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

Seitan Salad with Creamy Dressing

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In my sophomore year of high school, I got my first job at a restaurant across town from my house. I spent most of my Friday and Saturday nights in a tie, making flavored cappuccinos and trying to come up with creative chocolate sauce designs on dessert plates. It wasn’t a bad place to work as a teen, but my hands-down-favorite aspect of the gig was free meal I’d get at the start of every shift.

I ate a lot of burgers and french dip sandwiches with thick-cut fries, but on hot summer afternoons, I’d go for my favorite meal on the menu – the grilled steak salad. It was a thing of beauty, a delicious mix of flavors and textures, sweet and savory, piled high on a big white plate. I liked it so much, I ordered it even on the occasions when I’d go to the restaurant with family or friends. I haven’t had it in years, but I found myself unable to think of anything else all day long – I couldn’t wait to get home and veganize it. I’m so glad I did!

Just as I did back in high school, as the weather creeps up into the 90s, I find myself turning to easy-to-throw-together meals that don’t involve spending too much time in front of the stove. Hearty salads like this one meet that need while making for a filling, satisfying meal that won’t leave you feeling bloated up. This salad fills your bowl chock full of flavors, textures, and nutrients.

I should note that this makes two serious salads – our IKEA salad bowls were overflowing, but Curtis and I really love to eat. If you have a slightly “daintier” appetite, this might be fine divided into 3-4 meals.

Seitan “Steak” Salad
makes 2 huge salads

1/2 pound seitan, homemade or packaged, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. button or crimini mushrooms, sliced thinly
2 tsp coconut oil
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
2 oz. roasted red peppers, sliced
1 cucumber, unpeeled and sliced thinly into half-moons
1 red, ripe tomato, sliced into half-moons
1/4 cup dry-roasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup Vegenaise or other vegan mayo
2 tbsp plain, unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp whole-grain mustard (the grainier the better!)
1 tbsp white vinegar
pinch of sweetener (I used Splenda)
s&p to taste

1. In a large frying pan, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and seitan and leave undisturbed for a few minutes to get it nice and crispy. Stir, and add mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are soft.

2. While mushrooms and seitan cook, add lettuce, roasted peppers, tomato, and sunflower seeds to a large mixing bowl. Add your seitan-mushroom mixture, mix everything well, and set aside.

3. To make the dressing, combine Vegenaise, almond milk, mustard, vinegar, sweetener, and salt & pepper in a small bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy. Pour over the salad and mix with tongs until the salad is well-coated. Separate into bowls and serve.

Nutrition with Dressing: 596 calories, 32g carbohydrates, 12g fiber, 33g fat, 46g 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!