Vegetarian Chicken Sausage with Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pesto

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Seitan can be intimidating, especially if you’re not familiar with it. For any new vegetarian, especially, this wheat-based veggie “meat” is straight up weird. It’s texturally similar to chicken (with a slightly larger amount of chew). While store bought versions tend to be cooked in a soy sauce based broth, seitan actually takes on most flavors pretty well, regardless.

The soy sauce flavor is what initially got me into making my own seitan. I wanted to make something that didn’t have traces of that flavor at all. When I read about making seitan, there were processes that sounded much more intimidating than fun… These included washing, rinsing, and squeezing flour over and over again until you were left only with the gluten present. That sounded more technical than what I wanted to get into. The other versions I saw used vital wheat gluten, a flour made with the natural proteins found in the wheat berry. Magic happens when you add liquid to it – it turns highly elastic, soft, and dough like. There are various methods of cooking seitan – simmering and steaming at the top of those lists. I prefer steaming for a more sturdy final product (simmering seems to create a softer, more chewy seitan than I’d like).

There are other vegetarian sausages available in the markets around here. Tofurky makes some good ones – their sweet Italian sausage with tomato and basil is tasty, but often more oily than I like. Field Roast is by far my favorite, packed with flavor, fresh vegetables, and spices you can actually identify by name! You can’t go wrong with any of their sausages, really.

However, sometimes I want to create something specific to the flavors I’m craving. That’s where these particular sausages came from. Before I go on though, I feel the need to acknowledge this: as I write this post, I feel like a prepubescent teenager. I’ve been laughing as I write you directions to make these, I’ve been cracking up while photographing things like the following gem of a picture:

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Regardless, these vegetarian chicken sausages are flavorful. We ate them with cheesy polenta for dinner, then the following morning I fried some of the leftover polenta up for my husband, topping it with “runny egg,” as Silas likes to call them, along with slices of this sausage. It was delicious (and pretty – which I also appreciate in a meal). You can eat them as they are or add them to any recipe that asks for chicken sausage. Bon appétit!

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Vegetarian Chicken Sausage with Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pesto

Yields 5 or 6, approximately 5 oz., sausages

Ingredients:

1½ cups vital wheat gluten
½ cup vegetarian chicken broth powder
½ tsp. celery seed
¾ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. ground white pepper
½ tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. dried oregano (or ½ tsp. fresh)
3 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach, packed
4 cloves garlic
7 oz. extra firm tofu, drained
3 tbsp. julienned sun dried tomatoes
2 tbsp. prepared pesto (or homemade)
3 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup water

Directions:

Fit your food processor with the large chopping blade. Add the wheat gluten, chicken broth powder, celery seed, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, oregano, sage, spinach, garlic, tofu, tomatoes, and pesto. Blend until the mixture is pretty well combined (1-2 minutes).

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Add the olive oil and water, blending long enough for the mixture to turn into a soft ball of dough (3-4 minutes). Turn the dough out to a clean, dry surface. Let it rest while you do the following: prepare five or six pieces of plastic wrap that are about 12” x 12” as well as five or six pieces of foil that are 10” x 10”.

Divide the dough into five or six equal portions. Roll them out into sausages about one inch in diameter, and eight or nine inches long. Roll each sausage individually, first tightly in a piece of plastic wrap and then a piece of foil, twisting each end, both to tighten the foil and to seal each end to make sure no extra moisture seeps in while steaming.

I use a double layered bamboo steamer situated on a large stock pot of water in order to steam these sausages (and most homemade seitan). You can use whatever you’ve got for steaming – a bamboo steamer, steamer basket, etc. Steam the sausages until they’re firm to the touch (60-75 minutes).

Once the sausage is cooked all the way through (you can feel the difference), let it sit for ten minutes, then remove the foil and plastic wrap. Technically the sausage is cooked all the way through at this point and you can use it in any recipe that asks for chicken sausage. Or, brown it in a skillet with a bit of olive oil.

Store in the refrigerator, wrapped, up to a week. These also freeze well. Thaw fully before using. : )

2 Responses to Vegetarian Chicken Sausage with Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pesto

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