Book Cover

Title: Veganize This!
Author: Jenn Shagrin
248 pages; Softcover $19.00 US/$24.00 CAN
Publisher: DaCapo/Lifelong Books, Cambridge MA, 2010
Reviewed by Chef John Vyhnanek, March, 2011

The review--- Once you understand what "seitan" is, you'll be all set to Veganize This!

Jenn Shagrin puts it all into perspective with Veganize This!, her new book. First she gets us ready by helping organize a pantry with essential ingredients and alternatives for meatless and animal free cooking. Once past the pantry stage, she shows us the most important ingredient to her book. If you don't have a good recipe for seitan and know how to season and cook it, you won't have a good end result. So what she says is true. Look at an example of fish, if it isn't fresh but frozen it won't taste as good and be satisfying. Yes, the recipe for seitan is very, very important here!

Jenn has done a good job with her faux meats, or wheat meat as it's sometimes called. She has recipes and cooking broths for chicken, beef, pork, turkey, ham and veal seitan. Oh, by the way, seitan is a spongy food product made from wheat protein, vital wheat gluten. Gluten turns into seitan only after being cooked in soy sauce or a flavored animal free broth. It becomes firm during the cooking and even firmer as it continues to cook. It has a very high nutritional value.

You can make just about anything you like using her recipes. The cover of the book says from Surf and Turf to Ice Cream Pie and you'd better believe it! How does Lemon-Artichoke Cavatelli in a Heirloom Tomato-Cream Vinaigrette with English Peas and Vegan Prosciutto sound? I just had to try the all-American favorite: a hamburger. This was totally different from what I thought it would be, it was called Faux Chicken Coconut-Basil Burgers with Cilantro-Mint Chutney. The chutney was just like any chutney in the way it was made with the exception of soy yougurt; I added the optional Jalape o for more heat. For the burgers, a required batch of Chicken-style Seitan was made. I cooked and added coconut milk, lime juice, cornstarch, Thai red curry paste, flax seed eggs ( a separate recipe) wheat germ, panko breadcrumbs and sea salt to the faux chicken. I pan fried them, put them on a warm bun with lettuce tomato, onion and the chutneywowwhat flavor and not bad at all! By the way, there is a recipe for a traditional faux "beef" burger too!

Bottom line is that I learned quite a bit about seitan and how important a good recipe is. Once you have the recipe you can do just about anything as Jenn shows us in her bookgood job Jenn!

Recipe Tested!
Vegan Burger

Faux Chicken Coconut-Basil Burgers with Cilantro-Mint Chutney

Makes 6 large or 8 small burger patties

1 ( 1 - inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped into large pieces
1 cup fresh mint
1 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup plain soy yogurt
1 jalapeno, stemmed (optional)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

First, prepare the chutney: Take your handy-dandy food processor (or blender if you don't have one), start the machine running, and drop in the ginger. Once the ginger is coarsely chopped, turn off the machine and scrape down the sides. Add the rest of the chutney ingredients and blend well, scraping down the sides once more for good measure.

Next, make the burgers: Take your chicken-style seitan, drain it as well as possible, then grind well in a food processor. Set aside.
Faux Chicken Coconut-Basil Burgers

1 1/2 batches Chicken-Style Seitan (page 5)
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
Zest of 1 lime (see page 37 for how to zest a lime)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1/2 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (sweet basil works really well!)
2 flaxseed eggs (2 tablespoons ground flaxseed mixed with 2 tablespoons water; see page 29 for how to prepare)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup vegan panko-style bread crumbs
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt (let your taste buds do the talking)
6 to 8 Rudi's Organic Bakery White Hamburger Buns

Combine the coconut milk, lime zest, lime juice, and the cornstarch mixture in a 10-inch skillet. Bring to a simmer. Continue cooking with some occasional stirring until the mixture is reduced to 2/3 cup. This takes 15 to 20 minutes. Add the red curry paste to the reduced liquid and stir until well blended. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a small bowl, and set aside to cool completely.

If you're using a grill, start heating it up now.

Once the coconut milk mixture has cooled to room temperature, combine it in a large bowl with the chicken, basil, flaxseed eggs, wheat germ, panko, and salt. (You may need to add a little more wheat germ or flaxseed egg to help the patties form. It doesn't affect the flavor much, so use your own discretion.) Form into thin patties, place one sheet of foil on each side of each patty, and place on the grill top. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side until golden brown and warmed through.

You can also cook these under the broiler, flipping once during cooking, or give a skillet a little grease down and get those babies golden brown.

Put these bad boys on a bun with some of that deliciouschutney and whatever else tickles your toenails.

Basic Burgers: To make just a plain ole American hamburger, follow the instructions for Vegan Meatballs on page 11, but instead form the mixture into patties. Cook as instructed above for the Faux Chicken Coconut-Basil Burgers, or follow the oven-baking directions for the Vegan Meatballs.