Ok, you’ve done it. You’ve made the commitment to put your health first, the planet first and most importantly animal and human rights first – you’ve gone Vegan. Now I know that is a lot of “first” to cram into one title but that’s the amazing thing about being vegan. If done right you can do all those things simultaneously with little to no effort. You’ve made the big plunge into Veganism so now what? Thus far this blog has been a good to guide for all the great things that veganism has to offer from amazing cruelty-free cheeses to restaurants in your area that cater to vegans. But what about the basics? When you walk into your local health food or grocery store for the first time what the hell are you supposed to buy? From big cities to small towns you can usually find the standard meat analogs: vegan burgers, smart pups, chick’n nuggets and patties, Boca grounds, etc. But a vegan cannot exist on meat analogs alone, and frankly shouldn’t. Those are there for your transition, and for those times when life is so crazy that grabbing an Amy’s Kitchen Enchilada out of the freezer and popping in the microwave is honestly the best option for the day, or the week (trust me, I’ve had weeks where I’ve lived off of Boca burgers, nuggets and Amy’s Kitchen Dinners out of a complete a total lack of time. It’s a wonder I knew my own name by the end of the week).
Throughout the month of September (and probably a bit of October) I’m going to highlight some vegan basics that every vegan should have in their arsenal. From food, books and magazines to helpful websites. And guess what? Tofu isn’t on the list! Yep, you read right. This is a tofu free zone. First lesson in veganism, all vegans don’t eat tofu. It took me years to learn to love tofu. It really all comes down to how you cook it and how you season it (which is true for most everything you cook). But if you’re a new vegan and you’ve got a tub of that white block of soy sitting in front of you right now with no clue what to do with it, have no fear you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to and the Vegan gods will not frown on you for it. But since you already have it, you might as well use it.
If you have resolved that you’re going to at least try the tofu you bought and not let it be a complete was of money start off with the scramble. Tofu Scramble! Tofu has the amazing ability to mimic the texture of eggs perfectly but tofu scramble is millions of times better than scrambled eggs. The very first recipe I ever tried was from Isa Chandra Moskowitz of Post Punk Kitchen fame. The basic recipe is below, however, I strongly recommend heading to her website and checking out all the comments on this recipe for a plethora of ideas on how to change up the scramble to your liking. I have two tofu scramble recipes of my own in my upcoming book Tacos & Collard Greens but Isa’s scramble was my first (thanks Isa!). The first time I made this recipe I think I cut the amount of onion in half to ½ cup and omitted the carrot. I also tried one batch with lime and one without. But play around with it, at least you’ll have one bonafide tofu dish under your belt. But don’t worry, like I said before, you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to. It’s not in the Vegan code of ethics that you have to and there is an overabundance of other high protein options out there that are absolutely delicious. So, if you’re scared of your tofu and just not ready for the scramble, donate it to one of your tofu loving friends or stick it in the freezer until you get up the nerve to try it – just an FYI freezing tofu completely changes the texture, but in a good way. Without further ado Tofu Scramble:
1 lb. extra firm or firm tofu, drained and pressed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium chopped white onion (about a cup)
2 cups cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 carrot (this is optional, I grate it in at the end, mostly for color)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon thyme, crushed with your fingers
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high. Sauté onions 3 minutes, until softened. Add mushrooms, sauté 5 minutes more. Add garlic, sauté 2 minutes more. Add spice blend and mix it up for 15 seconds or so. Add 1/4 cup water and deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom to get all the garlic and spices. Crumble in tofu and mix well. Don't crush the tofu, just kind of lift it and mix it around. You want it to remain chunky. Let cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding splashes of water if necessary to keep it from sticking too much. Lower the heat a bit if you find that it is sticking. Add lime juice. Add nutritional yeast and mix it up. If it seems too dry add splashes of water. The moistness really depends on how much water the tofu was retaining before you added it. Grate the carrot into it and fold.