For Vegan MoFo, I’m doing a series called Back in Thyme, in which I travel to other periods of my life. Today I’m setting the date to the year 2000…
Valleys make the hills grander, desert makes the ocean more captivating, and absence makes the heart grow fonder. Nothing tastes better than coming in from a frigid January day with frozen feet inside of snow boots to have a brimming bowl of soup. Trail mix is better on a mountaintop in the middle of a long hike, and a hearty breakfast burrito tastes best before the sun has lit up the horizon and the rest of the city slumbers.
As I’ve written before on my blog, for over a decade I was a touring children’s theatre artist. I’d go to schools and perform plays for kids, bringing them up on stage to act out parts in the show. It was a wonderful job, but it didn’t come without its flaws. One of those flaws was that the shows often started first thing in the morning. The schools that we traveled to were scattered all around the Southland, sometimes as deep as San Diego or as far north as Santa Barbara. Being there on time was essential or else the other two actors in the show would have to feverishly work out how to perform a three-person show with two people as school children filed into the auditorium.
That meant waking up at 4 am or 5 am to get on the road. You never knew when a sudden traffic jam would erupt, and so you had to be prepared, leaving two or three times what Mapquest would guess you’d need. Sometimes that still wasn’t enough. And sometimes I’d arrive an hour earlier than necessary. And on those days when the traffic gods smiled on me, I’d seek out what was available for breakfast in the pockets of towns within a mile or two of the school.
Southern California is dotted with tiny mom and pop restaurants selling tacos, enchiladas, pupusas, and burritos. And some of those shops opened early – with cinnamon infused coffee on offer and breakfast burritos stuffed to the brim. In my work uniform of a nearly neon top and brightly colored but clashing pants, I walked in and ordered a burrito wrapped in paper and foil. I’d cart it to the school, sit behind a pillowing curtain of an elementary auditorium, and sigh into bites of roasted potato and tortilla.
I wasn’t vegan in the year 2000 and the burritos weren’t either, but the ones that I make at home now recreate the memory so completely. Warmed tortillas encase a hearty tofu scramble, potatoes, and veggie bacon or seitan sausage. I top it with avocado or guacamole, salsa, hot sauce, jalapeno peppers, or cilantro. I add a shake of cinnamon into my coffee and take a leisurely sip. No freeways and no traffic, but it sure takes me back.
Breakfast Burritos with Roasted Potatoes
- 1 medium to large sized Russet potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 of a medium sized yellow onion (about one cup), roughly chopped in medium pieces
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small red bell pepper (about 1/2 cup), chopped in medium pieces
- 2 leaves of kale, roughly chopped with the ribs removed
- 1 14 ounce package of firm water-packed tofu, drained*
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 package of Upton’s bacon seitan, Italian seitan sausage, or Chorizo seitan sausage
- 4-6 whole wheat tortillas
- Optional toppings: Avocado or guacamole, cilantro, hot sauce, and/or jalapeño peppers
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the cubed potatoes with one teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and lay evenly across the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, stopping twice to flip the potatoes for even roasting and to check for doneness. Once they are done, move them to a bowl and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat one teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil in a pan with a medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, and bell pepper for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add kale to the pan and continue to sauté for a couple of minutes more, until the kale begins to wilt. Crumble tofu into the pan and add cumin, oregano, chili powder, paprika, turmeric, nutritional yeast flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine completely. If the scramble begins to stick, add a tablespoon or two of water to deglaze the pan, being careful not too add too much and make the scramble watery. Continue to cook the scramble for 10 to 15 minutes until the tofu is warmed and cooked through and the kale is soft.
In a non-stick skillet, add the final teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and bring to a medium heat. Sauté your preferred veggie bacon or seitan for a few minutes, until evenly browned.
Lower the oven to 350 degrees and put the tortillas on the parchment paper-covered baking sheet that the potatoes were cooked on. Put the tortillas in the oven for one minute, until warm. Fill each tortilla with tofu scramble, potatoes, seitan bacon or sausage, and roll into a burrito. Serve immediately with any of the optional toppings.
*For a scramble I don’t bother pressing the tofu, since it makes it easier for the tofu not to stick and it makes for a lighter, fluffier scramble. I also like using water-packed tofu for a scramble that has been drained but not pressed, because it requires less oil to fully combine it with the seasonings. If you prefer a firmer, drier scramble, feel free to press it first.