Monday, February 25, 2013

Jalapeno-Ginger Caramelized Tofu Fiesta!

It smells like a spice market, looks like a rainbow, and tastes like a tropical vacation. It's very rare that I repeat a recipe, but this is one of those rare gems that keeps showing up on my plate. Why? Well, it's one of the yummiest, most interesting things I've eaten in a good long while. Here's how it goes:

~1 lb. firm/extra-firm plain old boring tofu turned into cubes
~Medium jar of spicy jalapeno jelly (lovely Miss Giraffe made this one)
~A hefty chunk of fresh ginger
~Whole head of smelly garlic
~As much lemongrass as you manage to steal from your friends (like maybe a tablespoon)
~Salt and pepper and whatnot

Chop up all the tasty junk and put it in the jelly. If the jelly isn't liquidy, add some hot water until it is. Let your happy little tofus marinate there for a long, long time. Like three days. Or an hour. Or whenever. You might want to stick it in the fridge. Then when you get bored of watching the tofu, heat up a big frying pan. Put a dot of coconut oil (or whatever else ya got) into the pan, and then throw in the tofu and marinade and all that. If you keep stirring the tofu, eventually the water will evaporate away leaving this gorgeous, caramelized layer over the tofu and these candied little garlic-ginger clusters. Just be sure not to burn it all because that would be tragic!

~Big bundle of baby bok choi
~2 red peppers
~A few ripe mangos
~Coconut oil
~Maybe some salt, maybe not

Unless you have an awfully large mouth, chop everything into small pieces (1cm chunks for the peppers, 2cm chunks for the mangos, whatever for the bok choi). Take another hot frying pan with another dollop of coconut oil. This makes for a really fabulous, tropical fragrance. Put your peppers in first. They take the longest to cook. When they start to get a little bit softened, toss the bok choi into the party until just wilted. Lastly, mango that sh*t. Really, all it needs is to get a little warm. Overcooking will cause mango-soup (recipe for another day?).

Put the veggie fiesta on a plate. Put the glorious tofu chunks on top. Eat it with chopsticks or a spork or your hands and a bunch of good friends. If you're skeptical as to whether or not this is a full meal, some coconut rice (look it up) would be a rockin' addition. Enjoy!

P.S. The following things are really good on top: Sesame seeds, hot oil, sesame oil, smiles, etc.

Golden Spicy Tofu

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare tofu of all time. The main flavors are garlic, jalapeno, and white pepper. This is my adaptation of my favorite dish at Mandarin Gourmet in Cupertino, CA. This is all thanks to a very special post, at Viet World Kitchen. It took me so long to find a recipe this close to the one at Mandarin Gourmet.

  • 1 block firm or extra firm tofu (16 oz), liquid drained, cut into 1" cubes
  • Fine kosher Salt and pepper
  • ground white pepper
  • white sugar
  • 3 to 5 garlic cloves, depending on your preference
  • 1"X1/2" chunk fresh (or frozen) ginger
  • canola, soy, corn, or other pan fry-appropriate oil
  • 1 or 2 Chilis or jalapenos
    • Note: use jalapenos and deseed if you're afraid of spice- this will just add flavor, and very little actual heat
  • Optional: 1 or 2 scallons, chopped finely
Soak the cubed tofu in a bowl filled with boiling hot water that has been very liberally seasoned with salt- think saltier than pasta water, 2 tsp per 2 cups. The water should cover the tofu; Soak for about 15 minutes. 

While the tofu is soaking, chop the garlic, ginger, scallions, and spicy peppers finely. Set this mixture aside for later.

I've noticed (Thanks to a certain dinosaur) that when I buy too much ginger, I can peel and then freeze it in a zipped bag in 1" hunks- it's MUCH easier to cut when it's frozen.

In a small cup or bowl, mix 1 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp sugar, 3/4 tsp white pepper, and 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. Set aside for later.

