Sriracha Sesame Grilled Tofu

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love.
It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.

W. Somerset Maugham

I have been reading a lot of Somerset Maugham this summer – both short stories and novels. Maugham was a master of the English language; he could completely capture a person’s character with words. It’s amazing to me how accurate (or inaccurate, I guess) words can be. I have found his characters to be the most interesting part of his writing which surprises me because I usually complain if a novel is too heavy on character development and light on plot. I prefer a fast moving plot with lots of twists and turns. Maugham leans toward a simple plot, but uses fascinating characters to make the story genuine. I feel as though I actually know the people he has created, or at least have known people like them.  

I also love this Maugham quote about change. I think it is true – or at least I hope it is true. How dull if we never changed. How dreary to remain in the same pattern throughout our lives. How dismal to reject anything new or challenging. Which brings me to this Sriracha Sesame Grilled Tofu recipe.

Someone recently said to me, “I would die if I had to eat tofu.” I think that’s being just a bit closed-minded, don’t you? If you are new to tofu (like I am), then this is the recipe to start with. It was so easy and super delicious.  Be a changed person. Do a favor to the earth and to the animals. Try eating something different. Expand. Grow. Live. Be. Change.

You can see that I used the chili-garlic version of
Sriracha. If you can find it, use it! Spicy.....

Here’s what you need:
1 pound extra firm tofu (note: EXTRA FIRM)
½ C soy sauce
3 T sesame oil
2 T maple syrup
2 T Sriracha chili-garlic sauce or plain Sriracha
2 T rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced

Here’s what you do:
Remove the tofu from the package and drain the water. Carefully slice the block lengthwise into about 6-8 pieces. Gently place the tofu slices on a few absorbent towels and place a few more towels on top of the tofu. Then place a cutting board over the top. On top of the cutting board place a heavy object, Iike a cast iron skillet. Come back in about 30 minutes and see how much water has been squeezed out. Amazing! Now there’s plenty of room for your marinade to soak in.

Whisk the marinade ingredients together and soak the tofu for as long as 24 hours, flipping over once in a while. The longer you marinate, the more the tofu will absorb.

Spray a grill or skillet or other type of non-stick pan with a tiny bit of oil. Grill the tofu until you get the nice char marks. (By the way, char marks or burned spots on grilled meat can cause cancer. Char marks or burned spots on vegetables do not. Look it up if you don’t believe me.)

This recipe is from Vegetarian Times Magazine. 

Green Curry Stir Fry with Cashews

Looking for a new way to use fresh green beans? This was delicious: spicy, creamy, sweet, and easy to throw together after a long day at work. My version is based on a recipe found in Vegetarian Times magazine. I think next time I make this I will double the curry sauce – it’s that good.  Makes two large servings.... and by large I mean we stuffed our faces. 

Here’s what you need:
1 T peanut oil
½ C thinly sliced onions
12 oz sliced mushrooms
1 t minced garlic
1 T minced fresh ginger
½ pound fresh green beans, cut into thirds
½ C golden raisins
1/3 C canned full-fat coconut milk
2 T green curry paste
1 T lemon juice
1 T soy sauce
½ C roasted salted cashews
¼ C chopped cilantro

Here’s what you do:
Sauté the onions and mushrooms in the oil, until the mushrooms are brown and the onions are soft. Stir in the garlic, green beans and raisins and continue to cook for about 5 minutes until beans are fork tender.

Whisk together the coconut milk, curry paste, lemon juice and soy sauce. Pour over the green bean mixture and lower the heat. Simmer until thick – about 2 minutes.

Garnish with cashews and cilantro. Serve over rice.

Currant Jelly

We have been eating like kings around here lately – and I am not talking about this huge portion of Poutine that I scarfed down last week. Seriously, it took me a complete 24 hours to recover from that box of deep fried goodness dripping with gravy. I chose veggie gravy to keep it ‘lite.’ HA!

No, what I’m talking about is all the fresh lettuce and arugula and basil and cilantro from my garden. I’m talking about the rhubarb that I grew and turned into rhubarb butter. I’m talking about the juicy dark red strawberries growing right in my yard.

And I’m talking about 8 pounds of juicy currants picked fresh just for me. A gift from nature.

