Shredded Chikun

DSC08849-002Although seitan is versatile, slices beautifully and grinds nicely, it doesn’t shred well. So my goal was to create a plant-based chikun specifically intended for shredding. Shredded chikun is made from a blend of wheat protein from gluten, soy protein from tofu and select seasonings.

It amazingly resembles baked, shredded chicken in flavor and texture and is ideal for any plant-based recipe where a shredded texture is desired, such as chikun salad (it won’t water down eggless mayo), hot or cold wraps or sandwiches, casseroles, pot pies, Mexican cuisine (tamales, enchiladas, taquitos, flautas, burritos), etc.

If you are sensitive to the flavor of wheat gluten, then you will also appreciate the very mild flavor. Shredded chikun is high in protein, low in carbohydrates and contains no added oil.

Due to its delicate texture, shredded chikun does not hold up well when immersed in liquids for extended periods of time, such as soups or stews (it is formulated and prepared differently than the chikun cutlets, nuggets, satay, drumsticks, drummettes and stewing chikun from my upcoming cookbook). If you wish to use it for this application, add it to the soup or stew just before serving.

Shredded chikun does not require simmering in broth; it is cooked using a bake-only method (don’t overthink the recipe and technique - it’s very easy to prepare; just follow directions). The chikun even forms its own golden brown “skin” as it bakes. This recipe yields about 8 oz. The recipe can be doubled, but the bake time should be increased to 2 hours.

Dry ingredients:
• ⅔ cup vital wheat gluten

Blender ingredients:
• ½ block (7 oz. before pressing) firm or extra-firm water-packed tofu (not silken tofu)
• ½ cup water
• 1 T mellow white miso paste
• ¾ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 tsp onion powder
• ¼ tsp garlic powder
• ⅛ tsp ground white pepper

Technique:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Add the vital wheat gluten to a large mixing bowl. Be sure to use accurate and level measurements throughout this recipe.

Wrap the tofu in a lint-free kitchen towel or several layers of paper towels and squeeze between the palms of your hands to remove as much water as possible. This is very important! The pressed tofu should feel slightly damp if done correctly. Crumble the tofu into a blender and add the remaining blender ingredients. Process the mixture into a completely smooth paste. Thorough blending is important in order to avoid white flecks of tofu in the dough. The mixture will be very thick and creamy.

So why remove the water from the tofu only to add water back into the recipe? The reason for this is very simple: Water content in tofu varies from brand to brand and even from block to block. By removing the moisture from the tofu and then adding back a precise amount of water, the texture of the finished product remains consistent.

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Scoop the blender ingredients into the vital wheat gluten and stir with a sturdy spoon or spatula until the tofu mixture is incorporated and a sticky, paste-like dough begins to form. Continue to stir and “knead” the dough in the bowl with the spoon or spatula for 2 full minutes. Rest your hand and arm as needed. The dough should be moist and sticky. If the dough is overly dry or overly wet, something was not measured correctly.

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Tear off a long sheet of 18-inch wide heavy duty aluminum foil and place it on your work surface. Scoop the dough onto the foil. Using the spatula, spoon or your fingers, shape the sticky dough into a rectangular slab or  ”brick” about 2-inches thick. Don’t focus on shaping perfectly; this isn’t required. Fold the slab of dough in the foil (don’t roll), creating a semi-flat package. There should be sufficient foil so that the package can be folded over several times. Fold in the sides of the package to seal but be sure to leave a little room (about ½-inch on each side) for the dough to expand as it bakes. Place the package seam side down directly on the middle oven rack and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Let the chikun cool in the foil to room temperature and then refrigerate for several hours until well-chilled to firm and optimize its texture, or for up to 5 days before shredding and using. You can also store the chikun in the freezer wrapped in the foil for up to 3 months.

Unwrap the chikun and recycle the foil. Using your hands, tear the chikun in half lengthwise. Pull the chikun with the tines of a fork into shreds (or use your fingers if you prefer). Try to pull or tear long strips, following the grain of the “meat” if possible. Then tear those pieces into smaller bite-size shreds. For a finer texture, place the shreds into a food processor and pulse once or twice. Use in your favorite recipes as desired.

