[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Vegan/Lenten Stir-fry
5 April 2012

Lent is almost over, which means the long weeks of abstinence and privation are almost over as well. Honestly, the privation part is pretty minimal if you're willing to experiment a bit with new ingredients and stretch some new muscles technique-wise.

Although stir-fry isn't really a new technique for me, it's not one that I use an awful lot; I tend to lean more toward sautés. Still the line can be thin sometimes, and I think this recipe falls on the stir-fry side of it.

Seitan, on the other hand, is a new ingredient for me. In a casual way, I've been interested in trying it for a while. When I found that the local tofu-maker also makes seitan, it tipped me over the edge from casually interested into actually doing it.

Seitan is wheat protein. Essentially, you take flour and gently wash it until the starch has been removed. What's left is gluten, the protein from the flour. It is, apparently, often marketed as "fake duck," and, having tried it a few times now, I can see why. The texture is far firmer than that of tofu; one is tempted to use words like "meatier." As with tofu, proper seasoning can give it a remarkable flavor.

The brand I bought (The Bridge) sells theirs marinated in a broth of soy sauce, kombu and ginger. It's fantastic. I've tried it in pasta sauce, but also in this stir-fry.

Vegan/Lenten Stir Fry

[Mis en place] Cut the onion into smallish bits. I usually want them quartered and in 1/4" to 1/2" wide strips, all or mostly separated out. The greens should be chopped and the scallions cut into 1/4" to 1/2" pieces. The brussels sprouts are quartered, unless they are quite large, in which case smaller pieces might be needed. The seitan can be cut into chunks or strips, but certainly bite-sized pieces. That's key for all of this, if you're eating with chopsticks you don't want to have to cut things into smaller pieces.

Whisk your cornstarch into your soy sauce until it's smooth, then set it aside.

Make sure everything is cut and ready before you begin, because once you start cooking it doesn't take long. Put your skillet, or wok if you have one, on to heat. You want it pretty hot, say 8 or 9 out of 10. When it's good and hot, splash in just a bit of oil. You can use many different kinds of oil. I used a mix of olive oil and a home-made chile flavored olive oil, and I highly recommend it. If you don't have chile olive oil, you can get chile oil of other kinds pretty easily these days.

After you splash in the oil, add some of the onions. You want to add in small batches, and keep the stuff moving more or less constantly. As things cook, you can either remove them to a dish on the side, or push them off to one side of the skillet, which is what I usually do. Add the onion in dribs and drabs, then repeat with the sprouts, then the scallions. Add a bit more oil as needed. When the vegetables are more or less done to your taste, add the seitan, and then a little bit later, the greens. The greens don't take long at all.

Then give your soy sauce and starch mixture a last stir. If you removed things from the skillet, put them back. Add the soy sauce mix. If you'd like, add some or all of the marinade the seitan came in. (I did.) Stir it up and bring to a simmer so the sauce thickens, and then serve over rice.

It may not be traditional or exactly right (whatever that means), but what I find works best for me when stir-frying is this: I put small amounts in, scattered widely, and keep them moving until they start to color. Then I sort of pack them together on one-side, which slows the cooking process for them. I then add more stuff in the wide-scatter zone to get their sear on, then pack them over with the rest. And so on. I do keep the packed section moving, just not as much as the first section. This is not as complicated as it sounds.

In any case, the end result is a lovely dish. Of course, you can modify your sauce any way you want. Often vinegar will go in. Spices of various kinds are common. This particular sauce was very simple and - dare I say it? - elegant.

© 2012 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite