet Chili Seitan Stir-Fry

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“Signing up for a half marathon in March is a great idea.” I distinctly recall saying these very words out loud during an unseasonably warm October. “It’ll force me to keep up my running regimen through the winter.”

Sure, it sounded like a great idea at the time – stave off holiday weight gain, cross off a major bucket list item. However, getting dressed for a long Sunday run in blustery 23-degree weather had me feeling more than a little bitter.

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Tilting my head against the wind as I rounded the corner up to the Art Museum, my feet kept tempo with my brain: sweet-and-spi-cy, sweet-and-spi-cy(Maybe it’s a distraction technique, maybe it’s a weird reward system, but all I think about while I run is what I’m going to eat later.) 

The prospect of chewy seitan and fat, crunchy peanuts tossed in a sweet and spicy chili sauce was definitely what got me through the last few miles today.

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For an easy, low-calorie punch of flavor, I used a storebought chili-garlic sauce available in Asian markets and most supermarkets. Feel free to adjust the spice to suit your tastes!

Sweet Chili Seitan Stir-Fry
Serves 2

1/3 lb. seitan, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 inch piece ginger, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup shelled peanuts
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar or sweetener of choice
1/2 cup vegetable broth (I used Swanson’s Thai-Ginger)
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water
I head broccoli, chopped into florets

1. In a saucepan, steam broccoli florets until bright green and tender. Set aside.

2. Add coconut oil to a wok or frying pan. Fry garlic, ginger and seitan until the seitan is brown and crispy (stir frequently!). Add peanuts.

3. Add chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce, agave and vegetable broth to the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds until warmed through.

4. Stirring constantly, add the cornstarch slurry in a thin stream until sauce thickens. Serve broccoli and seitan* over steamed rice.

Nutrition per Serving: 377 calories, 26g carbohydrates, 14g fat, 39g protein.

*This dish makes delicious leftovers, however, make sure to reheat in a frying pan. Microwaved seitan tends to come out like microwaved pizza crust – tough and leathery!