Quick and Easy Recipe Ideas
◊ Toss shredded chikun with your favorite BBQ sauce and gently heat for sandwiches.

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◊ For Tex-Mex shredded chikun, combine 1 teaspoon mild chili powder (such as ancho), ½ teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder in a small dish. Mist a non-stick skillet with cooking oil and place over medium heat. Add the shredded chikun and sauté until lightly golden. Add ¼ cup no-chicken broth or vegetable broth, sprinkle in the seasonings and toss well. Continue to sauté until most of the liquid has evaporated and the chikun firms up a bit. Season with salt to taste and use in your favorite Tex-Mex recipe as desired.

◊ For an Asian shredded chikun and vegetable stir-fry, combine 2 tablespoons of tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™ and 1 tablespoon sweet mirin or water in a small dish; set aside. Heat a wok until very hot. Add 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or other high-heat cooking oil) and a teaspoon or two of sesame oil. Add 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, 2 teaspoons minced garlic and your favorite vegetables; stir-fry as usual. Just before the vegetables reach the desired tenderness, add the shredded chikun and the tamari/mirin (or water) mixture. Toss well and add a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce just before removing from the heat. Serve immediately with sticky rice or Asian noodles.

mediterraneanchikun

◊ For Mediterranean-style shredded chikun, combine 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and a pinch or two of crushed red pepper in a small dish. Mist a non-stick skillet with cooking oil and place over medium heat. Add the shredded chikun and sauté until lightly golden. Add ¼ cup no-chicken broth or vegetable broth, sprinkle in the seasonings and toss well. Continue to sauté until most of the liquid has evaporated and the chikun firms up a bit. Add the juice of half a lemon just before removing from the heat and toss well. Finish with fresh ground black pepper. Serve with orzo, couscous or rice and garnish with chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley and optional pitted Kalamata olives. The seasoned chikun can also be served, hot or cold, in a flat-bread wrap or pita pocket with your favorite grilled or fresh vegetables and optional sauce (such as tahini or non-dairy Tzatziki).

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◊ For soups or stews, add the shredded chikun just before serving to maintain its texture.

Classic Eggless Egg Custard

DSC08835-001This egg-free and dairy-free custard is very easy to prepare. It has a sliceable but delicate, silky texture and can be used for custard pie or served on its own in individual dessert ramekins. This recipe relies upon the thickening power of starch and agar powder (a tasteless seaweed derivative) for setting the custard as it cools. Agar flakes or agar in stick form are not recommended for this recipe since they do not dissolve as readily as the powdered form. This recipe yields enough custard for 1 nine-inch pie or 7 half-cup servings.

Ingredients:
• 3 and ⅓ cups non-dairy milk
• 3 T cornstarch or unmodified potato starch
• ¾ organic sugar (for a sweeter custard increase by ¼ cup)
• 2 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 and ½ tsp agar powder (be precise)
• 1 tsp real vanilla extract
• ⅛ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt (a pinch)
• 2 T non-dairy butter or margarine
• fresh grated nutmeg for dusting (about ¼ tsp)

For custard pie:
• 1 (9-inch) pre-baked pie shell of your choice

Technique:
If preparing custard pie, prebake the pie shell in advance for the time recommended for that particular crust.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Although the custard is cooked in a saucepan, the oven is necessary for finishing and creating a golden “baked custard” surface.

To prepare the custard, pour the milk into a large saucepan and whisk in the starch until dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients except for the nutmeg and place over medium heat. Please note that the butter or margarine will melt and combine as the mixture heats. Cook until the mixture comes to a soft boil while stirring constantly with a flexible spatula to prevent scorching. Do not walk away from the mixture as it heats or it can quickly boil over. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

For custard pie: Pour the custard into the pre-baked pie shell and dust with the nutmeg. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

For custard without a pie crust: Pour the custard mixture into a shallow baking dish or individual ramekins and dust with the nutmeg. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 10 minutes; or place the ramekins on a baking sheet, place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven to cool. Unlike a traditional egg custard which cooks and sets in the oven, eggless custard sets as it cools. Let the custard cool until the bottom of the pie pan, baking dish or individuals ramekins are lukewarm. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill uncovered until completely set, about 1 hour. Once set, loosely cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

Apple, Walnut and Beet Salad with Citrus Miso Vinaigrette

DSC08734-004This salad is a combination of earthy beets, fresh sweet apple, crunchy walnuts and peppery arugula. Mellow white miso adds plenty of umami (the Japanese word used to describe a savory flavor) to the simple citrus vinaigrette.

