Friday, March 12, 2010

Cashew Miso Stir-Fry (with Puffy Seitan)

I was feeling ~really~ uninspired yesterday. I kind of knew that I should blog, but I've been rather preoccupied with a brownie project of late that keeps me from thinking seriously or with any kind of inspiration about healthy (non-brownie related) food. C was home grumping on his computer all day and declared his intention not to venture out, so in spite of my lackadaisicality, I knew dinner was up to me. Also, while I'm disclosing, it was my turn to cook. Out I went, and after I worked out (which was very satisfying), I went food shopping (which was less satisfying). I picked up our farmbox: chard, baby turnips with greens, salad mix, a few russets, a couple of oranges, and some raisins. None of this felt like dinner, at the time, so I proceeded to the store. I had already been mulling something Asian-ish, largely thanks to Vegan Dad's recent post about oven-baked chow mein. Since I'm not allowing myself to eat things like noodles these days, I successfully channeled my energy into stir-fry.

In the interests of even fuller disclosure, I'm really not the stir-fry maker. C usually handles most foods Asian, which includes the phos, the bibimbab, the teriyaki-ish, the sushi. My best forays into Asian cuisine have been things like steamed buns filled with barbecued vegetables and those delectable crispy sesame balls filled with sweet red bean paste. You can tell who the fatty is in this relationship, right? In any case, as I've said, I steeled myself to stir-fry. I didn't want to end up with a non-descript vegetable and tofu mash, having made an uncomfortable number of those in the past, particularly when I was just teaching myself to cook. I opted for seitan instead of tofu as it tends to absorb sauces a bit more readily and evidences a staying power for which you can't always rely on the beloved bean curd. After I managed to make that decision and powered through an uninspired trip to the market, I ended up making the following dish. C was kind enough to provide a title, since we all know I suck at those.

The first thing I made was the seitan. I wanted to use thin strips of baked and seasoned seitan. As a sort of lucky accident, making seitan isn't quite my thing either. The product of my efforts in this regard were unintentionally delightful. C always manages to churn out steaks that are flavorful, well-behaved, and chewy. The seitan I made for this recipe, though, turned out puffy, lightly-seasoned, and layered. The skin sort of separated slightly from the inner steak and the lot soaked up the savory sauce to excellent effect. It ended up being a bit like chewy-proteiny shitake. If you choose to go this route with the steak and all that, and are set on repeating my mistake/success, simply ignore anyone who laughs at your clownish seitan steaks, puffing up and looking ridiculously out of control. They won't laugh that long.

After the seitan was done and out to cool, I started the rice and prepped the vegetables. By the time I finished stirfrying, I had about 10 minutes before the rice was done. This bit of time is essential as it gives your cabbage time to wilt and lets the whole mess cool enough not to kill the miso. See what you think.

Cashew Miso Sitr-Fry (with Puffy Seitan)

2 seitan steaks, Marla style, cut into cubes (recipe follows)
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced or shredded
1 red pepper, sliced
1  inch chunk of ginger, minced
2  garlic cloves, minced
2  carrots, sliced
2 c sliced white mushrooms
1/2 c raw cashews
2 T Braggs
2 c vegetable broth
2 T cornstarch
2 T mellow white miso
oil for frying (I used canola)

In a large frying pan, or wok, fry seitan in a bit of oil until it starts to brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Add a bit more oil if you need to, then lightly fry ginger and garlic for one minute. Add the carrots and cook for another minute. Repeat with red pepper. Add seitan, cashews, and mushrooms and stir. In a small bowl, combine broth, Braggs, and cornstarch. Pour over cooking vegetables. Reduce heat and cook until the vegetables are nicely coated and no longer soupy. Turn off the heat and mix in the cabbage. Go away until your rice is finished cooking. When you're ready to eat, test the stir-fry for heat. You want it to be warm, but not hot. You can gently reheat if necessary, but if you've timed it right, you shouldn't need to. In a small bowl, mix the miso with about a half cup of water. When it's dissolved, pour it over the vegetables, stir to coat, and serve.

Mistaken Seitan Steaks

1 c vital wheat gluten
1 t ground black pepper
1 t sea salt
1 t dried basil
2 T nutritional yeast
1 c water

Preheat oven to 400. Mix all dry ingredients together. Add water and knead for about 2 minutes. Shape dough into two balls. Stretch them out as thinly as you can on a baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, then flip and bake an additional 15. Don't freak out when they start puffing and misbehaving. You can smack them around if you like. When they're finished, allow to cool until you can handle them, then slice and dice.

If I may, two teasers. First, I finally did find some inspiration related to those turnips I mentioned. I plan to make some explorations in this vein later today and will post the results, unless they prove wildly unsatisfactory. Similarly, I'm hoping soon to offer you a prototype of the Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownie. I have a recipe that I'm working with, but it has not yet yielded the kind of results I'm looking for. Wish me luck.

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