Meetoo

This is a chunky tomato based sauce that I use in lasagnas and on pasta, or under mashed potatoes for a vegan, gluten free shepherd’s pie. It serves the same function as a meat sauce or bolognese, though I would doubt that it actually tastes the same.

Meetoo pasta in sunlight

Much of the bulk of the sauce is provided by tofu which has been frozen and defrosted at least once. Tofu is a curious beast. You can mash it to get scrambled egg texture, blend it to get sauce or thick cream texture, simmer and cool it to get the texture of boiled egg white, or freeze it to give it a slightly springy, very tender meat type texture.

In this dish, I like to freeze the tofu and defrost it at least once before using. The texture looks a bit unpromising at first, but don’t get put off by that, as it changes during cooking. Once tofu has been frozen, it has a certain resemblance to a sponge full of water; it’s necessary to get rid of that water before cooking so the flavored sauce can permeate through. You can do this either by taking handfuls of the stuff and carefully squeezing the water out, or you can put it between two plates stacked one on top of the other, and squeeze the two plates together at an angle over a sink. This takes about 30 seconds.

Make sure you have plenty of time to allow the sauce to cook. It won’t require too much of your attention, but both the onion frying at the beginning, and the long slow simmer of the complete sauce are necessary steps in order to attain a rich depth of flavor and color, much like veganesca. If you try to complete it in 1/2 an hour, the finished dish will taste quite uninspiring.

This sauce uses mushroom powder to give some of the savory notes. I keep a small coffee grinder for spices only, and grind dried mushrooms, whenever I need them.

Meetoo sauce with pastaIn case you were wondering, the name meetoo was designated by my kids as an amalgamation of the words ‘meat’ and ‘tofu’, when I explained to them what I was making. It was also a joke, when one would say, “I like this,” and the other would reply, “Me, too!”

12 – 16 oz firm tofu, frozen and defrosted (at least once)

1 tbsp Earth Balance margarine
2 large carrots, peeled and diced or sliced
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

4 oz mushrooms, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
28 oz can chopped tomatoes in juice
2 tbsp chickpea miso
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp of fresh
3 tbsp tomato paste or 1/4 cup minced sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar, if needed to counteract sharp tinned tomatoes
2 tbsp gluten free tamari or Braggs Liquid Aminos (or to taste – this adds salt and brown color)
1/8 pepper, or to taste

Drain the tofu, and squeeze the excess water out of it.

Melt the margarine in a large cast iron frying pan over a medium/low heat, and gently fry the carrots, onions, and mushrooms in the covered pan, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned and softened (~10-15 minutes).

Add the garlic, and warm it through for a minute.

Add the rest of the ingredients, crumbling the tofu into largish pieces, stir, and turn the heat down to low. (Don’t be too eager to break up the tofu lumps, it will tend to disintegrate during the simmer.) Cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. When it’s done, the tofu will have taken up the color of the sauce, and the sauce will have been mostly absorbed, except for the tomato chunks.

Check and adjust salt levels to taste.

Serve with pasta, or in lasagne, or under mashed potatoes as a Shepherd’s Pie.

Meetoo topped with mashed potato (place in the oven or under the grill/broiler to brown), and served with chickpea gravy.

Meetoo topped with mashed potato (place in the oven or under the grill/broiler to brown), and served with chickpea gravy.

For a variation: substitute 1 lb mushrooms for the carrots, and black olives for the oregano.

Chili variation: add 1 tsp finely chopped jalapeno pepper with the garlic, and a tin of rinsed red kidney beans with the tomatoes, then serve with flat breads or plain rice.

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