Ingredients for the dressing:
• juice of 1 fresh orange
• 2 T mellow white miso paste
• 2 T rice vinegar
• 2 tsp Dijon mustard
• 1 small shallot, minced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• ½ cup mild salad oil, such as grapeseed, sunflower or safflower
• ½ tsp Asian red pepper sauce (such as Sriracha™)

Ingredients for the salad:
• 1 lb. trimmed medium beets
• coarse sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste
• 8 packed cups arugula (about 8 oz.) or mixed baby greens of your choice
• 2 crisp apples, such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp or Gala
• ½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Technique:
In a shaker bottle or similar sealed container, add all dressing ingredients. Seal and shake vigorously to emulsify the dressing. The dressing will keep for about 1 week, refrigerated. Shake well to re-emulsify before using.

In a large cooking pot, place the beets in plenty of water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a vigorous simmer and cook until the beets can be pierced easily with a fork, about 25 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. Peel the beets, cut them in half and then thinly slice. Arrange them on a platter or on salad plates and season with salt and pepper.

Cut the apples in half and thinly slice. Combine the slices with the arugula (or other greens) in a large mixing bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss with enough vinaigrette to lightly but sufficiently dress the greens and apples. Top the beets with the greens and apple, sprinkle with the walnuts and serve.

Whipped Potato and Parsnip Gratin featuring Jarlsberg Melt

DSC08752A fluffy and creamy gratin of whipped potatoes and parsnips blended with non-dairy butter, tangy non-dairy Crème Fraîche and gooey, melted non-dairy Jarlsberg cheese.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup Quick Crème Fraîche (from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook)
- or 1 cup non-dairy milk of your choice
• 6 medium russet potatoes
• 4 medium parsnips
• 1 cup Jarlsberg Melt (recipe following)
• ¼ cup non-dairy butter or margarine
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ¼ tsp ground white pepper
• ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg

Technique:
If using the Crème Fraîche, prepare according to the cookbook instructions and refrigerate until ready to use. Non-dairy milk can be used instead, but the flavor and richness of the gratin will be altered somewhat.

Peel and cut the potatoes into large chunks. Place the potatoes immediately into a large cooking pot with plenty of water to cover. This will prevent oxidation of the potatoes (turning brown) while the parsnips are peeled and sliced.

Peel and slice the parsnips. Add them to the pot with 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil and cook until the vegetables are fork tender, about 15 minutes. Avoid overcooking.

While the water is coming to a boil and the vegetables are cooking, prepare the Jarlsberg Melt and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. “Butter” a large baking or casserole dish and set aside.

When the vegetables are done cooking, drain them thoroughly in a colander for a few minutes and then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the butter, salt, white pepper and nutmeg and mash thoroughly using a potato ricer or masher.

Add the Crème Fraîche or non-dairy milk in increments and whip the mashed vegetables with an electric rotary mixer (if you have one). Otherwise continue to mash by hand until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.

Note: Never use a blender or food processor to mash potatoes as this will damage the cell structure of the potatoes and cause them to fall flat or become gooey. When potatoes are boiled, their starch granules swell. If those granules are broken too vigorously, the cells release large quantities of starch, resulting in potatoes with a pasty consistency.

Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and top with the Jarlsberg Melt. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes and then place under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes to achieve a bubbly and browned cheese crust on top. Serve hot.

Jarlsberg Melt
(from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook)
Jarlsberg shares flavor similarities with Swiss cheese and can best be described as mild, buttery and nutty with a hint of sweetness. Do not omit the ground coriander, even though only a small amount is needed, as it is essential to the flavor of this melt. This recipe yields about 1 cup of melted cheese.

Ingredients:
• ¾ cup pure soymilk
• ¼ cup mild vegetable oil
• 3 T tapioca flour
• 1 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 T dry sherry or dry white wine*
• 2 tsp mellow white miso paste
• ½ T (1 and ½ tsp) sesame tahini
• ¼ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ¼ tsp guar gum, sodium alginate or xanthan gum
• ⅛ tsp ground coriander

*The sherry or wine can be omitted for health or ethical reasons, but this will alter the flavor profile.

