Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sauerkraut and Seitan "Spare Ribz": A Meal from My Childhood

If you asked me about the primary culinary influence that shaped my childhood I would have to say 'Italian'. My father's side of the family is Italian and my paternal grandmother gave my mom all her traditional recipes when my folks got married. Most of my childhood food memories revolve around homemade pasta sauce, ravioli, braciole, lasagne, and the list goes on...

However, my mom's side of the family is Polish, and my great grandmother was from a region on the border between Germany and Poland. This dish is a reflection of my mom's heritage, and a meal that we ate often in the fall and winter. This dish evokes memories of cozy winter nights around the dinner table with my family.

Seitan works great with this, but so would tofu, grilled portabella mushrooms, tempeh, or chickpeas. Slices of apple and a sprinkle of caraway compliment the kraut beautifully. When it's baking in the oven, the aroma is a divine mingling of sweet and savory; it makes me hungry just thinking about it!

This is simple to assemble: put a generous layer of your favorite sauerkraut (I used homemade) in a baking dish, tuck in some apple slices, and sprinkle caraway seeds over the top.  Be sure to pour in plenty of the sauerkraut brine too. (You probably won't need to season with any salt because of the sauerkraut, but add black pepper if desired.)

If you use ready-made seitan you can add it now, and bake at 375°F for ~30 - 40 minutes. When you take it out of the oven, the sauerkraut should be gently simmering in its juice. If you're making the seitan from scratch, you'll want to bake, steam, or braise it separately and then add it to the sauerkraut a few minutes before it comes out of the oven.  

I made may own seitan this time around; the flavor profile is tailored to the dish. Here's what I did:

"Seitan Ribz" 

1 cup cooked white beans
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (or a little less of regular soy sauce)
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of onion powder
1-2 twigs fresh thyme, removed from stem
splash of white wine or apple cider (optional)
2/3 cup water
black pepper to taste
1 1/2  cups vital wheat gluten

Preheat the oven to 375°F (if you plan on baking or steam-baking). 

Put the vital wheat gluten in a mixing bowl. Put the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and blend into a smooth liquid. Taste the liquid for saltiness. You probably won't want/need to add any salt; the mixture should be quite savory, but not exceedingly salty. Add the wet ingredients to to the vital wheat gluten and mix/knead gently to get a elastic, non-sticky seitan dough. If the dough is too wet, add more vital wheat gluten as necessary.

Shape the dough into a round and cut into two equal parts. Roll each piece into an oblong shape to about 1/2" thickness. Score the "ribz". At this point, you can cook the seitan anyway you like. When I make thin cutlet-type seitan pieces like these ribz, I like to steam-bake it.

To steam-bake, place the seitan on a cooling rack (brush the seitan with a little olive oil at this point if you feel so inclined) and then place the rack in a cookie sheet. Add 2 cups of water to the cookie sheet and put the whole lot in a 375°F. The seitan will bake and steam at the same time. Check the water level every so often; you'll probably need to add another cup or two during the process. If the seitan is rolled out to 1/2" thickness, it should take about an hour to cook--turn the seitan over halfway through. When it comes out of the oven, the seitan should be soft and springy, but not doughy.

Seitan ribz in to steam-bake
This is a dish that sauerkraut lovers will enjoy. Served with potatoes and a leafy green salad, it excites the senses while being warming and comforting at the same time--perfect for autumn and winter evenings.

And finally, I wanted to end my MoFo posts with a mini round-up of posts from other MoFoers, but I can't find the blogroll. Some people are creating their own lists. I guess it's just taking them some time to compile it? I don't have a smartphone so can't do the # search on Instagram. Sigh...such is life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rise and Shine: Homemade Cashew Yogurt

Although I'm just as inclined to have leftovers or a kale salad for breakfast, I often opt for a bowl of yogurt and fruit. As such, I was bummed out when the Whole Soy company went out of business because it was the only brand that I liked, and I really like to have unsweetened, plain soy yogurt on hand. Aside from breaking my fast, I like to add it to vegan cheese fillings, and tweak it into a mayo or sour cream or tartar sauce.

So, when it became clear that Whole Soy was no longer, I shook off my yogurt-making lethargy and tried out Miyoko Schinner's recipe for cashew yogurt from her Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook. This book has been keeping me busy since I got it last autumn, and I've had both hits and misses with it. But, I can say the cashew yogurt is definitely a hit!  I wish I would have tried  it sooner. It's really easy to make and  it's everything I look for in a plain yogurt: tart, rich, and creamy.

It all starts with soaking raw cashews and blending them with soy milk.

Once the nuts and milk are blended, you add additional soy milk and heat it gently to 110°F. When it gets up to temperature, you add in some already cultured soy yogurt. When I made this the first time, I used Nancy's Unsweetened Plain Soy.

At this point, you transfer the mixture to clean glass jars, cover, and let it culture in a warm spot for 6 - 8 hours. You basically want to keep the mixture as close to 110° as possible for the full time.

To this end, I use jars that I've warmed by filling them with boiling water, and then wrap the jars with a tea towel and place them in a slightly warmed oven. I don't leave the oven on, but just warm it up before I put the yogurt in.

After the full 8 hours, the yogurt is cultured and if you've used unsweetened soy milk, it's got a great tartness to it.

If you don't have the book, you can find Miyoko's recipe published on this site:

Cashew yogurt has become a staple in my kitchen; I usually go through about a batch a week. Many thanks to Miyoko for the recipe!

Homemade cashew yogurt

Monday, August 31, 2015

VeganMoFo 2015!

Hey, it's Vegan Mofo 2015 Eve!

Starting tomorrow, September 1st, people from all over the world will be blogging and Tweeting, Instagraming, You Tubing  and more about delicious vegan food all month long! It's an event to behold!

After taking a nearly 3-year hiatus on my blog, I'll be posting as much as I can.

Check out the details on and add your name to the list, or just follow along.
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