Thursday, May 17, 2018

Tofu Katsu Curry

Speaking as a person who rarely fries things, I begin with the caveat that this recipe is a bit of a project, but it is also completely worth the trouble. I have now made this dish three times, and it's proved so popular that I've taken to doubling it. We had the latest batch with roasted green beans and carrots on the side, but it makes a delicious and satisfying meal all on its own with some steamed white or brown rice.

Tofu Katsu Curry
The Sauce
~ 1 tbsp. canola or other neutral oil
~ 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. fresh, grated ginger
~ 2 tsp. curry powder
~ 1 tsp. each: ground fenugreek, garam masala
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
~ 2.5 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 2 tbsp. soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp. agave nectar
~ 2 tsp. rice vinegar
~ Cooked white or brown rice to serve
~ Chopped scallions and/or shredded carrot for garnish

~ In a large saucepan or wok, heat the oil and cook the onion on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, ginger,  and dry seasonings; cook one minute more.
~ Add the flour, stir to coat and then pour in about ½ cup of vegetable stock; stir until the flour has dissolved, then add the soy sauce, agave, and remaining stock.
~ Bring the mixture just to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.
~ Stir in the rice vinegar and taste for seasoning.

The Tofu
~ 1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
~ Corn starch for dredging
~ 1 cup (or a little more) plain, unsweetened soy milk, whisked with 1 tbsp. of corn starch
~ Panko crumbs for dredging
~ Canola or other neutral oil for shallow frying

~ Heat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and place a foil-lined baking sheet inside.
~ Cut the tofu vertically into approximately 1 cm slices (between ¼ and ½ inch). Place on a  dry tea towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
~ Set up your dredging station with three wide, shallow bowls containing (respectively) corn starch, milk mixture, and panko. Dredge the tofu slices in the cornstarch, dip briefly into the milk, and then press each slice into the panko until thoroughly coated. Put the slices on a large plate as you finish coating them.
~ Line a large plate with paper towels, and pour about ½ inch of canola oil into the skillet over medium-high heat. When a piece of tofu breading thrown into the pan floats to the top, you're ready to fry.
~ Fry the tofu pieces for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Drain the cooked slices on the paper towels before transferring to the oven to keep warm until ready to serve.

To serve: place individual servings of rice in wide shallow bowls and top with crispy tofu, sauce, and chopped scallions and/or shredded carrots. You will probably have more sauce than you need, but why be skimpy?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Asparagus and White Bean Bisque

This absurdly good soup was inspired by two factors: my propensity for overbuying vegetables, and a recent post on Isa Chandra Moskowitz's blog. This past weekend we hosted a family holiday, and while grocery shopping I easily bought twice as much food as necessary, which is crazy but 100% predictable because I do the same thing every single time. So it was that after the leftovers were eaten I still had two bunches of asparagus in my refrigerator, awaiting a destiny that became clear when I saw this "garlicky white bean and asparagus soup." Since I am as incapable of following another person's recipe as I am of buying a normal amount of food, I made significant alterations to the prototype, and happily share the creamy, delicious, and ever-so-green results with you here.

Asparagus and White Bean Bisque

~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 large potato, diced (I used Yukon Gold)
~ ¼ cup minced garlic
~ 2 bunches asparagus, chopped (leave the tips about 1” long and set aside)
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ 2 tsp. each: marjoram, tarragon
~ ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
~ A few healthy grinds black pepper
~ 1 15 oz. can navy, great northern, or other white beans
~ 6 cups “no chicken” broth
~ 1 cup chopped, fresh parsley

~ Get a non-stick skillet very hot and cook the asparagus tips for 4-5 minutes, until bright green and slightly charred. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.
~ In a large, deep pot, cook the chopped onion and potato over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden but not brown.
~ Add the garlic, asparagus, dry seasonings, and about a cup of broth. Stir well, cover the pot, and allow the vegetables to steam for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the canned beans with their liquid and the remaining broth. Bring the mixture just to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer, Continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
~ Add the fresh parsley and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Serve hot, garnished with the charred asparagus tips.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Scotch Broth

Here in the northeastern USA, we are currently experiencing the sort of extreme winter weather that inspires hysteria in the news media, with bizarre coinages like "bomb cyclone," "thundersnow," and "wintercane." In times like these our best defense is always soup; I'd been thinking about veganizing my mother's Scotch Broth for awhile, so I hit the kitchen and today's recipe is the happy result. Since the traditional dead sheep was off the table - what kind of asshole eats a lamb? - I used mushrooms for that "meaty" je ne sais quoi. Swede/turnip is also conspicuously absent (we are not fans so I didn't have any), but if you've a mind to just chop up a cup or so and add it with the other root vegetables. This is a very hearty, filling soup that's perfect for a cold night snuggled up in your pjs while the bombogenesis rages outside.

