The secret to eggy tofu scramble: Indian black salt

Tofu scramble is one of those dishes that every vegan and most vegetarians have in their back pocket. It’s quick, it’s healthy, it’s infinitely adaptable, it’s suitable for any meal, and it’s damn good eatin’.

But nobody who eats eggs would ever actually say an average tofu scramble actually tastes like egg. It’s a delicious way of preparing tofu. But it doesn’t taste like egg.

That’s not a problem, really. It’s tofu, not egg. But some folks hear the word “scramble” and they get… eggspectations.

I’m sorry.

Anyway, this is where Indian black salt comes in. It’s a mineral salt used frequently in Indian cooking which has a high sulfur content, and thus a distinctly eggy flavor. I picked mine up from a Tea and Spice Exchange that I happened into while on vacation, because I hadn’t been able to find it in my local Whole Foods and hadn’t made it to the Punjab grocery to check there yet. But good places to find black salt in general: Indian grocery stores, health food stores, specialty spice stores, and of course, the internet.

Now, I still wouldn’t say this tastes… eggsactly (*ducks*) like scrambled eggs. But for a vegan who’s really missing eggs? Or someone who has ideas about tofu being gross because it’s “always flavorless”? Black salt is a very nice touch.

As I mentioned, the nice thing about tofu scramble is that it’s infinitely adaptable. I used red onion and baby spinach because I had it, but feel free to substitute with anything languishing in your fridge (or even prepare it plain and top with cheddar Daiya for a childhood throwback).

black salt tofu scramble

Black Salt Tofu Scramble

Serves 2-4

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
5 ounces baby spinach
1 small red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
1 14-ounce package firm tofu
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons Indian black salt
1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast
heaping 1/8 teaspoon tumeric
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

While preparing the rest of your ingredients, press tofu to remove some excess water. I have this tofu press and I compress the tofu about halfway and let it sit for 15 minutes.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, then add 2 teaspoons olive oil. Warm until oil is shimmery and easily coats pan, then add red onion. Saute until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add baby spinach, toss to coat, and cover. Let wilt for 3-4 minutes, stirring once. Transfer mixture from skillet to a colander and squeeze extra liquid out, then set aside.

Again heat skillet over medium-low and add 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Warm oil, then roughly crumble pressed tofu (I just use my hands) into the skillet. Sprinkle with black salt, nutritional yeast, turmeric, and garlic powder and stir to combine. Start with a teaspoon of black salt — you can add more to taste after you add the veggies.

Continue to heat and stir until tofu is warmed through and broken up to your desired texture. Add reserved veggies and stir to combine. Taste, and if desired, add additional black salt for more saltiness (obviously) as well as more eggy flavor. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Heat again until everything is warmed through and serve immediately.

Twelve days of food gifts: zesty salt’n'pep

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Okay, so I’m just getting this in under the wire today. My mister and I threw a cocktail party yesterday. Aside from prepping all the food (which I of course forgot to take any photos of), there was plenty of socializing to be done. Needless to say, I spent today lazing around doing nothing (read: watching Serenity and several episodes of Freaks and Geeks).

But I’m doing it! I bring you day seven of the Twelve Days of Food Gifts.

This zesty salt’n'pepper mix? It’s a quickie. If you want to make it even faster, you can use pre-ground black pepper… but I think it’s worth it to grind it yourself — you can call it an arm workout or something. Or use a coffee grinder or spice mill.

And it tastes delicious on everything.

zesty salt'n'pepZesty Salt’n'Pep

Makes 4 jars

2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 heaping cup sea salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 heaping cup garlic powder

Mix it all together. Put it in jars. The end.

For Gifting:
J.K. Adams 2 ounce Flint Jars
full-sheet inkjet adhesive
printable (single 5.25″x2.75″ label)
printable (3 5.25″x2.75″ labels per 8.5″x11″ adhesive sheet)
clear contact paper (optional)

Print labels onto the full-sheet adhesive paper. Make sure you are printing them at 100% — your PDF software may try to automatically resize them. Trim away white edges (a paper cutter really comes in handy for this part). Remove backing, center over a filled jar, and press firmly in the middle of the label. Then smooth both edges around the back.

If desired, cover the labels with clear contact paper before you cut them out to protect the label from running if exposed to steam or moisture.

Today’s secret ingredient is… not-poultry seasoning

I know it’s pretty popular to substitute vegetable broth when a recipe calls for chicken broth in order to make it vegetarian. I generally don’t do this; substituting veggie broth sometimes works, but sometimes it just falls a little flat. It’s missing that something, you know?

I prefer to make not-chicken broth by dissolving this seasoning blend in either hot water or even veggie broth, if you have it on hand. Aside from making broth, this mix is also great to toss onto anything that needs an extra flavor boost — it’s a welcome addition to most roasted or sauteed vegetable dishes.

not-poultry seasoning

I found the recipe for this seasoning mix a million years ago (read: probably around 2007) on the open-source UnTurkey website and I have had a jar in my cabinet ever since. Generally, I adapt recipes I use pretty heavily. Not this one. It’s perfect just the way it is. Well, except for the name — Light Yeast Flavoring Powder sounds kind of gross. That’s why the jar in my cabinet is labeled as…

Not-Poultry Seasoning
From Light Yeast Flavoring Powder by

1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons celery seed
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Measure everything into your food processor, reserving about half of the nutritional yeast. (I find starting with only half the yeast makes it easier to break the other spices down.) Process until everything is finely ground, about a minute. Add the rest of the nutritional yeast and process again until flakes are broken down and everything is combined.

Store in a glass jar in a dark, cool cabinet.

