Vietnamese Sweet Lemon Curry Soba Noodle Tofu Salad

If I’m going to enjoy tofu, it HAS to have been frozen, thawed, and pressed before being seasoned and cooked. Freezing tofu changes the texture into something I almost find enjoyable, so there’s always a block sitting in our freezer. This cold soba noodle salad with tofu, locally grown carrots, peppers, and tomatoes, and fried garlic is well worth repeating.

Here’s how I made it.

First, the thawed tofu needs to be pressed to expel excess liquid. I usually wrap it in a few layers of paper towels and gently squeeze it, being careful not to squeeze too hard and tear the block. Then it’s ready to be cut into bite-sized pieces and marinated. I chose a dry rub since it was going to be fried. Wet marinades make for quite a mess when it hits hot oil. Lesson learned!

The tofu was generously seasoned with Vietnamese Sweet Lemon Curry from Savory Spice Shop and then pan fried in peanut oil until crispy on all sides. The secret to getting a nice crust on each side is having a hot pan, hot oil, and not checking the food to see if it’s cooked, but waiting until it’s fully seared before flipping it. The chef-husband had to lecture me a few times on this before I listened, and what a difference it makes! Gone (hopefully) are the days of tofu sticking to the pan and breaking apart when it’s flipped, leaving smaller pieces to burn and stripping the tofu of it’s coating (read: flavor). After each side gets a crust, just remove them and let them cool.

Next, a chopped carrot and green pepper from the Boulder Farmer’s Market went into the peanut oil pan to heat them ever so slightly. I boiled soba noodles according to the instructions on the package and then rinsed them in cold water to keep them from cooking, fried some garlic until crispy, chopped a jalapeño, and sliced a tomato.

I tossed the cold noodles with sesame seeds and the carrot and pepper pieces, and then drizzled some toasted sesame seed oil, fresh squeezed lemon, soy sauce (I prefer the unpasteurized Nama Shoyu brand), and a little local honey. Finally, I added diced jalapeño and crispy fried garlic for an extra crunch and kick.

Fried Garlic

Do you LOVE garlic? Are you totally fine with garlic breath lingering after a meal? I am. But my garlic “chips” really aren’t too crazy. They won’t end your date night early. They’ll be a star on your table if garlic goes well with your meal.

Fried Garlic

This is really easy to make, but you must pay attention or else it will burn.

Peel and slice garlic. I sliced 4 cloves 1/16th inch thick. Heat oil in a pan. I heated 3-4 tablespoons of sunflower oil to medium high. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir frequently so each piece cooks evenly.

When golden brown, let cool on a paper towel.

Add as a garnish to soups, salads, grind in a mortar and pestle for garlic powder…

I HOPE Hummus

I was invited to visit Hope Foods, maker of the incredibly fresh and delicious Hope Hummus, in Louisville, Colorado. I’ve seen the name around for a few years now, but I can’t recall ever purchasing one of their products before. I knew that they started selling hummus at the Boulder County Farmers Market, and I knew they’d expanded and were on shelves in a number of our local grocers, but that’s the most I could have told you before last week. Now I could talk your ear off about what a great local company they are and how Hope Hummus should be your hummus of choice if you’re not making it from scratch at home. It will certainly be my go-to when I’m not following Chef Mike Solomonov’s recipe, which is a very traditional Israeli hummus. In fact, I was so inspired by my visit to Hope Foods that I’ll likely tweak chef Solomonov’s recipe the next time I make it.

~Inspiration to create new flavors of garbanzo bean spread~ That’s what came to me on our media party at Hope Foods. We were given two bowls of hummus, a “regular” or savory one and a sweet one that was sweetened with agave syrup. There was a table of ingredients full of spices, herbs, jams, nut butters, pumpkin, roasted peppers, lemons, limes, coconut flakes, goji berries…you name it and it was likely on a table for us to mix our own flavored hummus.

Hope Hummus

I added pumpkin puree, curry powder, cayenne pepper, turmeric powder, lemon juice, fresh thyme and ground black pepper to my savory bowl. Then mixed it all together and scooped it into a Ball jar labeled for A Bolder Table, which was a nice touch :)

 

 

 

Next up was the sweet hummus, which I wasn’t really sure what I’d enjoy, so I kept it simple: Almond butter and blackberry jam.

Hope Hummus

This combination would go really well on toast, and I would have NEVER thought of sweetening hummus on my own, so I’m inspired to try a variety of combinations in the future.

