This was an exceptional week by relaxational and meteorological standards. For a few days no one in our house had a cold. The weather was amazing — 80 degrees on Saturday. We all cut out a little early on Friday afternoon for a walk in the sun and a strawberry sorbet at one of our favorite little spots. We made it to the beach for a perfect burrito sunset picnic. Yoga for the first time in way too many months (but I do have a slew of good excuses). And dear old Tess got her beach run in on Sunday. Tails were wagging. To me, it felt as though spring was here.
My dear old dad begs to differ, and has brought it to my attention that it is not in fact time to switch gears and start cooking warm weather food. While we reside in the warm weather bubble of Southern California, he maintains residence in the blistery cold mountains of Montana. His meteorological situation is extreme, but I suppose most of the country is still immersed in cold winter weather. Only those of us residing in Southern California have moved into spring. More warm and hearty dishes are in order. More specifically, he requested a post on how to make a proper vegetable stock. I wasn’t so much in the mood for stock making this weekend, but our 80 degree beach day passed to a cool 65 yesterday so I give you this, a vegan pot pie recipe. Do you remember those little Swanson pot pies that were like 4 for a dollar way back when? It’s kinda funny, the tofu in this recipe mimic the texture of the weird chicken bits in those to a tee. Strange but true. Knowing that, I hope it doesn’t turn you off. There’s nothing to fear from tofu. Now chicken with an off spongey texture, that is the off-putting part. But I digress.
So the foundation of this is similar to the Shepherd’s Pie if you happened to make that. Vegetables sautéed then mixed in with some vegetable broth, soy sauce and nutritional yeast. Really a great technique you can carry over to all sorts of warm wintery recipes. If you’re trying to cut back on salt, which I’m always a fan of, use water in place of the vegetable broth (or opt for a low sodium variety) and by all means, replace the soy sauce with Bragg’s. Regular soy sauce has over 900 mg of sodium per tablespoon. I like to substitute soy sauce with half Braggs Liquid Aminos and half water, so at least you’re getting some amino acids as well. It’s an easy to switch to make.
Aside from that, there are only a few other tips I have to offer. First, frying the tofu is a bit tedious. I hate turning little bits of tofu over. I find a fork works best, but it makes me wish I had one of those fryer things like Paula Dean has built in to her kitchen. I could hardly justify such as absurdity frying tofu a couple times a month, but it would be nice to have a neighbor with one you could borrow. Just drop all those little tofu squares in and be done with it in like 20 seconds. That’s the life. Oh and before I get a daydreamy about frying bulk tofu, let me also recommend doubling the pie crust part of the recipe. You won’t need twice as much, but whenever I go to the trouble to prepare something a little more labor involved, I like to make it count. Wrap the other half tightly in plastic wrap. Put it in a freezer bag and it will keep in the freezer for several months. Then next time you’re up for a pot pie or a quiche or any other recipe in need of a flaky crust just pull it out of the freezer and let it defrost over night in your refrigerator. I do the same thing with cookie dough and homemade baby food. But I’ll be the first to admit my freezer is a bit out of control. Once I hit capacity, we literally have a solid week dedicated to eating every odd ball thing I’ve deemed freezable. Lately I’ve been wondering about freezing chopped onions and celery. Needs a solid googling and maybe even a note into good ‘ol Christopher Kimball at America’s Test Kitchen. Love those folks.
Vegan Tofu and Vegetable Pot Pie
Adapted from The Kitchn
A little over an hour to make
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 stick or 1/2 cup frozen Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
- Ice water
- 8 oz. extra firm tofu
- 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 medium Russet potato, diced
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce (or half Braggs, half water)
- 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth (or water)
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1 tsp. finely chopped sage
- 1 tsp. thyme leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Whenever you make pie crust you want everything cold, super cold. Measure out your flour in to a mixing bowl and chill in the freezer, along with a measuring cup of water. You can leave all that in there while you’re preparing the filling.
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Cut tofu into 1/3-inch cubes and press between clean kitchen towels or paper towels. Do your best to get it dry.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat and cook tofu until golden, turning once so you have two nicely cooked sides. Remove tofu from skillet and set aside.
- Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same pan. Cook onion, celery, carrot, and garlic until onion is translucent, about 8 minutes.
- Add potato to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until just soft.
- Add flour, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce to the skillet and stir into the vegetables. Let cook just a minute or two. Then add the broth and stir until combined, scraping all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add tofu, peas, spinach, sage, and thyme and stir until combined.
- Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Now back to the crust. Remove the flour, butter and water from the freezer.
- Cut the butter into smaller cubes and add to the flour. With a pastry blender or fork, cut the mixture until you have pea size pieces of butter/flour. Then, using your hands, quickly (yes, quickly! Your hands are warm) rub the mixture together so that the butter is absorbed into the flour.
- Gradually drizzle ice water into the bowl, mixing with the pastry blender or fork until the dough just comes together.
- Quickly shape the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Place on a floured surface a roll out to 1/8 inch thick.
- Let’s put it all together. Pour the the tofu and vegetable mixture into a 9 inch pie pan.
- Place the rolled out dough over the mixture and tuck the sides under to form a thicker crust around the edge. Press to seal around the edges of the dish and cut a slit in the middle for the steam to escape.
- Bake in the oven until the crust is golden, about 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.