Monday, January 28, 2008

The Scent of Seitan

Well, my friends, I finally cooked with seitan. Actually, I shouldn't say 'finally' because I had done it before. I made some from scratch for a soup a while ago but it was in small chunks and very easy to cook. So I consider last night the actual first moment.

I made V-con's Seitan Cutlets, which, I guess, are supposed to be both for consuming after frying/grilling as well as using in other 'meaty' meals. I did 'em up burger style.


First, let me just say, that vital wheat gluten is impossible to work with! Maybe it's just me, but every time I would knead, press and stretch the dough, it always shrunk right back towards the center. Does anyone else have a problem with this? Isa and Terry do mention that it will be a little stubborn at first but to keep at it. Well, I kept at it for a while (so long, in fact, my hands turned red) and it was nearly impossible! I ended up making two different batches because the first ones looked nugget-sized. In the end, I mashed the two together and had chunky cutlets. You'd think this would be better, but it made them quite difficult to fry in the middle.

I baked them in boiled veggie broth for about an hour then let Mikey handle the rest. He's the master fryer, so while I was cooking up some soup, I let him take care of the rest. With suggestion from the book, he smothered them in flour and tossed them in a pan lined with canola oil.

They came out smelling and tasting pretty good. They were very meaty, but had a pork texture to them. I'm glad they didn't taste like pork because I've always found the meat pretty disgusting. They definitely had their own taste and were very reminiscent of the beefy gluten dish Mike loves to get at Grasshopper, but without the seasonings and sauce.

Next time I hope I can make them thinner so the inside cooks better. If anyone has any tips on how to tame wheat gluten, I'd be glad to hear 'em!

To go along with our dinner, I made a Swamp Soup. The dish is really called 'Spring Garden Soup', but it is filled with every green you can think of, so I'm gonna call it what I like! Seriously, this soup is probably the healthiest soup I've ever had. You boil 8 cups of water and toss in nettles, collards, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, dandelion greens, a fennel sprig, green onions, carrots and firm tofu.


It looked like miso, but tasted nothing like it despite the fact that I actually did put 1/4 of a cup of miso in there. I have to say, the flavour left something to be desired. Firstly, there was no veggie broth. Just plain water. Secondly, other than a little bit of Braggs sauce, there was no seasoning. Thirdly, the tofu was not cooked. Fourthly, it was filled with green! Now, it wasn't disgusting in the least. It had some flavour and was easy to swallow down. I'm sure my body thanked me for the load of health I sent its way. But it's not something I would make if I was looking for a lot of flavour.

My stepfather teased me that I always have to do everything by the book, and he's right- the first time. I like to make things exactly as a recipe says to, no matter how odd it may sound, to see exactly what the chef is raving about. Once I've made it one time, then I can change it and spice it up the way I see fit. So maybe some day soon I'll make another swamp soup but switch the water for veggie broth and load it with spices.

Lunch time! For work lunch this week, I made a bulgar cannellini salad from V-con.


I love cannellini beans, so this definitely intrigued me right away. After cooking the beans and steaming the bulgar, you mix together the dressing: red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, paprika, salt, pepper and pressed garlic. After marinading the cremini mushrooms, beans and onions in there, you mix in the bulgar and some bite-sized arugula leaves. This can be eaten with a fork, but this week we're gonna eat it on some whole wheat wraps.

Before I take my leave, I've just gotta mention this. One of my pet peeves is having hands that smell like onions for a week straight. Well, today my hands do not smell like onions. They smell like seitan. Seitan smells good and yummy, but when it's on my hands, it drives me crazy. I scrubbed and scrubbed and even put pumpkin-scented lotion on, but it still sneaks up on me. How could flour smell so darn strong? It drives me nuts! Mikey's hands smell like seitan too. He got mad at me when I told him. Tee hee...

Guess we'll have to pull out the lemon juice!


Vegan_Noodle said...

Seitan is definitely stubborn. I've found that sometimes it works better than others, but have no idea why. Maybe the humidity... that's a longshot guess.
Oh and I love your name for the swamp soup! That's a whole lotta greens in one soup.
And that's funny about your hands smelling like seitan. I've found that whenever I use nutritional yeast the smell stays on my hands... but I actually like it :-)

Anonymous said...

I've never made seitan before, but I really want to try it. I was going to make some last week, but it's a long process and I need to find the time. It looks so yummy and versatile though!

mike said...

Yeah, I thought the seitan was great!

I just need to cook it for a shorter amount of time so the outside isn't so crunchy compared to the super-soft middle. But making them thinner will help a lot with that.

And we need to remember the tomatoes too!

I still can't decide if I like the chickpea or the seitan better though.


Ashasarala said...

The seitan is waaaaaaaaaay better. It had so much more flavour!

