Lemon-Almond Tofu

lemons 4 5.3.14Last year I made a lemon-almond cake for a friend’s birthday.

And cooking with lemons reminded me of it. Remembering didn’t lead me to remaking the cake, but I did like the idea of using lemons and almonds again. Almond meal, actually.

What a nice coating the two could make for slices of tofu. I had organic sprouted tofu in the fridge. Where regular tofu is made from cooked soybeans, sprouted tofu is made from sprouted soybeans and is more easily digested, is higher in protein, calcium, and iron. Those are nice reasons to have it. And I often do, but mostly I rotate through different brands and types of tofu, because they’re all a little different texture. And it makes for variety. My one real criteria for tofu is that it be organic to avoid GMOs, and then I usually buy firm or extra-firm, because that holds up well with frying and sautéing.

So…lemon-almond tofu. With zucchini and brown rice to go with it.

To start:

  • 16 ounces organic sprouted tofu
  • 2 lemons

I turned the oven on to 400°.

I wrapped the tofu in a towel to absorb the excess moisture.

I used a hydroplane to zest the two lemons, which I then cut in half and juiced.

lemons 1 5.3Then:

  • 1/4 cup tamari (a soy sauce, but less salty, and smoother flavor)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • a few grinds of pepper

I added these, along with the lemon juice, to a flat baking dish (because it was the right size to hold eight slices of tofu in one layer), and stirred together. Just to taste the lemon juice and tamari combo, I dipped in a little bread…loved it. (I saved the leftover lemon juice-tamari marinade in the fridge as an impromptu dipping sauce for the week!) Then I sliced the tofu into those eight slices, lengthwise, like planks, and set them in the marinade.

Zucchini next:

I sliced three smallish-medium zucchini into planks also, laid them on a baking sheet that I had drizzled extra-virgin olive oil over, turned them front and back in the oil, added salt and pepper. Set them aside while the oven heated up.

And turned the tofu slices over in the marinade to get the other side absorbing the lemony tamari.

The coating:

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • the zest from the 2 lemons
  • pepper and salt

I mixed this together in a dish, and dipped my finger in to have a taste. So good…lemony almond meal and a little kick from the black pepper.

I heated a pan over medium-high heat with a mix of grapeseed oil and extra-virgin olive oil, mostly to have a little richness from the olive oil, but not too much of the olive taste, and allow the lemon zest and almond meal to have their space.

While that heated up, I slid the zucchini slices into the oven, and then proceeded to coat the tofu planks with the lemon zest-almond meal mix and set in the pan to brown, turning carefully (so as not to lose too much of the coating) to brown the other side. When the first batch was done, I put it on a pan and slid that into the oven as well, to keep warm. And cooked up the other half of the tofu. Then added that to the pan in the oven also.

By then the zucchini was done, having roasted for about 15 minutes on one side, then 5 minutes more on the other side. So I turned the oven off, and and left the tofu and zucchini there to stay warm while I made a quick rice.

For the rice:

  • 1 package frozen microwavable organic brown rice
  • 1 thinly sliced scallion
  • 1/2 of a long chile pepper, seeded and minced

First, I tossed the remaining lemon zest-almond meal mix into the pan to brown and become a toasted crumble. While that browned, I cooked the rice according to directions (in its package for 3 minutes on high). I emptied the rice into a bowl, stirred in the minced chile pepper, and put that in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, just to wilt it in there a little. To that I added the scallion, salt and pepper…and stirred in the browned lemon zest-almond meal mix. Nice!

lemons 6 5.3.14Dinner was ready: lemon-almond tofu slices, roasted zucchini slices, and the quickie lemon-almond-chile rice.

Lots of frying, browning, roasting, and yet all kept fresh and light because of the brightness of the lemon coming through in each bite. And a mix of textures, too: the nutty coating on the soft tofu, the tenderness of the roasted zucchini, the rice with the slight crunch of scallion and almond. Variations in flavor: light lemoniness, tamari, nuttiness, some bite from back pepper and chile pepper.

What a delicious dinner!

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Lemon-Olive Tapenade

lemons 3 4.27.14I made this little tapenade one evening a couple of weeks ago, and it’s amazing to me that this small list of ingredients took til now to show up in a post! But, sometimes, that’s the way it goes.

Traditionally, a tapenade includes olives, capers and anchovies. This tapenade includes the olives part.

I had what turned out to be about three-quarters of a cup of Luques olives (a very nice green olive that I used here most recently) left in a jar, and I decided to use them up.