Here’s what you need:
4 pounds fresh currants
1 C water
6 C sugar
3 ounce pack of liquid pectin

Here’s what you do:
Clean, separate and pick over the berries. Place in large deep pot with 1 C water. Smash a bit with a potato masher. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Strain the juice and discard the seeds and skins.  Continue until you have 5 C of juice. Return to the pot and add 6 cups of sugar. Boil for a few minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pectin and continue to boil for about 30 seconds. 

Place hot jelly in prepared ½ pint jars. Secure the lids and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Classic Pizza dough – Neapolitan Style

Neapolitan style pizza is made from simple and fresh ingredients like tomatoes, basil and olive oil and it often has more sauce than cheese. The dough is also very simple: flour, yeast, salt and olive oil. Neapolitan pizzas are thin and traditionally baked at a very high heat; I bake mine 450, but I know they can stand 500 degrees! A pizza stone is a must to create the chewy, toasty crust. Make sure to preheat your pizza stone all the way to 450 degrees. I recently purchased a pizza peel and that has helped to transfer the pizza onto the hot stone. You can also use the bottom of a baking sheet which is covered in flour or cornmeal and ‘slide’ the raw pizza onto the stone, using metal spatulas to coax it along. Either way, getting the uncooked pizza onto the scorching hot stone is the most difficult thing about making Neapolitan style pizza at home.   It really helps if the pizzas are very small – usually only 10-12 inches in diameter.

An important trick about making a thin crust pizza is to stretch it out using only your fingers from the center out to the edge. Never mess around with the edge and never use a rolling pin. By leaving the edge of the dough alone, you create a glorious chewy crust and a perfect round ‘crown’ known as the ‘cornicione.’ And by crown, I’m not talking about the huge lump of tasteless dough you might find at a fast food pizza place. A true cornicione is a culinary delight. To get a true cornicione, the dough must be sufficiently wet so it really puffs in the oven.

I found this recipe on the internet and have simplified the method here. It makes about five 10 inch pizzas. It also freezes very well w

Here’s what you need:
5 ¼ C unbleached flour
2 t kosher salt
1 ¼ t instant yeast OR 1 ½ t active dry yeast dissolved in the water
2 T olive oil (optional)
1 T sugar or honey
2 ¼ C room temperature water (less if you are using honey)

Here’s what you do:
Mix all the ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer. Use the paddle – not the dough hook. Mix for one minute to form a coarse, sticky dough ball.

Let the dough rest for five minutes, then mix again for one minute to make a smooth, very tacky ball of dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, rub a little oil on your hands, and fold the dough into a smooth ball. Let it rest on the work surface for five minutes and then stretch and fold the dough into a tight ball. Repeat this again, two more times, and 5 minute intervals.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and immediately place in the refrigerator. The dough can be used anywhere from 6 hours to 3 days after it goes in the fridge.

Pull the dough from the refrigerator about two hours prior to when you plan to bake it to bring it to room temperature. Divide the dough into five 8-ounce pieces. With a little flour on your hands, form each piece into a tight dough ball and place on a lightly oiled pan. Mist the dough balls with oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. (At this point you can freeze the dough balls in oiled plastic bags.) Give the dough at least 90 minutes to rest before making the pizzas. Remember – don’t over knead it or use a rolling pin. Just ease the dough into a circle with your fingers.

Oven-Baked Onion Rings (from "Appetite for Reduction")

“Give even an onion graciously.” Afghan proverb

I hope you are not overlooking the humble onion in your weekly menus. I consider it one of the best vegetables on the planet. These baked onion rings are perfection! Serve with the classic burger, but also consider serving them as a side to any main dish. They would even be nice on top of a huge green salad.

Here’s what you need:
2 large Vidalia or Walla Walla onions or other sweet onions 
½ C plus 2 T flour
2 T cornstarch
1 C non-dairy milk
1 t apple cider vinegar
1 C bread crumbs
2 t olive oil

Here’s what you do:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper and then spraying the parchment paper with oil.

Slice the onions into ¾ inch-thick rings.  Use only the largest rings. Separate the rings and set aside. You will have lots of leftovers to use for another purpose.