Not-Chicken Broth

2 cups water or vegetable broth
1-2 tablespoons Not-Poultry Seasoning, to taste
salt, to taste

Heat water or vegetable broth in the microwave or in a saucepan. Stir in first tablespoon of seasoning until dissolved, then taste to determine if you would like to add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon more. The amount used depends on the recipe the broth is being used for and your personal tastes. And then again, depending on the recipe and your personal tastes, feel free to dissolve in a bit of extra salt.

Poutine home fries, when you need to indulge

We’ve been trying to eat healthier lately. Lots of salads.

See, my mister got hit by a car while he was on his bike several months ago. Broken collarbone, surgery, physical therapy, and no running or biking for about two months. This was extra unfortunate, because he had just started training for the Army Ten Miler that he’s running in October. He’s tip top now, except for having a rod and some screws in his shoulder. (Despite the worries from apparently everyone, he does not set off the metal detector at the airport.) But he missed a lot of training time, and got a bit out of shape when he was unable to exercise.

I, on the other hand, am a bit out of shape just because my main form of exercise is getting down on all fours and chasing her around the house.

So, we’re trying to eat healthier.

But sometimes you have to indulge yourself, right? Sometimes you just need to eat a disgustingly huge pile of greasy potatoes, cheese, and gravy.

poutine home fries

Poutine Home Fries
Serves 2

5 smallish-mediumish red skin or yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons butter*
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 heaping teaspoon Marmite
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 heaping teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
4-6 oz white cheddar cheese curds*
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and dry your potatoes, then dice ‘em up. Leave those skins on — fiber makes it healthy, right?

Preheat a cast iron skillet over low heat, then add oil and heat until it shimmers and easily coats the bottom of the pan.

Add diced potatoes and a few dashes of salt and grinds of pepper, then stir to coat and cover. Cook covered over low heat, flipping with a metal spatula occasionally to prevent sticking, for 20-25 minutes until fork tender.

While potatoes are cooking, microwave water in a measuring cup with a spout for 2 minutes or until hot. Then add nutritional yeast, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Marmite, pepper, salt, garlic powder and onion powder; stir to dissolve. Put the 1/2 teaspoon with the Marmite directly into the water and stir to ensure that all of that weirdly delicious paste dissolves off the teaspoon into the broth.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add flour and cook, whisking frequently with a gravy whisk, until it turns light brown and no longer smells like raw flour. You have a roux!

While whisking constantly, slowly pour the broth into the roux. Do not add it too quickly or your gravy will take forever to thicken up properly. It will get very thick as you pour the liquid in slowly, and you’ll have to whisk aggressively along the bottom to make sure everything gets integrated. Make sure to scrape any sludge from the bottom of the measuring cup in there, too.

Once all of your liquid has been added, continue to whisk constantly until your gravy is smooth. Leave over medium-low heat and let cook for 8-10 minutes, whisking occasionally, until gravy is sufficiently thickened. Take a taste and add more salt if needed — just remember that you’ve salted your potatoes and the cheese curds will be salty as well.

While your gravy thickens, check to see if your potatoes are fork tender yet. When they are, raise heat to medium-high and brown the potatoes. Keep a close eye and flip frequently to prevent burning.

Scoop browned potatoes onto two plates. Add 2-3 ounces of cheese curds to the top of each potato pile. Smother with gravy, and let sit for a minute or so until the cheese curds start to melt. Grab fork, shovel into your mouth, repeat.

* To make this recipe vegan, substitute olive oil or vegan margarine for the butter when making the roux for the gravy. Cut up some hearty chunks of a cheddar Daiya wedge to substitute the cheese curds.

Homemade taco seasoning is good on everything

When I was growing up, my dad lacked two things: cooking skills and spare time. As a result, we ate a lot of tacos. A lot of tacos.

The pre-shredded cheese, salad mix, a jar of salsa, and tortillas were all ready to go out of the packages. Browning up a pound of cheap ground beef doesn’t take long, then toss the seasoning packet in and you’re good to go.

But that packet? What exactly is in that packet? Mostly maltodextrin and salt, instead of the spices that will actually give your food a real kick. A hearty amount of MSG. And something called ethoxyquin, an additive most commonly used in… pet food! And even for pets, there’s been speculation about the safety of it. It’s used in spices to prevent color loss, so the spices in your packet of taco seasoning could likely be older than they look.

Considering that a well stocked spice cabinet will already have most, if not all, of the spices needed to make your own… well, what are you waiting for?

This recipe will make quite a bit of seasoning, so you can always have it on hand. Save your spice bottle empties to put your own spice mixes in. You can drive your partner crazy just like I do!

“Hey, can I toss this empty spice bottle?”
“But don’t you already have a bunch saved? Are you using those?”
“I might need more! You like my seasonings!”

Our kitchen may or may not be overrun with my things. I may or may not have an auxiliary shelf of kitchen junk in the basement.

You can use this on whatever protein you’d like — add to cubed tofu, beans, Quorn crumbles or “chicken” bits. Then add extra salt to taste — since the sodium content in whatever you’re putting it on can vary so much, I’ve cut it quite a bit in the mix so you can add it as you cook with it.

However, the way I usually end up using it is to make lentil taco filling. To me, they’re the best whole food for replicating the ground beef taco experience I recall from my childhood.

Aside from making tacos, this is also great sprinkled on fries or popcorn to give a bit of a kick, or my favorite quick and easy (and kind of shameful) party dip: spread a layer of cream cheese, a layer of your favorite jarred salsa (Safeway Select Southwest Salsa, surprisingly), and a layer of shredded cheddar cheese in a baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with taco seasoning, bake at 350 until cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

homemade taco seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning
Adapted (barely!) from Homemade Taco Seasoning by Food Renegade

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast

Stir all ingredients together. Store in a spice shaker jar. Put on all the things!