Category Archives: vegetarian

Salute to tofu

Tofu is delicious.  As a vegetarian who likes good food and cooking, tofu is an essential building block.  I want to talk about making fried tofu and tofu scramble.

Fried tofu should start with pressing out the extra water from the soy cake.  Buy firm or regular tofu, anything but soft tofu (which is great for smoothies and certain recipes where structural integrity isn’t the thing).  Open up the package and rinse your tofu.  Slice it into slabs and then lay it onto a clean towel and gently press the water out of the tofu.

Cut tofu into chunks and then add to hot frying pan with a little oil.  You’ll be getting the pan pretty hot, so I recommend a seasoned cast iron pan and an oil with a high smoke point like peanut or canola.  But anything will do, if you happen to be cooking with olive oil then just turn down the temperature a little.

One CRUCIAL tip is to leave the tofu alone for a minute or two.  Most of us want to stir and shake all the time.  But the first minute of cooking is when the tofu develops it’s developing delicious crispy skin.  If you move it before that happens you’ll tear up the tofu because it is still sticking to the pan.  Let the tofu sit until it gently moves in the pan with a little shake of the handle.

Flip the tofu chunks with tongs or by shaking the pan.  But remember to leave the pan alone after moving your tofu to let that tasty skin develop.

Tofu scramble is really a matter of taste.  There are a couple of health food store semi-corporate seasoning packets that you can buy to get inspired.  If you investigate this way, just note the seasonings on the back and you can usually remake the recipe with your own changes.

When I ate scrambled eggs I preferred them to be a medium for cheese and vegetables.  So my tofu scramble comes out the same way — more heavily seasoned and with a lot of vegetables mixed in.

Step one: sauté a few veggies — whatever you want to eat for breakfast.  Here is some cabbage and zucchini.

Step two: add tofu.  Once you get the veggies a little soft crumble the tofu on top and then stir it all together.

Step three: seasoning.

The most important addition in tofu scramble is nutritional yeast.  I’ll add it into the scramble at various points. It adds salt, fermentation flavor, sweet, color and it dries up the tofu bits making more browned (maillard reaction) flavor.   Start with a tablespoon and add more to your taste.

Turmeric doesn’t add much flavor but it gives a great color and smell.

Hot peppers, chili flakes, hot sauce, any kind of heat.

Soy sauce.  I’ll just splash in soy sauce and mix it around.

Italian seasonings usually go just fine — oregano, marjoram and thyme.

Cook and taste, adjusting seasoning along the way.  If you like runny eggs, then just leave a little of the moisture from the tofu and veggies going.  If you want a more crumbly dry scramble, then cook a little while longer and add a little more nutritional yeast.  Enjoy!

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pattrice jones: animals, ecology and injustice

The official title of this stunning talk is: “Animal liberation and social justice.”  But you should watch it, take notes, change your life and donate some cash to the Vine shelter.


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Amazing modernist cuisine videos

I had a sodium alginate olive at Jose Andres’ restaurant in D.C..  It was more than impressive.  Arriving on a spoon and looking like a jiggly dollop of self-contained olive pudding, the olive skin burst in my mouth and it was like eating a dozen olives at once.

Youtube user enthusiochefs has some stunning videos of modernist cuisine.  Lets start by watching someone reconstruct baby corn on the cob?

Or powdered ice cream inside candied strawberries?!?!  (I know the gelatin isn’t vegetarian.  I’m not going to make these, nor do I think that someone should eat animal hooves.   I’m impressed with the videography and the ten billion steps to get this desert right. Yo!  Molecular gastronomists: make more vegetarian science food!)

I might just mess with this clementine sorbet with candied pumpkin seeds:

I’m certainly going to spend more time cooking with tweezers. Salute to the innovators!

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Italian seitan links

Seitan take 4.

