Tag Archives: tofu

simple equation: coconut braised chickpeas and spinach with spaghetti squash, zucchini, red pepper, and crispy tofu

coconut braised chickpeas and spinach with spaghetti squash, zucchini, red pepper, and crispy tofu

You guys —  stand up paddle boarding was a total success this past weekend, and I absolutely loved it.  Minus one very minor incident where Danielle and I over-confidently tried to leave the safety of our little training-wheels lagoon (and nearly got blown by some aggressive tailwinds straight into some legit boat yacht traffic while squealing and paddling directly over a rather large, red, and very tenticle-y jellyfish), we totally rocked it.

half moons of zucchini

I didn’t tank it sideways off the board (hooray!), and we both felt very virtuous for getting up early and getting our fitness on after some mutually late bedtimes the evening before.  I totally forgot that the Kentucky Derby was on, but since it was gorgeous out (85!! Sunny!!!), we decided to keep our delightful little day going, and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying lunch in the sunshine and toasting the race with a couple obligatory mint juleps.

fresh grated garlic and ginger

After a wonderful but busy day spent out and about, the last thing I ever feel like doing is cleaning up the kitchen after making a meal – much less actually cooking a meal that requires a lot of clean up.

But I’m going to let you in on a little (not so) secret equation.

rings of fresno chili

Coconut milk + ginger & garlic + vegetables + tofu = simple supper Nirvana.

fresh lemongrass

This is the exactly the kind of thing we have when I open the fridge and am met with a panicked wave of what-the-{insert explicative}-are-we-gonna-have-for-dinner;  usually when I already have my hole-y and publicly inappropriate pajama pants on and the husb has already poured me a glass-o’-vino, and there’s absolutely zero chance I feel like running out to the store.

{but wait! there’s more…}

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lost in the shuffle: vegetarian (and vegan!) summer rolls with watercress, carrot, tofu, cucumber, and fresno chili with an almond butter hoisin dipping sauce

Somewhere in the scuffle that has been a very busy Summer, my one-year Colorado anniversary totally eluded me.

Not that it’s a big deal, really – more so that I caught myself earlier this week telling a new friend that I “just” moved to Colorado, when in all reality a full three-hundred-and-sixty-five-days does not exactly warrant the word ‘just.’

Granted I have been known to invent causes for celebration (proclamations of “It’s the five year anniversary of our first date!!” and “Exactly four-and-a-half-years ago we moved into our first apartment together!!” have most definitely traversed my lips in hopes of getting a celebratory dinner or glass of bubbly), but somehow this sorta-kinda milestone just got shuffled in between weddings, work, weekends with house guests, and one very busy late-Summer.

The craziest thing is actually not realizing that I’ve been in Boulder for a full twelve months, but that I haven’t been back to New York City yet – not once. It’s not at all been intentional; though I felt like I was always on running at a frenetic pace when living in that city that really never does sleep, in this past year I feel like the number of weekends that we have had totally free and uncommitted have been few and far between, and always sandwiched in between commitments that made scheduling them seem unbearable.

All of those bustling (but seriously fun) weekends compounded by busy work schedules has literally caused these past few months to pass by in a blur, and though I’d venture to guess that most of you feel like time is constantly flying by, for me, this year spent out in Colorado more so than any other has felt that it’s gone by in the literal blink of an eye.

I can’t wait to get a visit back to New York on the books, and with things loosening up a bit around here in September and October I’m looking forward to doing exactly that. I’m heading to San Francisco tomorrow, and though it couldn’t be geographically any farther from New York, I am really looking forward to a weekend dose of good old city life. I’m excited for the people, the neighborhoods, the food, and the general weirdness that comes with being in a place that crams so many people into so little space.

{but wait! there’s more…}

tofu 1.0: a big red curry noodle bowl with zucchini, red pepper, kale, tofu + crushed peanuts

On the list of things I commonly hear when I say that we eat tofu on average twice a week (partnered with a quizzical head scratch), is that:

a) you have no idea how to cook it
b) you find it very bland
c) it reminds you of a wet sponge
d) your husband/boyfriend/roommate/dog would stage an angry coup d’etat if presented with a bland wet sponge you had no idea how to cook for dinner

And I’ll admit – I totally understand that.

We have only been including tofu in our regular rotation for just over a year or so now, and I can absolutely sympathize with concerns over the validity of it’s presence in your dinner.  I most definitely didn’t come flying out of the gates making delicious tofu recipes; there was a bit of a learning curve, and there were admittedly a few duds amongst the greats along the way.  How to prepare it, how to cook it, how to serve it – dealing with tofu is definitely different than cooking the other proteins that we Americans most commonly eat.  And, after a long day, most people are going to want to come home to something home cooked and delicious that they know is going to taste good – they’re just not up for humoring tofu-science-experiments of any kind.

I, my friends, totally understand. 