Drain the tofu, and lay in a single layer on a plate with 2 or 3 paper towels on it. Pat the tops of the tofu cubes with another paper towel. You want the tofu to be as dry (within reason) as possible. The drier the outside of the tofu, the less the oil will splatter when it's frying.

Heat your oil 1/4" deep in a shallow frying pan, or wok if you have one, on just above medium heat. If you're not sure if the oil is the right temperature, cut a cube in half and put it in- it should sizzle and spurt, but not too violently. Below you can see how your tofu should look, and my salt and pepper mixture ready to go.

Add the tofus in a single layer into your oil, careful not to let them touch- they'll stick together. If they do, just turn the two stuck cubes at the same time. Turn the tofus one side at a time as soon as a golden crust forms- I use wooden chopsticks for ease and to protect my hands from hot oil. Keep turning until all tofus are beautiful and golden. The picture on the right is how it should NOT LOOK- these tofus are too brown! Check out the Viet Kitchen link in the description for a good visual.

Once the tofus are golden and crispy on all sides, transfer one by one (so you don't take the oil with you) to a paper-towel. Pour off most of the oil, so there's only about 1-2 tbsp left in the pan- BE CAREFUL where you put this hot oil! Another cool pan is, unfortunately for the dishwasher, the safest place to put this hot oil. Return the original pan with the remaining oil to the stove to reheat for 15-30 seconds, and then add the mixture of garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and scallions if you chose to include them. Give them a good stir so they're cooking evenly. Don't forget about them! we're coming right back to them.

Sprinkle the tofus with the salt-pepper-sugar mixture- this is really at your discretion for how much you want to use, normally I use 2/3 to 3/4 of what I actually make. As soon as the garlic and ginger start to become fragrant, add the seasoned tofus back into the pan, and stir to coat with that yummy oil. Because you removed most of the oil, the tofus should not get greasy- in the next step, you can carefully avoid pouring some oil onto the plate if you feel like they did. When you feel like the tofus are coated, pour the entire pan of tofu and seasons onto a plate, let cool for a few moments (really, you have no idea how many taste buds I have destroyed on this dish), and enjoy!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Vegan Veggie (Breakfast) Sausage

These awesome patties have no TVP, no egg, and no dairy. They taste great (better than MorningStar), hold together, and are currently on my plate ontop of an english muffin and fried egg :) 


Equal parts (1/3-1/2 cup each) dry: brown rice, quinoa, barley. Whole oats would also do great here
1/2 cup dry white beans- any kind of beans will work though

In a large pot, pour in the grains, and add enough water to cover with an additional 2" above the grains. To this pot, add seasonings to taste- don't be afraid to overseason slightly because this will eventually be diluted with the rest of the ingredients. I've bolded the really important ones for a meaty flavor. The ones I used were:

  • 1/3 cup French onion dry soup mix and 1 tbsp mushroom dry soup mix, 
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp Bragg's liquid aminos. Tamari or low-sodium soy sauce would also work
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp of each: chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika, ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp of each: ground sage, ground thyme, 
  • 1/4- 1/2 tsp of each: coriander, cumin, nutmeg, white pepper
  • I added a whole dried cayenne pepper I had on hand- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper would work
Bring this to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Keep an eye on the water level- You don't want this to burn or be stuck to the pot. If this starts to happen, add 1-2 cups more water and cover, return to heat and cover again. When the grains are fully cooked (the quinoa will be mushy- use the barley and rice to check for done-ness. If you didn't need to add water before, add the 1-2 additional cups now. Simmer on low with the lid off, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking; You want the water to evaporate, leaving a loose sticky mush. Remove from heat, and remove the bay leaves and whole pepper if you used one.