Technique:
In a small saucepan, vigorously whisk together the ingredients until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring slowly and continually with a flexible spatula. As the mixture thickens and curdles (forms lumps), begin stirring vigorously until the curds disappear and the cheese becomes very thick, smooth and glossy. Set aside until ready to use in the recipe.

Santa Fe Cheddar

DSC08784-001Santa Fe Cheddar is a sliceable, shreddable and meltable block cheese with bold Southwestern flavors. Thin slices are ideal for cold sandwiches or for melting on burgers or other grilled sandwiches. When shredded, Santa Fe Cheddar is ideal for topping or melting in your favorite Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine.

Please note that only the formula is included here. For preparation instructions you will need to purchase The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook (purchase and format options provided on TheGentleChef.com website). Using the formula provided, simply follow the instructions for preparing the Block and Wheel Cheeses.

For this recipe you will need a glass, ceramic, metal or BPA-free plastic container which will hold a minimum of 2 cups liquid; this will act as the form to shape the cheese.

Ingredients:
• ½ cup organic refined coconut oil
• 1 and ⅓ cup pure soymilk or homemade Almond Milk (from the cookbook)
• ¼ cup tapioca flour
• ¼ nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 T mellow white miso paste
• 4 tsp kappa carrageenan
• 2 tsp mesquite liquid smoke
• 1 tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• ½ tsp ancho chili powder or other mild chili powder
• ½ tsp chipotle chili powder
• ½ tsp onion powder
• ½ tsp garlic powder
• ½ tsp ground cumin

Technique:
Before you begin, review the introduction to the Block and Wheel Cheeses in the cookbook. Gather all of your ingredients (mise en place).

Prepare the cheese according to the Preparation and Cooking Technique instructions in the chapter on Block and Wheel Cheeses.

Spicy Chipotle Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pepitas

DSC08735Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce adds a spicy and smoky kick to this velvety pumpkin soup. For timid palates, the chipotle pepper can be replaced with a mild chili powder.

Ingredients:
• 2 T olive oil
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 and ¾ cup roasted and mashed pumpkin* or 1 can (15 oz.) pure pumpkin
or 1 and ¾ cup roasted and mashed butternut squash
• 4 cups (1 quart) vegan no-chicken broth or vegetable broth
• 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or 2 if you want to break a sweat; for timid palates omit the chipotle pepper and add 2 tsp mild chili powder)
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• ½ tsp ground coriander
• sea salt or kosher salt to taste
• ¼ cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
• cilantro for garnish (optional)

*For fresh roasted pumpkin, cut a sugar pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and strings and place the halves face down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350°F until soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool and then scoop out the flesh. Freeze any remainder for other recipes. Butternut squash can also be used in this recipe as an alternate to pumpkin. Simply follow the same roasting technique.

Technique:
In a dry skillet, toast the pepitas over medium heat. Stir the seeds frequently to evenly toast and prevent scorching. Set aside.

Add the olive oil to the skillet and place over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until lightly golden. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute. Transfer the mixture to a blender.

Add the pumpkin, 2 cups of stock or broth, the chipotle pepper and the cumin and coriander; process until completely smooth. Transfer to a large cooking pot and add the remaining stock/broth. Bring to simmer, partially cover and cook for 30 minutes; season with salt to taste. Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with the toasted pepitas and optional cilantro.

Serve with warm flour tortillas if desired. To warm the tortillas, roll them up securely in foil and place in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Charred Brussels Sprout Slaw with Shallots and Toasted Pine Nuts

DSC08706-003This dish is very easy to make and may just win over dinner guests who never cared much for Brussels sprouts before. Any cold leftovers make a unique and delicious Spring roll filling.

Ingredients:
• fresh Brussels sprouts, about 1 lb.
• ¼ cup pine nuts
• 2 T non-dairy butter, margarine or mild olive oil (plus more as desired)
• 2 shallots, thinly sliced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Technique:
Remove the tough stems from the Brussels sprouts and discard. Remove any outer leaves that are damaged or wilted. Shred the sprouts using the shredding blade in a food processor. Set aside.

