Basic Seitan ♯

Seitan (pronounced SAYT-n), also called “wheat meat”, “wheat gluten” or simply “gluten”, is a meat substitute that becomes surprisingly similar to the look and texture of meat when cooked. It is made by rinsing the starch from wheat, leaving the high-protein gluten behind. Because it is high in protein, it has become very popular among vegetarians. Commercially prepared seitan can be found in the refrigerated section of supermarkets and health food stores. Asian restaurants use it as a vegetarian mock meat, and it is also the base for several commercial products such as Tofurky.

In case you want to prepare your own, a recipe is included here. Once prepared, it may be used in sandwiches, a stir-fry, stews, fajitas, barbecues, Buffalo “wings”, or in other dishes usually containing meat.

  • 2 cups vital wheat gluten*
  • ½ tsp ground sage
  • 1 tsp ground marjoram
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp yeast extract (e.g. Marmite® or Vegemite®)
  • 2 cups water
Boiling broth:
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

Add the broth ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, add the yeast extract to the water, nuke a minute in the microwave, and stir to incorporate into a uniform liquid. In a separate bowl, mix together the gluten, sage, marjoram, onion powder, and garlic powder. Add the lukewarm liquid to the bowl and stir into a sponge-like dough, which should not be excessively wet. Knead the dough for a minute or so to make it tougher and more elastic. Flatten on a breadboard, cut into 2” × 2” pieces, and place in the boiling broth. Let simmer for about an hour. Remove from the liquid and drain.

Makes 12 servings.

Taco Pasta ♯

While growing up in the Southwest, tacos were not strangers in my home, nor in any home in the region. Now, Tex-Mex food is found throughout the United States and many other parts of the world. This dish is an adaptation using pasta rather than tortillas, which makes it a little easier for me to eat without getting my hands greasy. But, if you wish, you may re-substitute tortillas* for the pasta. I have specified using a mild chile powder, together with an amount x of cayenne pepper that will satisfy your own particular heat preference.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground beef, chicken, or turkey
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp mild chile powder
  • x tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz lower G. I. pasta penne or rotini
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce

Brown the meat in the oil in a skillet over medium heat, add onion and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain any fat that will drain off.

Add remaining ingredients except for cheese, pasta, oil, and lettuce and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside and keep warm.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Do not overcook. Drain, add the remaining olive oil to the pan, swish around a few turns to coat the pasta, and then add it to the taco meat mixture.

Spoon taco pasta onto plates, add lettuce on the side, and top with shredded cheese.

Serves 4.