I’ve documented my seitan adventures in three other posts (sauerkraut and vegetarian barbecuevegetarian noodle bowl with seitan and seitan refined).   I have a short list of what I want out of this refined seitan project:

– more firm texture

– more italian style seasoning infused into the seitan

– sausage “link” shape

– increased salt flavor in the seitan

With these needs in mind, I added a ton of spices to the dry wheat gluten.  I also ground the spices up in a mortar and pestle.  Oregano, basil, marjoram, salt, pepper, fennel seeds, and chipotle pepper (for smoke and heat) were my spices of choice.  Do your own darn thing.

I was hoping that the small pieces of spice would just absorb into the tissue of the seitan.  And I remembered that the whole fennel seeds in the last seitan experiment seemed to cut up the gluten strands.

I had seen an Australian youtube video where the cook wrapped the seitan loaf in some cloth to help shape it into a particular form.  So I chopped up a couple of old pillow cases (well washed).  I pressed the cut chunks of kneaded seitan into logs and then wrapped them tightly and tied off between each link.

I cooked the wrapped sietan links for about 45 minutes in stock that was just short of boiling.


The addition of ground up spices seems to have flavored up the seitan.   Kneading the seitan until quite firm seems to have toughened up the dough and the final project.  Within a few seconds I could see that the cloth wrapping was billowing around . . . I think I could have just dumped the links into the broth without bothering to use the cloth.  I also had mild chemical fears about halfway through the process . . . afraid that some dye would get into my food.

Next time I’m going to knead even more and increase the salt in the broth.

But it is pretty dang good.  And nice to have vegetarian Italian sausage hanging around for meal prep.

Keep eating and experimenting party people!

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Seitan: refined

Swiss chard, mashed potatoes, fried seitan and vegetarian gravy. Everything is Humboldt locally grown except the flour.


The life of refinement is about making things better.  It takes practice for most of us to get good at the things we want to do.  It requires that we try and try again in order to achieve our goals.

So I’m back in the flour aisle of the health food store looking for vital wheat gluten to make seitan.  There are thousands of flours that have the gluten removed, but only one brand of wheat gluten.  Casual evidence that the  anti-gluten side is winning in the gluten vs. non-gluten wars.

For the second time around I pick up up some Bob’s Red Mill vital wheat gluten.  I don’t usually promote any brands on this website, but I think Bob’s is a fairly positive corporation, and the dude gave his flour factory to the workers.   Not to mention if you are out in the boonies and don’t have access to a local health food store to buy vital wheat gluten, Bob’s will mail you a bag.


The basis of my stock is usually a browned fond — onions, oil and flour.  Cook the three on a lowish heat with regular stirring to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

As I added vegetables for the stock, I cooked it down with a little white wine each time, reducing and then browning each time.

Thinly sliced carrots, cooked down until the pan was browning and then douse with white wine.  Then I added a couple local potatoes (chopped with skins!), browned and then added more wine.  Repeat with chard stalks, and then I added oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, chili powder (personal preference), and some chili flakes.

What you get is a thick goo — a seasoned foundation for a vegetable stock.

I added water to almost an inch of the pot.  Dropped a giant frozen nub of ginger into the soup, and added some soy sauce and a spoon of miso to taste.  I let it sit for a while, just simmering while I made the seitan.


Last time I felt like the dough came together too quickly and not all the flour got moist at the same time.  The seitan was tough, and I knew I wanted a more loose dough.  I wasn’t sure if the broth I added to the seitan was too hot or if didn’t add enough broth at one time.

So this time I put the flour in a wide bowl, added recommended herbs from the package and stirred the whole thing gently with a whisk.   Concerned that the stock might have been too hot last time (potentially cooking the dough strands into seitan before kneading), I chilled two cups of stock.

This time when I added the cool broth, the seitan was a joyous mass of juicy chewy-ness within seconds.  I made sure everything was moist and stirred together and let it rest for ten minutes.

I’ll acknowledge my chief conspirator in this experiment, my sweetie who happens to be an artisan bread baker.  With decades of dough experience, I asked her to knead the seitan.

I strained the stock and after a quick rest (another ten minutes), I chopped up the dough into slices and slipped it into the simmering broth.

