Vegetable Joe, While Are You Looking Sloppy?

No. I am not a vegetarian at present (well, not really).  And no, I am not forgetting that I have a day to talk about with Laurel, filled with food and even more adventure, which will segue really nicely back to my time with my mom and Emily.  And a resounding no, I did not forget about my pictures and stories about Buddha’s birthday and quite possibly the best thing that’s ever happened to me in Seoul.

Simply, I wanted to share with you all one of my favorite meals of the hot and humid summer.

With the arrival of Mom and Emily came happiness, excitement, adventures on the horizon, as well as gifts a plenty. It was like Christmas again, at a completely random time. Dried mangos and pounds of ground coffee from home, and honey (oh the joy of honey from Ithaca, New York!), and nutritional yeast, and whole nutmeg, and TVP and pitas all came spilling out of their bags. For Emily, the mangos and pita breads was the majority of her luggage seeing as she brought one shirt and maybe three pairs of pants. And running clothes. Always running clothes.

I’m sure you understand coffee and mangoes, but TVP? I’ve mentioned TVP before when talking about the Vegan Bolognese Katie and I made a few months back. To explain, first and foremost, TVP is an acronym. Textured Vegetable Protein – basically it looks like khaki colored pellets you might feed a rabbit or a mouse. But it’s human food, too.  It’s an ingredient that I became well acquainted with while hiking in the backcountry of North Carolina, putting it in chilies and stews and anything else that might require ground beef. Seeing as beef doesn’t hold up so well unrefrigerated in the swelteringly humid days of a North Carolina summer, our outfit would choose the safer option, TVP.

What TVP is, is dried vegetable protein made from processing soy flour. In terms of sustainability (see: soy bean monocropping) it might not be the best. But when it comes to the nutritional components, it’s got all the protein of meat, with none of the fat nor the potential to go bad. Really, it’s a great hiking food – and, in my case here in Seoul, a great meat substitute when you just have a hankering for a meat dish but don’t have the desire for meat itself.

Which brings me to a quick musing: do you think it’s strange that vegetarian dishes lack meat, but some are trying to be like meat? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a vegetarian off and on throughout my teenage years and for some time in my twenties and all during that time I’d indulge in that steak that was actually pressed beans or the burger that was lentils and mushrooms, but don’t you think it’s a little peculiar that non-meat eaters want to indulge in dishes that are kind of meat… resembling meat?

Enough toddler-philosophy, let’s get back to the food. While perusing around my Google reader (please check it out, it’s a great way to keep up on things!), I ran upon a photo-recipe of a vegan Sloppy Joe. This was intriguing to say the least simply because a Sloppy Joe stands on the two pillars that are: meat and more meat. Take out the meat, and you’ve got no pillars to keep the dish alive. Really you’d just be eating a bun.

How could I ever make a meat dish without meat? Hm… maybe the answer is right under my nose… What’s that? That’s right folks, you’re so smart. The recipe called for TVP. With the package of TVP in my cupboard, an onion, mushrooms, and broccoli in my refrigerator, and a desire to free-style a barbeque sauce, I set to work. And so should you. Let’s hop to.

Boil some water and pour a 1:1 ratio over the TVP, cover it and let it sit. It’s going to sit for about the amount of time it takes you to do the rest of the preparation.

Next up, get to chopping. I chose onions, mushrooms, and broccoli to accompany my pseudo-meat and barbeque sauce. You could go with peppers, if you’d like. Or green beans, as long and you’re enjoying your meal. But for now, chop them, and leave them prettily on the chopping board.

Now’s time for the good old fashion cooking by the seat of my pants. I know what’s in barbeque sauce, for the most part. Tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, spice, pepper, liquid smoke if you’ve got it, garlic, onion, oil. What did I have? A can of tomatoes, some ketchup, apple-cider vinegar, brown sugar, onions, garlic, pepper, hot sauce, and a whole lot of taste-buds to help me out. My “live-and-taste-later” mentality got me to a semi-sweet, thick, rich, spicy as all get out sauce into which I put (and you should too) my chopped up vegetates. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Once you’ve done all this, throw in that TVP. Not all of it at first, you do want these to be sloppy and not like a taboleh on bread. You be the judge of the amount.

At this point, I had my fixin’s together, but no bread. So down to the local bakery I went in search of a baguette that cost me less than a buck fifty, sliced it up, put some fresh greens and then the sloppy mess in between the bread sectioned in half, and voila, I had a sandwich that wasn’t a Sloppy Joe, but a delicious nonetheless. Full of tomato flavor with kicks of vinegar, spicy enough to keep the water glass near. Crisp bites of broccoli and onion intermixed with the meaty ones from the TVP. The crusty baguette held up perfectly amongst the juicy sloppiness that is this creation. The garlic shined through beautifully but not overpowering any other component.

I’d say we’ve got ourselves another vegetarian-wanting-to-eat-me-but-without-the-meat-sandwich, folks. Try it out. What have you got to loose?

Quick references: You can find TVP in most grocery stores. I’d actually encourage you to go looking for it, because even if you don’t find TVP, you’ll surely find some new ingredient that I insist that you try. We all know that we drop into routines in the grocery store, going straight for our favorite canned good or organic milk or the sale shelf for produce quickly rotting for the special deal (you know who you are…), but if we break out of that mold a little, maybe we’ll try something delicious and change up our day just a little. And what do you have to thank for that fresh new look on the day? TVP, but of course.

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3 thoughts on “Vegetable Joe, While Are You Looking Sloppy?

  1. Did you get the bread from the bakery just down the road from you where we stopped every am for a tasty pastry? Love that place and the coffee! 🙂
    When are you getting home to make these dishes?????

  2. This looks SOOO good. It’s lunch time in Paris right now and I wanttttt it! Ahhh you’re blog kills me. in the good kind of way of course

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