I feel, that when you're first starting to go vegan, vegetarian, or even "meat-reducing," the key to making something good, is to modify a dish that you already love.
In our house, one of our favorite modified dishes is tacos. Seriously, who doesn't love tacos?
As you might imagine, meat substitutes are interesting. Some taste amazing, but the texture is mushy or rubbery. Some taste awful, but the texture is good. A lot of the time, you have to try a lot of meat substitutes to find something that you really love. There are so many indie brands on the market. It's important to try, try, try, because this is an evolving industry and the "new" product on the shelf might become your favorite product. Improvements are constantly being made!
My favorite beef substitutes, are by Field Roast Grain Meat. The company is locally based in Seattle, WA, and the flavor and texture of their products is unbeatable. I buy them through Whole Foods, my favorite grocery store.
As my husband said, "It stopped trying to be meat, and instead was just good."
Field Roast makes a lot of different products (which I will have to delve into and review later), but my favorite mixture of meat substitute for tacos is one smoked tomato quarter loaf and any one package of of the apple sage sausage links.
So, you take these two delicious ingredients,
...and you dice them up as thin as you like. The loaf will hold it shape no matter how you slice it; it's hard to get it "ground." I cut it like you would dice an onion, so I have a bunch of small pieces. The sausage, you can cut into thin slices or you can crumble. I don't bother to crumble it, I just slice it in little 1/4" slices.
Essentially you have just "made" your ground-beef substitute. Give yourself a high-five because you, my friend, are awesome!
Put it in a pan, on the stove, on medium to medium-high heat.
I recommend adding a little water to your meat before you add the spices. It's going to allow the meat to simmer in a bath of spices and keep it from getting dry.
I would add about 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup of water. It doesn't matter if the meat is already warm or not because warming up the meat will not change the texture.
As the meat and water begin heating, add your spices.
I like to add approximately:
1-2 tablespoon of cumin
1-2 teaspoons of salt (preferably smoked salt, sea salt, or garlic salt)
1 teaspoon of ground, black pepper
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 a teaspoon of oregano
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
If you want it sweeter (I like my tacos sweet and savory!), add about 1/4 cup of brown sugar and/or a 1/2-1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce.
If you don't have a lot of spices, buy a packet of taco seasoning, and use that instead of the spice blend above.
Your taco meat can burn, just like beef can. Keep it simmering, but not boiling. Stir it frequently, and taste it as you add the spices. If you are not generally someone who cooks a lot, I recommend tasting the taco meat after you add each spice. Start with a light hand--you can always add more spices later, but you can't remove them.
With each spice you add another layer of flavor. If you wish a flavor was stronger, add more of that spice. If you wish a different spice was in the dish, add that too. Rosemary and basil are my favorite spices to add in on a whim. Listen to yourself and trust your taste.
You will know when your dish is done because you will have a sauce about the consistency of salad dressing or barbecue sauce all over the meat. Turn off the burner and put it in a shell with some lettuce, salsa, and cheese (and of course, whatever else you please)! Enjoy!
Do you have a favorite, vegan, ground-beef substitute? What do you love about it? Please share it in the comments below!