Title credit shared between Jennifer Cruise, who wrote the novel before I wrote the blog post, and Rachel of Cheese or Death, who recommended the book to me (which I have yet to read).
Many non-vegetarians are perplexed by the vegetarian's desire to include meat substitutes in his or her diet. If you want a hamburger, the omnivore argues, just eat it. Why waste your time with a Gardenburger? The same goes for sausage, bacon, chicken nuggets, ground beef, turkey, and lunch meat. I have no desire to eat genuine meat (a longer post on that at a later date), but I do love some of the substitutes out there (except the fake lunch meat -- that's just too far.) However, one of my accomplices in supporting the vegan sausage industry recently forward a link to Mark Sisson's post on Processed Soy and Meat Alternatives. The gist of the article is that processed meat alternatives are just as unhealthy as processed meat products, if not more so, including a castigation of my beloved riblets. The main message of the post, which I think is actually rather valid is that:
...If you are committed to a vegetarian diet and we can’t convince you otherwise, we still encourage you to eat food and not food products.
I am committed to a vegetarian diet, and although I don't think I'll ever fully renounce the likes of riblets and veggie sausage, after reading Mark's article I retaliated by making a homemade version of soy nuggets: cornmeal-crusted tofu cutlets. I don't have a photo of these because my happy household devoured them so quickly. That said, I generally feel like my photo-less posts, while less visually alluring, have a certain appeal when you consider that there's no photo because the food was so tasty I couldn't even stop to grab my camera. And thus I present my stream-of-consciousness narration on preparing Tofu Cutlets with Saucy Cabbage
Buy a block of tofu. When you get home, put it in the freezer and forget about it for a few months. When you run out of food and are too lazy/poor/cold to drag yourself to the grocery store, dethaw tofu. Drain very well. (I like to make a sandwich where a cutting board and a plate are the "bread", and the tofu is the..."meat". A couple cans on top encourage a more thorough drain, or pressing down on either side can provide an often-necessary quick fix.) Slice tofu 3/4" thick and douse with soy sauce or tamari.
In a separate dish mix a healthy scoop of corn meal with seasonings of choice (I like a generous amount of ancho chili powder, black pepper, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds). Dredge tofu in cornmeal mixture (no liquids required!) and fry in a blend of sesame and olive oils (balance to taste). Serve with sriracha (or sauce of choice, e.g....ketchup).
I served my tofu cutlets with some saucy cabbage. I don't really like cabbage, but I wanted a side dish and needed to use up a leftover 1/2 head of cabbage in my refrigerator. This recipe exemplifies my cooking style (and perhaps demonstrates why this blog isn't really about recipes) --
Shred cabbage. Heat vegetable oil in wok. Go ahead and throw in a few shakes of sesame oil, too. Cabbage is bland. Add three cloves of crushed garlic. Aww, you like garlic -- make it four. Oops, that garlic is getting really brown, isn't it? Quick, add the cabbage. Stir-fry. This is going to need more flavoring, eh? Soy sauce is a good start. But only a start. How about some rice vinegar? Not that much! Now the whole kitchen smells acidic. Let that cook off for a minute -- mmm, see how the cabbage is getting toasty brown? That's good. What's that, you found half a container of sweet and sour sauce in the fridge? Go on, throw it in there. Yep, good call. Almost there...maybe a dash of onion powder? Perfect. That cabbage sure is saucy...