Vegan Italian Tofuballs for Pasta-Toddler Approved

Vegan Italian Tofuballs
Vegan Italian Tofuballs

In need of some comfort food? I feel I am most of the time in the winter. I just want warm, filling, soul satisfying food. These delightful little nuggets fit the bill perfectly, especially when paired with whole wheat pasta and either your favorite sauce, or my favorite sauce.

Wolfie loved to help with these. She does everything from mashing the tofu to help form the balls. She also ate them! I mean, why wouldn’t you? They are a bit crisp on the outside, a bit salty, faintly “cheesy”, and heavy with Italian seasonings. These also freeze well if you feel like making a double batch.

 Ingredients

  • 1 lb water packed extra firm tofu
  • 1 TBL Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 2 TBL nutritional yeast
  • 1/4-1/3 cup vegan bread crumbs
  • Neutral flavored oil for cooking

Instructions

  1. Mash tofu in a large bowl with your hands of a potato masher.
  2. Add Italian seasoning, salt, garlic, zucchini, pepper, red pepper, and nutritional yeast and stir together.
  3. Add bread crumbs a few tablespoons at a time stirring to combine. The mixture should start to stick together.
  4. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings to taste.
  5. Heat about a 1/4″ of oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet to about 350 degrees. I never actually check this with a thermometer, but you should. It should be hot, but not smoking, and when you flick a few drops of water into the oil it should sizzle and pop.
  6. Form the tofu mixture into walnut sized balls with your hands. Pack them a bit, but don’t worry if they feel loose as long as they hold their shape in your hand. If they don’t add more breadcrumbs until they do.
  7. Carefully place the tofu balls in the hot oil, and cook until one side is golden brown (3-4minutes), flip them and cook on the other side another 3 minutes or so until golden brown.
  8. Unless you have a super huge skillet you will need to work in batches. You might need to add more oil between batches. If this happens don’t forget to reheat the oil before frying.
  9. Once cooked remove the tofu balls and place on a plate lined with paper towel to drain.
  10. Serve hot with pasta and sauce.
  11. You could also bake these on an oiled baking sheet at 375 for about 20 minutes. Still good, but not quite the same.
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Vegan Falafel

Vegan Falafel
Vegan Falafel

Falafels are one of my favorite foods, when done correctly. They can easily be dry or tasteless, but when perfectly crunchy on the outside, light on the inside, and bursting with flavor they are delicious! The trick to perfect falafel is to used soaked, but not cooked, chickpeas. The texture is far superior to those falafels using cooked chickpeas. I also love the addition of lots of fresh herbs in this recipe. These flalafel are also surprisingly easy and quick as long as you remember to soak the chickpeas the night before and you use a food processor to bring everything together.

I suggest making a double batch if you plan to share.

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4-6 tablespoons flour or chickpea flour if gluten free
  • Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped tomato for garnish
  • Diced onion for garnish
  • Tahini sauce
  • Pita bread or salad

Instructions

  1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
  2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.
  3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
  4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.
  5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
  6. Using either salad or pita, top with flalafel and any garnishes of your choice.

Developing Vegan Flavor and The Five Tastes

The Five Tastes
The Five Tastes

Sorry about the strange post yesterday. I had some trouble (baby, browser, touch screen, time anxieties) and the email was sent with half with the post I meant to use, and half this post. Dark Side Oats on the website is how it is supposed to be, as is this post.

Writing the last few posts I have decided we need to build a foundation and a shared understanding of flavor development. The very basics of flavor development start with the five tastes and build from these concepts. This is a brief overview with just enough information to awaken your taste buds. From here we can use recipes to discuss how these tastes balance each other and can be used to build the flavor and feeling you are seeking in your dish.

The Five Tastes

There are five recognized tastes in American food language: Saltiness, Sweetness, Sourness, Bitterness, and Umami. While most of these are prevalent in vegan food, Umami can be hard to find, and define. Without the proper balance, and enough Umami a dish will “taste vegan.” That is one phrase I hate to hear. These are the building blocks to make that phrase nonexistent.

Saltiness:

I think we all know and understand salty. It is one of the most recognized flavors and everyone knows what it means. We all know that delightful feeling of a salty chip hitting your tongue, the pleasure, and then the desire for a drink of water or something sweet to play off the saltiness. Saltiness is easy to add with the most basic addition of salt. There are other ingredients to use for salt if a direct application is not appropriate, or you need another element to balance other aspects of your dish. Think soy sauce, salted nut butters, even pickles or olives.

Sweetness:

Sweetness is also an easy one. Think cake, cookies, fruit, and sweeteners such as sugar. Sweet is a taste we love in America, much to our detriment at times. It is also a taste that helps to balance and bring out other tastes in our food. If you have too much saltiness you could add a little sweetness for balance. Or, as is becoming more and more trendy; adding saltiness right to your sweetness to balance it out in one bite. Think salted caramel anything, or sea-salt chocolate bars. Sweetness can also balance bitterness (sugar in your coffee), and sourness (sweetener in lemon-aid).

Sourness:

Sourness and Bitterness can be confused, but are distinct. Sourness is citrus such as lemons or limes, and vinegar. There are other sour flavors, but those are the most common. Sourness adds brightness to dishes and starts to wake up your palate. It is a good addition when a dish is feeling a little dull.

Bitterness:

Bitterness is coffee, unsweetened chocolate, radicchio, or charred greens.  Bitterness is a wonderful as accents, and can bring out other tastes, or be highlighted alone. Few people want a plate full of lemon slices or even unsweetened chocolate, but most appreciate bitter aspects in a dish. An example of how to tame bitterness comes from the things we add to coffee. If you want to tame the bitterness of coffee you add sugar, or cream, or both. Both have a bit of sweetness to them and mellows out the bitterness and makes it more palatable in large amounts. To balance bitterness  you would add separate and distinct tastes. A good example is a salad with bitter greens. You will have the bite of the bitter green, but you don’t just want those. You want to add something sweet like fruit, and sourness like a vinaigrette. Your plan would be to get the three tastes in one bite, or at least close together for an exciting, yet balanced, dish.

Umami: 

This is a word derived from two Japanese words meaning delicious and taste. With this meaning, it is directly apparent why we need this taste in our food. Umami is the rich taste that can often be missing in vegan food. It is actually surprisingly easy to add, but you have to think about it. When you taste a dish with Umami you want to go back for more, and it often draws an emotional response from you for the food. There is a lot to know about Umami, but the most important is that Umami is vital, and can be added using ingredients such as mushrooms, seaweed, some vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and avocado, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, and other fermented foods. Non-vegan foods high in Umami include meat, cheese, fish, and  fish sauce.