And in the beginning, there was seitan.

People often ask who taught me to cook. Anyone who is an avid cook or baker is asked that question by many, and most often respond with, &q...

People often ask who taught me to cook. Anyone who is an avid cook or baker is asked that question by many, and most often respond with, "My grandma taught me," or, "My Mom taught me everything I know about cooking." One's love for food and cooking is often passed down from a close relative. This was not the case for me. Sorry Grandma. 
A long and twisted road led me to cooking. At age sixteen, I had resolved to take care of myself and got inspired to cook dinner. I watched the food network a lot. I liked Giada de Laurentiis's show about Italian cooking the most, probably because she made so much vegetarian food without meaning to. I made hundreds of her recipes. Countless pasta dinners later, I had a pretty good handle on what to do with a cast iron skillet, the difference between blanching and braising, sauteeing and simmering, and a tart between a torte. In many ways, Giada de Laurentiis taught me how to cook.

Alex moved to Philly for the summer for work, and came home to visit this weekend. He isn't exactly the seasoned chef I consider myself, and had been basically living on beer and Hip City Veg, and was looking forward to a home-cooked meal upon his return. I decided to make a throwback, waaaay back, to when we were sixteen, when I would cook something a lot like this.

It worked out pretty great. We had a nice dinner with red wine and bread. I think you are supposed to use white wine to drink with this, but I like red wine better. So that's what I did. Incidentally, I was recently yelled at by a sommelier for drinking red wine with vegetables. After finding out I was vegan, he told me I just "couldn't understand the finer things in life."

Roman-Style Seitan with Garlicky Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes

4 Seitan Cutlets, use your favorite recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 white onion, sliced into half moons
3 bell peppers, I like to get one of each color, sliced into strips
1 cup white wine
3 large tomatoes, diced
 4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Big pinch of salt, pepper

5 yukon gold potatoes, washed, quartered
3/4 cup cashews
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
ten cloves garlic, unpeeled
salt, pepper

1 lb green beans, washed
5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Take the ten unpeeled garlic cloves and spread them out on a baking sheet and put in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Place the potatoes in a pot and fill with enough water to cover them.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook until very tender, about 25 minutes.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil over pretty high heat.
Add the seitan cutlets and let them brown nicely on each side, then remove from the pan.
Add the onions and peppers to the pan, and cook until they have softened and reduced in size, about 10 minutes. Leave the heat up high, so that it happens quicker.
Meanwhile, add the cashews and water to a blender, and blend like the dickens. Now you have cashew milk!
Add the garlic to the pan with the peppers, and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often, until the garlic is fragrant.
Add the tomatoes and wine, salt and pepper.  Now nestle the seitan cutlets back into the pot, distributing the veggies over the cutlets. Cover and reduce heat to medium low.
At this point you can steam and shock your green beans if you have room on your stove. You can also boil them for about 5 minutes, then plunge into some ice water to keep them bright green and crisp, thus shocking them. We are going to cook them with garlic last.
Check the potatoes, which should be pretty tender by now, and drain. Pour them back into the pot they were boiled in with the roasted garlic, which you can now peel. Pour in the cashew milk, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mash until very smooth, and the garlic cloves have been mashed into unification with the potatoes. Taste for salt. Cover and keep on the back of the stove until the rest is ready.
Add the 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a frying pan and heat up. Add the sliced garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Now add your green beans and toss pretty continually until warm and coated with the garlic and olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt and turn off the heat. Turn the heat off the peppers and seitan and add the capers and parsley. I like to take the cutlets out and slice them before plating, but it's not really that necessary. Serve with a lot of peppers and wine sauce from the pan. Obviously serve with more wine!

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  1. Haha, I don't have an amazing why I learnt to cook/bake story either! I just had to because I went vegan and couldn't live of microwaved veggie lasagne any more.

    1. Yeah, I think I just wanted to take better care of myself and knowing how to cook seemed like the first step. Funny you mention lasagna, Giada's veggie lasagna rolls were my fave. I still think of her recipe when I make vegan lasagna today.