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!

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!

Cauliflower Sliders

cauliflower 3 4.1.14I thought, “Hey, cauliflower steaks have been a thing now for a while, why not cauliflower sliders?” It was a Friday night, my husband and I were sipping on beer, I had a head of cauliflower in front of me, and a food processor, too (a recent gift from my daughters who’d known it was on my wish list).

Sure, you could call them cauliflower patties, but make them a little smaller, snack size, and now, poof!, they’re fun bar food in the comfort of your own home!

My list of ingredients: dandelion greens, shallot, garlic, cauliflower, organic frozen soybeans (thawed), jalapeño, shiitake mushrooms, an avocado, and organic corn tortillas.

Part 1:

  • 1 bunch of dandelion greens, leaves and stems chopped
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 garlic cloves

While oil heated in a pan over medium heat, I peeled the shallot and garlic and minced in the food processor, using the pulse button. Added to the pan. Pulsed the dandelion stems til minced. Into the pan. Pulsed the dandelion leaves til minced…added to the pan. The simmered greens would bring moisture to the patties. I put the lid on to cook through. They cooked maybe 5 or 10 minutes, while I prepared the other vegetables for part 2.

Part 2

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 10 oz. thawed organic soybeans
  • 1 large jalapeño, seeded

I pulsed each of these separately til minced. Emptied them into a large bowl. Seasoned with salt and pepper. The mix at this point was light, sweet and coleslawish.

To this, I added the sautéed dandelion greens, shallot and garlic mixture, and checked again for seasoning. It had a nice flavor, with the cooked greens adding a depth to the other raw ingredients. And it looked beautiful, like a fluffy grain dish in shades of green.

To form the sliders, I added two eggs to bind the mix, and got 25 2″ patties from this. Placed in the refrigerator to set, while I got toppings ready.

Toppings

  • 5 shiitake mushrooms, destemmed
  • 1 avocado

Heated oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. I cut the mushrooms into about 1/4″ slices. Tossed them in the pan, and let them cook, turning from time to time. The idea is to let them cook til crispy. Some people do this in the oven. While the mushrooms cooked down, I halved the avocado, cut into slices, and set aside.

To finish off the sliders, I heated oil over medium heat in the pan I’d had the greens in, pulled the patties out of the fridge, and began to sauté the sliders. I also heated the oven to 300°. As I cooked up the sliders, I put them on a pan and into the oven to stay warm. Actually only made half of these, put the other half, separated by sheets of wax paper, in the freezer.

As I cooked the sliders, the mushroom continued to shrink and get crispy. They took at least 20 minutes to get to a browned and shrinking state, and then I just kept an eye on them while I cooked off the patties, so they got crispier but not burned.

When everything was done, I took out organic corn tortillas, and heated one at a time over an open flame to soften. Cut them in half, one slider per half. Topped with a buttery avocado slice, and a few crisp shiitake pieces.

cauliflower 1 4.1.14Now, I have to admit, they didn’t end up being quite what I’d wanted. I had wanted more kick, more juicy but firm. More oomph, because cauliflower can take it. One less egg maybe. Definitely at least one more jalapeño. And I forgot to add the cilantro I’d bought specifically for this, which is why I didn’t put it in my ingredients list, but would certainly have been an excellent addition!

Still, I like this idea. And I will say that corn tortillas, crispy shiitake and creamy avocado are a great way to serve these sliders.

A little tweaking to do on this one, but worth a repeat.

Cauliflower sliders…fun bar food for a Friday night at home.

Saffron Cauliflower

cauliflower 1 3.15.14Versatile cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables. Roast it, sauté it, mash it, or dip it in egg, then breadcrumbs, and fry ’til tender. Always wonderful.

Mellow and satisfying with subtle flavors, it also holds its own with bigger, more distinct flavors. So when I came across this saffron cauliflower recipe while leafing through my copy of the Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook Plenty, I really wanted to try it. British cook Ottolenghi brings Mediterranean-Middle Eastern inspiration to the entries in this all-vegetables cookbook, that is rich in colors, ingredients, and textures.