In a small dry skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat. Stir the nuts frequently to evenly toast and prevent scorching. Set aside.

In a large skillet or wok, melt the butter or margarine (or heat the oil) over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and a pinch or two of salt. Sweat the shallots and garlic, about 10 minutes. You should hear a faint sizzle – if the sizzle is loud, reduce the heat a bit. The goal is to draw out flavor without browning the shallots or garlic.

Add the slaw and a pinch or two of salt. Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir the mixture occasionally. The goal is to slightly char or caramelize the vegetables just a bit. If the vegetables seem dry, add another tablespoon or two of non-dairy butter, margarine or olive oil, if desired. Cook until the slaw is tender crisp. Season the slaw with black pepper to taste and add additional salt as desired. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and serve immediately.

Chimichurri Sauce

DSC08339Chimichurri is an aromatic herb sauce that originated in Argentina and is traditionally used for grilled meat. In vegan gastronomy, it can be used as a sauce for grilled seitan, tofu, tempeh, portabella mushrooms or cauliflower “steak”. It’s also wonderful as a dip for crusty bread or for marinating cooked beans.

Ingredients:
• ¼ cup water
• ¼ cup white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
• 2 T red wine vinegar
• 2 cups chopped flat leaf parsley, loosely packed
• ½ cup roasted red pepper, skin removed plus additional for garnish if desired
• ¼ cup fresh chopped oregano, loosely packed or 4 tsp dried oregano
• 1 shallot, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 tsp minced habanero or jalapeno pepper
• 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 tsp sweet paprika
• ¼ tsp ground cumin
• ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Technique:
Process all ingredients in a food processor but leave little bit of texture. Add salt as needed to taste. Store the sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use; shake well to re-emulsify before using.

Olive Salad Spread

DSC08727This recipe is my version of the mixed olive tapenade served on the famous New Orleans Muffuletta sandwich. Its bold Mediterranean flavors also pair well with hummus and baba ghannouj on crackers and crusty bread. Or try it on grilled eggplant sandwiches. Ideally it should be made a day in advance to give the flavors time to blend. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this spread will last for months.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup small pimento-stuffed olives, drained
• ½ cup small pitted Kalamata olives, drained
• ½ cup coarsely chopped Giardiniera (see recipe on this blog), or commercial equivalent
• 2 pepperoncini, stems removed
• 1 T capers, drained
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 3 T olive oil
• 1 T red wine vinegar
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper

Technique:
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Refrigerate to blend flavors before using.

Lemon Meringue Drop Cookies

DSC08656-002Crispy and light as air, these lemony drop cookies melt away on your tongue. A stand mixer with a balloon whip attachment is recommended for this recipe; however, an electric hand-held mixer will work if that is your only option. Do not use an immersion blender, standard blender or food processor, as the mixture needs to be whipped. This recipe yields about 48 one-inch diameter meringue drops.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup organic sugar
• 1 T Versawhip 600K™ (available from ModernistPantry.com)
• ½ tsp guar gum
• ¼ cup water
• ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
• ¼ tsp fine sea salt

Technique:
Add the sugar to a DRY blender and process into a fine powder. Set aside in a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Into the bottom of the mixer’s mixing bowl, stir together the Versawhip 600K™ with the guar gum, salt and approximately ⅓ of the finely powdered sugar. Add the water and lemon juice and turn on the mixer, gradually increasing the speed to high. Whip the mixture until stiff peaks begin to form, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn off the mixer and sprinkle in ½ of the remaining powdered sugar. Resume whipping for another 2 minutes. Turn off the mixer and add the remaining sugar. Resume whipping again for another 2 minutes.

Drop the meringue by teaspoonful, about 1-inch in diameter, onto a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (e.g., Silpat™). Alternately, the mixture can be decoratively piped onto the baking sheet using a pastry bag. Don’t spread the drops too far apart or you won’t be able to fit 24 onto a single sheet. Repeat on the second baking sheet.

Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 1 and ½ hours. After baking, let the meringue drops cool at room temperature for 1 hour on the baking sheet. This will ensure that the drops are sufficiently dry before storing in a covered container at room temperature. Do not attempt to touch them or move them until they have completely cooled.