I pulled out my food processor, and processed each of these ingredients separately (because I wasn’t sure how much I would need):

  • the 3/4 cup of olives, pitted first!
  • 1/4 of a small red onion (I got about 2 tablespoons from this, and used 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • handful of cilantro

I didn’t purée them, just got them to a small mince.

lemons 1 4.27.14Scooped each of the ingredients into a bowl as they were ready. Then to them I added the zest of 1 medium lemon, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and some freshly ground pepper.

I enjoyed this on crackers…along with cocktails and the company of my husband and sister!

Lemony Light Pots de Crème

lemons 1 4.8.14I had gone to Longwood Gardens to buy orchids…not because I needed another orchid, or, for that matter, any other additional plant in my sunroom! Longwood, one of the great public gardens in the Philadelphia area, is just a few miles away from me, and a few late-winter weeks ago my husband and I spent part of my birthday there. We walked the outdoor paths, breathed in cold, crisp air, took in the snowy landscape. Beautiful.

Then we went indoors to the conservatory, and were overtaken with breathtaking color and lushness…and orchids everywhere. It was their Orchids Extravaganza. Orchids were tucked in among other plants, hung from rafters, grouped together into orchid trees.

So when the display was dismantled, and the orchids offered at discounted prices, off I went to pick up a little piece of that day. Of the remaining orchids I was drawn to the oncidiums, and bought two. It was the yellow, I think. One had yellow flowers with touches of purple and ivory, and the other was ivory with purple and bits of yellow.

Spring seems to finally be declaring itself around here, and, yellow…well, yellow is a sunny color, and seemed right in step with incoming spring.

And sunny yellow made me think of lemons, for which I happen to have several clipped recipes gathered over several years…and never made.

So I pulled one out.

Lemon pots de crème. Lemon pots of custard.

Meant to make six individual servings, it was perfect, because I happened to have six individual-sized, ovenproof custard cups, having bought them to make the mushroom tarts I wrote about last year.

Here’s the recipe for lemony, sunshiny pots de crème.

  • 2 medium lemons (or whatever amount of lemons it takes to get 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of zest. I happened to have little ones, and it took 6!)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 egg yolks (I froze the whites to thaw out another time and make meringues.)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • powdered sugar (to dust on top of cooked and cooled custards)

Heat the oven to 325°. Grate 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. Squeeze that 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Whisk in sugar, egg, and yolks, then whisk in cream until sugar dissolves. Pass mixture through a strainer; stir in zest.

Put six 1/2-cup, ovenproof custard cups in a deep baking dish. Divide the lemon mixture evenly between them. Slide the whole thing into the oven and fill the baking dish with hot tap water to come within 1/2 inch of the top of the custard cups. Bake, uncovered, until custards are just set in the centers, 35 to 40 minutes. Carefully remove from water and set aside to cool completely.

Dust with powdered sugar.

lemons 4 4.8.14What a burst of flavor that first bite is! Lemony tart! You know that it’s rich, because you realize, as you’re eating, that one serving is plenty…yet light and bright at the same time.

Pots de crèmes of sunshine.

Stuffing Pasta

ravioli 2 6.22.13Last week I made pasta, and cut it into fettuccine.

I knew this week I wanted to make ravioli.

A friend had given me beet greens she’d gotten from her CSA, which seemed a perfect filling. And I also wanted to make a ricotta filling.

I have many flours in my cabinet. Chick pea, peanut, 00, semolina. Some have been used. Some are still waiting to be used. And some are so low, it’s time to use them up, and get a fresh bag. In that category…whole wheat pastry flour.

In fact, I had low amounts of two brands of whole wheat pastry flour: Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill. I think when I’d originally bought them, I had thought they were a little different, that one was a mixed grain. But they’re both whole wheat pastry flours (soft, lower-protein wheat, with the germ and bran still intact) that I’ve apparently alternated between.

Without checking, just knowing they were both low, I assumed I easily had two cups’ worth of flour between them. I didn’t. So I added a cup of all-purpose white, mixed in a teaspoon of salt, and made my flour well on the counter.

To that I added two beautifully deep-orange-yolked eggs I’d gotten at the farmers market.

And then proceeded as last week, from eggs and flour, to dough ball, to sheets of pasta.

Last week I cut my dough ball in half to put through the rollers of my pasta machine, This week I cut it into four. I thought I would simply not get as long a sheet.

Instead I still got a very long sheet per each dough quarter, but, as I rolled it through, from widest to thinnest setting, I got a narrower sheet.

