Tahini and Tofu Patties

tahini 5.25.13

You can do a lot with tahini…though you may not. If you are like me or a couple friends I was talking with recently, you may buy a jar, because you like the idea of it, you know you can make hummus out of it, and there must be more you can do with it, but, nevertheless, after the hummus, or maybe using it as a spread like peanut butter or stirring it into soup, it might sit in the fridge unused for a long time.

Similar to smooth peanut butter in texture, it has a nutty taste and smell, but, made from ground sesame seeds, there’s something richer about it, and a little goes a long way. So recipes for it often include lemons or lemon juice, which balance that richness.

Well, I had a new jar of tahini, and I had lemons. I could’ve made hummus, but when I saw I had tofu, I decided to make patties, and expand my tahini repertoire. And I pulled out cilantro and garlic to go with all that, too.

I thought tahini added to mashed-up tofu would add a nice flavor and also bind it all together. So I added a half-cup of tahini (one-quarter cup at a time to see how much I would need) to a 15-ounce package of extra-firm tofu, which I mashed up til it was all broken up. Then to that, a good handful of chopped cilantro and two minced garlic cloves, salt and pepper.

It held together well, and depending on the size, you can easily get six or seven patties out of it. Because I had sesame seeds, I also coated each side with those, and then set them in the fridge to firm up a little.

I heated canola oil in a pan over medium heat, making the oil a little deeper than just coating the pan. Then, in two batches, I fried the patties, turning them once, cooking them on each side for a good three minutes or so.

A couple broke, but only because of small pieces of tofu I hadn’t crumbled well.

A bit of crunch on the outside,  creamy on the inside because of the tahini, and, of course,  the nutty sesame flavor. I cut the lemon into wedges to squeeze their juice over the patties, which added a brightness and, yes, balanced the richness.

I just had them as they were, but they would be great with a corn tortilla or pita or naan, with just lemon juice squirted over top and the addition of lettuce or thinly sliced cucumbers, or maybe the drizzle of cucumber-yogurt sauce.

And now I have another way to use tahini.

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Tomatillos and Guacamole

Avocados are one of my favorite foods, and guacamole is one of my favorite ways to eat them.

tomatillos 2 5.18.13Guacamole is basically mashed avocados, and variations abound. Creamy avocados work well as a complement and as a contrast, and so might be paired with the heat of jalapenos, the sweetness of diced tomatoes or mangos, the citrus notes of lime or lemon or cilantro, the bite of garlic. Some guacamoles are mashed, and some are chunky like a salsa.

I’ve played with combinations through the years, but for a long time now, I consider my “house” guacamole to be a green one. I like to mash ripe avocados with my hands. That way I get a mixed texture of mashed and chunkiness. Then I’ll add thinly sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, minced jalapeno, lime juice, salt and pepper. The proportions depend on preference and how many avocados you’re starting with.

For this batch, I had four small avocados, so I used two thinly sliced scallions, two seeded and minced jalapenos, a good handful of chopped cilantro, and the juice from one small lime, salt and pepper. I taste as I add each ingredient, since things like the size of a lime and its juiciness vary from one to another.

And in keeping with green, tomatillos seemed a perfectly appropriate addition. I removed the papery husks from the varying-sized tomatillos I had (not quite a pound, total), rinsed them, cut the bigger ones into smaller pieces to have everything about the same size and par-boiling evenly. Tossed them into boiling water for just a few minutes (two or three), drained, and cooled.

I chopped the tomatillos, added them to the mashed avocado, and then added the other ingredients.tomatillos 3 5.18.13

It was tasty, and different. Because the tomatillos have a pulpiness, the texture of the guacamole was a little like when you have a dip that you add, say, sour cream to. And they bring an earthier flavor to play with the fresher, light flavor of avocados.

Great with tortilla chips (of course!). And there’s just a little left over in the fridge that looks like it will make a perfect sandwich spread.

Tomatillos and Salsa Verde

tomatillos 1 5.11.13Basically the same ingredients as last week. But a different preparation…and you have salsa verde. Green sauce.

Another basic that tomatillos are perfect for, and that I hesitated to make in the past, because somewhere in the back of my head I was thinking, “Don’t you have to do something to them first?” That extra little vague step that I hadn’t yet taken the time to get clear on.