 

 

 

 

After mixing up some unique spreads, we were given a tour of the 15,000 square foot hummus factory, and learned that Hope Foods doesn’t make a ton of hummus and store it until an order comes in. They make hummus to order, so there’s a two day turn-around time from when they make the hummus to when it’s loaded on a truck for delivery. That’s FRESH in my opinion. It’s also Cold Pressure Prepped, which means it needs neither preservatives nor high heat to ensure each batch is safe from pathogens, bacteria, and mold. Another important detail that sets them apart from their competitors is adding olive oil rather than canola oil to their hummus. In short, Hope Foods makes fresh hummus using as few ingredients as they can without skimping on ingredient quality to produce a large quantity of food. I can stand behind that.

An operation that started with a group of friends making hummus in a commissary kitchen and selling it at the farmers market now employs 30+ people and makes more than ten different flavors of hummus. In my opinion, this company is doing everything right, and I am proud to have them as a local producer here in Colorado. I hope they continue to spread good things.

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Meat? Have we come that far? The appeal of the Beyond Burger is beyond me.

When our local Whole Foods ripped out it’s prepared foods counter to install a Beyond Meat Burger Bar, Sean and I took a look at these veggie patties and decided to pick some up for our July fourth BBQ. Would we buy them again? No. Not a chance.

Beyond Meat

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pea protein burgers are in the freezer section, and they look very much like ground beef. Once you get through the packaging, they’re VERY similar in appearance to beef.

The Beyond Burger

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re juicy, unlike any other veggie patty I’ve seen. Beet juice makes them red, and it allows them to “bleed” when you bite into them. That’s where this company lost me as a potential consumer/customer. I enjoy veggie patties that function like a burger in the sense that they stick together and can be on a bun with toppings. If I wanted the meat-eating experience, I’d eat a real burger. But, we gave them a try…

The Beyond Burger

 

 

 

 

 

 

We thawed them and followed grilling instructions. These patties have coconut oil, which makes the grill flare up as soon as they go on. Personally, I’m not on the coconut oil bandwagon and don’t easily succumb to food trends, so, though it’s smart to add it for the grilling experience, it’s a bit gimmicky to me. The chicken sausage from Whole Foods on the right of the grill was my dinner for the night, by the way.

The Beyond Burger

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beyond Burger grills up to really look like a burger.

The Beyond Burger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chef dressed one up with all of the Sir Kensington’s condiments we had in the house as well as some romaine, blue cheese, and caramelized onions. It looks like a burger, kind of tastes like a burger, but isn’t a burger. It’s a highly processed food item designed to look like one of the “sexiest” things you can indulge in. A Hamburger. So, this is where they’ve completely lost me. Why do we Americans need to create food items that resemble things we enjoy eating, but make them “healthy” by making them vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, or paleo? I’m going to stick to a balanced diet of mostly vegetables with an occasional indulgence in meat, seafood, chicken, or turkey. And, chef and I will continue to make home-made veggie patties when we’re feeling like a burger at home.

Beyond Meat has “chicken” strips, tenders, burgers, and crumbled “beef” all made of veggie protein. While I agree whole-heartedly that we should consume fewer animals and animal products, I don’t think that needs to be highly processed, packaged, and made to resemble the animal protein we’re eliminating or cutting back on for the time being. Why can’t a vegetarian stir fry have just veggies and rice in some amazing spice or sauce? Why does it need to include a fake piece of chicken that looks and almost tastes like chicken? Just as weaning your way off of sugar and chocolate bars will eventually cut your sugar addiction, eating more of and enjoying more whole foods based meals will change your eating habits and preferences. Give it a try. I dare you.

Massaged Kale Salad #1

On a recent culinary tour in Denver with my company Local Table Tours, I met a gal who was hysterically sassy, smart, and memorable. She has an interesting story of living in bumble f*%& Nebraska with her husband, who always requests the same kale salad. I don’t remember the ingredients she told me, and I do hope if she reads this post she emails me with them, but she had me cracking up about massaging the kale. Apparently, one can get tired of massaging kale, so she’s started just “slapping” it with olive oil and says hubby can’t tell the difference.

Anyway, it had me thinking all week how I’ve never “massaged” kale. I always boil, sautee, or bake those hearty greens. It was time to try giving them a nice massage.

I washed, de-veined, and chopped some dino kale, and added that with some minced spring garlic, olive oil, and sea salt to a bowl.

Pre-Massage

Pre-Massage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, you just “massage” it, or kneed it all together like bread dough for a few minutes.

Post Massage

Post-Massage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And let it sit. I left it for an hour or so before tossing it with garbanzo beans, tomato, celery, and avocado.

Add some crunch, protein, and avocado

Add some crunch, protein, and avocado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was SO easy, so delicious, and I’m SO silly for not making this sooner.

Dinner is served

Dinner is served.

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