My mother married my stepdad when I was seven, merging their lives and children—her four and his two. We had a full house. (We have much more than a full house now when we all get together, with our spouses, children and grandchildren!) Mother died twenty years ago and my dad died last year. Since Parents’ Day is July 28, I found myself thinking about them more than usual the past couple of weeks. This blog and menu are dedicated to them.
Lamar’s (my dad’s) evening job was delivering and/or picking up children, attending football practices, baseball practices, etc. Mother’s evening job was cooking. She had six children, a large husband and herself to feed, not to mention the rotating assortment of neighborhood kids—everyone was always welcome at our house. I was grown and gone before I realized that cooking wasn’t something she particularly enjoyed. It certainly wasn’t a passion. In reality, my mother cooked primarily because she had to. And she still did it with love.
One of the best things she made was Chicken and Dumplings. This was a half-day affair. First she boiled the chicken, making a rich, tasty broth. Then the chicken had to cool before she could debone it. After cutting up the chicken meat and putting it back in the broth, she made chewy, stick-to-your-rib dumplings that were my favorite part.
Mother died before I thought to get any of her favorite recipes and shortly before I went vegetarian. I eventually came up with a vegan version of this comfort food, Seitan and Dumplings. I combine it in this Heritage and Heirlooms menu with Heirloom Tomato and Herb Salad and Cherry or Pineapple Icebox Pie, which is a pie Mother made at Thanksgiving. I hope you will make it and think of some precious heritage or heirloom you have in your life.
Make the pie the night before or first thing in the morning, as it will need to chill for at least two hours.
Then start on the main event. The first problem to tackle when making Chicken and Dumplings for a vegetarian is, well, the chicken. Since there are basically two main ingredients in this dish, this is a fairly significant issue. Not to be deterred, I experimented with seitan, tofu and tempeh. I settled on seitan, which is a protein source made primarily from vital wheat gluten. Seitan is precooked. For this recipe, I brown it up front, then add it to the broth at the end.
Seitan comes in chunks or strips. Break it apart, then cut any large ones into bite-size pieces.
Brown it and set aside. Sauté the onions, then add water and a bouillon cube or vegetable broth.
Then make the dumplings.
Add them to the Dutch oven. After they have simmered for about 20 minutes, add the seitan and simmer for 10 to 20 more minutes until heated through.
Meanwhile, make the salad. Heirloom tomatoes are often available in orange and yellow as well as red. Different colors make a lovely presentation.
Serve the Seitan and Dumplings in individual bowls, with Heirloom Tomato and Herb Salad on separate salad plates. Follow it up with Cherry or Pineapple Icebox Pie and coffee, while you reminisce about a simpler time.
Until next time,
Lisa, aka Veggie Gal