Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Veggie Tales

Whole Foods Market.


During an excursion to Ann Arbor this weekend I had my first Whole Foods Market experience. Oh, my. Ohmyohmyohmy. Fellow Traveler said that I appeared to go into shock upon entrance, and stayed that way most of the visit. I forgot half the things I'd wanted to buy there. The produce...the meat and fish and poultry...the various deli islands...the shelf merchandise...the cheese...the cheese!...


And semi-dittos for the Trader Joe's just down the street. What a fun place to shop...and great prices.

Some days it is so frustrating to be stuck here in the white-bread-and-bologna region of the state -- it's not really about cost of food, by the way, but rather local culture -- where the chances of either a Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe's ever locating here are about equal to the chances of unicorns being discovered in the state forest. I keep telling myself that at least I have access to a friendly, fairly comprehensive, reasonably priced food cooperative 45 miles away...but still...

Anyway, I was feeling inspired today after work, so I made myself a vegan supper, courtesy of ingredients from my humble coop -- Tofutti faux sour cream, which is one of the few soy analog foods that I think is just as good as the real thing, and seitan, a traditional Chinese food made from wheat gluten -- if you kneaded flour for a long time under running water until all the bran and starchy stuff sloughed off, you'd wind up with seitan. Seitan, like tofu, is useful in that it's quite bland and absorbs the flavors of whatever you cook with it; unlike tofu it has a pleasant chewiness. And this is what I made, with contact-grilled asparagus (pre-rolled in olive oil and kosher salt) on the side:

Seitan Stroganoff
4 oz. Tofutti sour cream
1/4 cup water
1 tsp boullion (I used Better Than Boullion mushroom base, a very handy substance to have in the fridge to perk up soups and sauces -- it's a little spendy but lasts forever)
1 TBS flour
a good grind of pepper

Mix all of this together and set aside.

Meanwhile, sautee in a little oil until soft:

1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic


8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 8 oz package seitan, chunked (a few splashes of tamari soy sauce makes it taste a bit more meaty and substantial)

Continue cooking until mushrooms are soft. Add the sour cream sauce to mixture. Simmer for another 5 or 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve over whole wheat noodles.

Now, if you like steak the way I do, you are never going to mistake meatless stroganoff for the original...but this was pretty good. The Codeman, who is a fairly adventurous eater for a dog, would have none of the seitan, but he did lick all the Tofutti sauce off.


Breen said...

Is that what seitan is?? I'd read about the stuff but never made the connection to what I'd read about in Chinese cookbooks. Cool!

I actually made it once just to say I'd tried it. I red-cooked it, IIRC.

zorra said...

The Whole Paycheck experience is indeed overwhelming. I am both pleased and apprehensive that one is currently being built in my neighborhood. I'll have to budget for it. (yes...the cheese! The cheese!)

And I have mourned for TJ's since leaving California, sixteen years ago. There are none in Texas,apparently never will be, period,end of story.

LutheranChik said...

Breen: I love Chinese red sauce!

Zorra: Even though Michigan is going through a tough time economically right now, the problem with promoting whole foods outside of certain cultural pockets of the state is not really about the cost of the food. It's about a regional culture that just doesn't find value in fresh/unprocessed/organic food. It wouldn't matter what price it was. My own family was like this -- my father wouldn't think twice about spending a relatively high amount of money on, say, liverwurst or junk food, but he would never buy a simple cut of meat or bunch of vegetables that cost the same amount because it was "too expensive." I don't know how you combat attitudes like that...it's too ingrained in the psyche here, whether you're talking a well-to-do union worker or someone on public assistance. People just don't understand food here. An acquaintance of mine is mystified that I shop at Amish produce stands in the summer and get my eggs right from the farmers, insted of "just going to the big Wal-Mart" in the next county. On the other hand, I don't understand NASCAR and the appeal of country music, so I guess we're even.