Sunday Dinner: Updated Diner Classics

Open Face Hot Seitan Sandwich, Smashed potatoes, and broccolini

I decided that picking a theme for Sunday Dinner Posts would make my life a little easier. This week I wend with Updated (and veganized) Diner Classics.

I didn’t want to go with the typical burger and fries approach. Firstly, because I haven’t figured out how to make a good homemade veggie burger, and secondly because that’s far too common. I wanted something from the “entree” section of a diner menu, not the “burgers and sandwiches” section. In search of inspiration, I went to the website for Mel’s Drive In, a totally not vegan but very popular diner here in SF (I think there might be a couple veg/vegan things on their menu, but I’ve never been in to check). Sifting through dozens of menu items, I finally came across “Open Face Hot Beef Sandwiches” and I knew that that was the ticket.

My friend Elias came over to help cook and together, Tom, Elias, and I updated the typical side dishes to the Open Face Sandwich. Here’s what we came up with…

The Sunday Dinner Menu:Tablescape with dinner plate and wine bottle

  • Appetizer: Hot Spinach Dip (Recipe and photos in the next post)
  • Open Face Hot Seitan Sandwiches with mushroom gravy
  • Roasted Smashed Potatoes
  • Ginger Garlic Broccolini
  • Wine Pairing: The Velvet Devil Merlot ’11 (Charles Smith Wines)
  • Blueberry pie (See previous Saturday Sweets post)

About the Wine

Charles Smith Wines are not always vegan. The 2011 vintage, however, is. According to Barnivore, they are using a volcanic ash fining agent. Also, as a pairing for this dish, it works really well. Merlot tends to be a very accessible wine, however, this one is 9% cabernet, which sneaks up on you and adds a bit of spice. It’s a smooth, uncomplicated, wine at first, but that cab gets you at the back end of your sip. I really liked this one.

Roasted Smashed Potatoes

So, this is my first attempt at replicating those potatoes I was raving about in my Wayward Vegan Cafe post. When I was thinking about how to make this dish, planned to roast some garlic cloves with the potatoes and mash it all up together. However, in my haste to get food on the table, I forgot to throw garlic in the oven. So I used garlic powder when they were being mashed to get the garlic flavor.  It was really tasty, but not quite what I was looking for. The next version of this recipe, however, I will roast garlic and see if that does the trick.

Serves 4. Probably serves 6 if you’re not starch gluttons like we are.

vegan cream cheese being added to roasted potatoes


  • 2 1/2 pounds red potatoes (leave the skins on, they’re delcious)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 oz vegan cream cheese (we used 1/2 a package of Toffuti)
  • 3 to 4 Tablespoons vegan margarine (we used Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup plain soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the Potatoes in to roughly 2 inch pieces. (They’re getting smashed up, so shape doesn’t really matter. They just need to be roughly the same size. I ended up quartering mine.)
  3. Place potatoes on the baking sheet and drizzle with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until a fork easily slides through a potato when pierced.
  5. Transfer potatoes to a large work bowl (preferably oven-safe so they can be kept warm in the oven while preparing other parts of the meal).
  6. Add the vegan cream cheese, and vegan margarine and smash with a potato masher until roughly mashed. Leave some texture.
  7. Mix in the garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste, and enough soy milk to lighten up the potatoes. You want them a little creamy, but not soupy.
  8. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 170 to 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

Ginger Garlic Broccolini

Broccolini is totally in season right now! So it was on sale at the food hole (what I call Whole Foods Market because of my love-hate relationship with them. Clever, I know). I put Elias in charge of the broccolini. They used to work in a vegan vietnamese restaurant in Seattle and have an abundance of experience cooking broccolini. That, and I was a little busy dealing with gravy to cook a sensitive veggie. The recipe I’m writing here is from what I observed being done.

