I was making Soy-braised Chicken and Mushrooms for my family, as part of my exploration of Hakka cuisine, and decided to try making it with tofu for my vegetarian daughter. She liked it well enough, though did mention that the tofu didn’t quite absorb the broth and she didn’t think it was as flavorful as she’d liked. Perhaps seitan would be a better bet for this dish.
I made Ropa Vieja for dinner tonight, one of my old-time favorites, and decided to serve the same thing to my vegetarian daughter. She was quite happy with the results. Really, all I did was make the sauce, reserve some of it before I added the beef, add some vegetable base and tofu. She was happy and I was happy I was able to feed her. I’m sure you can substitute another meat substitute for tofu, but that’s what I had at home. I always serve this with fresh sourdough bread.
Tofu Ropa Vieja
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onions, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cups tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp vegetable base
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 lb extra-firm tofu, cubed
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauce pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until they start to caramelize. Add the bell pepper and cook until soft. Add the tomato sauce, wine, bay leaf and vegetable base. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover, and the tofu cubes and cook for another 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve.
Tonight I made chicken Marsala for Mike and I and adapted the recipe so that Mika, my vegetarian daughter, could have it with tofu. Really, all it took to adapt it was to use a separate pan to cook the chicken and substitute tofu for the chicken. But here it is in case she ever wants to make it herself. It was truly delicious.
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp Marsala wine
- 1 1/2 tsp vegetable base
- 3/4 cup water
- 2/3 cup whipping cream
- 1 lb extra firm tofu, sliced
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- dash of dried or chopped sage
- salt & pepper to taste
Melt butter over medium heat in a frying pan. Add the shallot and cook for one minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates. Set aside.
Bring Marsala wine to a boil in a medium size sauce pan. Boil for 30 seconds and then add vegetable base, water, whipping cream and reserved mushrooms. Comine and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pan-fry tofu slices.
When sauce is ready, add the remaining 2 Tbsp Marsala wine, the lemon juice and the sage. Stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve the pan-friend tofu with the sauce.
My oldest daughter is a vegetarian, so I try to find vegetarian equivalents of the meals with eat. I’m not eager to make two meals, so the easier the vegetarian version can be, the better. This version for chickpea milanesas qualifies as easy. She likes them well enough that I’ve already made them four times.
- 1 can chickpeas, drained
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp dried parsley flakes or chopped parsley
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- salt & pepper to taste
- Italian-style breadcrumbs
- olive oil for frying
- lemon juice
Using an electric blender, puree chickpeas and water together. Mix in the flour, spices and salt and pepper.
Put breadcrumbs in a large plate. Four your hands. Take a large spoonfull of batter and flatten it using your hands. Press onto the breadcrumbs, then turn and repeat. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Using a spatula, transfer the milanesas onto the oil and fry for a couple of minutes until golden. Turn and repeat. Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with lemon juice before serving.
My 13-yo daughter wrote the following speech to give to her 8th grade English class. While I continue to eat (guiltily) eat meat, I am extremely proud of her.
In 2014, 30,170 innocent cows were brutally murdered in slaughterhouses, for YOU to eat your steak, hamburgers, hotdogs, etc. 8,666,662 little chickens were slaughtered for your chicken nuggets. 106,876 sweet, adorable pigs were killed for your bacon. You may not care, to you animals may simply be meaningless, their only purpose being your food. But they’re not. Why are some animals okay to eat, and not others? Why would you happily eat a pig, or cow, but the thought of eating a cat or dog is terrible?
In 2014, I stopped eating meat. 6-9 months before that I had stopped eating all meat except chicken. I honestly have no clue why I thought it was alright to eat to eat chicken. But, I did stop. Why did I stop eating chicken? A Bones episode. It depicted a warehouse full of chickens, each of them given less than a foot of space to live. It depicted baby chicks getting their beaks cut off, because when they got older, they’d fight each other, from the stress of not having any room to live. I don’t know if what they showed was true, I haven’t had the heart to research it, not wanting to think about what was truly going on. It was at that moment that I decided I couldn’t stomach the idea of forcing an animal to go through that, so I could eat something, I really didn’t need. The idea of their lives having to end, for them to have to stop existing, for a hamburger or chicken nugget.
I don’t think it was hard to become a vegetarian, maybe it was because I hadn’t eaten cow, or pig in so long, maybe it was because I truly believed that it was just wrong and cruel to eat the carcass of a deceased animal. I think what was harder, was learning later on that there are things I didn’t know about that contain meat. Gelatin is in marshmallows and gummies, it’s made from boiling the tendons, ligaments, bones, and skin of pigs or cows. Lard is pig fat, it’s in a lot of Mexican food, being used to make quesadillas and refried beans. Truthfully, I didn’t know at the beginning, and I’m still finding out about new things that I can’t eat. If you want to count me actually becoming a vegetarian by when I stopped eating gelatin, or lard, fine by me. But I count it as when I decided it was wrong to.
I’m not trying to turn you into a vegetarian, because I know it won’t work. I think I mostly just think everyone should understand what these innocent creatures have to go through for you to eat something, many of you take for granted. And if you start to question your ways, that’s just fabulous.
My 12-yo vegetarian child has been pretty reluctant to try vegetarian frozen entrees. She’s particularly offended by fake meats. She’s a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and she doesn’t see the point in eating fake animals. But she probably was tired of eating pasta, so she gave this entree a try. She was underwhelmed. She said the chik’n nuggets tasted mostly of potato, but they lacked flavor altogether. They were edible but not enjoyable. She wouldn’t have them again, but she’d eat them if there was nothing else around.