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Oh my goodness, I love your title for the soup! It's so creative hehe.

And I just made seitan too, this past weekend... luckily, my hands don't smell. Just don't put too much lemon juice on, or your hands'll start smelling like lemons! (Or maybe they will smell like seitan-pumpkin-lemons)

Anonymous said...

I still have yet to make seitan, especially considering how finicky some recipes seem to be.

The miso looks amazing- Something I could seriously use on this cold day, running around outside for hours!

Judy said...

Everything looks really good, and I think it is funny that you always do a recipe by the book the first time - I am the opposite, I try to follow it but always end up changing something.

Theresa said...

I tried seitan for the first time a few weeks ago, and it is now a staple food in my house.

To make skinny cutlets/burgers, I brown them in a frying pan *before* they go into the stock. Press it down while it's cooking, and then when both sides are browned I boil for 30 minutes and they are ready for eating or freezing!

aTxVegn said...

I like to make seitan in the big mixer. I just have to hold the mixer down so it doesn't jump off the counter!

My sister gave me "after cooking hand deodorizer" with grapefruit, sage, and lemon in it. It works great and I also discovered it gets rid of hot chili juice if you forget to wear gloves.

Your swamp soup and bean salad both look so healthy.

Cookiemouse said...

I like the look of the soup.

Candice said...

i made it once too before, it was a bit difficult for me as well. i should try it again.

Me, i love the smell of onions, cooked onions. yummmmy.

Great looking burger though, yummy.

Theresa said...

By a few weeks, I actually meant a few months. I had to type that comment three times before it finally went through, and apparently I got a little confused :)

Ruby Red Vegan said...

oh, i know what you mean about the smelling thing... except on my CUTTING BOARD. it's wooden and i chop garlic on it every once in awhile, and the smell stays and stays. :/ but having the smell stuck on your hands is even worse!!

1. your swamp soup looks gorgeous. and mystic, for some reason. i think it's the broth. but it looks awesome and i want some.

2. congrats on making your own seitan! i've never made it myself (i let veg restaurants do all the work, haha), but homemade is my goal for this year. i like how you and mike divide up the task, then it's only half the work for each of you!

Liz² said...

omg, I know! the seitan smell that just lingers, it's weird! I never even noticed it until recently when I attempted to quit smoking again (and failed, don't ask), and all of a sudden it was like... "ummmm... the apartment smells funny.... kinda like... um... GLUTEN." ha ha

you made the cannellini salad! I've been eyeing it for a while, I like the idea of putting it in wraps. mmm... going on the 'to-make' list, for sure.

and how on earth do you get your hands on so many greens? nettles, dandelion, wow! it's too bad the soup wasn't exciting, but gosh it must have been healthy.

Rural Vegan said...

Congrats on taming seitan! When I'm trying to flatten patties out, I have the best luck stretching it out on a dry, sticky countertop. Sometimes I'll even take a rolling pin to it. Trying to do it in your hands is a nightmare. Still, mine never come out perfectly shaped.

BTW, your cannellini salad photo is just gorgeous!

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Yes, we vegans must stay strong! I was scared that the wind was going to push me into a car or something!

Mother Nature needs to calm herself down hehe.

Kang Doy's Bloggy Blog Blog Blog said...

Oh! Cutlets that taste like pork? That has me written all over it haha!

Yes, I AM really trying to cut down on the pork. For real.

Gaia said...

Hi Ashasarala!

I can't see the pictures for some reason (I have the same problem with another blog) so I'll come back to look at them later.

Have you ever tried a seitan recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan?
I find that seitan made from her recipes is SO easier to work with than any other recipe I have tried, apart from Julie Hasson's new Everyday Dish Sausage Recipe.
Very, very easy to handle.

I love the name of your green soup and can't wait to see it!

Thanks for your visit and comment!
I'll link to you:)

VeggieGirl said...

the seitan looks great to me!! kudos for trying to work with wheat-gluten (which IS impossible, haha).

that swamp soup looks delicious and the name is quite clever!! love it!!

Emilie said...


a friend once told me to rub my hands on the facet after working with garlic or shallots (i assume it would be the same with onions, but i don't eat them or cook with them so i don't know) but it does work. there's something to the rubbing against stainless steel that seems to de-charge some of the scent. or maybe i'm just crazy and have convinced myself that it works....anyway, try it sometime! see if it works for you.

vegetalion said...

rubbing stainless steel after onions really does work - not so sure about the seitan...

what do nettles taste like?! I'm intrigued.

textual bulldog said...

Wow, what a lot of great food! "Swamp Soup" is such a cute name for soup! And about the cutlets, I agree with people above who said sometimes they're easier to work with than others. I also like to add lots of spices and flavors, at this point, since I think they're just the teeniest bit bland in the normal way.

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