In a second, smaller sauce pan, start the beans cooking according to the package directions, with 2 bay leaves, a few squirts of Bragg's, and 1 tsp dried oregano. Keep the pot covered, and add more water if necessary to keep the level above the beans. My package said 2 hours, but at the end of an hour and a half they were definitely done. I let my beans cook until they were slightly mushy when I took them out of the water- This way they would incorporate into the patties better. Drain and discard cooking liquid and bay leaves.

6/30/2013 Update: Recently I've been adding the beans directly to the grains(I used black beans more recently), and just checking them for done-ness by pulling out a few and tasting them.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Now here comes the fun part. If the large pot you cooked the grains in is big enough, this can be done straight in there. If not, move the grain mush to a large bowl, and add the following. Stir this mixture well after each addition of the next 2 or three ingredients, carefully monitoring it for texture. The texture should be like that of sticky ground beef. 
  • 1/2 to 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cups breadcrumbs- mine were "Italian Seasoned", but I don't think it made a big difference if you want to used plain. Panko may also work, but I don't know.
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/3 cup ground flax meal
  • 1 1/2 tbsp light molasses
Form patties with your hands. To prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands, rub some vegetable oil on your hands (be liberal with the oil). This oil will allow the outside of the patties to get crispy, and prevent them from sticking. Place the patties on a baking sheet covered in foil. 

To be honest, I had too many patties for my one measly baking sheet, so I put foil on the oven rack, and once it was covered in patties I poked holes between the patties in the foil to allow air flow. Bake until they feel firm and are just starting to get crispy, about 30 to 45 minutes. Baking time may vary depending on what kind of baking "sheet" you use. Once done, allow to cool. 

I wrapped the patties in saran in bunches of 4, and then put the stacks of 4 into a gallon ziplock and froze all but 4. Out of the freezer, microwave for 30 seconds on a paper towel before reheating in a frying pan for a minute or two on each side. No additional oil is needed in the pan because you already coated them in oil lightly when you formed the patties!


Other possible additions:
  • miso paste
  • tomato paste
  • barbeque sauce, 
  • ground fennel seed (italian sausage flavor)
  • smoked salt
  • finely processed mushrooms (reconstituted or cooked then processed)
  • chili oil
  • grated carrots
  • finely chopped celery, sauteed to remove excess liquid
  • grated (can be charred) red bell pepper, squeezed over a strainer to remove excess liquid. Save the liquid in case your final mixture is too dry.
  • caramelized onions
  • sauteed garlic
  • sauteed finely chopped anise
  • Instead of making the original grain mixture yourself, Kashi sells a multi-grain pilaf. You may use that (let me know how it goes in the comments!) instead of making the grain mixture yourself.

Update 4/24/2013
Today I made another batch. I sauteed an onion and a few cloves of garlic in 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan before I added roughly equal parts: great northern white beans, garbanzo beans, farro, brown rice, and pearled barley with enough water to fully submerge. I stirred every 10-15 minutes to prevent sticking and burning on the bottom of the pot, and added another 4 cups of water about 30 minutes in. I added the following for flavor about 20 minutes before everything was done cooking:
  • ground white pepper
  • ground black pepper
  • chili flakes
  • chili powder
  • cayenne pepper powder
  • ground fennel (liberal amount)
  • french onion soup mix
  • mushroom soup mix
  • ground thyme
  • ground sage
  • liberal amounts of dried oregano
  • Bragg's aminos
When almost all of the water was evaporated, I stirred almost continuously to prevent burning. The garbanzo beans were the last When everything was cooked through and mushy, I added the following after removing the pot from the heat:
  • about 1/2 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes that had been packed in oil, drained
  • 1/4 cup tahini

  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup ground flax meal
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
This blend was dry enough after these additions that I didn't need the usual oatmeal. Note I didn't use any quinoa (I was just out of both of these ingredients).

As usual, I greased up my hands and arranged flattened patties on a baking sheet (again, fashioned out of perforated tinfoil on an oven rack). These are currently baking and smell awesome. I tasted the blend before baking, and I think the tahini really did good things for richness.