this week in photos: protein edition

tempeh before it is tempeh.

tempeh ingredients, all of them.
Want to make your own tempeh? Here’s my guide!

Seitan becoming seitan, left, and seitan as (uncooked, but finished) seitan.


Here’s a secret: I don’t adore making it. It’s meditative and somewhat magical, but requires strength (pencil arms like mine are not ideally suited to seitan-making, alas) and time. Seitan making starts with high protein flour (well, mine does. You can start with gluten flour, which costs roughly five times more and is more processed. It makes very plasticky seitan in about three seconds. I am not a fan.) which you mix with water and mix until you’re scared your mixer is about to burn out. Then you cover that dough with water, refrigerate it overnight, and the next day you manually squeeze it until it forms meaty balls of gluten. You’re making a (somewhat) processed food, but the “processing” is done entirely with your own hands as you squeeze out all the starch from the flour until you’re left with only the protein. Seitan and its relatives (like nama fu, which is basically seitan made with some rice flour and is used in Japanese shojin ryori cuisine—if you’re in NYC, you can taste beautiful nama fu at my favorite restaurant in the universe, Kajitsu. Be sure to say hello from me to my favorite waiter, Jamie, and the lovely executive chef, Masato! Tell him next time I’m bringing him a new chocolate he’ll love!) were developed by and for Buddhist vegetarians centuries ago in Asia.

At this point you might be asking: what a lot of fuss! Why not just buy it? Well, it’s roughly six times more expensive to buy it, and a girl’s got to save her pennies for fancy NYC dinners out, you know? Also, I find that most prepared seitan is terribly plasticky. And, of course, mine is as fresh as possible. And…I secretly hope that all my seitan-squeezing is slowly (some might say: imperceptibly) giving me Michelle Obama arms.

Seitan with Jamaican jerk sauce!

the finished dish, with grilled red onions, pickled peppers, red quinoa, and greens.

More cooking photos to come…

3 thoughts on “this week in photos: protein edition

  1. I’ve made my own seitan both with the traditional method and with the gluten flour, but definitely find myself making it with gluten flour more often (and in a pressure cooker!). (Maybe it’s because the bulk gluten flour at my co-op is only 3x more expensive and none gets thrown out?) What do you do with all the starchy water that is rinsed away? I don’t tend to shy away from extra work in the kitchen, but I remember using a ton of water for a very small end product.

  2. Pressure cookers are great for making seitan, yeah!
    I do a modified method where I don’t sit there for endless minutes with the water running. I squeeze the seitan in a big bowl of cold water, then change it a few times. The water makes a great wheatpaste! Well, it IS wheatpaste! Unfortunately in my little town there’s not much space to post agitprop posters everywhere, so I sometimes use it to thicken sauces or soups, or I throw it on the grass outside.

  3. Here’s the other thing: that gluten flour was processed before it got to you, you know? It’s probably silly, but something about doing the work of removing all the starch appeals to me—especially since I can use lovely locally-grown flour to make seitan.

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