Saturday, November 3, 2007

VeganMoFo and Vegan Meatballs

I just heard about Vegan Mo(nth of) Fo(od) from Katie at Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk, and I think it's an awesome idea! I'm a few days late, and this is my busiest season (which is saying a lot), but I've been neglecting my blog so much, I want to try this.

Many things have happened since my last post, including R moving out. Over the summer, she fell in love with an old friend who lives in Seattle, and she decided to move there to be closer to him. They're very happy and in love, and I'm ecstatic for her, but I must say, I miss her an awful lot. In addition to not having our friend close by anymore, JD and I have been looking for a new roommate. It's such a process. We find a person who seems like a good fit, but they have a cat (JD's allergic), or a particular person loves the house, but they're....not so ideal. For example, one potential roommate said, "I know you said no hard drugs, but how do you feel about LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), Ketamine, shrooms or ______ (something I had never heard of)?" So...... we're still looking.

I finally met up with some of the VRA members, and it's true! They do rock! First, a few of the members came to the Persian Feast at Casa, which was extremely cool of them, then, there was a potluck/house show featuring Captain Number 1 and seamonster at the house of one of the members. Please check out these one-man bands and buy some music! Both guys were very nice and extremely cool. seamonster reminded me a lot of Colin Maloy of The Decemberists as far as nautical themes, vocals and song writing, with just enough Jeff Magnum to make me long for Neutral Milk Hotel. Captain Number 1 was a little more poppy. Also, Captain Number 1 incorporated a Light Bright into his show, and they used a toy piano and melodica, and I'm a sucker for those kinds of touches.

I had been planning on going to the potluck/house show for a while, but didn't know what to take, although I was planning on something with seitan. A friend came over for lunch that day, during which we made a big batch of nightshade-free red sauce (made with onions, carrots, celery, winter squash, herbs and beets) and she mentioned how the sauce smelled like her grandmother's marinara, in which her grandmother would cook meatballs for the grandchildren. Meatballs! That sounded like a great idea to me. I started thinking of ways to make both meatballs in marinara and Swedish meatballs.

I decided to use my basic seitan recipe, but to add less water, since I really wanted the balls to retain their shape and not get...blurry? edges. Adding less water did help, and they tasted amazing in my opinion, although they did NOT retain their perfect beautiful round shape. C'est la vie. While the meatballs came out great, the red sauce would not play nice with them, no matter how much tweaking I did. I mean, the sauce was perfectly serviceable, and I'm sure many people would have enjoyed the meatballs in the red sauce, but they looked like meatballs in a tomato marinara, and that's the flavor most people would expect, so the nightshade-free sauce seemed slightly off. I ended up serving them in a tomato marinara, to a great reception.

By the way, I couldn't think of a better name for these, and JD, who usually has a problem with people using misnomers like "cheesecake" for vegan desserts, which by definition have no cheese, however tasty they might be, only suggested "gluten balls" or "protein balls", both of which sound dirty to me, while my example of a fancier name, "neatballs", sounded dirty to him, so I welcome any suggestions (I apologize to this horribly long sentence!).

I made a HUGE batch, and had to pull out my giant skillet. Can you tell how massive this thing is?

Even in the massive skillet, I had to pan fry in two batches.

Wheat Gluten Meatballs
by Christina Terriquez

1/4 cup organic whole wheat or whole spelt flour
1 cup organic vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons organic tahini
2 tablespoons organic, unpasteurized shoyu
3/4 cup spring or filtered water or less

3 cups spring or filtered water
2 inches dry kombu, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
4 teapoons organic, unpasteurized shoyu
1/4 small white or yellow onion, cut into big wedges
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised but whole (optional)
3-4 button or crimini mushrooms, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (optional)

extra virgin sesame oil (or toasted sesame oil or olive oil)
alderwood smoked sea salt

In a medium sized bowl, mix both vital wheat gluten and flour.

In a small bowl, mix tahini and shoyu. Add tahini shoyu mixture to flour and mix well to incorporate. You should have a grainy texture. When thoroughly mixed, add 1/2 cup of water and knead well. If needed, add water, but add as little as possible, using no more than 3/4 cup total. Dough should be spongy, and elastic.

Divide dough into balls about the size of a quarter, as balls will expand while cooking.

In a medium saucepan, mix all ingredients for the brine. Gently place gluten in saucepan and simmer for approximately 30 minutes, adding water if needed.

When meatballs are cooked through, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat, with a generous amount of virgin sesame oil and a shake of smoked sea salt. Pan fry balls, making sure to brown all sides. This is the step that really puts these over the top, and gives them the slightly oily mouth-feel of real meatballs.

Add meatballs and 1/4 cup brine to 1 cup of marinara or red sauce and simmer for at least 15 minutes. If desired, add 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder for a smoky kick.

Finished product: salty, savory, slightly crispy outside and tender inside.

Swedish meatballs to come later this month!


Vegan*asm said...

Hi Christina! I had no idea you had a blog. Thanks for commenting on mine. I'm glad you are joining VeganMoFo. I hope to see you around more now that I'm in Austin!

Anonymous said...

What about "wheatballs"?

Christina said...

I know it's really juvenile, but for some reason, "wheatballs" just sounds really dirty to me.