Ah, Seattle. We really didn’t expect to find such a charming city when we decided to pay you a visit. But in addition to finding charm, we found welcoming people, year-round farmers’ markets and mind-bogglingly tasty vegan food.
Seattle had vegan food like we’ve never known. Vegan fish and chips? Check. Vegan pizza? Check. Vegan pho? Check. Vegan wasabi tuna melt. Check. And this is where our story begins.
Our good friend Plaga showed us around Seattle and shared one of her favorite breakfast joints with us, Wayward Vegan Cafe. As it turns out, it wasn’t the breakfast we fell in love with, but the lunch. It was love at first bite with the wasabi tuna melt. So, naturally, one of the first things we did when we got home to Chicago was attempt to recreate the recipe. We think our first stab at the recipe was a success.
Tempeh Wasabi Tuna Salad
1/2 c. red onion, minced
3/4 c. pickles, chopped
2 stalks green onion, sliced
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tbsp. capers
1 tbsp. Bragg’s liquid aminos
1 tsp. wasabi paste
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
16 ounces tempeh
2 c. veggie broth
1 tsp. mustard (we prefer horseradish, but use whatever you like)
salt & pepper to taste
Bring 2 cups of vegetable broth to a boil. Add tempeh and simmer for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in bowl. After tempeh has simmered and has cooled, grate or crumble into bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill and serve with crackers or on toast with cheese as a tuna melt.
Sunday night, Shane and I decided to start a juice cleanse. While Sunday nights usually signal an empty refrigerator in our apartment, this Sunday night was different. We had more food than we’d had in a long time. We had leftovers from a party we had hosted and we had gone to visit my grandparents earlier that day and my grandma is no different than most in loading her grandkids up with food.
We decided not to let the potential wasted food hold us up. We have a freezer for a reason, right? Besides, when we decide to end our cleanse, we’ll have food at the ready!
So, how did day one go? Well, it wasn’t so bad until I went home and that’s when I realized just looking at my dining room table made me want to eat. Sitting at my dining room table was even worse! I sat there with my laptop working, but all I could think about was food. I didn’t even want any food in particular. I just wanted to chew something. Shane and I couldn’t stop talking about how much we wanted to just chew on a piece of lettuce.
We both had class late last night and we both gave in to eating. Don’t judge us. We don’t regret it. We only had a few nuts each and a few scoops of hummus. I am now dubbing day one our “transition day”.
Almost through day two (day one, officially?). So far, so good. I’m still at work though. I’m worried that I will be tempted again when I get home. It’s interesting to think about what activities or places in your home or routine things lead you to mindless eating. Distracting yourself is key. Hoping that the rain holds out so we can go for a run, which is something I thought I’d never do, but it’s amazing how much time frees up when you eliminate cooking and eating. Don’t get me wrong. I love both of these activities, so besides the impossibility of it, I would never want them eliminated for the long haul, but it’s nice to focus on ways to fill the time that was previously filled with eating, if only for a week or two, especially when that time is filled with more healthful activities. I’m really hoping to create some good habits that last beyond the cleanse.
UPDATE: I just made the mistake of looking at our previous posts. Note to self: do not look at our blog or any others involving food.
July 4th. Independence Day. Fireworks. Barbecued seitan.
Okay, so maybe barbecued seitan doesn’t scream America. So what? Shane whipped up some “chicken” with vital wheat gluten, vegetable stock (you can also use plain ol’ water) and some standard barbecue spices like paprika, black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. You should use equal parts vital wheat gluten to stock or water. You can basically shape these into anything you’d like. Dino nuggets? Yes, please! We like to shape ours around skewers, very narrowly reminiscent of drumsticks. For six drumsticks, we used 1 1/4 cups each of vital wheat gluten and stock.
We finally found the perfect veggie burger. Why is this the perfect veggie burger, you ask? Because it stands up to the grill and stays together without the use of egg substitutes. This genius of a burger is from Veganomicon and stays together with the use of vital wheat gluten. We had previously only used vital wheat gluten to make seitan and the (for lack of a better term) snotty texture is just what the standard limp, squishy or crumbly veggie burger needs. We grilled these up with homemade vegan cheese and corn on the cob. Shane went a little crazy with these patties (trying to relive past memories of Kuma’s, are we?). We recommend making them quite a bit thinner as they’ll cook more evenly on the grill.
Breakfast this morning: a spinach and cherry tomato scramble with sausage patties on the side. Our typical tofu scramble consists of one package of firm tofu as the base and a rotating array of ingredients. To get the best tofu scramble, the tofu needs to be drained as much as possible. To do this, we wrap the drained tofu with reusable paper towels and reusable napkins and literally squish and squeeze it until it can be squeezed no more.
Unwrap your package of demolished tofu and put it into a bowl. Add about one quarter cup of nutritional yeast flakes (these can be purchased at Whole Foods in the bulk section and are essential to a vegan kitchen), a squirt (about one tablespoon) of Dijon mustard, one tablespoon of soy sauce (we prefer using Bragg’s liquid aminos) and one teaspoon turmeric. We also like adding freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste. Feel free to add any spices you desire. Sometimes we add thyme or a dash of paprika or cumin. Pretty much anything goes.
