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.
I must admit- I’ve really started slacking at cooking since Sean and I met. He’s such a talented chef and spent the last year cooking for us many nights each week, regardless of his work schedule. All of that changed since taking on his new role as Kitchen Manager at Zeal. He spent a month getting the place up and running and now, almost two months into his new job, is hardly ever at home, so I have stepped back into my role as an avid home cook. He deserves it, and it’s fun for me, too.
As it’s winter, I thought something hearty would be enjoyed for dinner. I’m calling this one a Veggie Shepherd’s Pot Pie. It is pretty easy to prepare, but takes some time, so allow a few hours from start to finish.
First, I made the pie crust by basically following THIS RECIPE but adjusting it for just one cup of flower. After making the dough, I let it sit in the fridge for a little over an hour to chill.
While the dough was chilling in the fridge, I started chopping a yellow onion, four or five stalks of celery, four rather large carrots, and a peeled garnet yam. I added these to a sauté pan with a little olive oil and let them slowly start to cook. Next, I chopped up two Smoked Apple Sage Sausages (vegan sausages, of course) made by Field Roast, an artisan grain meat company. Sean introduced me to this company and I’ve come to really enjoy some of their products. It’s not typical fake meat trying to imitate meat and meat products. Field Roast makes a variety of sausages that are clearly not meat, yet are versatile and tasty additions that complete many of our vegetarian dishes here at home. And, the ingredient list on their sausages meets my high standards.
So, into the pan went the chopped sausage, a few splashes of homemade veggie broth, and I let this all cook on medium for thirty or forty minutes. Then I salted and peppered to taste, added a pinch of dried crumpled sage, a little parsley and thyme. I chopped a handful of kale and added it to the mix at the end and took my pan off the heat. It was now time to roll out my dough, make my bottom crust in a pie pan, and add the filling.
Don’t forget to PREHEAT THE OVEN, by the way, to 350 degrees.
I boiled water and cooked a white Hannah yam while making the filling, but set it to the side for the first 15 minutes the pie was in the oven. When the yam was cool enough to touch, I mashed it and spread it over the pie (which I had briefly taken out of the oven, of course) and then let it bake until the top was starting to develop a crust and turn brown and the pie crust was golden and crispy (20 more minutes or so). The look on Sean’s face when he returned home after another fifteen hour work day was all I needed to know I had really shown him how much I care. After all, we all know the way to a man’s heart…
One slice of this was definitely not enough for either of us. I must admit- this was one of my best dishes in a long time.
I bought a Himalayan Salt Brick from Savory Spice Shop to explore something new in my kitchen. Lucky for me, I’m dating a chef, so it turns out he took on the opportunity to try something new and let me drink wine and take photos. Not such a bad arrangement.
A Himalayan salt brick is a large slab of Himalayan crystal salt that you can heat up to high temps to bake, sauté, or grill; chill to serve cold foods; use to cure meats; and present as a serving platter. It’s a gorgeous slab of light pink marbled “stone,” and I’d wanted one ever since they were first for sale at Savory.
Sean and I used our brick once before in the oven, and I never got around to a blog post… been busy guiding food tours, you know.
Baking on the brick was similar to baking on a pizza stone. The stove top, however, was a new frontier.
Sean spent some time researching this one. If you have a gas range you can set the flame in a way that the stone isn’t directly in contact with fire, but heats up. An electric range, however, requires something to be positioned between the stove top and the brick. We used a tart shell, but a cake ring or wok ring would work also.
After a trip to the Boulder Farmers’ Market, we had carrots, onions, and squash for grilling.
Sean sliced them and threw them on the hot salt brick while marinating some extra firm tofu that had been frozen, pressed, thawed, and marinated in a little peanut oil and Harissa Spice Mix from nowhere other than Savory Spice Shop.
Our meal was simple, yet took quite some time to execute since we spent forty minutes or so heating up the brick, which crackled and poped in ways that concerned us it was going to crack on the stove. The brick did impart a slightly salty taste to the veggies, which were grilled plain, but didn’t give off a flavor that stood up to the Harissa blend. In the end, the food was great and our dinner was fun, but it was a very long process to prepare what could have been a quick meal on the grill outside or the stovetop. But then, we wouldn’t have been able to say we grilled on a salt brick, now, would we?
Call me old fashioned. But, when he calls me at 9 pm to say he’s coming over, I naturally ask if he’s eaten. When the response is “no,” I think it’s time to get cooking. Nine pm is generally considered late to start cooking, so I decided to make something simple with whatever I had in the kitchen. In this case, for my eighth dish in my 14-part series (or challenge:) of giving him a taste of how much I care, I made roasted sweet potato and carrot coconut soup topped with coconut baby bok choy. With a name so long, it might sound like a complex dish, but it was simple and delicious.
Here’s how I made it-
I started by roasting two garnet yams (peeled), four carrots (also peeled), and a sliced shallot in a tablespoon of coconut cream (or fat- the thick cream at the top of an undisturbed can of coconut milk) and a few tablespoons of maple syrup. This took approximately 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
When the yams and carrots are easily pierced with a fork, remove them from the oven and let them cool for 15 minutes or so. Meanwhile, skim off the rest of the coconut fat and separate it from the clear water. I LOVE this white temptress. I could eat it with a spoon.
Next, coarsely chop the baby bok choy and separate the leafy greens from the celery-like stalk. Chop a little red onion (maybe 1/2 cup), and you’re ready to assemble the meal.
Put the yams and carrots, the rest of the coconut water, and enough broth (veggie or chicken) to cover the yams into the Vitamix. Blend this into a perfectly smooth puree (it just takes a few seconds in my favorite 2 horse-power toy). Pour this into a stock pot and simmer on medium high. I seasoned it with some cinnamon, cayenne, Vietnamese Sweet Lemongrass Curry (a Savory Spice Shop original), and soy sauce. How much of those ingredients did I add? I don’t know… a little of this, a little of that. I’d say season to your liking.
While the soup was heating, I added the last dollop of coconut fat to a pan on medium high and started to sauté the onion. When that was translucent, I added the stalky part of the bok choy and got that soft before adding the chopped bok choy leaves. Then a splash of soy sauce, and it’s done.
Top the soup with coconut baby bok choy and enjoy.