Serves 4

IngredientsBroccolini cooking in a pan

  • 1 pound broccolini (usually 2 bunches)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • fresh ginger, a piece about the size of your thumb
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic
  • gray salt (or sea salt if gray salt is unavailable)
  • zest of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • pepper to taste


  1. Trim about 1 inch off of the stem end of the broccolini. Compost (or otherwise discard) the trimmings.
  2. Peel and mince the ginger and garlic together. Add the lemon zest and mince together once more to combine.
  3. Heat a 12-inch lidded skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the broccolini, season with two good size pinches of gray salt. Cook covered, tossing with tongs occasionally for 5 to 7 minutes until broccolini stems are tender.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger, lemon zest mixture to the pan and cook 2 more minutes with the lid off, tossing to coat the broccolini in the herbs.
  5. Turn off the heat, drizzle in the sesame oil and add a few grinds of pepper to the pan. Toss to coat once more. Serve immediately.

Open Face Hot Seitan Sandwiches

The big part of this is the gravy. I wanted to use some vegan beef flavored stock but couldn’t find any at the food hole. So I ended up buying some mushroom stock concentrate that would make 3 cups… which when I got home, I realized we paid $7 for. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty. Probably even worth $7 for the concentrated mushroom flavor. But if you’re on a budget, normal veggie stock will work just as well.

Serves 4.


  • 1 pound seitan cut into thin slices (about 1 inch by 3 inches by 1/4 inch. We used Sweet Earth sliced seitan and cut each slice into 5 strips)
  • Olive Oil
  • 5 button mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 of a large onion, quartered and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 Tablespoons Vegan Margarine (again, we used Earth Balance)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups mushroom stock (or veggie stock, or vegan beef-flavored stock)
  • up to 1 cup additional water
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 to 4 Tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (you can use soy sauce if you can’t find Bragg’s)
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • pepper and extra Bragg’s to taste
  • 4 slices hearty, toasted white bread


  1. In a 3 quart saute pan over medium heat, brown the mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once mushrooms are browned, reduce the heat to medium low and add the onions with an additional tablespoon of olive oil. Cook, stirring frequently until onions are transparent and starting to turn brown. Be patient, this can take up to 15 minutes… maybe longer.
  2. Remove the mushrooms and onions from the skillet, place in a bowl and set aside. Now make the roux: Add the 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil and 4 Tablespoons margarine to the skillet. Cook on medium heat until it stops boiling. Add the flour and stir quickly. This will make a thick paste. Keep stirring and cooking over medium heat, eventually the paste will relax and become sort of an ooze. Keep stirring that ooze until it starts to smell nutty and change color from blonde to a teensy bit golden brown. Ta Da! You just made roux!
  3. Slowly and carefully pour in the mushroom stock, stirring quickly with a whisk. It will sputter and spit at you at first, so be careful not to get burned by what flies out of the pan. It might appear lumpy. It’s okay though, just keep whisking and it should smooth out. Once all the stock is incorporated, bring to a simmer. Add the red wine and Bragg’s to taste. If the gravy is thick, add additional water and Bragg’s until it is a thinner gravy. You want to be able to simmer it down some without getting too thick. Add the onions and mushrooms back to the pan along with the sage, stir and reduce the heat to a low simmer.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat the bottom lightly with olive oil. In batches, brown both sides of the seitan strips until they are golden brown and a tad dried out so they can absorb some gravy. Once each bach is done add them to the gravy to simmer. (It took us 3 batches.) Once the last batch is in the gravy, allow this to simmer covered for 10 minutes.
  5. Toast the bread in the meantime. Once the gravy and seitan are done simmering, taste and adjust seasoning. If the gravy seems thin, simmer with the lid off for a few minutes to reduce the liquid.
  6. Place seitan strips and gravy over a slice of toast accompanied by broccolini and smashed potatoes. Spoon additional gravy on to potatoes and serve!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Lilly says:

    Your posting really stneeghtarid me out. Thanks!

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