I LOVE visiting new towns. The thing is, whenever I have to go visit another city, I research my meal options as if my life depended on it.... well it sorta does.
I have found so many wonderful gems:
Saratoga Springs-Four Seasons store and cafe (the BEST carrot cake EVER!!)
Rochester-Lori's Whole Foods
but from them all, my greatest find was in Syracuse:
STRONG HEARTS CAFE
oh my word. Completely vegan friendly, their vegan milkshake variety is to die for. But, from everything, what brought me to absolute tears were their sandwiches.
Can I just pause for a moment to savor in the beauty that is sandwiches?
It seriously brings a tear to my eye when I remember my first vegan sandwich at Strong Hearts. I didn't think I could eat a deli meat imitation sandwich ever again! The kicker here is, the sandwich I ate was a reuben.
Now, the only memory I have of eating my solitary reuben (yes, I've only eaten 1 real reuben sandwich in my entire life. what can I say. I've been deprived), all I can remember is grease. Grease and fat. I liked the first couple of bites, but afterwards, it was an uphill battle.
But the vegan reuben was sheer bliss.
So, I thought I'd try my hand at making my first batch of vegan deli meat, a.k.a. seitan sliced thin. I thought, it's my first batch, why not be creative? And what's reubens without Corned Beef, right? So here it is:
Vegan Corned Beef
(makes 2 small "loaves" of seitan, like mini corned beef briskets)
pot large enough to hold steam basket
1-15 oz can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups of pickle juice (you know, the water left after you eat all the pickles out of the jar, make sure it's not a pickle that's too sweet, the more tart the better)
1/3 c soy sauce or tamari or Bragg's liquid aminos
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
2 1/2 c vital wheat gluten
1/2 c & 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
1tsp-1Tbsp black pepper (depending on your own taste)
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
pinch of mustard powder
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of cloves
pinch of allspice
1. I took the pickle juice and let every spice from the whole black peppercorns down soak in the fridge for a couple days.
2. when you're ready to make the mock corned beef, set the steaming basket in the pot and fill just below the basket with water. remember that when the water boils, it will start to seep up into the basket, so adjust water levels accordingly. turn on the stove to bring to a boil.
3. assembling the seitan:
in large bowl, mash the beans until smooth. then mix all the remaining ingredients in order listed and incorporate well. divide the dough into 2 loaves, and mold each into a football shape and wrap loosely into aluminum foil sheets. roll the loaves up loosely (they need room to expand) like you would a small candy, tightening either ends by twisting and tucking under.
4. place the wrapped loaves in the steaming basket, place lid on pot, and let steam for 1 hour. remember to put the loaves in with the end flaps (the opening) up, so the water doesn't seep into the loaves.
5. once the loaves are done, remove from foil and let rest to room temp before slicing. for easier slicing, place in freezer for 30 minutes.
Now, all you have to do is to slather some thousand island dressing on some rye or pumpernickel bread, top with some vegan cheese, some sauerkraut and the vegan corned beef, toast it in a press or on the griddle, and voila! No more reuben deprivation.