Vegetarian “Meat” Loaf: Part 1

featuredI can’t believe I’ve lived in San Francisco for over 20 years and never eaten at the vegetarian restaurant Ananda Fuara. It’s not in the sexiest part of town– straddling the Tenderloin and Civic Center area–but it’s well worth braving the exterior scuzaroo to get to the sanctuary within, which I finally did last week. My friend Cass (a regular) and I split the Neatloaf sandwich, and it was the best fake meatloaf I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a few. This “meat” loaf looked and tasted just like the real thing. It was maybe a bit more tender than you would expect from real meat, but it was so delicious, sandwiched in-between hearty whole wheat toast and slathered with a vinegary tomato sauce. I immediately wanted to recreate the recipe at home.

It’s common to make a few clunkers along the way to getting a recipe right. And that’s how it should be–I throw a little food in the trash so you don’t have to. Putting an untested or semi-successful recipe out there is, in my opinion, culinary blasphemy. That said, what happened with this recipe was different. The result I got with the first attempt was not what I was going for, but it was still great. In fact, it was too good to keep to myself. I intend to soldier on with the other recipe, but for now… here is a neat-o vegetarian “meat” loaf, great hot or cold.

Vegetarian “Meat” Loaf (serves 4)

1/2 cup (120ml) short grain brown rice cooked according to package directions, about 1 cup (240ml) cooked
1 small onion chopped (yellow, white or red), about 1 cup/240ml
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. (15ml) olive oil
8 oz. (225g) extra firm tofu, broken into smaller chunks
1/2 cup (120ml) ricotta (whole milk or part skim)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (160ml) oat flour–this can be made by grinding rolled oats in a food processor or coffee grinder
2 oz. (60g) sweet red, yellow or orange peppers, chopped
1/4 (60ml) cup fresh parsley
1 teaspoon (5ml) Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon (5ml) Worcestershire sauce*
1/4 teaspoon (1.25ml) dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) salt
Fresh ground black pepper

*If you are a strict vegetarian there are many vegetarian Worcestershire sauces out there. The traditional type contains anchovies.

Cook the onion and peppers in the olive oil and a pinch of salt over medium heat until the onions are golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Set aside to cool.

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until everything is broken down to nearly the same consistency. There will still be a little texture from the rice and a few flecks of red pepper, but for the most part it will look fairly smooth.

If you don’t have a food processor, mash the tofu well with a fork and mince the vegetables before cooking. Combine everything in a bowl, mixing thoroughly.

Grease a 9 x 5 bread pan with olive oil.

Bake in a 350F/175C degree oven for 40 minutes until firm. Let the loaf cool for about 15 minutes before slicing. This loaf is remarkably easy to cut and remove from the pan. Yay.