“Tuna” Salad

This may be the most unoriginal recipe I’ve yet posted. I’m sure most vegans have already made some sort of faux tuna or chicken salad. I’ve made several, using both tofu and chickpeas, and while some of them were good, none of them really had the texture, or taste, of real tuna salad. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although sometimes it’s fun to have vegan versions of childhood staples. That’s why I was happy to realize this Nature’s Soy chicken-style seitan, which I find in Asian grocery stores (even the one in N. Charleston!) has a somewhat tuna-esque texture quality to it. Possibly. I say things like that but then realize it’s been well over twenty years since I’ve had tuna. I do give Brachtune tuna, though, so maybe she could clear this up for me. If only her English lessons were going a bit better.

Anyway, this post is really, therefore, more a product suggestion than a real recipe. If you can find this Nature’s Soy stuff, try it in your favorite tuna or chicken salad recipe and see if the texture isn’t a bit more realistic. It’s more processed than what you’d make with chickpeas or tofu, but it’s dead easy to make. Here’s what the package looks like:

“Tuna” Salad

1 package Nature’s Soy chicken-style seitan
1 stalk of celery, diced (I didn’t have any and omitted, but it’d definitely have been welcome)
1/4 red onion, diced
3-4 Tbsp vegan mayonnaise, depending on your love of mayonnaise.
3 heaping Tbsp dill relish (or diced pickles)
1/2 tsp mustard
3/4 tsp powdered kelp
1/4 tsp salt (optional) – I used Indian black salt, which would really be more for a faux egg salad (the sulphur content makes it smell, and therefore taste, like hard boiled eggs), but there are so few things I want to smell or taste like eggs that I always have a ton more of this stuff than I really need, so I used it here. Tuna doesn’t smell like eggs, but it IS smelly. Regular salt is fine, if you think you need it.

Dice the onion.

Drain the relish. I like to smoosh it in a potato ricer. In fact, I use my potato ricer more for squeezing liquid out of things than I do ricing potatoes.

Can you tell how dry the relish is here? I hate it when wet relish waters down my salads.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl.

Stir to combine.

Now, this is important if you’re me: transfer to a blue Pyrex refrigerator box.

This is just like the container my parents always made tuna salad in. They probably still do. I think they mixed it up right in the container, which I tried to do, but it was too full to mix without making a mess. To me, “tuna” salad just has to be kept in a blue Pyrex refrigerator box.

Here is a loaf of bread I baked today. It’s Hamelman’s Five Grain Bread, which is currently my favorite bread, though I don’t have any rye chops and have been substituting millet.

It’s so good. I also have a ton of rolls made from that dough in the freezer and they freeze wonderfully. I’m thinking about baking a few loaves for the Falls Church Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti. Everyone always makes sweets for bake sales, but yeast breads are baked goods too, right? It’s not a faux pas to bring yeast bread to a bake sale, is it? It’s really more my niche.

Anyway, you know the drill. Put some of the “tuna” salad on a slice of bread …

… top with another slice, and serve! With pickles, of course. It’s really much improved if you let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour or two, but I made this right away because I was hungry. Subsequent sandwiches will be even better though!

Mark’s not a fan of mayo and he tends to shy away from any sort of mayonnaise-based salad, so I didn’t even bother offering him any, however, he showed up and demanded to be allowed a bite.

He didn’t gag or spit it out, so I guess that’s a good sign.

I asked Mark for his opinion and he offered, “It’s chewy…like Chewbacca.” I don’t really know what that means, but I was expecting him to say it was disgusting, so I took it as a compliment. It’s really the bread that’s chewy though. I make this salad when it’s late the night before a work day and I realize I don’t have anything prepared for lunch the next day. I’m hungry again…I think I might go make another and top it with some melted vegan cheese…

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Mollymook Sandwich

After staying overnight with Smucky’s mum and dad who live about half an hour outside Sydney, his mum drove the three of us three hours south to his family’s beach house on Mollymook Beach. The first thing we did was stop by the small neighborhood grocery store and buy a few provisions, including sandwich ingredients. Here is the sandwich I made:

Mollymook Sandwich

2 slices multi-grain or wholemeal (whole wheat) bread
sliced beetroot (beets)
sliced tomato
sliced cucumber
salt and pepper, to taste

Spread one side of each slice of bread with hummus:

Top one slice with lettuce and beetroot:

Top the other slice with tomatoes and season with salt and pepper:

Add the cucumber slices atop the tomatoes:

Close the sandwich:

Enjoy, preferably while listening to waves crash on the Australian shore!

