Spending time at the beach this weekend reminded me of those scraps of fabric we call bathing suits, and thinking about bathing suits reminded me that it won’t be too long before I am once again wearing one. As I bemoaned last year, the Victoria’s Secret swimsuit catalogue always manages to call my mailbox it’s new home on a day that is bitter cold and gray, and it also somehow always has a knack for being found by yours truly just after I’ve eaten something decided-ly un-bathingsuit friendly.
Yesterday, the wind was whipping and carried sharp flakes of icy snow that felt like tiny daggers on my windslapped cheeks, and drove me to burrow my face deep in my (faux) fur lined hood. When I creaked open the lid to our mailbox to find this years Spring catalogue, I had just arrived home from finally dining at a place I had been begging to visit ever since I laid eyes on it when we moved to Boulder. Said place was not a fancy restaurant, however – oh no – said place was more of a joint than even a place actually, a joint called Mustard’s Last Stand that specializes in Chicago style hot dogs and has things like corn dogs and sides of cheese sauce on the menu.
I’m not entirely positive what drew me to this place, as I am neither a hot dog fanatic nor did I have the foggiest what ‘Chicago style’ meant. For those as blissfully unaware as I, Chicago style means a steamed poppy seed bun, a full dill pickle spear, tomato slices, chopped onions, sweet relish, hot peppers, and celery salt piled on top of an all-beef hot dog and then doused with a healthy shot of yellow mustard. (Just don’t ask for ketchup – that’s the quickest way to lose your street cred at Mustard’s – I promise you that.) I went one step further and added a gnarled pile of tangy sauerkraut to mine, ordered up a large Coke, and a side of chili cheese fries that thankfully for my arteries were of the vegetarian variety. On that blustery January day it was just the sliver of Summertime that this girl needed.
So you can imagine my dread when carrying what can only be described as a hot dog baby, I was faced with that glossy bevy of beauties cavorting in halter tops, low (low) rise bikinis, and stringed this-and-that that plunge so dangerously deep, the sight of them alone is enough to make you blush. Instead of dread and regret for happily scarfing down something which no person in their right mind could mistake for being ‘organic’ or ‘healthy’, I set my sights on squeezing in an extra spin class and focusing on the vegetarian dinners I had planned, namely one with plenty of tofu, kale, and delicata squash.
This right here is a keeper. It’s a mess of squash, tofu, potatoes, and kale covered in the most delicious salty-savory dressing of miso and curry, baked up until the edges are browned and sweet, then showered in fresh cilantro. I have to admit, at one point when I was mixing this up, I was tempted to scrap it; the tofu looked damp and unappealing and was crumbling a bit, and where the recipe told me I’d have dinner ready in 25-30 minutes I was left standing at the oven door, tapping my foot impatiently and fidgeting with my oven mitts, until the better part of an hour passed – but I am *so* glad I stuck with it. This recipe is so easy to make and so tasty, that even with the extra time it took I was thrilled to be eating it for supper.
The kale wilts a bit under the weight of the dressing, and once tossed with the hot veggies and tofu it yields even more. The tofu gives a creamy dimension to the potatoes and the squash, and even though I generally would hesitate to combine the two of these dense vegetables together, the dressing ties them together seamlessly. We both loved this – it is a great dish that works well for lunch or breakfast, or even brunch (once again, I think a fried egg over the top would be fantastic). The ingredients are inexpensive, and once you have miso and red curry paste on hand they come in handy for so many other uses. (Which, I will be detailing here in the coming days, weeks, and months – they are so versatile and vital in so many vegetarian dishes.)
I had my hot dog and loved every minute – and I will probably continue to go back for many more hot dogs ‘dragged through the garden’ (ahem – Chicago lingo, for those in the know). This is one of those great meals that allows a bit of un-doing if you will; a lot of flavor with a lot of nutrition, and thankfully, a lot of taste.
Miso Curry Delicata Squash with Tofu & Kale
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day
Heidi says that this recipe serves 4, but then again she has never fed my husband a vegetarian meal. He ate more like 2 servings on his own, so if you are serving to 4 people I would recommend one-and-a-halving the recipe, or serving with a side of brown rice or quinoa. That said, this is also very filling, and all husbands might not be as hungry on any given night as my husband was. Get what I’m saying?
I amped up the dressing amounts here, as noted below; I always like a slightly saucier version of almost everything, and didn’t think that the stated amounts provided enough dressing-coverage. Also, mine took a good 45-50 minutes to cook through and be browned to my liking (as opposed to the recommended 25-30). I would suggest tossing cooking times out the window here, and simply cook until your tofu is browned and the squash and potatoes are tender & golden. I am also baking at a high altitude, and sometimes my cooking times are skewed moreso than others.
There is no need to peel delicata squash; it’s skin is thin and once cooked you won’t even notice it’s there. If you sub in butternut or acorn squash here, definitely peel them – their skin is more fibrous and tough, and I think would take away from the dish. Finally, Heidi adds in ⅓ cup of toasted pepita (pumpkin) seeds; I omitted them and was very happy with the final dish.
12 ounces delicata squash (two small to medium squash)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (original recipe calls for ¼ cup)
1/2 cup white miso (original recipe calls for ¼ cup)
2 Tbsp red Thai curry paste (original recipe calls for 1 Tbsp)
8 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes (which is half of a 1lb package)*
4 medium new potatoes, unpeeled, cut into chunks
Juice of one lemon (original recipe calls for 2 Tbsp – I used the whole lemon’s juice)
1 1/2 cups chopped kale, tough stems removed (I used lacinato, or dino, kale)
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat your oven to 400F with a rack in the middle of the oven.
Cut the delicata squash in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out all of the seeds (discard the seeds). Cut the squash into 1/2- inch thick half-moons.
In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, white miso, and curry paste. In a large bowl, gently combine the tofu, potatoes, and squash with about half of the miso-curry-olive oil mixure. Use your hands to toss well, taking care not to break apart the tofu too much and to make sure every piece is covered with a bit of dressing, and then turn the vegetables onto a rimmed baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.
Roast the vegetables 25-30 minutes, until everything is tender and browned, tossing occasionally – I found that I needed to roast mine much longer, closer to 45-50 minutes, to get browned and tender vegetables and caramelized tofu. I would recommend going less by timing here, and more by looks – if the potatoes and squash are tender and the tofu is browned, it’s done; if not, keep roasting. Keep an eye on it though, as the sugar in the miso will caramelize quickly once it gets going, and you don’t want to scorch it, and the vegetables can go from browned to burned in a flash.
In the meantime, place the kale in the large bowl where you mixed the squash, potatoes, and tofu (no need to rinse it out). Whisk the lemon juice into the remaining miso-curry-olive oil paste, pour over the kale, and mix well until coated. This works best using your hands to massage the mixture into the kale.
When the vegetables are lovely and caramelized, remove them from the oven. Toss the roasted vegetables gently with the kale and cilantro. Serve family style in a large bowl or on a platter.
*If you have the time, wrap the tofu in a clean kitchen towel and place it under a heavy pan for 30 minutes to press some of the moisture out of it. This will help it to brown and crisp up more easily.