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Seitan with Caramelized Onions

August 16, 2010

So, we’ve been working pretty hard to not spend too much money on food, which can be a challenge in this area. One thing we’ve (obviously) been doing is making giant loaves of seitan, and then eating away at them throughout the week–seitan makes for a very filling meal, and can be prepared in many different ways, so it doesn’t usually get too tedious. (I do sometimes wonder if I should worry about its gluten content, since everyone seems to be scared of gluten at the moment; but since neither G nor I have any gluten allergies, I’m just not going to freak out about it.)

However, after a week or so of nomming on the same loaf of seitan, I do wonder, “Well, what should I try to do with it this time?” This was something I made when I was fairly desperate–there was very little food in our apartment, and we had some onions and leftovers that needed to be used up.

First of all, I caramelized onions for the first time! I think that I previously *believed*  I had caramelized onions, when I had really only been browning them. It turns out that, in order to caramelize onions, you have to cook them for a very long time, which is just what I tried this time around. I heated some olive oil and salt in a pan, and then dumped in a chopped onion and let it cook on medium-high heat for, I don’t know, maybe 45 minutes? Since my cooking has to be maximally nerdy, I spent a while researching onion caramelization beforehand, and read that adding some kind of sugar to the mix half-way through aids in the whole process. So, after about 20 minutes, I sprinkled the onions with just a pinch of sugar. 

Once those were done, I cut off some “cutlets” from the seitan loaf, browned them in a pan, and then marinated them with a mixture of tamari, water, dried basil, and garlic salt. I turned each one over once in the marinade, and let them soak it up and get a little browner. I know it sounds pretty unexciting, but they actually tasted really great by the time they were done.

The little quinoa, spinach, and bean salad I made was pretty, but honestly not very tasty. It would have been good, I think, if I hadn’t overdone it with the olives, which made the whole thing too salty for me (G still liked it, of course).

Anyway, despite the salad, the little cutlets with onions were totally yum.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary Bosch permalink
    August 16, 2010 6:54 pm

    I don’t know if you remember but during the last six months of Granny’s life, when it was very hard to get her to eat, she always ate anything with carmelized onions on top!

  2. patricia leach permalink
    August 17, 2010 2:09 am

    Hi you guys… I don’t know about the gluten issue unless you are allergic. Two years ago, Olivia went through a phase when she may have been but it subsided. I do worry about too much soy which has its own issues, more for women then for men but i am sure you know far more about it than I do…
    I have a simple onion and bread recipe for you… use whatever bread you can… usually it should be day, stale old french bread if that is vegan…and if I recall carmelized onions…but I never had the patience for carmelizing them so it works when you don’t… the recipe is an old Craig Claiborne NYTimes recipe and consists of alternate layers of bread and onions with broth added slowly along the side.. I am sure veg broth is fine. You do it in a dutch oven style pot and periodically pour the broth down the side of the pot to keep it all f rom burning or drying out and cook it for several hours. it is served with apples on the side and a green salad… I just looked for it on line and it apparently appeared in the Times in 1974 which would be about right because we were still in Princeton then… Only concern I have is that it may have involved cheese… but I think you could do it without the cheese/butter… It looks to me too as though this thing called a panade can be made lots of ways with added vegetables. It is a peasant dish so there are lots of variants. But at the heart of it are the onions and the bread… I just scoured my old recipe folder and couldn’t find it.
    In our starving grad student days, your dad and I used to make it…

    We also made pasta Rome style which was plain pasta serve with a nice drizzle of olive oil, basil or parsley and pepper and salt cooked with garlic… You cook the olive oil with the garlic .. a clove or two thrown in until it toasts thoroughly.. then you take it out and dispose of it… Toss the pasta in the olive oil that has been seasoned w/garlic and sprinkle w/ fresh basil or parsley with lots of fresh ground pepper and a bit of salt… Cheap and good w/ a green or green and red salad…i would recommend trying it with whole wheat pasta though for maximum nutrition…

    if you are tiring of seitan, maybe start doing more with beans but it seems you do already use them quite a lot already… xo MOMinDE

    • August 17, 2010 8:30 am

      I, too, often worry about too much soy, just because too much of anything is usually bad for you, and the typical American diet contains so much of it. So, on the one hand, I usually try to eat some soy (preferably in fermented form, like tempeh or miso) since in its less processed forms it can be quite nutritious; but on the other hand, I try to avoid processed foods, which ubiquitously contain soy.

      One nice thing about living over here is that foods tend not to contain soy as much as they do in the US–maybe it’s because it’s not a major crop over here. Very interesting. And the nice thing about seitan is that it’s soy-free!

      That panade sounds warm and delicious! We don’t have a dutch-oven, but maybe we should try to rig something up. (:

  3. Scott Brooks permalink
    August 17, 2010 6:15 pm

    I also nerded out and researched caramelization not too long ago, thinking there had to be more to it than just cooking for a looong time (I was always intimated by caramelizing onions before). I did red onions for one of my favorite salads – Arugula Salad with Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese, and Candied Walnuts on Epicurious.com. Judging by your previous posts, I’m sure you could figure out how to cook walnuts without butter, and find some sort of fauxt-cheese-like substitute.

    Never had seitan before, but maybe you could recommend a non-vegan seitan substitute when you post your recipes? There must be a way to make a reuben without seitan…

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