First, because I can’t respond to comments: thanks to Ali for the excited comment the other day about UNC- it made my day :)
In other news, look at my attractive ciabatta!
The eternally helpful Mark Bittman, in his eternally helpful cookbook How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, assures us that we can make 100% whole grain bread that tastes good. The secret is in the gluten. Vital wheat gluten.
I was “that girl” buying my vital wheat gluten at Whole Foods. (I was also ‘that girl” when my burly male coworkers mocked me mercilessly for requesting a vegetarian sandwich together with a Diet Coke at a catered work event yesterday).
But guys it WORKS. You don’t get that cardboard taste/shoe leather texture 100% whole wheat bread if you just give it a little gluten.
I am a huge fan of this ciabatta recipe in general due to its low maintenance. But then I simply added 100% whole wheat flour plus two tablespoons to the recipe, added perhaps a splash more water, beat the bejesus out of the dough, baked it, and LOOK AT THIS GORGEOUS STUFF.
I brought it to a work potluck and it was vair popular, particularly with some olive oil and fresh herbs. Soft and bubbly, it was.
Anyway, having the vital wheat gluten also gave me an opportunity to make seitan for the first time. Also from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, I saw it as a fun opportunity to do some food-lab style cooking and liven up my non-meat protein, since I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t like the taste of meat very often and if I had a choice I would eat cookies for every meal. So if there’s a protein that can kind of be like bread, that could be called “meeting me halfway”, right?
Gluten as dough is not necessarily easy on the eyes.
As dough it looks like something pulled out of a cadaver…
And after cooking in the Asian-style broth (veggie stock, soy sauce, etc.), it looked like that same thing pulled out of the cadaver that had then been left out in the sun for awhile.
But I persevered, envisioning a stir-fry.
Squash, carrots. Ginger. Flavors.
Overall the ensuing stir-fry tasted… okay. For all the fuss, I’d say not really worth it.
The texture of the seitan was odd- I’m thinking I’d cook it less next time, because it was too airy. It also really tasted like… bread! Sort of unsurprising, given the ingredients. But like an especially airy and chewy bread you might get at an Italian restaurant. Which is weird all mixed up with hoisin sauce and ginger, yknow?
Anyway, an experiment!
The most successful (though least photogenic) seitan I made was a Bittman recipe for seitan loaf with lentils. I really have never met a lentil I didn’t like. I was having friends over, two of whom were boys, one of whom was Steve, so I knew I needed a hearty and manly meal. I was jonesing to make some cornbread, which to me meant barbecue to go with it.
SO I threw together a homemade vegan barbecue sauce (apple cider vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, ketchup, etc.) and crumbled up the lentil seitan into it.
It was REALLY good.
To round out the meal, I made a MEGA pasta salad to satiate boy hunger
I do mean mega- it required multiple bowls. (I also did one with olives and feta, making it non vegan. I figured the vegan and the picky eater who doesn’t like olives- except then Steve ended up loving the olive one, go figure- could eat from the smaller one. Smaller being a relative term.)
A cucumber and mango salad for a tropical twist and some extra vitamins. A few chilis for kicks.
And the cornbread I so craved.
I’ve been making eggless cornbread of late because we tend to only buy farmer’s market eggs now and it just seems a waste for them to disappear into batter. So I just replaced my usual buttermilk with soy buttermilk (soymilk mixed with apple cider vinegar and allowed to curdle for a few) et voila.
1 ¼ cup soy milk mixed with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar to be vegan (or 1 ¼ cup buttermilk if you aren’t vegan)
2 T sugar or honey
1/3 cup applesauce
2 T oil
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 T ground flaxseed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ear fresh corn, off the cob (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400. Place cast iron skillet in oven to warm. Combine buttermilk, applesauce, sugar or honey, and oil in a blender, or whisk together. Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Create a well in the center and add the wet ingredients and optional corn. Gently fold together until just combined. Remove skillet from oven, and spray with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
All together now.
Okay BUT. I’d left work early for some reason that day (can’t remember) and on my way home decided to get the items for an ambitious vegan dessert, because it sounded fun!
I got the ingredients for a graham cracker crust (note that I called Lydia and asked if Brian was okay with honey grahams, and she went “Eh, we don’t care about bees”. Lydia hates bees a lot)- just toasted up some graham crackers in oil.
Then I made a chocolate custard by using bird’s custard powder (which is actually just cornstarch with vanillin) and combining it with chocolate almond milk and some extra dark chocolate oomph (note that a surprising amount of dark chocolate contains milk fat- check the label!).
Topped with more dark chocolate shavings and some toasted slivered almonds, emphasizing the almond milk within.
Friends, if you are inviting any vegans for Thanksgiving this year, I highly recommend this. It is easy and it is GORGEOUS!
And WOW this was good! I mean, especially accompanied with non-vegan real whipped cream :)