In this recipe, which I adapted a little to accommodate ingredients I already had, the exotic aroma of saffron, the sweetness from raisins and long-cooked onions, and the slight saltiness of green olives work beautifully with cauliflower, which remains central even as it plays well with the others.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons saffron
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 12-ounce packages cauliflower florets (or 1 medium cauliflower, divided into medium florets)
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2/3 cup Thompson raisins (if you use raisins that are very dry, soak them in water for a few minutes, then drain)
  • 1/2 cup Luques green olives (or other nice-quality green olive)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons cilantro

I preheated the oven to 400°F, then put the saffron strands in a small bowl, over which I poured the boiling water. While that infused, I sliced the onions and pitted and halved the olives.

Then I put everything, except for the cilantro, into a larger bowl, mixing it all together with my hands, giving the white florets (as well as my hands!) a good stir in the yellow saffron-water infusion.

Transferred that to an ovenproof pan, which I covered with foil and placed in the oven to cook for 40 to 45 minutes. Until the cauliflower was tender but still a bit firm. About halfway through I pulled the pan out to give everything a stir, covered again and returned to the oven to finish cooking.

When it was done, I removed the foil and allowed it to cool down slightly, before stirring in the cilantro, and adjusting the seasoning.

cauliflower 5 3.15.14I don’t know how to describe the flavor of saffron. It’s distinct. It’s more a permeating scent than a taste. As simple as this dish is, there’s a lushness to it because of that, and because of the mellowed olives, juicy raisins, the onions cooked to a drapey softness, citrusy cilantro.

All mingling with golden-hued cauliflower…showing off its glamour side.

Creamy Two-Potato and Dill Soup

dill 1 2.2.14My mother doesn’t like dill. I do. Neither of these preferences is particularly important. They’re just preferences.

And yet, it’s the reason why I automatically reached for the package of dill when I was grocery shopping a few days after I’d visited my mom.

I don’t remember, were we watching a cooking show together? Possibly that, and the TV cook was likely using dill, which would have prompted the “I don’t like/I do like” conversation.

That little exchange lifted dill up out of the recesses of my mind, so that, when I saw the package of it in the store, it was inevitable I should reach for it and bring it home, where I promptly added it to a salad.

Then, the other day, when I took notice of not only potatoes in the fridge, but also sweet potatoes, I thought what a nice soup that would be, and what a great place to stir in fresh dill. So I made potato soup: russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, garlic, vegetable broth…and dill.

While I peeled and diced the potatoes (four medium russets, about 1 1/2 pounds; two medium-largish sweet potatoes, about 1 pound), one thinly sliced celery stalk simmered in a lightly coated pan over medium-low heat. I was keeping the heat lower on the celery, and also added some salt, so the celery wouldn’t cook too fast and brown too much while I diced the potatoes.

Then I tossed in the diced potatoes, along with four minced garlic cloves.

Stirred it all up. Added a little water to keep things from sticking, and put the lid on to keep moisture in and cook through.

Fifteen? Twenty minutes? Not sure…but enough time to clean up a little, empty the dishwasher, put a few other things away.

Took the lid off the pot at one point to check doneness, and was rewarded with the wonderful aroma of garlic. Added a little more water. Lid back on.

When all the potatoes were fork-tender (regular potatoes waiting patiently, because sweet potatoes were firmer and took longer), I added vegetable broth.

I had a one-quart carton, and added half, then used a stick blender to purée. The broth was a rich yellowy-orange, and lent a warm tone to the white potatoes (the sweet potatoes had turned out to be white when I peeled them). I added a little more broth at a time, wasn’t sure how much I’d need. Turned out the whole carton of it was just right.

dill 2 2.2.14Tweaked seasoning with salt and pepper.

Turned off the heat, and stirred in a couple of generous tablespoons of chopped fresh dill.

Ultimately, this is brothy mashed potatoes! Dressed up a little with the addition of sweet potato, bringing, well…a little sweetness.

And then light, grassy (in a good way!) dill freshness.

Creamy, savory-sweet, garlic-infused potato soup with dill…comfort-food soup.