Seitanic bites?

I like meat.

Bonnie Lee likes meat.

Despite that, meat has never been a big part of our diet, and it’s not something we cook with at home very often.

We made that choice very consciously when we were first married based on simple arithmetic: it takes more land, water and sunshine to make a pound of meat than a pound of vegetables — and there is only so much water, sunshine and land to go around. Given that, and the fact that there are people who go to bed hungry, a meat-rich diet always felt like taking more than our fair share. It always felt selfish and wasteful.

Having been raised in traditional North American households, though, we both grew up with meat at the centre of our diets, and enjoy meat’s bite and texture, not to mention that burst of umami. When a meal calls for that, we often use seitan.

There are many varieties of commercial seitan, and most are very tasty, but if you’d rather opt out of the additives, packaging and transportation that come with processed food, you’ll be pleased to note that it’s easy to make at home. We made our fist batch this weekend, and it was better than any packaged seitan I’ve ever tried. It was flavourful on it’s own – even better after sitting in a chipotle marinade – and had a great mouthfeel. We used it to make tacos, which we served with a fresh homemade salsa and cilantro rice. I’m currently working on a vegetarian collection for the 222 million tons app, and this recipe definitely made the cut.

Seitan tacos

Seitan tacos

Seitan (six servings)

Ingredients

Seitan
Broth
  • 4 cups stone soup or other broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp tamari sauce
  • ½ inch ginger
  • 1 thick slice of onion
  • 1 clove garlic

Directions

  • Warm 4¾ cups of stone soup broth over medium heat.
  • Remove ¾ cups of the broth to make the seitan. Add in the tamari, lemon juice and crushed garlic.
  • Put the flour in a bowl, pour in the spiced broth, and mix.
  • Take the elastic glob that forms out of the bowl, squeeze out any excess liquid, and knead it for 2 or 3 minutes until it gets tough.
  • Shape it into a loaf, and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  • While the seitan is resting, add the water, tamari sauce, ginger, onion and garlic to the remaining broth and bring to a low boil.
  • Cut the seitan loaf into ¼ inch slices, then boil those in the broth for about an hour.
Seitan cutlets

Seitan cutlets

Cherry vinegar & Thai pickled cherries

As I entered supermarket last Saturday, I was greeted by a stack of dark red cherries just begging to come home with me. I had just seen pickled cherries (something I’ve never tried before) used on the five and spice blog (which rocks), and was really intrigued by the idea. Growing up, we sometimes had cherries preserved in brandy or jam – something I was never tempted to make myself (we don’t eat a lot of sweets) – but cherries in vinegar, with maybe a little bit of hot spice? That sounded like the perfect way to enjoy the fruit throughout the year, perhaps with some cheeses or curry.

Bonnie Lee (she’s the brains of the operation) suggested that we add a little Thai twist to the pickle. Brilliant. So, that’s the way we decided to go. The results are in the picture below.

We ended up with about ½ cup of extra cherry vinegar, which is bright red, has a nice cherry finish, is slightly sweet, and will be great in dressings and marinades. We haven’t tasted the pickles yet, as we’re waiting for all those great flavours to blend. I’m traveling for work again – but they should be ready to crack open when I get back to the US in mid-August. I’ll let you know how they came out then.

Cherry vinegar & Thai pickled cherries

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts fresh cherries
  • 1 lime
  • 2 sticks dried lemon grass
  • 4 pieces dried Thai ginger (galangal)
  • 10 dried bird’s eye chilis
  • 2 cups distilled vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar

You will also need a mason jar that holds 4 cups.

Directions

  • Wash and pit the cherries, discarding any that are not firm.
  • Demonstrate that you’re smarter than me by not wiping your cherry-juice-covered hands on your shirt.
  • Sterilize the mason jar.
  • Zest the lime, and place the zest in the mason jar.
  • Toss the lemon grass, ginger, and bird’s eye chilis in the mason jar.
  • Pour the distilled and rice vinegars in a deep skillet, and squeeze in the juice of your lime. Add in the sugar, and stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • When the vinegar solution is warm, add in the cherries and poach them in vinegar for about 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Remove the cherries from the vinegar with a slotted spoon, and put them in the mason jar.
  • Strain the bright red vinegar through a wire mesh.
  • Pour enough strained vinegar into the mason jar to cover the cherries.
  • Put the remaining vinegar in a clean bottle.

222 million tons: the App

The idea behind 222 million tons has always been to spark conversation and change – and to do that by sharing tips, tools, and resources that help people waste less food and eat well. So far, that’s only been through this blog, but as of last week, we have an iPad App in iTunes.

The App is a publishing platform for weekly menus and shopping lists. The recipes all work for a single person (though through the miracle of technology, they can be scaled), and use up all the fresh ingredients on the shopping lists.

The idea was Bonnie Lee’s, and emerged out of her frustration over the amount of food she was wasting when she first moved from Tokyo to Los Angeles. She was overwhelmed by the quantities that food was sold in, and had no idea how a single person could use it all before it spoiled. In Japan, there are home economics magazines that help people save money by providing weekly shopping lists and recipes, but she couldn’t find anything like that in L.A. – and all the recipes she could find served 6 to 12 people. Bonnie Lee doesn’t like leftovers … so she issued me a challenge, which led to this App, built by our friends & partners at bluejava: Glenn & Makiko.

The first collection of recipes is called Bright & Bold, and was written by me (more on that another day), but my hope is that the 222 millions tons App will become a platform on which a large community of home cooks shares recipes – and if anyone reading this is interested in becoming part of that community, let me know via the comments below, or through any of the community platforms listed on my Gravatar profile.

The key to reducing food waste at home is planning – and as I wrote Bright & Bold, I came to appreciate the challenge of planning whole weeks for a single person with both variety and zero waste. So, if you don’t have time to plan meals, but hate waste and like to eat well … well, now there’s an App that can help.

Puffy veg

I recently read Spree’s blog post about “pint-size” spinach soufflés, and it got me thinking. I’d gotten out of the habit of making soufflés in Japan (where the typical gas oven is roughly three inches tall), but they’re a perfect way to use all sorts of vegetables, not to mention cheeses and herbs. I got more beets this week, so decided to try my hand at making beet green soufflé.

Beet green soufflé

Beet green soufflé, sans souffle

The results are in the photo to the right, and tasted pretty darn good – though my soufflé lacked a little souffle. I think I need to get my soufflé skills back up to speed before I share any recipes, but for now just wanted to share the idea with those of you whose skills are already there. This is one classic dish that you can play with, and use to make the least sexy of ingredients taste great, and (my recent experiment notwithstanding) look like something worthy of a five-star restaurant.

I served the beet green soufflé with carrots in a lemon dill vinaigrette, and froze the peelings and ends for the next time I make stock — one of the many great tips that Zo shared in her blog entry, Save our skins – deliciously and easily.

Fun facts
Weight of beet greens rescued from landfill per serving 1 ounce
Reduction in food waste if every person in the developed world saves just 1 ounce of beet greens from landfill About 31,250 short tons
Weight of the average sperm whale bull 45 short tons
Number of average sperm whale bulls needed to balance 31,250 short tons of beet greens About 695