Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catalan White Bean and Seitan Sausage Stew

Day 11 of Vegan Mofo.  I love Spanish food and Catalan food in particular. Because of its reliance on vegetables (onions, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, eggplant and legumes plus a huge assortment of others), it’s easily adaptable to vegan cooking. The best book on Catalan cooking in the US is Colman Andrews’ brilliant Catalan Cuisine. This recipe isn’t authentic – it’s more an amalgamation of several Catalan cooking elements. It also using a few tricks to save some time, which Mark Bittman would approve of but Coleman Andrews and your Catalan grandmother likely wouldn’t. But it tastes great and it’s easy to do.

There are lots of slow cooked braises in Catalan cooking, most of which start with a sofregit, which is a slow cooked combination of onions, tomatoes and olive oil. This is a slightly lower fat version (but don’t kid yourself in to thinking it’s super low fat because it’s not). If fat isn’t an issue, double the amount of olive oil. I use canned tomato sauce primarily because it cuts down on the time it takes to make the sofregit. If you use whole or canned tomatoes it will take a little longer. The other traditional element is a picada, which has been called a sauce but is more of a thickening agent in this recipe. They can be made from a variety of ingredients, but usually contains dried bread, nuts, garlic, and some spices. Traditionally they’re made in a mortar and pestle and are stirred into stews or braises towards the end of cooking to thicken the dish. When I’m in a rush, I use a min chopper instead of the mortar and pestle. Because the picada contains raw garlic, it will need to cook for 10-20 minutes in the stew in order to tame the sharpness. I use homemade seitan sausage, but you can substitute vegan chorizo if you want.

I normally am only cooking for two, so this is a two person recipe, but you can easily double, triple or even quadruple it. A final warning: a lot of traditional Catalan food is what Colman Andrews calls “brown food.” You can add some chopped parsley to it for some color, but if you want vibrant colors, this dish isn’t it. But if you want earthy, hearty food for a cold day, look no further.

Catalan White Bean and Seitan Sausage Stew

2 large onions, finely diced
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of pimento (smoked Spanish paprika, regular paprika is not a substitute)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup of white wine
16 oz. canned tomato sauce (or 2 cups of canned or fresh, skinned tomatoes)
2 cups of cooked white beans
1 seitan sausage, sliced in quarters lengthwise and then into 3/8 in slices
1 piece of dried bread, toasted or fried in oil
¼ cup of toasted almonds
2-3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish

In a non-stick skillet, cook the onion, oil and salt over medium heat until well browned (about 20 minutes). Watch it carefully and don’t burn it. Add the pimento and cinnamon and cook for a minute or so. Deglaze with white wine. Add the tomato sauce and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the white beans after the sauce is reduced and let them heat through, about five minutes. Make the picada: in a mini chopper or food processor, process the almonds, bread, and garlic to a thick paste. Stir the picada into the stew and let it reduce for about 10 minutes. Stir in the seitan sausage and heat through for 5-10 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust to your preferences.

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