Vegans are like Vikings.
They have a reputation. Unyielding. Militant. High Minded, ascetic and austere. And how they plunder. Stealing what is rightfully ours and reshaping it for their own sordid purposes.
But you have to admit that, within that framework, there is strong undercurrent of frivolity. This is a culture that gave us Hagar the Horrible, remember, or, for that matter, Garrison Keillor.
As for the vegans, I’m intially reminded of Anthony Bordain’s jibe that while they may be millitant, they lack the animal protien to really do anything truly aggressive or violent. My personal guess is that they pour their energy into the hilarious names often given to formerly non-vegan dishes.
I cite the Fauxstess Cupcake as evidence of this.
The following dish is my own humble attempt to fight back. This final version is loosely adapted from the Veganomicon, but there is a bit of backstory.
A couple of months ago, I saw the words “chickpea” and “cutlet” appear side by side. It was hardly “tomato” and “basil” or “Roasted” and “Chicken,” but I saw potential. And while I don’t care much for whole chickpeas, I like falafel quite a bit, and the Moosweood Cookbook trifecta of falafel+tabouleh+pita bread is still a standard idea when I cook for my vegetarian friends.
So these cutlets. There were challenges. I wanted them seasoned. But I wanted them seasoned in such a way as to not include ingredients that would otherwise be thematic with falafel. I mean, it was pretty much a given that I would be adding bacon, so a middle eastern preparation of tumeric, cumin, parsely and lemon seemed totally haram.
Also, more obviously, how were they, you know, BOUND? I knew it wasn’t as simple as just “mash em up and fry em up,” yet eggs were obviously out, and flour just seems to turn the dish into falafel.
Two different people pointed out a recipe from the Veganomicon, which uses this stuff called vital wheat gluten flour.
It is, according to the Bob’s Red Mill packaging, “made from the natual protein found in the endosperm of the wheat berry. When combined with water it becomes highly elastic and taffy-like.”
A 30 gram serving has 23 grams of protein. That’s 76%. Standard Bread flour will have about 12%
I also added bacon. Clearly, this was not in the recipe. The other change I made involved the thyme. One-half teaspoon I felt was way too much, and would overwhelm the other delicate flavors at play here. I added some onion to retain moisture and add flavor. I also changed the paprika to pimenton, or smoked paprika, which is my new favorite thing. And with the bacon it just seemed right.
Chicpea and Bacon Cutlets. Adapted from Veganomicon
1 can chickpeas, a little over a cup
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. vital wheat gluten
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. plain breadcrumbs
1/4 c. water
2 T. soy sauce
2 garlic cloves
1/2 t. lemon zest
1/4t dried thyme, or one sprig
1/2 t. pimenton
3 strips of bacon, cooked, and chopped
to taste olive oil , for pan frying or baking
Cook the bacon gently in your cast-iron skillet, allowing the fat to render into the pan but not burn. Remove the bacon,
cut into small pieces, and set aside.
Rinse and drain the chickpeas. In a large bowl, mash with the oil until there are no whole chicpeas left.
Add remaining ingredients.
Knead for a few minutes (It’s odd how this ‘dough’ will feel simultansously both bread and meat)
Divide into four equal pieces, and shape the pieces into thin cutlets.
Pan fry, a couple of minutes on each side until surface is brown and crispy.
My verdict was positive. The flavors was unusual – sort of halfway between bread and meatloaf, but it worked. Yum!