Add about two tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan and add the tofu. Just add your ingredients when appropriate according to their cooking times. When we add mushrooms, we like to start by sauteeing the mushrooms and adding the tofu later. For the spinach and cherry tomato scramble seen here, we added the tomatoes after the tofu had cooked for about 5 minutes and we added the spinach right before the tofu was done, cooking everything just long enough for the spinach to wilt.
Today, we upped the ante a bit since we vowed to go to brunch, but never did (that’s not to say we didn’t enjoy delicious brunch at home, of course). We added some Gimme Lean sausage formed into patties. Hey, it’s Sunday!
Last night, we decided to do something that brought back memories for both of us of our childhoods - dine outdoors. Everything tastes better under sunshine. We used our brand spankin’ new grill - another very generous wedding shower gift - and grilled up corn on the cob with marinated portabella mushrooms. The marinade consisted of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, a dash of liquid smoke and some Worcestershire sauce. We recommend soaking your corn on the cob in water for at least thirty minutes prior to grilling. Peel the husks of your corn back to remove the silk, but keep the husks intact at the bottom. When you’re done removing the silk, put the husks back into place and soak in water to protect the husks from burning on the grill. We also whipped up a horseradish sauce for our portabella “steaks”. We used about one quarter cup of vegan mayonnaise, two tablespoons of horseradish and one quarter cup of bread crumbs. The bread crumbs make it very pasty (in a good way), kind of like a nutty spread with a bite.
This is yet another reason, and possibly an even greater reason, to purchase Veganomicon: Braised Seitan with Brussels, Kale and Sun-dried Tomatoes. Oh, holy of holies! We can’t even describe in words how we feel about this dish. The addition of red wine adds such a deep flavor that this dish makes us want to buy Charles Shaw in bulk and pour a bottle in everything we cook! Okay, that would probably make us winos, but there’s really no shame in that. And seriously, you can’t go wrong with kale. The bunch we bought for this recipe cost us about ninety-nine cents and we’re still using it - in salads, in tofu scrambles, in everything.
It seems that in the past month or so, quite a few vegetarian and even strictly vegan restaurants have been popping up all around Chicago. We are most definitely not complaining. We had the chance to try Urban Vegan on a recent afternoon. The restaurant opened at 4:30 on this day and with a bit of time to kill, we meandered awkwardly around the Montrose/Ashland corner for about twenty minutes. When it was time for the restaurant to open, the waitress, who had to have noticed us pacing the perimeter of the restaurant, asked us to come in, but told us that the chef was running late. We sat down and took a look at the extensive menu because even though we had been perusing our takeout menus while waiting outside for twenty minutes, we still hadn’t come to any decisions about what we would order. It is hard for a vegan to be faced with so many options - we wanted to order EVERYTHING!
We stared at the menu and were faced with soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, wraps and Thai food. The chef arrived, the waitress brought us delicious homemade lemonade (which was not asked for, but much appreciated) and we finally started our order with Tom Yum soup - one of our favorites. This Tom Yum soup came dotted with chunks of seitan, which was meant to resemble chicken…and it did as far as we know from our relatively distant memories of the real deal.
For our entrees, we ordered standard Thai fare, which surprised me because I can get vegan Pad Thai just about anywhere in the city, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the soy shrimp option and I just had to try it with Pad Thai. I’d never heard of such a thing and I was convinced that although I had to try it, it couldn’t be good. Shane ordered Pad Thai with their version of pepper steak.
Our dishes arrived and, to put it lightly, I was stunned. The soy shrimp gracing my plate of Pad Thai looked like real shrimp, down to the pink body. The texture resembled shrimp and, lo and behold, it tasted like shrimp! These people had now transcended into godliness in my eyes. They had to be involved in witchcraft. This could not be humanly possible, but it was. My senses would not deceive me.
Shane had an equally religious experience. The pepper steak oddly mimicked the texture of real steak that neither of us had experienced in such a long time. We still don’t know the secrets to their food. We have a few ideas that a trip to the local Asian market may produce some of the items, like the vegan shrimp. We’re satisfied, however, believing these people to have unlocked some ancient vegan meat secret. Sometimes it’s better to maintain some mystery in life.
Urban Vegan, we promise not to try to unlock the secrets of your meats, but do us a solid. Can you please invest in some more comfortable chairs?
A Sunday trip to Maxwell Street Market had me towing reusable bags with thoughts of loading them up with fresh veggies. Alas, this was not the farmer’s market I thought it would be, but was instead a flea market with everything for sale from bulk packages of white socks to tools to leather belts. All was not for naught, however, as we stumbled upon some of the best Mexican food Shane has had since leaving California. Rubi’s offers handmade tortillas beautifully made as you wait in the inevitably long line. I tried two tacos: zucchini flower and cactus. Fresh and worth the wait. Go to Maxwell Street Market if you’ve never been for the unique atmosphere, street musicians and eccentrics lining the sidewalk and for Rubi’s.
One of our wedding shower gifts that we’ve used countless times is a copy of Veganomicon. Buy it and make the Chile-Cornmeal Crusted Tofu Po’ Boys. They transported us back to New Orleans and sent us into a frenzy of Treme watching and longing for the Big Easy.