Americans may be surprised to see beets make an appearance here, but it is a very common sandwich topping in Australia. In fact, though he hates most vegetables, Smucky always buys tinned beets when he stays with me and Mark and puts them on his turkey sandwiches. It’s strange to me because beets are such an (unfairly) maligned vegetable in the States. Personally, I think putting beets on sandwiches is brilliant! In fact, this sandwich was unusually tasty dispite its simplicity.

After lunch, Smucky’s mum took Luke and I for a walk around the neighborhood and down to the beach. On a hill overlooking the beach there is a small rainforest, with which I was enchanted.

Smucky’s mum pointed out a kookaburra in a nearby tree:

Shortly after espying the kookaburra, she a bit nervously gave a wide berth to this creature, the name of which I can’t remember (if you know, please tell me!), identified by its long legs and yellow beak. They should be avoided because they very aggressively protect their young and will attack humans.

Here’s Mollymook Beach in all its glory:

Down on the beach, we found hundreds of the bluebottles I’ve heard so many warnings about. Apparently their sting is extremely painful. These were washed ashore – likely in such plentiful numbers due to the earlier rain – and were waiting for the tide to take them back in.

The neighbors have a brick oven that I want badly:

Hanging out on the porch of the beach house a little while later, Smucky’s mum pointed out a couple of rainbow loorikeets on the neighbor’s deck:

The next day, Smucky, Luke, and I took a walk along the beach and watched the waves crash on the rocks:

Here is some round thing that looked a bit like a coconut covered with shells:

Me and Pig:

Backtracking a bit, here are some shots I took of the lovable Max Powers as we were waiting for Smucky’s sister to come pick us (including Maximillian, who is staying with their parents while we are at the beach) up.

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Mark makes Vegan Dad’s Shaved Seitan BBQ Sandwich

Mark saw Vegan Dad’s Shaved Seitan BBQ Sandwich the other day and commented that he was going to have me make it for him because it looked so good. Vegan Dad responded that he was sure Mark could handle making it for himself. Well, neither Mark nor I were so sure about that, but we decided to try it and see. Follows are photos of Mark’s attempt to make Vegan Dad’s Shaved Seitan BBQ Sandwich.

First he rinsed the beans.

Then he measured one cup of them and added them to the blender.

He almost turned the blender on and blended his hand with the beans.

Then he measured the water …

… and the oil …

… and paprika.

But tried to eat the salt. (He also furtively put a third teaspoon of salt into the blender, which resulted in a severe reprimand from me.)

I don’t know what he’s doing here.

Then he had to crush the fennel, which he enjoyed.

The molcajete is very heavy …

… but Mark is very strong.

He finished measuring the spices.

Then he got into my sugarcane.

He was bored with grinding an entire teaspoon of pepper, even with my super-awesome grinder. (Clearly he doesn’t know how to have a good time.)

So he tried to amuse himself.

At this point in time, he decided he was going to make the remainder of the meal while wearing my very dirty oven mitts.

He was very proud of his ability to measure a teaspoon of soy sauce wearing the mitts.

Yay for Mark!

He decided he needed a “chef’s hat” in order to properly blend the ingredients.

The blended ingredients:

Next he measured the vital wheat gluten …

… and added the blended ingredients to it.

Then he kneaded everything together.

Why does it look like he’s throwing his brain around?

Here he was singing, “It’s log, log, it’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood. It’s log, log, it’s better than bad, it’s good!”

Then he wrapped the log in foil.

And smoked it.

Then steamed it.

Then he went to play video games while I cleaned up this mess:

A little while later he returned to the kitchen to make another mess, a.k.a. the barbeque sauce. I told him to slice the onion. But didn’t realize for a minute or two that I had to tell him to first PEEL the onion.

So he peeled it and started slicing it …

… until I got nervous and told him to cut it in half and then slice it. Then he moved on to the garlic.

At this time, the log was ready to go into the oven.

