Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Okara and Veggies/Meatless Main Dish Recipe

Anyone who makes their own* soy milk or tofu knows about the okara problem: what to do with the 'soy lees' or okara -- the leftovers after all the soy milk has been squeezed out of the ground beans.  We know this stuff is full of protein and fiber, so isn't there a way to keep it out of the compost pile?

Most American recipes I've found try to shoehorn okara into baked goods or meatloaf as a filler or meat substitute.  Most Asian recipes call for ingredients I can't find even at my local Asian supermarket.  I adapted this one from a couple of Japanese recipes that treat okara as a main ingredient and don't try to hide it.  My non-tofu-loving family went back for seconds (before I told them what they were eating) and have admitted they'd be happy it if I made it again.

It's March, so I used root vegetables, frozen edamame, and dried shiitakes, but you could substitute any number of seasonal vegetables in this recipe.

Okara & Veggies
Serves 4

1 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
1 T olive oil
1# golden beets, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 T salt, divided use
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4" dice
3 T soy sauce
1 T mirin
1/2 T rice wine vinegar
1 T sugar
1/2 c broth or stock
12 oz shelled edamame
1/2 c sliced leeks or onions
3 c cooked soy lees or okara**
1-2 T sriracha sauce to taste
1/4 c mayonnaise

Cover shiitakes with 2 c boiling water and leave to soak 1/2 hour, then drain through a cheesecloth or very fine sieve (reserving liquid), remove and discard stems, and slice thin.  Set aside in large bowl.  In the meantime heat oil in a 6-QT or larger sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Add julienned beets and 1/2 t salt, stir, cover, and lower heat.  Allow to sweat 15 minutes or until barely tender and add to mushrooms in bowl.

In same pan place diced potatoes and 2 1/2 T salt and add water to barely cover.  Place over high heat.  Once boiling, lower heat to lowest setting, cover, and cook until barely tender, 3 - 5 minutes.  Drain and add to beets and mushrooms in bowl.

Return pan to burner and set to medium high heat.  Add reserved mushroom liquid, soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, sugar, broth, edamame, leeks, and okara/soy lees.  Stir gently until combined and bring to a bare simmer.  Lower heat and cover, stirring occasionally, until leeks are barely tender.  Uncover and continue to cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Add 1 T sriracha sauce, mushrooms, beets, and potatoes and heat through.  Taste and add more sriracha if desired.  Remove from heat and add mayonnaise.  Serve hot.

*And you should consider making your own soy milk at least.  It's much, much cheaper, and you know exactly what went into your food.  Tofu is a bit of a process, but it's not difficult, again it's a lot cheaper, again you know what went into it, and the end product is better than what you can buy at the supermarket. And, bonus: if you make it yourself, you end up with okara.

**If you made your soy milk in a soy milk making machine, your okara is cooked.  If not, you need to cook it.  To cook, break okara up, wrap in a linen or cotton dishtowel, and set onto a steamer basket.  Place steamer basket into a sauce pan with 1/2" of boiling water, cover, set heat to lowest setting, and allow to steam for 25 minutes.  Cooked okara will keep 3 days in the refrigerator or can be frozen.