I get my taste buds from my father. He loved rich foods. He also wasn’t above having breakfast for dinner, and many a night I’d find myself having sausage, gravy, and biscuits at twilight. I have very fond memories of meals at the local Bob Evans restaurant, with their red and white checkered tablecloths, soaking up sausage gravy with big ol’ biscuits, just like my daddy did.
Eating is a very intimate process, and we tie it inextricably to our social customs as well. I have a lot of memories tied to certain foods – biscuits and gravy being one of them. Having grown up an omnivore, many of those foods include meat and dairy products. Giving up meat doesn’t mean I have to give up those memories, though. I’m realizing more and more that food is just a trigger for those memories, and similar foods bring me the comfort of my memories just the same.
That’s what I pondered as I ate this vegan version of sausage, biscuits, and gravy – all the while remembering those days of playing straw-wrapper hockey with silverware across the table from my dad.
This meal comes from one of my new cookbooks: You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan!: 200 Recipes for Simple and Delicious Animal-Free Cuisine. It’s a great little cookbook – I’m looking forward to trying out a bunch of the recipes in it. I just wish the font for the ingredient lists was a little bigger. I have to squint and stick my face right up to the book to read the fractions. (OK, you can all stop with the old-age jokes!)
First up: biscuits!
These biscuits were quick and easy to make, though I did discover that I don’t have anything in my kitchen to cut biscuits with. I really though I had cookie cutters or something, but I couldn’t find them. I ended up using a tiny little condiment bowl that I surely stole from some restaurant with my doggie bag. (Sorry!) It worked just fine!
I kept re-rolling the dough scraps and cutting more biscuits until the dough was all gone. The recipe said this would make 12 biscuits, but mine made exactly 24. I have a feeling I rolled the dough a little too thin, as the recipe said 1/2 inch thick. Well…. it seemed like it was 1/2 inch thick! I guess not.
Unfortunately, I ended up over-cooking my biscuits a little. The instructions said to bake them 8-12 minutes, or until golden brown – mine weren’t getting golden brown, so I tacked on 4 minutes or so to the 12. When they still weren’t brown, I got worried and took them out of the oven. Sure enough, they just weren’t going to get brown. (Note – I cooked them all in a single layer on 2 baking sheets – then threw them all together when done because I needed my other baking sheet for the tempeh sausage!)
I’m also afraid my baking soda and baking powder has lost its oomph. It’s several years old (I’m ashamed to say, probably more than 5 years old), and this isn’t the first recipe that hasn’t quite risen as expected. I think it’s time to get some fresh leavening agents!
Next up: the tempeh sausage.
This was my first time cooking with tempeh. Originally from Indonesia, tempeh is a soybean product like tofu, but unlike tofu, it’s made from the whole bean and has a higher protein, fiber, and nutrient count. It has a firm texture – much more firm than tofu.
The first step was to grate the tempeh. I’ve never used a box grater before (I’m not even sure what I have IS a box grater!), so it took me a few tries to get the hang of it. (The bowl kept sliding all over the darn counter, until I figured out a way to grip both the bowl and the grater at the same time).
After adding the rest of the ingredients (including lots of spices), I scooped up handfuls of the tempeh mixture and shaped them into patties. This stuff was really easy to work with!
This too was simple to whip up while the tempeh sausage cooked, but my photo of the gravy did not turn out. Boo!
When everything was done, I plated up 2 biscuits (since mine were half the size they were supposed to be), topped them with a tempeh sausage patty, and then slathered on some gravy. My plate looked a little empty, so I toasted an organic whole wheat muffin and topped it with some green garden puree that I made yesterday. Disregard how totally off-center I plated everything!
Would this sausage fool a meat eater? No way. But, does it offer flavors similar to sausage? Absolutely. Did it provide the same memory triggers that its meat-based equivalent would? Oh yeah. (Did it fill me up? OMG, stuffed!)
I think next time I make this (and there will definitely be a next time!) I’m going to try crumbling the sausage into the gravy instead of having it as patties. I think this tempeh sausage would also make a great topping for vegan pizza!
I believe my dad would be proud.