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.

Maple Masala Pecan and Szechwan Peppercorn Crusted Tofu

The first thing Sean said upon tasting the Cosmic Maple Masala Pecans by Olomomo Nut Company was that they’d make a great crust to something. Indeed they did with the addition of Szechwan Peppercorns from Savory Spice Shop.

Cosmic Maple Masala Pecans and Szechwan Peppercorn Crust

He ground them in our mortar and pestle, and then crusted some extra firm tofu that had been (of course) frozen, thawed, and pressed. The tofu pieces were crusted and pan fried in peanut oil until oh-so-gorgeously golden brown.

Crusted Tofu

These were a perfect accompaniment to sautéed greens and brown rice. Nothing fancy, but a somewhat effortless great meal thanks to the maple masala crust.

Julian’s Providence, R.I.

Sean and I had one morning to spend in Providence, RI, which I was excited about because I had never been there, but know they have a pretty phenomenal culinary scene. I did a lot of research looking for “food bloggers Providence”  and similar terms hoping to come up with a “must-eat” list, but was really disappointed with the lack of local bloggers helping someone like me get hip to their food-scene. A few posts and blogs mentioned Julian’s, but I wasn’t really excited about it. I had something else in mind that I wanted to experience for my one and only meal on a Monday late morning/lunch stop.

We were in a time crunch to get back to Sean’s twin sister’s house in MA as he hadn’t seen her in an unacceptable number of years, nor had he met his twin niece and nephew. We couldn’t lollygag all day exploring the city, and our Air BnB room was a few blocks away from Julian’s, which was coincidentally one of the only places open around 11 am on Monday. So, Julian’s it was.

And I’m SO GLAD it was. This place was cool. Very cool. The decor was kind of ridiculous with some dragon-like-serpent hanging from the ceiling and “slithering” throughout the place. But, we were greeted by someone super friendly, seated, and had a great server. So far, so good. And, they’re KISS fans… ?

We started off with a Bloody Mary, one of my all time favorite drinks that I drink all too infrequently. Sean remembered half-way into his that he doesn’t really like them, so I got to finish his when he switched to beer. I definitely took one for the team!

Since I’m going to marry a vegetarian, I’m basically a vegetarian:) But seriously- I had been a strict vegetarian from age 13 to 21, and then was a pescatarian until age 24. I still prefer to eat vegetarian and appreciate restaurants that invite vegetarians to have an enjoyable meal- not just pasta primavera or a seasonal veggie platter as is all too often the case. Julian’s is a place where everyone can find something great.

I ordered the first dish on their Specials board-  a tofu scramble with roasted summer vegetables, shaved radish, fennel, and toast. It was so good I pretty much ate the whole thing despite being full.

This place is a REAL restaurant that makes almost everything in house. You have to appreciate that, especially since they do a wide variety and it seems like they do it all well. Granted, we were just there for one meal. But, everything was spot on. Including Chef Sean’s indulgent meal, an eggs benedict.

I had one bite, but he pretty much licked the platter clean as if he were Jack Sprat eating Swift’s Premium Ham. Did I just lose you there? I grew up with this poster in my kitchen-

Anyway- Julian’s was great. We’re still speaking really highly of it almost two months after our trip (I know, it took me a while to document our food journey). But, I’m pretty sure almost anyone out there will find something enjoyable on their menu. More importantly, I’m pretty sure they’ll do a nice job cooking anything and everything on their menu. It’s a great restaurant and there’s a reason it’s a Providence establishment. Though, I’m still trying to figure out just why anyone lives in Providence in the first place…

Julian’s

318 Broadway, Providence, RI

401.861.1770

 

Grilling on the Stove Top with a Himalayan Salt Brick

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?

Cheers!

 

 

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