Saturday, September 10, 2011

Okra with Soy Curls, sausage, and tomatoes + chortillas

Chortillas?  Wait and see, they are an original invention of genius for the corn-tortilla challenged, like me. 

Yes, I'm back.  I have missed blogging!  While I've been away, reading but not responding to the very kind comments posted here, I lost a bunch of weight and have successfully kept it off for over five months.  I'm looking so great, feeling so fantastic both mentally and physically, and have so much energy that I'm highly motivated to maintain my current weight and fitness.  I also really, really love to cook and eat.  This isn't a "my weight loss journey" type of blog, but if you read over my old posts, you'll see that in the past I've been a healthy though high-fat and enormous portion kind of cook, the kind that starts every meal with a generous pouring of oil into the bottom of a frying pan, more oil if things look dry, plus a little drizzle for flavour at the end, the kind of cook who makes enough for four because she's too lazy to divide recipes, then eats it all because she doesn't want leftovers (you all don't see that part...).  So I've had to make big changes in the way I cook and eat and think about food, and this has taken some time.  As the song says, old habits die hard.

An example of the new style - steamed mixed grains, cauliflower tabbouli,
black-eyed peas with greens
So the focus of the new "airier" Airy Way is on the creation of delicious single-portion (I live alone) low-fat vegan meals that are yet delicious and filling, the creative use of leftovers, veganizing non-vegan dishes, and tips on cooking for one.  I've been winging it on my own so far, but there are a number of books out there on cooking for one which I hope to look into in the near future--and the fact that such books are being published is I hope an indication that my new direction may be of interest to some readers.  Surely the demographic of single vegan hedonists who love to cook, hate leftovers, and are trying to stay slim must be significant! But if you're, like, cooking for two, no worries, you can just double the recipes.  And if you're not into low fat cooking, just do what I used to do, and add fat.

And more - butternut squash curry with coconut and
fresh peppercorns
So, anyway, on to the real subject of today's post.  Yesterday in Superstore there was this huge flat of fresh okra.  I've never cooked with fresh okra, so I got all excited and bought some, and used part of it in this dish. 

First, though, the chortillas.  I don't know how many of you have tried to make corn tortillas without a tortilla press.  I've done it a few times, without notable success.  My corn tortillas are a nuisance to roll out, and always seem to turn out dry, crumbly, and not very tasty.  My chapati, on the other hand, rock.  So my brilliant idea was to try a flatbread that was half chapati flour and half masa harina, and lo, chortillas were born!  They worked great, were a dream to roll out (no waxed paper required), and were as thin and pliable as chapati but tasted like corn.  Perfect!  Here's what I did:

makes 3 seven-inch chortillas

1/4 cup chapati flour
1/4 cup masa harina
pinch of salt (optional)

Mix the flours and salt, if using, together in a medium bowl.  Add enough warm water to make a stiff dough.  It should be stiff, but not crumbly, and should not stick to the counter when you knead it.  Knead for about two minutes, until the gluten in the chapati flour begins to develop and the dough can be moulded without cracking.  Divide into three and form each piece into a flattened ball, like this:

Now cover the pieces with plastic wrap or a plate to keep them moist, and let them sit for at least ten minutes.  This sitting period is important for chapati as well as chortillas--it allows the dough to relax so it can be rolled out more easily, and also just makes them cook better.

When you're ready to cook, heat an ungreased skillet (cast iron works best if you have it) to medium.  Roll out one of the balls to about a 1/8 inch thickness--nice and thin without actually being transparent.  You'll probably have to dust the rolling pin and rolling surface with a little chapati or masa flour.  Flip the rolled chortilla back and forth between your hands a few times to knock off any loose flour, and place it on the hot skillet and cook it on one side for a minute or two.  It should bubble up in parts.  If it starts to burn right away, your skillet is too hot!  Flip it, and cook the other side.  You should get some nice golden speckling, like this:

It's done--move it to a plate and cover it with another plate or a bowl to keep it moist.  You can briefly reheat it in the microwave or oven just before serving, if you like.  Do the same for the other chortillas.