I’ve posted a couple of other easy tofu-centric dishes here before (see here and here), but I have not really addressed in depth a few things that I think are important for keeping your tofu dinners out of wet sponge territory.

In my opinion, the key to making tofu taste great is flavoring it well – even if those flavorings are just a bit of crusty brownness and a salty edge.  See the tofu right here, up in that picture above? It’s crispy, brown, and crunchy, and looks nothing like the strange unscented white cube that wiggled it’s way out of the package.

Tofu takes on whatever flavor you impart on it, and that is one of the reasons why it is so awesome.  What’s that you say?

So what, Cory? Chicken takes on lots of flavors too, and it doesn’t freak anyone in the family out when I announce it’s on our nightly menu.

Ok.  That might be true.

But tofu has a whole host of positive attributes that I think qualify it as a very viable at-least-weekly addition to your dinner repertoire:

  • Tofu has 80 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving (I’m basing this on the Whole Foods 365 brand, but most are very close).  Most packages contain about 4 servings, and even in a recipe like the curry bowl I detail here (where 1 package is used for 2 very large servings/with leftovers), you are only looking at 160 calories and 8 grams of fat total for your protein.
  • Tofu is vegetarian, and if you are like me and are picky about the provenance of your meat  (I genuinely make an effort to only purchase meat I know was humanely and organically raised), you can chow down feeling good about what you are eating and it’s environmental impact.  I personally would rather pay more to eat higher quality ‘happier’ meat less often, and fill in my gaps with other alternatives, like tofu. 
  • Tofu is a great source of protein, calcium, iron, and healthy omega-3’s, and is a great addition to both vegetarian and omnivore diets alike.  Most tofu is dairy free, and if you check your package, a good deal of them are gluten-free and vegan as well. (And kosher!)
  • Tofu costs $1.50 per package, each package 4 servings.  Again this is the Whole Foods brand, but thats about what it what it will run you wherever you find it.  What animal protein can you find that will feed 4 people for $1.50?
  • Tofu’s shelf life is generally at least a month (and usually more) from your purchase date.  Unless you plan on freezing your chicken/beef/pork/fish, nothing can compare to how long it stays fresh.

{but wait! there’s more…}

always on deck: spinach & edamame green curry with forbidden rice & crispy tofu

There is nothing worse after a long day than finally surrendering and sinking into your couch, having just tackled some of the laundry mountain and endured a torture session at the gym, to then feel that familiar seven-thirty-hunger-pang strike only to remember that you, in fact, have nothing to eat for dinner.

The tragedy of it all!  Sure there is that box of Annie’s white shells and cheddar that beckons from the dark reaches of the pantry, with it’s cute little rabbit and promises of a full belly in 6 minutes flat.   And you could always dial in some takeout – Indian perhaps, or a bit of pad thai – that surely would quell the rumblings quickly…if not for all but undoing said torture and rendering you too comatose with salt and sugar to fold and put away said laundry.

Or you could also just suck it up and survey the wreckage that is your fridge after a tough weekend, picking in and around the half-drunk bottle of Savignon Blanc, the teetering-on-the-edge-last-sip of skim milk, and the ripe remnants of last Thursday’s tuna wrap that conveniently, you had forgotten about until just now.  There must be something in there you could eat, no?

(Insert dissatisfied-nose-wrinkle-face here.)

When the pickings are slim, a trip to the grocery market is out of the question, and you are stah-ahhhving for something nutritious and satisfying that didn’t come delivered to your doorstep in a cheap white plastic bag, it’s all about being prepared.  Of course ‘being prepared’ will mean nothing if those desperate times are at this very moment; then I am afraid you are at the mercy of the delivery man.  It means that next time you must have your wits – and an extra tote bag – about you when you hit up the grocery store.  It means going into battle prepared with a list of things that you can use to make dinner in a pinch.  It means stocking the shelves to ensure you won’t be left hanging when your fridge is a wasteland and you’ve just got to have supper.

In the past year I might have, oh, I don’t know, mislead you just a teensy bit.  You see, upon closer inspection I realize that from outward appearances it must look like we are whooping it up every night over here at casa de {relish}, eating things like coq au vinmeatloaf, rock shrimp, shepherd’s pie, and rack of lamb on the reg.  Well I’m sorry to say, my dears, that isn’t always the case.

Over here in our little white house at the base of the Flatirons, I must admit that dinner is not always perfect; as much as I aspire to be June-Cleaver-esque in my presentation and execution of wonderful meals each and every night of the week, there are nights when my head hurts and I never made it to the market, or when those planned leftovers are shaping up more grody than good, or when the dog just ripped the entire month of February out of my planner, tore it into shreds, and then looked at me square in the eye whilst squatting and peeing on my freshly and professionally cleaned carpet.

Real life gets in the way.

{but wait! there’s more…}

un-doing the dog: miso-curry delicata squash with tofu and kale

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.

You understand.

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
Serves 4

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.