I let it cook for an hour or so, and then shut it off.

The result was pretty tasty.  The seitan is tasty by itself, rich with the broth and a little taste of flour.  This seitan is wonderful to fry, staying moist inside while getting a crispy exterior.  Next experiment is to try to bread and deep fry seitan — make a nugget so good that I don’t want to share it with other people.

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Vegetarian noodle bowl with home made seitan

Vegetarian noodle bowl OR the seitan chronicles part II.

BROTH: I wanted a beef-like vegetarian broth.  So I started with oil, salt, pepper, and flour in a roux.  I added scorched onions chopped fine and let the whole thing start to brown in the bottom of the pan.  Basically I’m making fond and letting it almost burn, then scraping it up with some more liquid.  Then cook down and repeat.

Along the way I constituted some veggie broth out of some miso and bouillon.  I added soy sauce and hot chili peppers.  Sauté the onions and fond down and then add fluid, then reducing until goo appears.   Repeat to your comfort.  I cooked down the base of the broth three or four times.

By the way, when I say scorched onions, I mean it.  Onions and ginger were burned on the stove burner.

I took the ginger and peeled it then diced it up.  Flame roasted ginger loses a lot of the gingery burn and mellows to a sweet hot flavor.  It’s nice.

I added the ginger and some other veggies (carrots and zuccini) to the broth, lots of fluid, soy and veggie broth into the pot.   I made a spice sack out of the corner of an old pillow case.  (Cinnamon, cardamon seeds, hot chili, a nob of burned ginger, and a little coffee went into the spice sack — basically everything that I worry will overpower the broth).  Test the flavor and remember that when you add noodles it will become 25% less salty and hot, so err on the side of spicy!

Start a pot of water boiling for noodles.   Once it’s going, I blanched some broccoli.  Set aside (broccoli in most soups becomes over-powering.  I just want a little bit as a topping for our noodle bowl).

TOPPINGS:  I chopped up some raw cabbage, raw bean sprouts, and diced up cilantro (from the garden none-the-less).   Stir fried some thinly sliced seitan  to be set into the broth.  Also I bought a pack of corporate vegetarian egg rolls, baked them in the oven, chopped them into quarters and then tossed on top of the noodle bowl.   Don’t forget peanuts, garlic chives and loads of lime to finish.

Once everything is set, cook noodles, strain and then plop into the bottom of the bowl.  Ladle on some broth and top with veggies, egg rolls and seasoning.




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Sauerkraut and vegetarian barbecue

Sauerkraut and brio bread.

I got inspired to make my own Sauerkraut and batch one was fantastic.  I simply chopped up an organic cabbage, sprinkled with a little salt (less than a teaspoon), mashed it up and then stuffed it into a breathable jug.   In a little less than a week there were nice bacteria bubbles and a healthy sour smell.  I like my sauerkraut to taste like steamed cabbage sprinkled with fresh lemon — a delicate and sweet flavor.  When it reached critical mass, I jammed the kraut into some jars and put it in the fridge.

The ultimate plan was to make my own vegetarian spicy sausage to go with this finest of condiments.

It has been a long time since I made seitan, but it was exceptionally easy.  I made a nice stock (carrots, onions, garlic, spices, veggie broth and some leftover veggies from old meals), mixed up the vital wheat gluten with chili flakes and fennel seeds, added liquid and then kneaded the seitan.

It came together so fast that some parts of the mix didn’t get hydrated well.  Sliced into slabs and then into the broth.  I’m also realizing that my broth might have been too hot.  But some of the seitan came out firm and some was jiggly perfect.

But it was not, sausage-like.  What I had was a kind of firm beef-like substance, not quite what I was intending.

When life toughens your seitan, you make barbecue!