Now, for the:

Okra with Soy Curls, sausage, and tomatoes
serves 1

1/4 cup dry Soy Curls
1/2 tsp olive or canola oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 oz seitan sausage (about 1/4 cup), preferably a chorizo (spicy) kind, chopped
1 fresh hot pepper (like Thai, ring of fire, etc.), minced, or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup sliced raw okra
2/3 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
Salt and pepper

First, rehydrate the Soy Curls in some kind of broth or hot, flavoured water.  I used hot water with a teaspoon of Bryanna Clark Grogan's "chicken-style" broth powder (see sidebar for a link to the recipe).

Tell me this doesn't look strangely appealing..

This will take about 10 minutes.  While the Soy Curls are reconstituting, chop up the remaining ingredients:

Now heat a little oil in a non-stick skillet, and add the onions.  Stir and fry for about five minutes on medium-high heat, until the onions are translucent.  Add the drained and squeezed Soy Curls, the seitan, garlic, and hot pepper (if using), and continue to stir and fry until the onions and Soy Curls are beginning to brown:

Add the paprika, the diced tomatoes with their juice, and the okra:

Bring to a boil, add a little vegetable broth or water if it looks dry, cover, and cook until the okra is tender, about 7-10 minutes.  Add pepper and taste for salt, and serve with, in this case, chortillas, steamed broccoli and cauliflower with the Green Goddess dressing from Vegan Appetite, and some steamed beet greens:

Yum!  I did have two chortillas left over; however, I've got plans for them...


  1. It's nice to see you blogging again, Zoa. Congratulations on becoming a fitter, healthier you, and best of luck with keeping it up! The food here looks fantastic. I look forward to more of your single-serving creations. ^^

  2. I'm glad you're back as well. I was just thinking about you today. Thinking for sure you'd come back for Vegan MoFo.

  3. Thanks so much, Tiffany and Stacy. I am most definitely back! Shenandoah, Vegan Mofo, oh my god, it's been on my mind, but...

  4. Welcome back !
    I was in mexico in june and came back with a tortilla press and masa harigna ! I just tried my first tortillas last week.

  5. Glad you're back! I was missing those Airy Way inventions of genius! I've never tried making tortillas at home, I think you've saved me a lot of frustration if I ever do, I'll go straight to this version.

    I cooked with okra once a long time ago; I'd like to try it again. The soy curl/seitan/okra combo looks so satisfying. All your food looks as vibrant and delicious as ever! That butternut squash is distracting me as I type.

    It's wonderful you're looking and feeling so good; I can feel your exuberance through your writing!

    I'm looking forward to more of your healthy one serving meals!

  6. Everything looks as gorgeous and tasty as before but I was thinking more about single serving stuff lately too - definitely interested in seeing where you go with that one! Welcome back.

  7. Congratulations on getting to a place you are feeling good about yourself. Losing weight is so hard to do. Keep up the good work, and I'll need lots of inspiration and ideas after I have my baby in January. :0

  8. Hey Zoa, where do you get your soy curls up here in Canuckistan? I'm having a hard time finding them (at least, the Butler brand which looks better than the kinds we have in town).

  9. Thanks, everyone! I am glad to be back and so glad that people are interested in the single serving idea.

    Stacy, re the Soy Curls, I got so frustrated with the local suppliers that I actually ended up ordering mine direct from Butler Foods in the US. The owner (who is so nice) couldn't figure out the shipping to Canada ahead of time so he just waived it. Mirabile! But I don't think this will happen again. I ordered a whole boxful that time but I'm nearly out, and I'll be looking for a more local supplier. With Daiya in Superstore now, there ought to be one, Soy Curls is such a wonderful product. If/when I do I will for sure post it on this blog.

  10. I did some additional leg (or finger, since it was typing) work, and found them in Quebec. Zut alors!!! I have ordered from this store before and they are pretty reliable w/ good customer service.

  11. Soy curls freak me out sometimes! Hahaha!

  12. Welcome back! I've never liked corn tortillas very much, but I'm thinking I might love chortillas - definitely trying this. And congratulations on the weight loss! I'm looking forward to a lot of great small serving posts as I'm trying to cut back on my evening meal size as well.

  13. Stacy, sweet! This site looks great and I'll try them out.