October 13, 2009

Vegan Breakfast

It’s time to introduce something new here at The Little Red Kitchen: my first ever guest post! I’ve written here before about my sister Claire, the vegan foodie and aspiring chef. Claire’s hoping to open a vegan restaurant in the future and is diligently cooking and studying every day in preparation.

I asked Claire to write a post on Vegan Breakfasts, mainly for my friend Elliott. Elliott is vegan as well and told me he is always pretty uninspired when it comes to breakfast. So here is Claire to save the day for Elliott and any other vegetarians or vegans out there. Or anyone who likes a tasty breakfast.  - Isabelle

Ooooh, breakfast. How I love you. How I love waking up thinking about you. I prefer you leisurely and drawn-out, maybe accompanied by a peaceful conversation or a crossword puzzle or a magazine. And definitely some tea or a cappuccino.

Hello! I’m Claire, Isabelle’s sister. I live in Halifax. I’ll be your guest host for this chat about the vegan breakfast table. I became a vegetarian in 2003 and shortly thereafter went vegan. Since then I’ve delved excitedly into vegan cuisine of all kinds. In this post I’ll focus on the savoury vegan breakfast.

The variety of the vegan breakfast or brunch is very vast indeed. Let’s kick things off with a few photos to whet your appetites.

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Tofu omelette, tempeh bacon, and toast.

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Poori Bhaji, my breakfast every day in India: deep-fried puffy pancake and spicy chickpea curry filling.

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Smoked tofu, greens, and citrus béarnaise sauce for a vegan Benedict, accompanied by roast potatoes.

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Tofu scramble and Toast in Vancouver.

A classic choice for a savoury vegan brekky is tofu scramble. This dish can pretty much be whatever you want it to be. A few basic principles I’ve observed: Using extra-firm tofu and keeping it on high heat in your pan until it browns up beautifully will give you a crispy and chewy scramble. For those of you who like things saucier, you may find that method yields a scramble drier than you want. If that’s you, try using silken tofu, which is sold unrefrigerated in vacuum-sealed boxes and with which you can achieve a softer, more tender-on-the-tongue scramble.

Tofu scramble is an extremely easy dish in which to eyeball all the ingredients. In fact, I’m going to estimate them all right here in front of you. Take a medium-sized onion and a few cloves of garlic, chop it all and sauté it with a generous amount of olive oil in a (preferably cast-iron) pan for quite a while (20 mins or so) until they get all wonderfully caramelized. Crumble in anywhere from 1/2 to a full block of tofu, mashing it in your hands before dropping the pieces into the pan. Don’t make the pieces too tiny yet, because they’ll break up while cooking. Toss that around in your pan until you get to the brownness you desire. At some point during that process, add herbs and spices as you wish. I like thyme, oregano, and lots of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Taste it a lot as you go, to see what you need more of. You can add finely chopped vegetables at any time, say broccoli or mushrooms. When the tofu is done to your likeness, add two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and a quarter cup of nutritional yeast (a cheesy, non-active yeast that can be found at health food stores and some grocery stores). Mix until those are incorporated. You’re done!

I just came across an extremely delicious take on scrambled tofu – Puttanesca scramble - in the recently published Vegan Brunch, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. You’ll find that recipe and several others on the book’s website. Isa’s book is a great resource for vegan breakfasts of all kinds. It just came out last Spring and I highly recommend it.

I recently made vegan sausages for the first time, also from recipes in Vegan Brunch. They are deelish and very easy to make. The main ingredient is wheat gluten flour, which can be found at health food stores and some grocery stores. It’s very high in protein and is the main ingredient in seitan. The sausages have a chewy texture and hold together beautifully, due to the gluten flour. I fry them whole or slice and fry them, and then eat them as a side for pancakes or with gravy and toast.

I often compose a breakfast plate from small amounts of many items. Potatoes of any kind are usually there, from baked to home fries to roasted. I often bake potatoes in the evening and then the next morning it’s very efficient just to chop and fry them. Sauteed tomatoes, baked beans, toast, biscuits with gravy (see recipes on Vegan Brunch website), cornbread, and tempeh bacon (see photo) are all very yummy in combo with one another. Tempeh is a cake of pressed-together soybeans that’s more easily digestible than tofu because it’s fermented; it also has a nice nutty flavour. It can be bought at health food stores mainly. To make tempeh bacon, take a block of tempeh, slice it up thinly into strips, and sauté it in olive oil and tamari soy sauce on high heat in a non-stick pan until it’s browned and crispy, turning the pieces over halfway through. Continue to add more sauce and oil as it gets dry. Like in the versatile tofu scramble, you can also add other things like crushed garlic, maple syrup, sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, or herbs and spices to your tempeh pan.

A simpler, less-cooking-required breakfast that has become a favourite of mine is toast with avocado slices on it, sprinkled with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. It feels really great to me to start my day with avocado. It’s like the much more exciting and beautiful relation of peanut butter. Relation as in …toast-topping family. Almond butter is also great on toast, and very high in calcium. Another great toast combination is nut butter, cherry tomatoes, and tempeh bacon or smoked tofu. As far as margarines go, most margarine brands are not vegan because they contain whey or buttermilk powder, and in some instances (Becel) they also contain gelatin. An extremely good vegan brand is Earth Balance, which tastes very much like butter and can be used wherever you might use butter, especially on toast! I make my own bread in my breadmaker most of the time, but there are lots of commercial breads that are milk-free and egg-free.

I also love to eat stuff for breakfast that is more typically lunch and dinner fare. Last night’s pizza, baked pasta, and particularly marinated, baked tofu are winning guest stars of the breakfast world.

There are also a lot of processed vegan breakfast items available at the grocery store. I like some of them, but have found that it’s cheaper and healthier, and also very easy, to make my own versions. Maybe someday soon I’ll develop a recipe for my own Earth Balance. When I do, I’ll let you know. For now, happy brunching!

3 comments:

Karl Kovacs said...

If I was a Vegan, this would be on the top of my list. Great article!

Chantal, star of The Cake Princess. said...

Claire,

Terrific article! I, too, love the challenge and rewards of vegan baking and cooking. Thanks for the inspiration and ideas for resources. (Isa's cupcake book is a fav.)

shelley said...

Claire,
Where can I get tempeh in Halifax?
Not ready to start making it myself, yet.