But I’m clearer on that now. I’ve learned that the approach is pretty casual. In just the three cookbooks I referred to on Southwestern cooking, there were several variations. The point seems to be simply to get the rawness out of the tomatillos. And a few ways to do that are by:

…placing the tomatillos, whole, and still in their papery husks, onto a dry skillet over medium heat, turning them as they get some charred and softened spots (the approach I used last week). I’m sure no rules would be broken if you removed the husks first, and then pan-roasted.

…peeling away the husks, rinsing the tomatillos to remove some of the stickiness, and then placing them whole or chopped into boiling water to parboil for one to three minutes.

…tossing the tomatillos, husks and all, into boiling water to parboil, and removing the husks after draining.

Because I was doing a green sauce, I decided to parboil this time, to not have the browner, charred parts from pan-roasting, just to keep a greener sauce.

Into a pot of boiling water, I added some salt; then one and a half pounds of tomatillos, which I had husked, rinsed, and cored (don’t know if the coring was necessary, since it softens in the water anyway, but I was following the guidelines from a recipe, so, yes, that is another variation!); and four jalapenos, from which I’d removed the stems, but otherwise tossed in whole (the recipe had suggested five. I felt more comfortable at the heat level of four, since seeds were going in, too. Of course, this is personal preference time.).

I brought the water back to a boil, let them cook for a couple of minutes, and then drained them.

I dried out that pot, and then heated enough oil to coat the bottom. To that I added one chopped white onion and seven chopped garlic cloves. As I roughly chopped the jalapenos and tomatillos, I added those to the pan, and let everything cook together for about five minutes.

Then I took out my stick blender and carefully puréed it all. (Instead of using a stick blender, this could, of course, be puréed in a blender.) I liked the consistency after puréeing, and could’ve stopped there, as in one of the recipes I’d referred to. But I decided to add vegetable stock, as a couple other versions suggested. I added just over two cups of broth, and let that simmer for a good 20 minutes, so it cooked down some and thickened.

I added salt and pepper, and about a quarter-cup of chopped cilantro.

This sauce has a beautiful play of greens, and good, even heat.

For dinner that night, we drizzled it over fried eggs and sliced avocados, with corn tortillas on the side. The eggs and avocados were a good balance to the heat of the salsa verde.

The next day I drizzled it over a broccoli risotto I made. That was nice, too!

Still have a nice amount of salsa verde left, so I’m thinking enchiladas tonight.

Simple Salsa with Tomatillos

tomatillos 1 5.4.13There was a small basket of them displayed. The sign said “New.” Distinguishable from green tomatoes because of their papery overskirts, the newly arrived tomatillos looked so appealing that I took five of them home.

I always like the idea of tomatillos, but whenever I buy them, it’s like the first time all over again. I’ll vaguely remember that you should pre-cook them a little, and then refer to a cookbook or two for the preferred methods for that.

The thing is I’m drawn to them because I like Tex-Mex flavors. I’ve bought tomatillos in the past, and my husband has absorbed them into his chilis. I’m sure I’ve done something with them myself, but I truly don’t remember.

This time, though, they were mine. And I was happy to make a basic salsa.

Tomatillos have a light flavor, and are a little tart. One cookbook suggested to remove the papery husks, rinse off any stickiness, chop into large pieces and parboil for just a minute. Another cookbook suggested “roasting” the tomatillos on a dry skillet over medium heat, to gently char them.

I decided to go with the second suggestion. I just liked the idea of some browning. Took maybe ten minutes, turning them over as areas got some softened, dark spots. They don’t cook all the way through in those few minutes. I think it takes some of the sharpness from them.

Then it’s just chopping and combining. I diced up the tomatillos. To that, I added half a medium-sized onion, diced. I chopped a generous handful of cilantro and tossed that in, along with a minced jalapeno pepper. I seasoned with salt and pepper.

That’s it.

The combination of the greens and whites was beautiful, as was the combination of flavors.tomatillos 2 5.4.13 The tomatillos were a mix of softer and firmer textures, because of the pan-roasting, and kept that mix of lightness and tartness in their flavor. Cilantro brought the citrusy notes, and the onion and jalapeno some heat and bite.

Perfect, of course, with tortilla chips.

We ate it all in one sitting!