First, a note of deep gratitude for all of your help with last week's post. MSV readers did an incredible job of sharing, not to mention making some very generous pledges. So, so many thanks. There's still more than a week left in their Kickstarter, so if you find yourself in a position to help, whether by pledging or talking it up, your contribution is important.
Due to all that, it's really nice to have a post on New Year's Day. If any one year is about fresh starts for the MSV house, 2015 will surely be it. When big changes are afoot, home and hearth can be a comforting anchor, and that's what's going on this week. Today's dead-simple template will help you stay nourished and satisfied even under busy, uncertain, or stressful circumstances. With these basics on hand, you'll never have to wonder what to eat after a long day. There will be protein, and vegetables, and flavor. It will be fast. They're all appropriate for breakfast, lunch, or a breezy dinner. And if you don't feel like it, you don't even have to touch a knife.
This formula relies on indulging in a few expensive ingredients that you'll use in small quantities on the front and back ends to boost the dish's flavor and satiety factor: sun-dried tomatoes or olive oil at the start; smoked almonds, pickled jalapenos, or capers (or kimchi, or sauerkraut) toward the end of cooking. The bulk of these plates is a mix of whichever base you like--tofu, tempeh, or prepared polenta--and, for maximum convenience and economy, frozen vegetables. If washing and chopping and handling fresh foods soothes you after a long day, by all means, go for it. Nothing precludes the use of fresh veg, but when life gets really hectic, it's tough to beat the ease of popping open a bag and dumping pre-cut chunks into a hot pan. Plus, it's usually cheaper, especially in winter. (Except in the case of collards, where you can easily find a comically large bunch for less than two bucks at a large grocer, and pay the difference in washing and chopping labor. Naturally, choose what works for you.)
All manner of green veg work great in hashes and scrambles. They tend to keep a good bite and don't release a lot of liquid, which means it won't hinder the seriously gorgeous surface browning you're going to make sure your base gets. Because that's what takes a scramble or hash from tossed off to something you'll look forward to tucking into.
Collards or other hearty greens work best with chewy tempeh, but there's no reason you can't pair them with polenta squares, if that's what you're craving. Likewise, broccoli's texture is terrific with soft and chewy tofu, but green beans are no slouch, either. One of these dishes feeds one person generously, but it's simple to stretch it to a meal for two (or if you have higher calorie needs) by adding a starch. Toast smeared with a little nondairy butter or a thin layer of tahini (light maple drizzle optional, but pretty heavenly) pairs well with nutty tempeh and greens. Toast works for a tofu scramble, too, but once you've added hunks of hand-torn corn tortillas to the pan for the last half of cooking (for what lazily gets called tofu migas in the MSV house when no one else is around), you might have a hard time pairing any other carb with your tofu scramble.
Speaking of carbs, let's talk polenta. Cooking little chunks until golden is about to become your new favorite way to put those tubes to work. Out of the fridge, it's grainy, slippery on the outside, and generally a little unappealing. But after a few minutes in the pan, those bites become gorgeously soft and especially flavorful when tossed with a shower of nutritional yeast (those green beans, too).
Nutritional yeast, by the way, is highly recommended on all versions here, but considered necessary for the tofu scramble. YMMV. If you're sensitive to the flavor of nutritional yeast, go easy, and the flavor won't be pronounced, but it will add noticeable depth to the finished product. (Likewise, hot sauce served at the table is a fine choice for all hashes, but especially wise for a tofu scramble.)
Because polenta is a grain, edamame is a perfect green accompaniment that adds protein, but there's no reason you can't use another veg and toss in a handful of cooked beans, or crumble in half a block of tempeh. Or don't sweat this plate and get an extra dose of protein at another meal. And if there's a law against enjoying a slice of buttery toast alongside bits of creamy polenta and lightly charred green beans, you're gonna need a lot of bracelets.
And finally, about the knife business, these shots are all of tempeh and polenta that's been cubed with a knife, but don't think you can't tear off bite-size pieces with your hands or crumble the tempeh if you want even smaller bits. With pre-cut frozen veg and your paws, there's no cutting board or knife to wash. Do what feels good, and chow down.
Scrambles and Hashes to Nourish the Tired Vegan (and Everyone Else, Too)
serves 1 generously, or 2 lightly (see starch option)
1 generous TBSP chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 TBSP olive oil
A couple handfuls of any of the following (all frozen, unless you prefer to prep your own):
cut green beans
optional flavor boost: fresh scallions, white and green parts, roughly chopped
14 oz soft (or firm, if you prefer, or have higher calorie needs) tofu, drained
8 oz tempeh, in small bite-size cubes (use a knife or your hands)
9 oz (1/2 tube) prepared polenta, in bite-size pieces (use a knife or your hands)
Herbamere or salt, to taste (try a generous 1/4 tsp)
freshly cracked black pepper
2-3 TBSP nutritional yeast, or to taste
optional flavor boost (pick one): 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp dried sage, 1/4 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp garam masala, a few dashes liquid smoke
1 TBSP capers in brine, drained
1-2 TBSP salted smoked almonds
1-2 TBSP pickled jalapeno slices
1/4 cup kimchi or sauerkraut, very well drained
Optional Starches to Stretch/Boost:
toast (spread with nondairy butter, or hummus, or pesto, or nut/seed butter with maybe a light touch of maple syrup added), as desired
6-inch corn tortillas, store-bought (or if you have them, day-old), as desired
To serve (optional, pick one):
hot sauce, pico de gallo, maybe even a little warmed marinara, avocado cubes
Heat tomatoes in oil (or just oil) in a large nonstick skillet over medium-medium-high heat (on an electric range, turn the heat up until the pointer is pointing at about 315 degrees on the circle that is your range knob). Add frozen vegetables and cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently, until they begin to come to life/brighten in color. Add scallions, if using, along with your chosen seasonings.
Add base of choice:
For tofu, tear off hunks and squeeze it roughly through your fist, letting it fall into the pan. Break up any too-large chunks with a spoon, stir to incorporate seasoning, and spread everything in a single layer as best you can. Let cook, undisturbed, five minutes. Toss well (the tofu that was in contact with the pan should look a bit golden now) and add pieces of torn corn tortilla, if using. Let cook, undisturbed, three minutes. Add finishers, toss again, let cook another two minutes undisturbed. If your tofu isn't browned to your liking, let cook a little further, tossing every minute, being careful not to burn. Serve with hot sauce.
For tempeh or polenta, add the pieces to the pan, stir to incorporate seasoning, and spread into a single layer as best you can. Let cook, undisturbed, for about two minutes. Toss. Continue that pattern, stirring every minute or two (let your nose be your guide on when to give it a toss) until the bits are all nicely golden. This will take 5-7 minutes overall, but cook longer if needed to brown your base, being careful not to burn. Add your finishers during the last two minutes of cooking. Serve with topping of choice, if using.
The vegetables listed above are suggestions. Feel free to swap your favorite, but note that any vegetable that releases a lot of water will interfere with the browning of your base. Likewise, if using kimchi or sauerkraut as a finisher, set it aside in a sieve to drain thoroughly while you prepare everything else to avoid adding excess liquid to your dish.
Garlic powder is particularly effective in a tofu scramble.
Some favorite combinations you may want to try: tempeh with collards, tofu with broccoli, polenta with edamame (polenta can also be combined with a single handful of veg and half a block of tempeh or a handful of cooked beans to increase protein content, if desired), and either polenta or tofu with green beans.