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!

Summer Cabbage

cabbage 3 7.14.13With berries and cherries and peaches and beans and chard and, well, all the wonderful seasonal things showing up at farmers markets and grocery stores, I didn’t expect to be writing about cabbage. Something, that despite its use in salads, like crisp coleslaw, I associate more with winter. And which, let’s face it, doesn’t really seem as lush and sexy as berries and cherries and peaches and…!

But I came back from a few days away over the 4th, and there in my fridge were a beautiful head of green cabbage and a beautiful head of purple cabbage just waiting to be used, and that had been picked fresh from a friend’s garden just before I went away.

As seasonal as the others…my summer cabbage.

Maybe because I like reubens and specials, my thoughts turned to how to use it in a sandwich. But probably also because I just plain like sandwiches, whether between two slices of bread, on a roll, wrapped….

So I pulled out whole-wheat tortillas, the green cabbage, garlic, extra-firm tofu, a lime, soy sauce, sesame oil, an avocado, basil, and a yellow cayenne pepper I picked from our garden.

First I sliced eight ounces of tofu and laid the slices in a baking dish. I squeezed juice from the lime into a small bowl, to which I added two teaspoons of soy sauce, one teaspoon of sesame oil, one minced garlic clove, and a couple grinds of pepper. The soy sauce and sesame oil balanced the lime juice. Poured that mix over the tofu to marinate.

cabbage 2 7.14.13While the tofu marinated, I heated enough canola oil to coat a pan over medium to medium-high heat, and cut the green cabbage in half…and then that half in half to get a nice wedge, leaving the core in. Keeping the core allowed me to slice the wedge into slices, which I sautéed in the pan with a clove of minced garlic tossed in, and salt and pepper to season. Five minutes or so per side, til nicely browned.

Cabbage slices sautéing, tofu marinating. I charred the cayenne pepper over the open flame of a burner, then thinly sliced it at a bit of an angle to get rings. When I got to the top of it, where most of the seeds were, I poked them out with the tip of my knife.

I removed the cabbage to a dish, added a little more oil to the pan, and then sautéed the tofu slices along with the marinade. As the marinade cooked off, the slices browned.

Used half the avocado and cut in slices. Rolled several basil leaves up and cut them into thin shreds.

Assembly. On a whole-wheat tortilla, softened/charred a little over a burner: a cabbage slice, a few tofu slices, a few avocado slices, a couple of pepper rings, some shredded basil. Rolled up.

cabbage 1 7.14.13

Had a grilled quality sans grilling. Avocado brought a nice creaminess, peppers had a kick!, all with the back notes of lime and basil. Some parts of the cabbage were crisp, and some soft, all with that nice mellower taste cabbage gets when it’s cooked.

A terrific summer cabbage wrap.

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.

Wrap and Roll

rolls 2 4.13.13Magnolia trees are blooming, cherry trees are blossoming, forsythias are filling out in yellow. All in what seems an overnight.

A couple of days in the 80s, and spring has arrived.

Farmers market will be open in just a few weeks, and I’ll bring home more things than I can possibly make in a week, as I always do.

But, in the meantime, the cabinets and fridge are still pretty lean in my house, and I’m ok with that. Maybe it’s my way of making room for the new season, I don’t know, but I do know that I didn’t want to go to the store to get anything for dinner.

I had a few vegetables, some tofu. What could I do with those?

And then I saw it. An unopened package of Vietnamese wrappers. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actually made rolls with similar wrappers.

The first time I’d seen them used was years ago, on one of celebrity cook Nigella Lawson’s first cooking series. I was intrigued that they only needed to be placed in warm water to be made pliable, and then you could wrap things in them!

Well…I could do that.

So I pulled out the tofu, along with a jalapeno pepper, some arugula, half a red bell pepper, and a couple small celery stalks. Also got out soy sauce, rice vinegar, and some oil.

Sliced the tofu into thin planks, about 1/8″ thick and an inch wide, and cut the jalapeno into four vertical slices around its core, tossing the seeds and core. Then cut those slices into thin 1/2″ long strips. Mixed the tofu and jalapeno strips in a bowl with some soy sauce and rice vinegar to marinate a little.

While I heated a pan over a medium heat with a coating of oil, I finely chopped the arugula, red bell pepper and celery in another bowl.

When the oil heated, I placed the tofu and jalapeno strips in the pan, turning them over once, all in about a 10-minute or so period. When they began to brown and get a little glisteny, I added what was left of the marinade, and turned up the heat to more of a medium-high, to reduce the liquid.

I laid out a towel for the wrappers, and poured hot water into a shallow bowl large enough to dip a wrapper into. I happen to have one of those instant-hot water taps at my sink, which can be very useful, as it was here. Otherwise, just really hot water from the tap.

As I said, I hadn’t done this for a while, and forgot how sticky the wrappers can be once they’ve softened. So you may lose a couple at the beginning while you’re getting a feel for it. I had one casualty. It totally balled up, and that was the end of that one. Another one had a couple of tears in it, but I still used it. They also stick to the towel, so lift carefully. Not to put you off using them! Like making crepes, it may take a couple to get a feel how to handle them.

So you lay the wrapper in the water, give it just a few seconds, lift out, set on a towel. I tried moving one wrapper to a cutting board to fill it, but then filled the others on the towel. I decided the less I moved them around, the more chance of success.

Then I added a few pieces of the tofu. On top of that, some of the chopped salad. I pulled one side of the wrap over the filling, then brought in the two ends, and rolled it up.

Slight saltiness of the tofu in soy was tasty with the fresh chopped veggies. Some soy sauce in a small bowl for dipping. I had a nice little meal.

This is one of those things that you could fill with any number of things: cucumbers, scallion, cilantro, carrots. The list goes on. Which is good, because I have more wrappers left in the package!