Moussaka, vegan

December 17, 2008 at 8:29 am (Other, Seitan, Soymilk, unrated)

I took a seitan cooking class with Myra Kornfeld last year, at the New York Natural Gourmet Institute.  Each student started out making her own ball of seitan, from scratched.  Once our seitan balls were boiling in broth, each student was assigned one of four dishes.  I helped make seitan fajitas, essentially just big chunks of browned seitan mixed with grilled bell peppers and onions, with a little garlic and oregano for flavoring.  The dish didn’t excite me, nor did I care for the seitan-portobello sloppy joes.  I did enjoy the orange-glazed seitan cutlet, served over watercress, that I blogged about previously.  Surprisingly, my favorite of the four dishes was the seitan moussaka.  I’m not a fan of eggplant, or mashed potatoes, so moussaka is not usually something I care for.  But Kornfeld’s moussaka was delicious–savory, rich, flavorful, and satisfying.  I wanted to try making it myself, but the recipe has five sub-recipes and I never felt like spending so much time on one dish, especially one I wasn’t sure I would like.  When I was deciding what to make for Thanksgiving this year, I decided it was the perfect time to give it a try, despite the fact that it was really too late in the year for eggplant and zucchini.

I made the seitan from scratch, according to Kornfeld’s recipe.  I didn’t follow the instructions for what to put in the boiling broth, but still the seitan came out with a pretty good texture and a great flavor.  According to Kornfeld, her recipe is supposed to make 1.5 pounds of seitan, but I got out 2 pounds.  We ate half a pound and I used the rest in the “meat” layer of the moussaka.  The meat layer contains ground up seitan and portobello mushrooms, onions, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, canned tomatoes and lemon juice.  I really liked the dimension the cinnamon added, and I think other people did too–people were nibbling on the filling before I put it in the moussaka.

Along with the “meat” layer, there was a vegetable layer (grilled eggplant and zucchini sprinkled with pepper and thyme), and a mashed potato layer (potatoes, olive oil, soymilk, and lemon juice).  The top layer was composed of a vegan bechamel sauce (made with olive oil, flour, soymilk, and nutmeg), and then sprinkled with seasoned breadcrumbs.  I remember tasting the vegan bechamel sauce when I took the class, and I thought it tasted pretty nasty, but once it was on the moussaka it just added creaminess, no off flavors.

Although I followed Kornfeld’s recipe, in the final moussaka the ratio of mashed potatoes to seitan seemed way off.  Everyone kept asking “there’s seitan in this?  where?”  The dish kind of ended up as glorified mashed potatoes, with bits of string eggplant mixed in.  I’m not sure why the eggplant came out so stringy.  Could I have cut the slices too thin, over or under cooked them, or perhaps the eggplant was just old?

In any case, I didn’t really care for my version of the moussaka, but other people at Thanksgiving seemed to like it.  At least, the whole monstrous casserole got eaten (and it really was monstrous, since I tripled what was originally a pretty big recipe).

Given how much work and expense went into this recipe, and the less than stellar results, I don’t think I’ll be attempting to make moussaka again.  If anyone else has had better luck making vegan moussaka, however, please do let me know.

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Annie’s tahini goddess dressing, a copycat recipe

December 17, 2008 at 5:20 am (A (4 stars, love, favorite), Alma's faves, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan: dinner, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing) ()

Both Derek and I love Annie’s goddess dressing.  It’s a tahini-based dressing that’s savory and rich, and very satisfying.  Annie’s is not sold in Germany, so I’ve decided to try to figure out how to make something similar myself.   I searched around on the web for a while, and came across this taste test from the San Francisco Chronicle that shows that Annie’s Goddess dressing is indeed better than knockoffs by other companies.  The result of the taste test didn’t surprise me, but it did worry me a bit—if big food companies can’t replicate Annie’s dressing, why do I think I have a shot?

I looked around some more on the web, trying to find a copycat recipe.  Although I found tons of posts where people were asking for the recipe, I could find only one post on recipezaar where someone actually attempted to replicate the original. Although the recipe is rated well, it doesn’t seem to follow the constraints given by the Annie’s ingredient list; I decided not to follow this recipe, but rather to try to figure it out on my own.  I looked at the order of ingredients in the ingredient list (ordered by weight) and the nutritional information to try to figure out how much of each ingredient to use.  My first few tries were pretty awful, but after ten attempts, I think I finally nailed it!  Now we can have Annie’s goddess dressing in Saarbruecken whenever we like.  Or maybe I should call it Fannie’s (Fake-Annie’s).

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