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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Borrowing from Giada - Seitan with Fennel and Caper Sauce

“The fennel is beyond every other vegetable, delicious. It greatly resembles in appearance the largest size celery, perfectly white, and there is no vegetable equals it is flavour. It is eaten at dessert, crude, and with, or without dry salt, indeed I preferred it to every other vegetable, or to any fruit.”
  - Thomas Jefferson

Hello my friend.  I sincerely hope that this day finds you healthy, happy and hopeful for a better tomorrow.  May you and I take tiny footsteps forward and leave a healthier Earth behind.  These are some pretty decent wishes my friend.

Fennel ~ O-M-G is this stuff delicious.  I still remember my first time at a local produce market when I noticed this weird looking stuff.  I asked the vendor, “What is that?” “What does it taste like?” “What can I do with it?

Fennel bulbs

Because it wasn’t but a few years ago, I clearly remember their response.  “That?”  “That’s fennel bulb.”  “It, well, sort of tastes like licorice.”  “You’ll find it in a lot of Italian dishes.  They love to use the stuff in their cooking.

It was but that single word, “licorice” that that made my little plastic factory-painted eyes light up and reach for one of these “fennel” things.  When I got that fennel bulb home I looked up the “Pork Chops with Fennel and Caper Sauce” recipe that I had recently seen on Food Network’s Everyday Italian (starring Giada De Laurentis).

There's a sietan cutlet hidden in there somewhere.

Yes, this was back in the days when my molars and bicuspids readily devoured dead animal flesh.  Back when my diet consisted of dead animal flesh, embedded hormones, added steroids, and who-knows-what-else was in that animal’s feed.  Incidentally, the dead animal flesh (pork chops) were relatively tasteless if not for the pepper, salt and Giada’s recipe.

My guilty memory recalls an absolutely most delicious meal.  The succulent juices of the cooked tomato & fennel intertwined with the dead animal flesh to perform a World-class culinary event in my mouth.  But, know what?  It’s the balance of fennel juices, cooked Italian tomato (I prefer San Marzano), and capers that truly took the dish over the top.  I cannot recall telling myself, “Wow!  Is that dead animal flesh delicious or what?”  I am pretty certain that this did not happen this way.  It was the tomato, fennel and caper which kidnapped my taste buds.

Pasta, fennel, tomato, seitan & fresh pasta.  What an excellent combination.

Let’s move forward to today (er… last night).  Tiffany and I had picked-up a beautiful organic fennel bulb while at Hoover’s Essential Health Market this past weekend.  My immediate thought was Giada’s fennel and caper recipe.  But ~ What was I to substitute for the pork chops?  Then I remembered still having plenty of dried seitan cutlets in the cupboard.  After dinner I returned to the kitchen to duplicate her recipe using seitan cutlets.  I brought several seitan cutlets to a boil in water, drained them, squeezed them dry, and returned them to a pot of new boiling water for an additional 8-minutes until done.  Again, I drained them and squeezed them dry before treating them as the pork in her recipe.  After they had been re-hydrated according to directions, they became the focal protein of my dish.

Paired with fresh linguine noodles from Ravalia's Pasta Bar & Italian Rotisserie, Tiffany and I had ourselves a most excellent dinner!  A light, low-fat, and greaseless vegan dinner.

Tiffany and I both agreed that it perhaps did not stack up to our recollection of the original dish made with pork chop.  But we also agreed that this was simply due to the flavors produced by melted animal fats.  This vegan alternative was no less delicious.  It was just lighter, much healthier and required no dead animal flesh.  Psst... no need to kill any fellow animals to make this dish when using seitan.  Cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and humans ~ we're all animals aren't we?

Hi-dee hi-dee think-outside-that-culinary-box-and-reinvent-an-old-recipe-using-vegetarian-alternative-ho my friend.

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