Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ben's Special Tofu, adapted

David's son Ben makes a dish he calles Ben's Special Tofu. He stir-fries soft tofu with a variety of mushrooms and tops it with hoisin sauce. At some point we made that dish, though I'm not sure I posted it here.

Tonight, David is out of town and I had a plethora of fresh spinach grown right here in the North Country to eat up. Ben has always said that his tofu dish could use some veggies. This was great!

I made a sauce using
2 T sherry
2 T soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
2 T hot sauce
2 T hoisin sauce
I put some of the sauce over the tofu and let it marinate for about 10 minutes (longer would have been better).

Then, I chopped up bunches of mushrooms and an onion, and stir fried them until they were well-cooked. I took the tofu out of the marinade and added it to the pan. I returned the marinade from the tofu to the bowl with the rest of the sauce and added 1 t of cornstarch to thicken it when it hit the heat. (You could never do this if you were marinating meat, but with tofu there's no danger of disease.)

I trimmed the spinach and cut off the tough ends. When everything else was cooked, I added the spinach and cooked just long enough for it to combine with the other ingredients. I poured the sauce over the top, stirred a couple of times, and then shut off the heat. I served this over quinoa and have enough left-overs for a couple nights of being home alone!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thai Green Curry with Tofu

David and I hosted my mom for a visit last weekend. Saturday night, we invited a friend to dinner for some Thai tofu and Five Crowns.

This was one of those "kitchen sink" dinners where I just kept popping stuff in.

Put together a stir fry of your favorites. Some advice about the best way to do this is here.

For the green curry sauce, I combined the following in a saucepan over low/medium heat, stirring until it was well mixed. I let it simmer for a while and then took it off the heat until it was time to pour it over the stir-fry.

1 can coconut milk
roughly 2T green curry paste (use more if you like spice, less if you don't)
the juice of two limes
roughly 2 T fish sauce
a heaping teaspoon of the following - gilgal (it's a root much like ginger, which you can buy preserved), kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, chopped lemongrass.
about 1/2 T brown sugar

We served the dish over a crispy rice cake.

Alas, there are no pictures.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Pepper Monkey on a Rice Noodle Cake

Life has felt very busy since David and I returned from Houston. Several nights, we've simply eaten at the bottom of the hill at our favorite Milan eatery, The Village Deli and General Store.

However, since I [almost] always snap a pick of what I cook these days, I have evidence that I cooked more than I thought I did!

This meal is comprised of two different recipes. David said it was his favorite meal since the end of Lent.

The Pepper Monkey from V Cuisine: The Art of Vegan Cooking by Angeline Lindardis (Whitecap, 2007)
You could call this Tofu au Poivre, it is in fact a pepper monkey.

14 oz tofu
2 T olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
4 T dark soy sauce
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground sage
freshly cracked pepper
1 c dry red wine
1 large onion cut into quarters
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 c parsley
2 c crimini mushrooms, halved
1 red pepper, cut into rings
1 green pepper, cut into rings
coarse sea salt
olive oil

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
2. Oil a 13x9 casserole dish.
3. Slice to tofu into rectangles about 1/2 inch thick. Set them into the oiled pan, keeping them all flat if possible.
4. Mix together olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and sage. Pour over tofu, cover with plastic wrap, let sit for 20 minutes.
5. Uncover tofu. Coat each side with a layer of freshly ground pepper, return to pan.
6. Pour wine into pan. Add veggies, beginning with onion.
7. Cover with foil, bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and vegetables.
8. Put broiler on high, leave pan in middle of oven. Cook on one side 4-5 minutes, then flip.

Some notes:
I didn't read the recipe super carefully, and so I set the tofu aside after coating with pepper, put in all the veggies and topped them with tofu. This caused me to climate the broiling step. We thought it was perfect as prepared.
Also, we had no parsley and no peppers of any kind and the whole thing tasted great.
The pan sauce was terrific atop the noodle cake!

The timing is just about right to cook the noodle cake while the tofu bakes. You might give the tofu a five minute head start.

Crisp-Fried Noodle Cake - another great recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman (Wiley, 2007)

noodles (the recipe suggests 12 oz of fresh Chinese egg noodles or 8 oz of any dry long noodles or pasta - we used 14 oz of rice noodles)
1 T soy sauce
1 t dark sesame oil
1/2 c chopped scallions or chives
1/4 neutral oil (I used canola)

1. Prep the noodles as the package suggests. Drain and rinse. Set aside. If you wait any length of time, leave the noodles soaking in cold water, otherwise they get sticky (says the voice of experience!).
2. Just before cooking drain (if you haven't already) and then toss the noodles with the sesame oil, soy sauce, and scallions.
3. Put 3 T of oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the noodles. Let cook undisturbed until brown and crisp on the bottom. This takes about 15 minutes. Resist looking as much as you can!
4. Use a large spatula to flip the noodles, first adding remaining oil to pan. Brown on the other side. Slide onto a plate. Sprinkle with a bit of additional sesame oil (you might skip this step, we found it plenty oily enough!) and soy sauce. Cut into pieces and serve.