Make the batter: in a large, wide cereal type bowl mix the flour and cornstarch. Add the milk and whisk till smooth. Add in the vinegar.

Make the breading: in a different cereal bowl place the bread crumbs and then drizzle the olive oil over them. Use your fingers to incorporate the oil into the crumbs.

Make the rings: use one hand to dip a single onion ring into the milk mixture and get it completely covered. Use the same hand to move the ring to the breading. Use the other hand to cover the ring with as many crumbs as you can. Carefully place on the prepared baking sheet. Spray lightly with oil and bake for about 8 minutes. Carefully flip onions over and continue to bake for another 6 minutes.

Serve immediately with a gallon of ketchup. Note: these onion rings are very soft and might need to be eaten with a fork. 

Adonis Cake – (from My Beef with Meat)

I think I have mentioned that I love cake. It just makes even plain old Wednesdays special. Thursdays too. This one is dense and moist and full of healthful ingredients. Makes you kinda feel great about going back for a second slice.  And check out that frosting! (secret – no butter, no egg whites, no cream cheese)

I got this recipe from the excellent book “My Beef with Meat.” The reading is light and informative, presenting the case for veganism in a very basic and non-threatening way. The recipes, however, are pretty hard-core vegan and totally plant based. See Zeb’s Waffles here and Raise the Roof Lasagna here. Maybe you already know that Rip Esselstyn, the author, is a well-known vegan tri-athlete and is the son of Dr. Esselstyn of “The China Study” fame. Rip (gotta love that name) helped fellow firefighters with their struggling health by cooking plant based meals for them. You can check him out on Facebook and all over the internet. I recently learned that he has partnered with Whole Foods, so those of you who are addicted to Whole Foods will see his stuff on the shelves soon.

I’m just going to let you google the recipes today. Look for “Adonis Cake” and be sure, sure, sure to use the frosting Rip recommends. (I am not giving away the ingredients or method for that frosting – I am going to make you go on an internet hunt!) 

Forty-Clove Chickpea and Broccoli

What to do with all these chickpeas! I just spent all morning simmering them and getting them to the perfect creamy consistency. Hummus is in my near future. And I think some freezer bags might also be in my near future.

From “Appetite for Reduction” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz here is my take on her Forty-Clove Chickpea and Broccoli.  I couldn’t believe how delicious this recipe is – it looks very plain and really too ‘vegan’ (if you know what I mean.) But it is an absolute winner! We have eaten it twice this week. The broth is scrumptious and perfect for spooning over rice. The broccoli melts in your mouth and has nice crispy brown spots. Did you know that broccoli is packed with tons of nutrients - more vitamin C than an orange! Yes. And it even has protein!

Your mother was right, “Eat your broccoli!” (I don’t think my mother ever said that.)

Here’s what you need: (my changes are reflected here)
2 bunches of fresh, raw broccoli
12 cloves garlic, smashed and peel removed
1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 t olive oil
Salt, pepper to taste
Lemon zest from one lemon
1 ½ t dried oregano
Pam vegetable oil spray
2 C vegetable broth
Fresh lemon juice

Here’s what you do:
Wash and cut the broccoli into large pieces. Smash the garlic cloves with the side of a large knife until the paper is loose and the clove is, well, smashed. Remove the paper skins. Chop the cloves roughly – you do not want small bits. Place the broccoli, garlic and chickpeas in a 9x13 baking dish. Drizzle olive oil over all and stir a bit. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon zest and oregano. Spray with oil and stir some more.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring at the half-way point. After 30 minutes, add the vegetable broth and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Squeeze with fresh lemon juice before serving. It’s perfect over white rice!

And for those of you who want a chicken version of this recipe click here for my Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic. 

Baked Falafel

I’m embarrassed to say this, but I have never made falafel before in my entire life….. and come to think of it, I have only eaten it once. Strange, because I am from Detroit, where Middle Eastern food is in abundance. My first falafel wrap was eaten at a food stand last summer and I have literally been thinking about it ever since. My second falafel wrap was eaten in my very own kitchen. Of course, the first one was deep fried and dripping with a creamy sauce. The second was baked and served with a bounty of fresh veggies.