One thin sliced onion

two garlic cloves, diced

Oil for cooking

salt and pepper

one tablespoon of brown sugar

chili flakes

chili powder

smoked paprika or a drop of liquid smoke

yellow mustard (or any mustard) to taste

ketchup to taste

cider vinegar

Sautee the onions and garlic at a low heat.  Add all the spices and let it all soften.  Add wet ingredients to taste and keep stirring.  Once you have a healthy barbecue sauce going, add in thinly sliced seitan and stir.  I let the whole thing cook for a few minutes to warm the seitan.

Served on thinly sliced bread open face.


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Eddie Huang: Fresh off the boat

It was late at night when I stumbled onto Eddie Huang’s new Vice TV show Fresh Off the Boat.  I like food travel shows, and I like degenerates, so this show was already in my wheelhouse.

I’m a vegetarian, and I wouldn’t recommend the first episode of Eddie’s Bay Area show because he spends much of the episode with a Bay Area motorcycle crew killing rabbits.  (Although I’ll note that I enjoyed his ending rant where he suggests to meat eaters who don’t kill their own critters that they imagine the dead bunny every time they take a bite.)

Yeah, there are a bunch of things to discount these Eddie Huang shows: the slang which seems both forced and out-of-date, the relentless sexism (women appear only as sex objects or as servants), and the hipper-than-thou tone which permeates the whole project.

But I’m not going to pretend that I don’t like parts of the show.  Eddie comes across as pretty smart, adding complexity to some of the traditional narratives about food, culture and popularity.  And more than that, he simply shows his foolishness.  He tells self-deprecating stories, snaps on absolutely everyone, sports terrible fashion, and spends more than enough time mired in drugs.  Witness his first episode in Taiwan where he not only explains how to buy Betel nuts, but also how to use them, showcases a juvenile aversion to penis shaped waffles, and spends some time at the late night shrimp pool.  Not your traditional travel food show.

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Carol Adams and the New York Times justifications for meat eating

The New York Times invited only prominent white men to discuss the ethics of eating meat.  Blisstree remedy this by inviting Carol J. Adams, the preeminent feminist vegetarian ethical thinker writing today to respond.  She begins by noting the invisibility of identity in the New York Times choices:

Let’s remember the insight about who is “marked” and who is not marked in our culture. Until Black Liberation and Women’s Liberation began to change consciousness in the late 60s and early 70s, white men were unmarked, that is, their whiteness and maleness were untheorized and unremarkable. We all have to resist a kind of “colonization of consciousness” in which we participate in maintaining what is normative because that is what we are used to seeing. The irony here is that the Times helps to create what is normative and who the experts are. Whoever is quoted in interviews and is invited to be a guest writer in the Magazine section, becomes more well known.

via Author Carol J. Adams Weighs In On The Ethicist’s All-Male Meat Panel.

And of course, the delicious core of the argument: that gendered representation is tied to how comfortable Americans are with meat eating.  Adam’s continues:

Does it speak to the gendered politics of meat-eating? How much time do we have?

First, it begins with the presumption that meat eating as a normative practice can be defended, especially here in the United States. I don’t believe in general that it can be, not here in the United States.

Our culture is heavily invested in the identification of meat eating with manliness: The idea that meat protein is better for you; the notion that men need to eat meat to be strong (the countless vegan athletes who disprove this notwithstanding); the identification of veganism with women or with gay men (i.e., it is okay for those “kinds” of people to give up eating meat)! The fixation on hunting as being an important part of our evolutionary heritage is part of the sexual politics of meat, (and interestingly one of the panelists, Michael Pollan describes his very masculine experience of hunting wild animals).

Then there is the philosophical tradition from which much animal theory is written that emphasizes the rational and distrusts the emotional. I am part of a group of feminist writers arguing that a feminist care ethic helps us to see the important of choosing to be vegan. But if caring is disdained, then those kinds of arguments get drowned out in favor of the “rational.”

There is also the status of the other animals in a patriarchal world, one in which they are feminized and sexualized. (I argue in The sexual politics of meat that all animals are made female in image or language through meat eating.)

via Author Carol J. Adams Weighs In On The Ethicist’s All-Male Meat Panel Page 2 |.

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