As I worked, I kept whatever dough I wasn’t using wrapped in plastic wrap, and I covered the rolled-out sheets that I’d spread on the dish towels with plastic wrap also, to keep them from drying out.

That width decided the shape and size of my ravioli. Rather than small squares or circles, or maybe a larger half moon, I simply spaced spoonfuls of filling down one half, brushed with water along the edges and between the fillings, and then draped the other half over, gently pressing between filling mounds and then down each edge, using a knife to cut them apart. Then using fork tines along the edges to secure the closing.

Where edges seemed dry, I sprinkled water. Where a filling looked too close to peeking out, I patched. Because sheets of pasta are not perfectly rectangular unless you cut them that way, the sizes varied from large to small.

Oh, the informal beauty of homemade.

While the pasta dough rested, I had made the fillings.

ravioli 1 6.22.13I cleaned and destemmed the beet greens, chopped them into small shred, and sautéed with four cloves of minced garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Four cups of chopped greens cooked down to about one cup. I transferred to a bowl and stirred in a tablespoon or so of grated cheese. This amount of beet-green filling made six ravioli, which was one sheet of pasta.

The others were filled with a ricotta cheese filling. I emptied a 16-ounce container of ricotta cheese into a bowl, added a half-cup of grated cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. I added the zest of one lemon, and a quarter-cup of chopped parsley. Half of this turned out to be enough for the remaining ravioli.

I was making these on the first day of summer, and lemon seemed a summery addition.

I used a shallower pot to cook these in a few at a time, and, after three minutes, scooping them out with a spider-style strainer onto a plate, where I drizzled with oil, sprinkled with cheese and parsley. I had thought I’d have a few casualties (the patched ones!), and I wanted to be able to scoop them out quickly and easily. But they held together fine.

I spent an afternoon on these, going step to step, still feeling my way.

It was worth it.

There is something compelling about this involvement with the dough, the alchemy from eggs and flour to something delicious that melts in your mouth. Maybe it’s the physical connection to the food. Maybe it’s the connection to my family and background. At one moment, as I rolled the sheets of pasta, dusting with flour when needed, I recognized my grandmother’s hand in the same motion.ravioli 3 6.22.13

As far as using whole wheat pastry flour, I thought the texture of the dough was a little different when I rolled out the sheets. Still soft and pliable, maybe a little denser, a little sturdier.

Cooked, it was light and soft, maybe a little toothier, and balanced the fillings. The tender beet-green filling had a good, garlicky bite. And the ricotta filling was lemony and bright.

Welcome, summer.

Tahini Sauce and Kale

tahini 1 6.8.13I’ve enjoyed the combo of tahini with lemon the past couple weeks, and continue it again with this sautéed kale dish. I came across the idea of a tahini sauce stirred into sautéed kale while browsing online. I so enjoy greens, that this seemed a perfect place to try tahini in another way.

Four simple ingredients. To a quarter-cup of tahini, I added a tablespoon and a half of fresh lemon juice, three tablespoons of water to thin it out, and a couple grinds of black pepper. This versatile sauce could be easily stirred in with sautéed spinach, sautéed green beans or drizzled on roasted peppers.

I had a beautiful bunch of kale from the farmers market, so I used that.

I heated olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Added half an onion, thinly sliced, allowed that to cook a few minutes. Then added thin slices of about five garlic cloves.

While they began to soften, I trimmed away the ends from the stalks of the kale, then thinly sliced the remaining stalks up the length as far as the green leafy part, at an angle into thin ovals, and tossed them in with the onions and garlic, along with a little salt and pepper.

I chopped the kale Ieaves into bite-sized pieces, added to the pan, and allowed the heaping pile of firm olive-green pieces to cook down into a softer, dark green. I checked for seasoning, turned off the heat.

Stirred in the tahini sauce. Because I was going to take a picture, I held a little of the sauce back, so that I could add drops of it onto the cooked kale dish. Don’t know if you can tell in the picture. (Oh, well.)

As soon as I added the tahini sauce, the whole dish took on a nice creaminess. When I spooned it onto the serving plate, I also drizzled it with sesame oil and sprinkled sesame seeds on top, just to emphasize the sesame-ness. Then used a microplane to zest a little lemon over it all.

We had it as a side to spinach-pesto pizza (which I also got at the farmers market). My daughter was raving about the pizza. I realized I hadn’t even touched mine yet. I was just eating the kale.

I liked it.

A lot.