Nut Cutlets

When I was young and my mother was raising two kids solo, we had an amazing babysitter named Giselle.  She taught my sister and I to pick things up off the floor with our toes, brought us to the wading pool my mother never agreed to and had pet turtle-doves in her basement that were an endless source of fascination.

What does this have to do with nut cutlets you ask?  Well, Giselle’s family were also a bit crunchy and had flexitarian habits, something quite rare in the early 80s where I hailed from.  She’s the one who first made me aware that meals could forego meat and that real peanut butter only had peanuts in it and wasn’t made by Kraft.

I still have her recipe for nut steaks, handwritten on a yellowing piece of notepaper, and it holds a special place in my heart.  Granted, the original calls for eggs and beef broth, so it’s been modified since.  And that’s where these nut cutlets come from, an animal-free reinterpretation of a childhood recipe.  It’s also a nice alternative to seitan cutlets if you want something gluten free, or just something a bit different.

Yield: 8 cutlets

What you need:

  • 1-1/4 cups toasted almonds (see the note at the end if you don’t know how to toast almonds)
  • 3 onions, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup soft (silken) tofu
  • 1/3 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat), coarsely ground (a small coffee grinder, spice grinder or blender will do the job)
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, coarsely ground (as per the kasha for grinding)
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed, coarsely ground
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Montreal-style steak spice (preferably home-made, but MSG-free store-bought will do if you’re short on time, spices or both)

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300F and line an 11×17 baking pan with parchment paper or a silpat liner.
  2. In a food processor, whiz the onions and tofu until they’re a smooth and wet purée. Transfer to a bowl and then, without washing it, set the work bowl and blade back onto the food processor for step 3.
  3. Pulse the toasted almonds in the food processor until they’re broken up into small pieces but aren’t going buttery yet. Transfer that to the bowl too.  The food processor can now be set aside.
  4. Add the ground kasha, oats and flax and mix well. Add the steak spice and soy sauce and mix thoroughly.  Taste for salt and spicing, adjusting as desired.  If the mixture seems a bit wet, let it sit a few minutes so that the flax can start absorbing some of the liquid.
  5. Using your hands, shape the mixture into cutlets/patties between 1/2’’ and 3/4’’ thick and approximately 3’’x5’’ overall.  Evenly space them on the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Serve hot, or cool and then pan-fry in a little oil to serve.

Note:

Never toasted an almond?  It’s pretty easy.  Preheat the oven to 300F and then toss some almonds in an oven-safe dish or onto a pan.  Toast for 10 minutes, take them out and toss them around a bit more.  Put them back in the oven another 10-14 minutes, until they smell nice and roasted and are beginning to brown a bit.  Let cool completely and proceed with the recipe.

Variations to try:

  • Try another type of toasted nut or seed in place of the almond. Walnut works beautifully and a mixture of sunflower and sesame is also quite nice;
  • Add a clove of garlic or two in the work bowl along with the onion and tofu;
  • Add some powdered porcini, shitake or maitake mushroom to the mix.

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