Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

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.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

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.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

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.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

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. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

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!)