Scotch Broth
~ ⅔ cup barley
~ ½ cup each: green split peas, yellow split peas
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: thyme, marjoram
~ 1 tbsp. each: canola oil, vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
~ 1 yellow onion, diced
~ 1 large leek, chopped
~ 2 parsnips, diced
~ 2 carrots, diced
~ 2 stalks celery, diced
~ Freshly ground black pepper
~ ½ tsp. white pepper
~ 1 tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 2 tsp. Marmite
~ 2 bay leaves

~ Rinse the barley, green peas, and yellow peas in a colander, then cover with water and soak for at least a few hours (the longer the better; I did this first thing in the morning). 
~ Get a non-stick skillet screaming hot and cook the mushrooms over high heat until brown and crisp. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
~ In a large, deep pot, heat the margarine and oil and saute the onion for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, until softened but not browned.
~ Add the leek, parsnips, carrots, celery, and dried seasonings; continue cooking for ten minutes.
~ Drain the barley and the green and yellow split peas and add them to the pot. Stir to combine and add the broth, Worcestershire sauce, Marmite, and bay leaves.
~ Cover the pot, raise the heat to high, and bring just to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally, until the peas are soft. (You can add a bit more water if it looks too thick, but you're going for a hearty texture here.)
~ Stir in the cooked mushrooms, taste for seasoning, fish out the bay leaves, and serve hot with crusty bread.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Peppery Glazed Tofu

Welcome to winter! It's been an extremely busy autumn around here, and between teaching, various professional and personal obligations, and staring in open-mouthed horror as the world burns down, I haven't had much time to conduct or write about kitchen experiments. But people need to eat, and the other night I decided to try my hand at Yotam Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu, which I'd been eyeing for awhile. As is often the case with his recipes, the prototype is needlessly elaborate, deploying multiple steps, esoteric ingredients, and a shedload of unnecessary fat - oil for frying and 11 tbsp. (?!) of butter? For four servings? - on its circuitous mission to destroy the kitchen. 

My version is less messy, more pantry-friendly, and much easier on the arteries and waistline. Besides dialing back the grease, I thought a glaze/sauce would be a nice addition and departed radically from the original recipe, which wound up being more inspirational model than actual source. But I'm happy to report that the results were hugely successful; served with steamed, short grain brown rice and stir-fried green beans, this made a totally delicious and satisfying dinner. My one caveat is that it was gobbled up so quickly that there were nearly no leftovers, so if you're serving four or more hungry people you might want to double it. (I will certainly do so next time!)

Peppery Glazed Tofu
~ 1 package firm tofu, drained and pressed
~ 2 tbsp. cornstarch
~ ½ tsp each: salt, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder
~ 2 tsp. canola oil
~ 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 small red onion, chopped fine
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. grated ginger
~ 1 tbsp. each: soy sauce, rice vinegar, hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
~ 1 cup water mixed with 1 tsp. “no chicken” bouillon ~ 3 tbsp. tomato paste
~ ½ cup ice water whisked with 2 tsp. cornstarch

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil and place in the oven.
~ Slice the block of tofu in half horizontally, and cut into approximately 1” cubes.
~ In a bowl with a lid, combine the 2 tbsp. cornstarch, salt, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder. Add the cubed tofu, cover the bowl, and shake to coat the tofu thoroughly.
~ Place the tofu cubes on the preheated baking sheet, shaking off and reserving any excess coating as you go. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden and crispy, turning at the halfway point. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ In a large skillet or wok, heat the canola and sesame oils over medium-high heat and cook the chopped red onion for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute or so, until fragrant.
~ Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and hot sauce and cook for a few minutes more before adding the broth and tomato paste.
~ Stir well, raise the heat to nearly boiling, and then turn the heat to medium-low and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, until somewhat reduced in volume.
~ Add the ice water and cornstarch mixture and whisk thoroughly.
~ Add the cooked tofu and any leftover reserved coating and mix well. Continue cooking for ten minutes more, taste for seasoning, and serve hot over steamed rice.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Adorable Stuffed Honeynut Squash

[Insert by-now standard disclaimer/apology for dilatory blogging habits and hopes for more regular updates in the upcoming months. TL;DR: 2017 sucks beyond all reasonable suckage levels, and maintains so politic a state of evil that - with a very few exceptions - it will not admit any good part to intermingle with it. So it’s a bloomin’ miracle anyone even manages to wake up and wash themselves, let alone devise interesting meals to post on the internet.]

On a recent stop at our local health food store I spotted a basket of these adorable mini-butternut squashes. The produce boffin told me they’re a relatively new variety called honeynut, and gave them such a glowing recommendation that I brought a few home, where they sat on the kitchen table for a few days, awaiting their destiny.

Mollie Kaizen’s Moosewood books were an important resource back in my nascent cooking days, and I briefly considered veganizing one of her classic (albeit egg-&-dairy-laden) stuffed squash recipes, but decided instead to lighten things up and go freestyle. The result was a super-autumnal and surprisingly filling meal; I’d envisioned a half squash per person, but in the event we wound up getting eight servings from this recipe.

Honeynut squash has a sweeter, more intense flavor than regular butternut and a deeper orange color; it would be delicious simply baked with salt & pepper and some olive oil or Earth Balance. It’s also a lot easier to handle in terms of slicing and cutting, so I definitely see more of it in our future. That said, if you can’t find these little darlings, you could easily use any winter squash instead, with the cooking times adjusted accordingly.

Adorable Stuffed Honeynut Squash
~ 2 honeynut squashes, sliced lengthwise with seeds removed
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, chopped (I used baby bellas)
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 slices whole grain bread, toasted and crumbled
~ 1 tsp. each: kosher salt, marjoram, parsley
~ ½ tsp. thyme
~ A few generous grinds black pepper
~ Dash nutmeg or mace
~ ½ cup water or vegetable stock (as needed)

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil.
~ Score the cut sides of the squashes and season well with salt and pepper; you can also rub a little olive oil into them if you like.
~ Place the squashes cut side down on the baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork.
~ Remove from oven and set aside; when they are cool enough to handle, scoop out the cooked flesh, leaving about a ¼” around the rim.
~ Get a large skillet very hot, and sauté the mushrooms in 1 tbsp. of the olive oil, until browned and crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.
~ In the same skillet, sauté the onions, garlic, salt, marjoram, parsley, thyme, black pepper, and nutmeg (or mace!) over medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not browned.
~ Stir in the cooked mushrooms, crumbled bread, and cooked squash; mix well and continue cooking another 5 minutes, adding the water or stock as needed to get a “stuffing” consistency.
~ Divide the filling among the scooped-out squash skins, pressing down with a spoon to get it all in there.
~ Turn the oven up to 425 degrees and bake the filled squash, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, or until browned to your liking (ovens vary wildly; you know yours best).
~ Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Platonically Ideal Banana Walnut Muffins

What's not to love about muffins? Sweet or savory, full-sized or mini - there's something inherently cozy and comforting about a basket of these little darlings on the counter. And because they require so little time or effort, you get a lot of domestic street cred bang for your buck! Today's recipe has everything you could wish for in a muffin: a little sweet (bananas), a little crispy (walnuts), and pretty healthy into the bargain, so they are equally suited for breakfast or a random snack. I get a dozen from this recipe, but people will almost certainly eat more than one at a time (the batch I made yesterday is disappearing at an alarming rate) so if you have a hungry household like ours you might want to make double; they also freeze or refrigerate well.

Platonically Ideal Banana Walnut Muffins
~ 1 cup plain unsweetened soy(or other non-dairy) milk
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ ⅓ cup canola oil
~ ⅓ cup maple (or agave) syrup
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 4 large, very ripe bananas 
~ 2.5 cups white whole-wheat flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. cinnamon
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, salt, ground ginger
~ ¼ tsp. nutmeg
~ ¾ cup chopped walnuts
~ 1 tbsp. brown sugar

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In a beaker, combine the soy milk with the vinegar and set aside for a few minutes. Add the flaxseed, and whisk vigorously for about a minute.
~ Stir in the oil, syrup, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas and mix well to combine.
~ In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg). Sprinkle in the walnuts and toss to coat; this will give them some "grip" in the batter.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, stir in the wet mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.
~ Spoon the batter evenly into your prepared muffin tin, and sprinkle the brown sugar and nutmeg (if using) on top.
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (NB ovens differ wildly, so your mileage may vary.)
~ Remove from oven and allow the muffins to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. These are equally good eaten warm or at room temperature, by themselves or with a schmear of whatever you fancy.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Quick & Easy Herb Bread

"The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight." ~ M.F.K. Fisher

There are few things nicer than bread fresh out of the oven, but too often the idea of actually making it conjures up images of long hours in the kitchen (see above, but without Zorn’s charming brushwork). Of course, the truth is that baking bread needn't be an arduous ordeal; with a little planning and minimal effort you can have a proper yeast-raised loaf in a couple of hours. 

But there are those times when even that level of forethought and/or organizational skill eludes us, and that’s where quick breads come in. Cornbread, soda bread, zucchini bread, and even savory muffins are handy on such occasions, and today’s recipe is a worthy addition to that list: a fragrant, flavorful, and eminently sliceable herb bread that can go from your imagination to your dinner table in just over an hour.

Quick & Easy Herb Bread
~ 1.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ ⅓ cup good quality olive oil
~ 2.5 cups white whole wheat flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, garlic powder, white pepper
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley
~ 1 tbsp. vegan margarine, melted (or more olive oil)

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and coat a loaf pan with cooking spray.
~ In a bowl or beaker, whisk together the soy milk, vinegar, and flaxseed. Add the olive oil, mix well, and set aside.
~ In a separate mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients (flour through dry seasonings) and combine thoroughly.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the soy milk mixture; stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined.
~ Transfer the batter to your waiting loaf pan, smooth with a spatula to make sure it spreads evenly. Pour the melted margarine (or olive oil) over the top and add a few grinds of black pepper.
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
~ Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a board to cool for another 10 minutes before slicing.