Friday, October 3, 2014

Tofu, Apples, and Leeks in a Gingery Cream Sauce

Today's recipe is the quintessence of autumn, and it's also one of my favorite home-cooked (by me) meals. In fact, I'm going to come clean and confess that I was so impressed with myself while eating it that I kept wriggling in my seat and making immodestly appreciative yummy sounds, because this is honestly like something you'd get in a restaurant.

There's a good reason for that, because it was loosely inspired by a dish I enjoyed at a local seafood place years ago (when I still ate ocean critters) featuring scallops, apples, and a cream sauce with maple and ginger. I love the combination of sweet and savory, and with a bushel of freshly-picked apples cluttering up the kitchen, I wanted something besides the usual pies and muffins, and decided to give this idea a shot.

And holy moly: what a success! It looks like - nay, it is - several steps, but it actually comes together pretty quickly, and if you want to use multiple pans everything can be done concurrently, aside from marinating the tofu. Even doing them all separately, I had dinner on the table about two hours after first conceiving the idea, which is relatively speedy for a meal that feels as high-concept (yet cozy) as this one. I served it with barley and lentil pilaf, which was a perfect combination of tastes and textures, but brown rice or another whole grain would also do nicely.

The Tofu
~ 1 14 oz. package tofu, drained and pressed
~ 2 tbsp. each: soy sauce, apple cider
~ 1 tbsp. each: maple syrup, canola oil
~ 1 tsp. each: prepared mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (I used Frank's)
~ 1/2 tsp. each: ground ginger, sage, garlic powder
~ Dash each: cinnamon, cayenne

~ Slice the block of tofu vertically down the middle, and then cut each half horizontally into thirds. Slice each of these in half on the diagonal so you have 12 triangular pieces. (I hope that make sense; I promise the mathy part of this enterprise is now over.)
~ Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour into a large, shallow baking dish.
~ Arrange the tofu pieces in the pan, and flip them over to coat them with the marinade. Allow to rest for at least an hour (most of the liquid will be absorbed).
~ Heat a non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and cook the tofu pieces for 4-5 minutes on each side. Transfer the cooked tofu to a dish and cover to keep warm.

The Leeks and Apples
~ 1 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 2 large leeks, sliced thin
~ 2 large apples, quartered and sliced into thin crescents
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, white pepper

~ In the same skillet, melt the margarine over medium heat and cook the leeks for 2-3 minutes, stirring to break them into rings.
~ Add the apples, salt, and pepper and continue cooking 12-15 minutes, until soft and slightly browned (add a splash of water or - better yet - apple cider if it starts to stick).
~ Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

The Ginger Cream Sauce
~ 1 tbsp. Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
~ 1 tbsp. fresh, grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, English mustard
~ Dash each: cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne
~ 1 tbsp. flour
~ 2.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. maple syrup

~ In a saucepan, melt the margarine over medium heat and saute the ginger for about 30 seconds.
~ Add the salt, mustard, cinnamon, turmeric, flour, and about 1/4 cup of soy milk. Cook for another 30 seconds or so to make a roux.
~ Gradually add the maple syrup and the remaining soy milk, stirring constantly, and continue cooking over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until slightly thickened.
~ Remove from heat.
~ To serve, arrange the tofu and the apple-leek mixture over rice, barley, or other grain, and ladle the sauce over the whole business. YUM.