Actually, I don’t know why I write that this embarrasses me; what *really* embarrasses me is that some people have never even heard of falafel. If this is you – it’s time to widen your eating experiences!

I served these on warm flour tortillas, slathered with hummus on one side and sour cream on the other. Chopped cukes, sweet tomatoes, buttery lettuce and a squeeze of lemon over all. Really simple and really good.

Zillions of thanks and all recognition for this excellent recipe go to Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of “Appetite for Reduction” – my current favorite cookbook.

Here’s what you need:
1 (15 ounce) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ small white onion, chopped (about 3 T)
½ C fresh parsley leaves
2 t olive oil
2 t hot sauce
3-4 T chick pea flour (or regular flour)
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
½ t paprika
½ t baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Here’s what you do:
Pulse the chickpeas, parsley and garlic in food processor till crumbly. Add the onion, oil, and hot sauce. Blend until relatively smooth, scraping down sides when necessary.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and add 3 of the 4 tablespoons of chickpea flour, the cumin, coriander, paprika, baking powder salt and pepper. Mix with hands until well blended. The mixture should be “mushy but firm enough to shape into balls.” If it doesn’t seem firm enough, add the remaining 1 T flour.

Shape into large walnut size balls, flatten and place on greased baking sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 16-18 minutes. The bottoms should be brown. Remove from oven, spray with oil and flip over. Bake another 8-10 minutes more.

Berries and Cream Cheesecake – vegan and awesome

Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup. Wendell Berry

I was extremely nervous to serve this at a recent dessert party. I don't know if I was more worried about the sloppy appearance or about how much I diverted from the original recipe. Silly me! Every bite was gone and folks raved. Seriously, they raved. 

The original recipe comes from an old magazine and calls for blueberries and full heavy cream and of course dairy cream cheese. See how perfect the professionals can make their cake and their photo look? I made this years ago for a Boy Scout banquet and I remember people raving then also. (Look closely and  you can see I gave it two 5 star ratings.) 

So if you have time to kill and want to bring a most impressive dessert to a party then look no further.

Here’s what you need:
2 T sugar
Zest from one lemon
2 T fresh lemon juice
¾ C black berry preserves
¾ C fresh blackberries, plus more for garnish
¾ C fresh strawberries, plus more for garnish
8 ounces room temperature non-dairy cream cheese (Tofutti brand)
¼ C powdered sugar
1 t pure vanilla extract
1 can full fat coconut milk stored in the fridge at least 24 hours
¼ C powdered sugar
½ t pure vanilla extract
24 ounces pound cake, sliced 1/3 inch thick

Coconut cream straight from the can - Chilled 24 hours
Here’s what you do:
Make the coconut whipped cream: Make sure the coconut milk has been chilled thoroughly in the fridge for at least 24 hours. Turn the can upside down and open – this will allow all the liquid to easily pour out. Scrape the thick part out and place in a small bowl which has also been chilled for 15 minutes in the fridge. Whip with hand mixer or stand mixer until light and fluffy. (I have read that if you use a brand without guar gum, it will fluff up better. Look in an Asian market.) Don’t be afraid to let it whip up for a good long time. Add ¼ C powdered sugar and ½ t vanilla and whip again. Delicious!

Whip until light and fluffy. 

Make the lemon glaze: In a small pot bring 1/3 C water to a boil. Add the 2 T sugar and the lemon zest. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice. Allow to cool.

Make the berry syrup:  In a medium pot combine ¼ C water, the preserves and the berries and cook over medium heat until thick – about 15 minutes. Stir often. Remove from heat and strain out any seeds. Allow to cool.

Prepare all the necessary ingredients before beginning to assemble. Note: the berry syrup is chilling in an ice bath. 

Make the coconut cream cheese: Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, mix the cream cheese, ¼ C powdered sugar and 1 t vanilla until light, smooth and fluffy. Carefully fold in the prepared coconut whipped cream.

My store bought cake was  pre-sliced, which created layers that were too thick. 

Assemble the cake:   Arrange one layer of pound cake in the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan, cutting to fit as needed. Brush with lemon glaze. Spread half of the berry mixture over the cake. Spoon half of the coconut cream cheese mixture over the berries. Repeat this layering process one more time, ending with cream cheese. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours. Remove from spring form and decorate with remaining berries.

Triple Lemon Cupcakes –vegan and awesome

I have been in a baking groove lately and that’s a good thing. House smells warm and cozy. Plates are piled high with beauty.

I just made 4 loaves of bread for a brunch at my school -2 Banana Breads and 2 Honey Pecan Loaves. I also made a throw-back Pineapple Upside Down Cake and a Berries and Cream Cheesecake for a dessert party. When my parents were over last month I made a Double Chocolate Adonis Cake and these gorgeous Triple Lemon Cupcakes.

The big reveal about all this baking?? It was ALL vegan – not an egg or stick of butter in sight. Good for my heart. Good for the planet. And especially good for the critters. (Also good for my neighbors and friends who shared in all the baked goodness.)

These Triple Lemon Cupcakes were featured on the cover of a recent FoodNetwork Magazine and I made some simple changes – for the better, I contend. There are quite a few steps and you need lots of lemons! So read the recipe through a few times before you decide how many lemons you need and what order you want to tackle this recipe. My suggestion is to make the candied lemon peel first. This recipe makes way more than you need for 1 dozen cupcakes, so be prepared to make more cupcakes or use the candied lemon peel in another dessert. (Lemon Cheesecake, anyone? Click here.) The candied lemon zest keeps well stored in sugar in an air tight container.

(Ener-G Egg Replacer is a combo of potato starch and tapioca flour and can be found in health food stores or in Asian markets. It gives plenty of body to baked goods and actually produces a better flavor – much less rich and bulky than eggs – plus NO cholesterol. Try it! I am SO GLAD I switched over and got eggs out of my baked goods.)

Here’s what you need:
For the cupcake:
1 ¼ C all-purpose flour
¼ C sliced almonds
¾ t baking powder
¼ t baking soda
¼ t salt
2 Ener-G Egg Replacer ‘eggs’ (3 t Ener-G powder and 4 T warm water. Whisk well and set aside to thicken)
¾ C sugar
½ C nondairy milk (I used almond)
1 ½ t lemon juice
½ C vegetable oil
1 T finely grated lemon zest
2 T fresh lemon juice

For the frosting:
2-3 C powdered sugar
¼ C Earth Balance non-dairy butter, room temperature
¼ C fresh lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
Tiny, tiny bit of yellow food coloring (1/2 drop or less! Use a toothpick to add it)

For the candied lemon peel:
4 lemons
¾ C sugar
¾ C water

Here’s what you do:
Make the candied zest: remove the lemon peel carefully, avoiding the white pithy part with a vegetable peeler. Slice into very thin strands. Place in small sauce pan, cover with water, bring to a simmer, drain. Repeat this process two more times. You will be amazed at how much bitterness washes away from the zest.

Bring the sugar and water to a simmer in another pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the lemon zest and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes – watching carefully. Drain the zest and arrange in clumps on parchment paper. Allow to dry and pull the strands apart. Store zest buried in white sugar.

Make the cupcakes: Place the flour and almonds in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped. Add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pulse to combine.

Add the 1 ½ t lemon juice to the almond milk to create sour milk (a great buttermilk swap).  Allow to sit for a few minutes. Pour the prepared Ener-G eggs into a large bowl. Add the sugar, the sour milk, the oil, the zest and the lemon juice. Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently mix until just incorporated. Fill prepared cupcake tins about ¾ full. I think you should spray the paper cups to insure that the cupcake comes out nicely. Bake 350 for about 16-18 minutes – checking at the 12 minute mark. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the puffiest part of the cupcake comes out cleanly. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: Place the soft butter in a large bowl (I use my Kitchen Aid mixer for this). Mix the butter until fluffy – about a minute. Slowly add 1 C powdered sugar, incorporating well and scraping down the sides. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, food coloring (just a tiny, tiny bit!  You don’t want your frosting to look like egg yolks!) Slowly add the remaining sugar until you have a perfect spreading consistency.

Frost the cupcakes and decorate with the candied lemon zest. Beautiful! 

(printable recipe)

More ways to use lemons:
Lemony Wild Rice

Lemon Almond Pesto

Apple Lemon Bread

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