Updated: Aug 16, 2021
I admit (gasp!), I grocery shopped without a "plan" this week. We had just gotten back from the 4th of July holiday and were quite literally out of fresh ingredients. Shopping was priority and we didn't have enough time for me to really plan a menu per usual. The result? Purchase what looks good and is in season. Work in a few new twists of my own while honoring go-to cookbook based recipes from other authors majority of this week. When we turned out bags out on the table and organized the ingredients, I reviewed this week's menu with pantry item supplements. Then, I explored what I felt like preparing using that inspiration from old (non-vegan) recipes. Voila! Vegan Philly Cheese"steak" Strata was born!
Sustainability Spotlight: Seitan (made from vital wheat gluten) is ranked #4 on the "6 of the Most Sustainable Meat Alternatives" list via Ecowatch.com (a digital environmental publisher). Slightly fibrous and made by mixing flour and water into a dough and rinsing until all starch is removed, seitan has a great texture that is often a choice for mimicking "meats." According to VegNews.com , seitan "has a carbon footprint that is 130 times lower than beef..." as analyzed and reported by a London-based sustainability firm (Thrust Carbon). That means, you can eat 130 seitan servings and have the same carbon footpritn as 1 beef burger; whoa.
Add to that fact, seitan has higher protein and lower fat, it is no wonder that there are a variety of options crafted from seitan for meat alternatives at the store. Seitan is used in deli slices, as holiday "ham," and comes in strips, and grounds. Recently, it has also been utilized as a chicken alternative. Many applications and options are available to transition from (or recreate) meat; meaning, more people are choosing seitan which reduces the carbon loads from animal-based products. Good work!
However, seitan is still a processed good and it utilizes a significant amount of water resources (often recycled back into the process) to produce. That means that I only eat it / use it sparingly along with the other options at the store for meat alternatives. Seitan is a great option for me when I want something with the chew of meat and I building a dish around a "meat" flavor (like this one). While it's a great step away from beef, it is also potentially packed with fillers, salts, and sugar (depending on manufacturer and if it is pre-marinated / seasoned). From a health and eco-friendly standpoint, seitan isn't perfect. It is, though, a great step in the right direction and used every once and a while, seitan products are a good way to continue the sustainability drivers of our kitchens while still satisfying our taste buds. As always, everything in moderation is the way forward.
3-4 large (bakery style preferred) wheat bread slices (cubed into ~2 in. pieces)
1-2 large (bakery style preferred) wheat bread slices (processed into crumbs)
1 tbsp avocado oil (plus more for crumb topping)
1 large yellow onion (halved, sliced thin (cut again into halves)
2-3 garlic cloves (mined)
1 red bell pepper (thinly sliced and halved)
1 yellow bell pepper (thinly sliced and halved)
1 large portabella mushroom cap (sliced and halved)
1 package thin (deli) sliced seitan (sliced lengthwise and then halved)
2 large handfuls baby spinach (sliced)
salt & pepper (to taste)
Cheese Wiz Sauce:
1.5 cups raw cashews
1/2 cup filtered water
1 lemon (juiced)
2 tbsp white miso
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/3 cup refined coconut oil (or vegan butter) - melted preferred
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray a 9 x 12 glass pan with cooking spray and layer the cubed bread slices in the bottom (single layer as much as possible; it's okay for overlap). Set aside.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add avocado oil and swirl to coat. Once it shimmers, add onion. Saute for 4-5 minutes until it just starts to become golden.
Next, add garlic through seitan and season with salt. Saute another 10-12 minutes until all ingredients are browned and have softened.
Add spinach and stir until wilted (~1-2 minutes); season again with salt & pepper.
While vegetables are browning, make your Cheese Wiz Sauce by adding all ingredients to a high powered blender; blend on high for ~1 minute (Vitamix) or up to 5 minutes (scraping down sides as needed) depending on your blender. Set aside.
Once vegetables are done, add your sauce directly to the cast iron pan and incorporate completely.
Spread vegetables over cubed bread in prepared 9 x 12 pan in an even layer (using a spatula as needed).
Drizzle ~1 tbsp of avocado oil into a mini food processor with the processed bread crumbs until the crumbs are moistened.
Sprinkle crumbs over the top of your strata in an even layer and sprinkle with black pepper
Slide pan into oven and bake uncovered for ~30 minutes; without removing pan, switch your oven to Broil - High and put 5 minutes on the timer. Remove from oven with the top is golden.
Let sit ~5 minutes on a wire rack before serving.
Enjoy this vegetable-packed and crisped strata with fresh fruit. I do recommend eating 100% the first day as any leftovers will not have the beautiful lightness of the bread bottom or crisped top. I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie