I ended the year by making seitan for the first time in almost a year. The last time I made it was for the Superbowl, and the fake-wings I was making came out too crunchy and rather tough. I used the boiling method for it, and the final product had a texture akin to a matzo ball: delicious, but a little too mushy on the outside. I felt pleased and really felt as though I was beginning to understand how seitan works. I found this youtube video with a Heavy Metal Vegan Kitchen, where “Satan” made a cameo, and seeing the actual kneading of the dough helped me visualize what I was aiming for. For my second attempt, and first of the new year, I baked the seitan. I am thrilled with the results and cannot wait to incorporate this into the recipes for this project. Last night we had some baked seitan with black eyed peas (for good luck in the new year!)– simple and delicious.
I never intended on discussing my reasons for becoming a vegan in this space. But I just finished reading Eating Animals and it’s given me a lot to think about. This is going to be the start of a longer conversation, but I think it’s hard to discuss the issues without sharing my own story. Foer starts the book with his story about playing with vegetarianism. My story started when I did some research online and watched everything that PETA had to offer. After seeing the photos and videos and reading the personal accounts, I had made up my mind: eating meat was wrong. I knew from that first day that I wanted to become a vegan, but never felt in control of my diet. I spent years meat and fish free, but dairy haunted me. I had high cholesterol, which was incomprehensible as a vegetarian. My doctor threatened to put me on medication for it at the tender age of 21. The next few years were marked with good and bad blood work results. I spent six months studying for the LSATs and it shot back up. I exercised more and it went down. I had moved to New York and whether it was the inspiration of living with a vegan roommate, or wanting to solidify my independence, but I went vegan. It didn’t last very long, but a year later for the first time in my life I gave something up for Lent. I went vegan and never turned back.
Diet aside, I still seek comfort food out and am learning what that is as a vegan. The most basic is the meat and potatoes dinner. I made Scalloped Potatoes from the book to accompany the first round of seitan along with a large salad. I made the simple version from the book and plan on making it again with some mushrooms and spinach next time. Feel free to add any vegetables you want, but be confident that even the pared down version is delicious on its own.
Scalloped Potatoes with “Milk,” “Cheese,” and a Pinch of Garlic
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- 2 lbs “boiling” potatoes
- 1 clove unpeeled garlic
- 4 Tb “butter”
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1 cup “cheese” (I used Daiya cheddar)
- 1 cup soy milk
- Fireproof baking/serving dish about 10″ in diameter and 2″ deep
Peel the potatoes and slice them 1/8″ thick. Place in a basin of cold water. Drain when ready to use.
Rub the baking dish with the cut garlic. Smear the inside of the dish with 1 Tb of butter. Dry the potatoes in a towel. Spread half of the potatoes in the bottom of the dish. Cover with half of the salt, pepper, cheese, and butter. Spread the remaining potatoes and season them. Cover with the remaining cheese and divide the butter over them. Pour on the boiling milk.
At this point you can set the baking dish over heat and when it begins to simmer, set in the upper third of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the milk has been absorbed. You can omit simmering over the stove and instead increase the cooking time by approximately 10 minutes. The top will brown and you will be able to see that they are cooked. If the dish is shallow, keep an eye on the potatoes as they will cook quickly.