He added some margarine to a large pot, then the onions and garlic, which he sauteed for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile he measured the remaining sauce ingredients. He has this habit of adding things to the bowl from as high up as he possibly can, in what I believe is an effort to maximize the size of the mess he makes.

It drives me crazy …

… even though he assured me he’d clean the mess up.

He doesn’t learn his lesson, either.

He tasted it several times to make sure it had enough hot sauce.

When the onions were cooked down, he added the other ingredients to them.

Then he went back to video games. After a while, he was very anxious to see his “log” and asked if he was allowed to look at it yet. I said yes.

He seemed unsure at first sight.

But then he tasted it and his eyes lit up.

He was very proud of himself.

He cut some into chunks …

… and sliced a couple of the homemade kaiser rolls I had made earlier in the day (which, by the way, utilized a pâte fermentée).

He added some of the BBQ sauce to the seitan pieces and stirred them together, oblivious to my pleading to please put the bowl on the counter to stir so he wouldn’t drop it.

Then he made the sandwiches and added a “garnish” to his plate.

Overall, he was very pleased with himself.

Mark said that he couldn’t believe he had made something that tasted so good. I concluded that although it did taste very good, Mark should probably not be allowed in the kitchen without constant and direct adult supervision.

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Tempeh Reubens

Back when we lived in Baltimore, our favorite bar was Club Charles (affectionately known as Club Chuck), the world’s best dive bar, frequented by John Waters and quintessentially Baltimore. When the owner of Club Chuck bought the building next to Club Chuck and turned it into a vegan-friendly restaurant called the Zodiac, I was deliriously happy. The Zodiac used to have really cheap, really good food, including a tempeh reuben that I loved. Then a new chef came in and suddenly the reuben was gone from the menu, never to return, and the prices about doubled on everything else. We still go to the Zodiac when we need something late at night and are planning to hit the Chuck anyway, but I usually grumble about missing the good old cheap tempeh reuben days.

Fortunately I then discovered the vegan reubens at Liquid Earth, a cute little juice bar and restaurant in Fells Point. I generally scarf down two entire reubens whenever I’m in the city. I think the reuben on the menu is not vegan, but you can ask for a vegan version. I’ve heard the Liquid Earth vegan reuben even made an appearance on Homicide once, but I never saw the show. The Liquid Earth vegan reuben, although absolutely delicious, is not a tempeh reuben. When I haven’t been to Baltimore in a while and am in need of a reuben, however, I make tempeh reubens at home.

I should confess I’ve never actually eaten a “real” reuben, so I can’t compare the taste. But I don’t know what’s not to love about rye bread, sauerkraut, and tempeh. And today when I was wondering how to showcase my first successful batch of homemade tempeh, either Mark or my visiting best friend, Fortinbras, suggested reubens. Because they are yummy!

First, make the Thousand Island Dressing, because it needs time to chill.

Thousand Island Dressing

1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Vegenaise
2 Tbsp minced shallot or onion
1 Tbsp sweet relish
juice of 1/4 lemon
1/8 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp Indian black salt (optional) – I added this because Thousand Island Dressing traditionally contains hard boiled eggs

Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Tempeh Reubens

For two sandwiches,

4 slices rye bread
1/2 package tempeh, sliced in half
1 cup sauerkraut
1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing
2 slices vegan cheese – honestly, the “cheese” is the least interesting part to me and if you can’t find a good brand, you might as well just omit it

By the way, do YOUR cats love to eat plastic? Mine do and it drives me crazy!

If your tempeh is uncooked, steam it for 20 minutes. I do this in a wok:

After steaming the tempeh, heat a skillet or cast iron frying pan up, add a little bit of oil, then fry the tempeh on both sides until slightly brown and crispy:

While the tempeh is frying, set up your sandwiches. Swipe one side of each piece of bread with the dressing, then top one slice with the sliced “cheese” if using and the other with some sauerkraut:

The tempeh will look something like this when ready:

Place on one of the bread slices …

… then grill. I used my George Foreman, but you can also grill them in a pan or under the broiler.

They’re ready when they are golden brown on both sides:

Serve with a pickle on the side and enjoy:

In other news, Fortinbras won Tigger a Scooby Doo doll at the fair last night because he loves Tigger.

That’s as much of that story as you’re getting, I’m afraid. I can tell you, however, that Joan Jett does not give a damn about her bad reputation.

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