People sometimes ask me if I miss meat. I don’t. After being a vegetarian for almost 21 years, I don’t find the look or smell of meat appealing in the least. What I do miss, a little, are some of the creative ways of cooking a big ol’ slice of something in sauce. Often I’ll use slices of tofu or eggplant in such recipes, but when I really want a “toothier” texture, I turn to wheat gluten. It’s a processed food, I know, and it causes problems for lots of people, but my family and I seem to suffer no ill effects from eating it, so I like to experiment with it from time to time. I apologize to all my gluten-free readers for not having a gluten-free version of this recipe, but if you’re willing to experiment, I think the sauce would be delicious over bean-based burgers, tempeh, or tofu.
“Scaloppine” is a term for meat that is sliced or pounded very thin. Since I used wheat gluten, I didn’t slice or pound anything, but I did flatten the seitan as much as possible before cooking it. The result is a cutlet that is chewy without being rubbery, but I thought my first results were a little dry. I was all set to post the recipe when I decided to do a couple of experiments to find out if I could make the seitan a little moister and more tender. Yes, I could! Check the notes after the recipe for two tricks I discovered.
A few words about the recipe:
- Don’t be scared off by the number of ingredients or instructions. The scaloppine themselves are super-easy to make and take only about 35 minutes. You can make them ahead of time and store them in the fridge until you’re ready to put them together with the sauce.
- I used Meyer lemons, which are not as tart as regular lemons. If you’re using regular lemons, you may not need as much lemon juice in the sauce, so add to taste.
- Don’t add the cutlets to the sauce until you’re ready to serve because they will suck up all of the sauce. If you want a saucier dish, consider doubling the sauce ingredients. On the other hand, leftovers stored overnight with the sauce seemed more tender the next day, so sucking up sauce may be a good thing!
- I’ve included the nutritional info for the cutlets alone, so feel free to use them with any sauce you like (I’m planning on serving them with a tomato-mushroom sauce soon). They also make great sandwiches or fajitas. (I like to slice them horizontally to make them thinner for sandwiches.) Slice them or dice them and use to replace chicken in most any recipe.
- 1 cup vital wheat gluten
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon basil
- 3/4 cup Imagine No-Chicken Broth (or other vegetable broth)
- 2 tablespoons tahini or cashew butter
- 1 tablespoon unbleached flour
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed slightly
- 10 green olives, pitted and sliced
- 1 1/4 cups No-Chicken Broth
- 2-3 tablespoons white wine or vermouth
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
- salt and pepper
- additional vegetable broth, as necessary
- Tear off 4 pieces of aluminum foil about 10 inches long. (See tips below for a foil-free way of making the scaloppine.) Begin heating water in a steamer.
- In a large bowl, mix the vital wheat gluten with the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, and basil. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the broth and tahini (or cashew butter). Stir the wet mixture into the dry until well blended. Knead gently 10 times. Quickly divide dough into 4 equal pieces.
- Take a piece of dough and shape and flatten it into a thin oval cutlet. Place it on a sheet of foil, a little higher than center. Fold the bottom of the foil over to meet the top, and then fold the two edges over about 1/2 inch to form a seam. Continue folding the foil by half inches until it reaches just above the cutlet. Flatten the cutlet down a little more, and then fold the left and right edges in the same way until the packet is snug around the cutlet. Repeat with all pieces of dough.
- Place the packets flat into the steamer and cover. Steam for 25 minutes. Keep packets sealed until you’re ready to use them.
- Spray a non-stick skillet (or some other non-iron skillet) with olive oil spray. Begin heating it as you prepare a plate containing the flour sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. Once the skillet is hot, unwrap each cutlet and lightly dredge each side in the flour and then place in the skillet. Cook until brown and then turn over and brown other side. Remove to a plate. (If you’d rather not use any oil at all, skip the flouring of the cutlets and just brown them alone. Your sauce may not thicken unless you add a little flour to it later.)
- Add the garlic and lemon slices to the pan. Cook until the lemon slices have softened, 2-3 minutes, and then remove them from the pan, leaving the garlic. Add the olives, broth, wine, and lemon juice and cook on medium heat until the liquid starts to reduce. Remove the garlic, add salt and pepper to taste, and return the cutlets to the pan. Turn them over to coat with the sauce. Simmer briefly to warm them through, and if the sauce becomes too thick, add a little broth to thin. Stir in the parsley, and remove the cutlets to plates. Spoon some sauce over each cutlet and garnish with lemon slices.
No extra step is required for the other technique; in fact, it’s simpler than the original recipe, though you will need a large steamer and plates that will fit inside it. Instead of wrapping the cutlets in foil, place them on the largest plate that will fit in your steamer. (If you have a double-level steamer, you can place two cutlets on smaller plates on each level.) Cover with an inverted plate of the same size, to keep water from dripping directly onto your cutlets. Steam for 25 minutes. Your cutlets will be a little lighter in color but will have a moister texture. This is my preferred way of making these cutlets!
Nutrition info below includes sauce and flour. Each cutlet alone, with no sauce or flour coating, provides 181 Calories (kcal); 5g Total Fat; (25% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 369mg Sodium; 2g Fiber.