Sunday, May 22, 2011

What is that stuff? Adventures with Seitan

As a foodie, I am pretty much willing to try just about any food once, with the exception of anything that is still alive and moving (eeeewwww).  The worst that can happen in any normal situation is that I won't like it.  Chances are it's not going to kill me and I will have either found a new food to enjoy or know a new food I don't like (I'm looking at you, sea urchin!).  A few weeks ago, I was shopping on the farm delivery website I so love (CT Farm Fresh Express) and came across seitan.  I had heard of seitan in the past as alternative to soy-based meat substitutes, like tofu.  It was rumored to have more of a "meaty" texture and flavor.  I am not a vegetarian or vegan, but I don't see a need to have meat at every meal.  This was another option to explore.

For those who don't know, seitan is essentially made from the wheat gluten, which contains protein.  It is what gives bread it's chewy texture and is what is left behind when you wash away all the starch from the flour.  It is low in calories, high in protein and pretty much fat-free.  I figured, why not?  I'll give it a shot.

First, let me just tell you - seitan is scary looking!  You can see what it looks like here: The Bridge: Seitan page.   When I first saw it, it kind of reminded me of brains, especially because it comes floating in a marinade-type thing.  Right now you are probably a little creeped out and far from wanting to try this stuff.  Stick with me!  It does look a little scary, but it's actually pretty tasty!  I have only had this particular seitan made by The Bridge, who also has delicious tofu - if you are in the Northeast, search them out and try some.  I highly recommend their products.

So, I had ordered my seitan and it was now sitting in my fridge.  My next challenge was trying to find a recipe on what exactly I should be doing with this stuff.  I had no idea how to cook it or really what I was supposed to do with it.  I saw a lot of different recipes, many a stir-fry of some sort, but none of them were exactly what I was looking for.  I did pick up the idea of crispy seitan as I was looking through page after page of recipes.  So, I decided to wing it.  Since I wasn't sure how it would come out or what at all it would taste like, I decided to try it first as a lunch dish.  It seemed less intimidating somehow.  I also just made it for myself, figuring I would be the guinea pig and if it was good, my husband could try it another time.  I was pleasantly surprised at the results!

My Seitan Adventures Recipe #1: A Seitan-Veggie Wrap

  • Seitan
  • Zucchini
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato - diced
  • Shredded Carrot
  • Whole Wheat wrap
  • Avocado

What I did:

First, I drained the seitan and patted it dry.  I then sliced it into strips (which immediately made it much less scary looking).

Seitan - sliced

I put a little bit of olive oil in a non-stick pan and cooked the slices until just crisp on each side.  I removed the seitan from the pan to a paper towel to soak up an residual oil.  Next, I tossed some zucchini slices into the still hot pan until the were getting some brown color and softened.

I warmed the wheat wrap (about 20 seconds in the microwave) and filled it with the seitan, cooked zucchini, lettuce, tomato, shredded carrot and avocado and wrapped it up.

Conclusions on Recipe #1: It was really delicious!!!  Seitan and cooked zucchini were meant to be together.  The seitan I had has a slight ginger-soy flavor to it.  If I knew that in advance, I would have made an asian-style sweet sauce with soy, ginger, sesame seeds, and honey to drizzle on the sandwich -  would have been the perfect final piece to a pretty darn good wrap.  After this experiment, I was sold and knew I could get my husband to eat it.

My Seitan Adventures Recipe #2: Seitan Fajitas

  • Seitan
  • Green Bell Pepper
  • Onion
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow/Summer Squash
  • Olive Oil
  • Tortillas (we use wheat)
  • Fajita seasoning: Cumin, Onion Powder, Chili Powder, Paprika, Oregano, Parsley, Salt, Pepper
  • Salsa 
  • Sour Cream
  • Guacamole/avocado
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Shredded cheese (we're not vegan, so this was dairy cheese)
Heat up your griddle to 400 degrees (or if using a stove-top, I would say medium-hi).  

Drain, pat dry, and slice the seitan and set aside.

Mix the fajita seasoning - I do this without any measurements, just kind of a dash of this and that.  The ingredients I use the most of are listed first.  It's about a teaspoon of cumin, half teaspoon of onion powder and chili powder, and dashes of the rest.  Mix to taste, add in other spices you like - I don't like cilantro, so I use parsley.  If you want a little heat, add some cayenne.

Slice up the peppers, onions, zucchini and squash.  Toss in a bowl with a little olive oil and fajita seasoning. Toss onto a lightly oiled, hot griddle.  The vegetables take longer than the seitan, so wait until they start to soften before adding the seitan to it's own side of the griddle with a little oil.
Fajita veggies

Cook the seitan until just crispy on each side, remove, and set on paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

Make your fajitas! Wrap up some seitan with the vegetables, add whatever toppings you like and enjoy!

Conclusions on Recipe #2: These were good!  The adding of the squash and zucchini really added to the fajitas.  I didn't miss the meat at all.  The seitan was able to stand up to all the fillings and still impart good flavor and texture to the meal.  I would make these again in a second.

Leftovers of Recipe #2: The next day I had some leftover seitan and vegetables.  I wrapped them up with a black bean and mango salad as the salsa that I had gotten from Green Gourmet to Go - sooooo good!  I wish I had thought of that for dinner the night before.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, fantastic recipes! I've got to try the fajitas. I used to think seitan was scary too, but when you think of it it's not that different from sliced chicken or beef.