Some notes:
1. This does not re-heat well. So serve when you have company or are very hungry. Our next-day leftovers were kind of chewy and blah.
2. The flipping is a bit dangerous. We actually did this twice and the second time put a pizza stone onto the fry pan, flipped that over, then re-oiled the pan and slid the cake from the pizza stone.
3. Flipping the noodle cake takes a bit of getting used to - be prepared for bits of noodle all over your stove! :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Live and Learn

I'm a bit of a Food Network addict. I love to watch cooking shows. David, for the most part, does not. But, he does have a particular fondness for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives - a show where host Guy Fieri drives around the country looking for small and offbeat diners, drive-ins and dives (you could have guessed, right?).

Last week we saw a show featuring restaurants on Route 66. One of the places featured a chicken dish that looked divine. Despite our pledge to eat less meat and cook very little of it, we were both intrigued. I googled it. I bought the ingredients. And... we both got really sick of all the meat, almost immediately. Wow!

Tonight, eating the left-overs, David noted that the food we ate all during Lent was amazing - 9/10. And, he gave this dish a 4/10. So, live and learn. We really are going to eat less meat!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lenten Discipline: The Final Report

I know we just celebrated the Third Sunday of Easter, but such is the life of a priest. I'm only now getting the chance to really think through and check in on our Lenten Discipline.

I think we were about two weeks into Lent when David asked me, quite seriously, "Do we have to go back?" After I laughed about the steaks in our freezer, I replied simply, "No." We've loved experimenting with new recipes, cooking together, and trying new foods. And, we've loved having our food consumption make a a smaller impact both on the planet and our budget.

Neither of us is a budgeting whiz! So, I can't say beyond the shadow of a doubt that we saved X dollars through our eating choices. However, since one tub of tofu used to produce two portions, and now it produces six portions, I think I can state with certainty that we did save money.

So, what we've decided to do is to choose to eat less meat. We won't throw away the meat in our freezer. We'll enjoy the occasional bacon (as we did this morning). When we are out, we'll eat as we please. However, most of the meals we cook for ourselves will be vegan/vegetarian.

I also have to share that there were health benefits to our choices, as well. We certainly didn't take on this Lenten discipline to lose weight. But, I did! About 10 pounds worth. So, if a healthier lifestyle is something you are looking for, consider eating less meat!

I've really appreciated the positive response these posts have generated. So, I'll continue to post recipes and pictures as I am able. Keep those comments coming - let me know what you've tried and liked.

Finally, since I made it again last night, here's the Thai Tofu Soup from the last post!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Last Lenten Recipe: Thai Curry Vegetable and Tofu Soup

OK. I'll admit it. I'm kind of out-of-control when it comes to cookbooks, recipes, cooking magazines, etc. On Holy Saturday, I ducked into the store to get one thing - and found this magazine on display by the register: Real Simple - Easy, Delicious Home Cooking, Spring/Summer 2012. Generally, I find that things in Real Simple are often neither. But, as I waited in the long line and perused the recipes, I was totally hooked. So, into the bag it went! That very night, I made Thai Curry Vegetable and Tofu Soup and served it over white rice before we headed off to the Easter Vigil. Wow!

Thai Curry Vegetable and Tofu Soup
2 c low sodium vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
1 T red curry paste (I only had green, and it was fine)
1 t grated fresh ginger
kosher salt to taste
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced (no shiitakes, only regular old mushrooms, again this substitution was fine)
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and halved (no green beans, only snap peas, again fine)
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
14 oz extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into cubes
1/4 pound snow peas (skipped these)
2 T fresh lime juice
1/4 c torn fresh basil leaves
Asian chile garlic sauce for serving

1. In a large sauce pan, whisk together the broth, coconut milk, curry paste, ginger and 1 t salt. Bring to a boil.
2. Add mushrooms, green beans and carrots. Simmer until just tender - 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add tofu and snow peas, simmer until snow peas are bright green, about 1 minute more.
4. Stir in lime juice, sprinkle with basil leaves, and serve with chili-garlic sauce.

I didn't have lime juice, basil,or chile garlic sauce. I found the soup a tiny bit flat and so instead added some soy sauce, fish sauce, and about 1 t of sugar. I served topped with crushed red pepper flakes.

Maundy Thursday Lentil Soup

This year on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday in Holy Week) we marked the day with a simple potluck supper embedded in a Eucharist. Folks brought a variety of things to share: cheeses, dried fruit, olives, hummus. I made a giant pot of Lentil Soup to share. This recipe is from Alton Brown - and can be found here.

Lentil Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground grains of paradise
  • 1. Place the olive oil into a large 6-quart Dutch oven and set over medium heat. 
  • 2. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and salt and sweat until the onions are translucent, approximately 6 to 7 minutes.
  • 3. Add the lentils, tomatoes, broth, coriander, cumin and grains of paradise and stir to combine. 
  • 4. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook at a low simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. 
  • 5. Using a stick blender, puree to your preferred consistency. Serve immediately.
I never got a picture, sorry!