Baked Tofu Teriyaki Skewers

tofu teriyaki skewersIt took me a long time to understand the purpose of skewering food if you weren’t going to end up eating it on the skewer. I mean, what’s the point? Eating food on the stick always seemed to be preferable to me to just cooking it on the stick, then taking it off to eat. It was a wonder to me that people would go through the trouble of putting a kebab together if they were not going to follow through with the whole stick thing when it came time to eating.

The kid in me still thinks it’s fun to eat things on sticks. Even more fun to me these days, though, is cooking things on sticks, which allows the flavors to meld together perfectly. Add a sweet and salty marinade, which is easily brushed on as a coating, and you have a whole lot of deliciousness married together. Cooked to perfection. On one stick.

Now that I’m older and presumably a bit wiser, I also like the idea of eating things on a stick (have I said “stick” enough yet?), but the key word here is idea. Logistically, it’s much, much easier — and yummier — to remove all the edible components upon eating, and to serve those components over a bed of fluffy quinoa with a side of raw fermented kimchi and just a drizzle of Sriracha. At least, that’s what I did. You do it your way. Heck, even eat this off of the stick if you really want to.

Ok, so I’ve met my quota for typing the word stick in one post. Now,  I can get to the more important issues at hand here. First is the fact that this is an easy, healthy meal that can be rounded out well with some simple sides. So, that’s always nice. But perhaps more important is that I did two tests of this recipe: one with oil, and one without. Gennaro and I both agreed that the oil made absolutely no difference — in fact, I actually preferred the version without oil. So, don’t feel compelled to add any. It isn’t necessary. Unless you’re trying to put weight on or add calories to your diet, I would recommend leaving any unnecessary fat out of the equation. Personally, I tend to feel better, lighter and healthier when I’m not cooking with any added oils. I prefer to save the calories for something really special….like the double chocolate chip cookies I made yesterday…to be shared later…

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Butternut Squash Coconut Curry Noodles

butternut squash coconut curry noodles

Today, I am going to tell you a little story about the power of denial. And the power of really good Thai food.

It all started when I was nearing the end of my vegan transition, which basically meant that I was starting to actually tell people that I was “vegan” (but still had a lot to learn). I had also just moved back to Michigan and was starting a new job in Ferndale, a city in Michigan with a small but fun and eclectic downtown that seemed to me to be bursting with amazing food options. One of those options was a small hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant that charged only $6 for a lunch special that was not only generously portioned but exceedingly delicious. And, to my delight, it was (or so I thought it was) “vegan”. Coconut-Vegetable Curry, as I assumed at the time, was of course made strictly of coconut milk, vegetables, tofu (non-GMO, of course) and secret Thai spices that made it so delicious that I would eat the entire aforementioned generous portion in one sitting, inducing an afternoon food coma that was not the most conducive to productivity in my new job.

I was obsessed with this curry dish. I would crave it. My co-workers soon became obsessed with their respective favorites from this small place as well. Eventually, we were all sheepishly suggesting office carry-outs 2, 3, 4 times per week. After all, it was cheap, quick and delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I tried to ignore the splitting headaches I would get after each meal, the bloating, or the fact that my mouth was so parched that I would go through 4 bottles of water within an hour after eating. 

But it was one day that I went in to this restaurant for my weekly office pick-up duties that I noticed that behind the checkout counter, there was a glass refrigerator filled with cartons of heavy cream. Yes, as in dairy cream. I started glancing around the small restaurant, searching for the coffee pot. Surely, that’s what the cream was for. But there was no coffee. Then I remembered. Ah, yes. They serve Thai iced tea here. That’s what the cream is for. But there was a lot of cream. I mean, loads of it. And slowly, I started realizing that all of that cream wasn’t just for iced tea. It was for something else: our food. A few questions with the manager confirmed my suspicions. Devastation crept in.

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What I’m Eating These Days

Quick veggie fried rice with raw kimchi

Since becoming what I like to call a “real person” and working full-time (ugh, not to mention beginning a course of extensive Lyme disease treatment), it’s been somewhat difficult to keep up with blogging as much as I’d like. I honestly do NOT understand how so many bloggers that I read and admire have other jobs — not to mention kids! — and yet can post on a regular, sometimes daily, basis. Whew. I got tired just thinking about that.

But as much as I haven’t been able to blog consistently lately, my blogging gene is still in full-force. Which is to say, I can’t stop taking pictures of my food! Eating for me these days is more quick and less recipe-based (i.e. I’m throwing together what I have in the fridge), but I still try and create things that are healthy, colorful, and most importantly, exciting to eat! So I thought I would share with you some of the iPhone photos I’ve been taking of my “thrown together” meals (those that haven’t already been instagram-ed, that is). These represent in large part what I have been eating lately when I’m not trying to create recipes. Hopefully they will provide some inspiration to my readers. Oh, and please excuse the photo quality as, like I said, most of these were taken on my phone!

Boiled baby potatoes, green beans, hummus and raw sauerkraut

As you can see, my quick meals still involve lots of greens, whole grains, and of course, raw sauerkraut, which has become a staple in my diet. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve become a huge fan of nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, whose new book Beauty Detox Foods has inspired even more of my go-to meals. However, as you can see, I still do eat organic tofu (which is an apparent Beauty Detox no-no), and other things such as white potatoes on occasion. I feel that the key to good health is to vary your diet enough so that lots of fresh and colorful vegetables are incorporated, and to minimize processed foods and animals products (duh!) as much as possible.

Stuffed peppers with sweet potato salad and mixed baby greens

Here are some of my go-to, healthy meals (no recipe necessary):

  • Quick veggie fried rice with raw kimchi: Saute tofu, garlic, ginger and veggies of choice in olive oil or vegetable broth. Add cooked rice (I sometimes even just use Trader Joe’s pre-cooked frozen brown rice for a super quick meal), wheat-free tamari sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos to taste, and frozen peas. I also add some crushed red pepper to taste. Serve hot topped with raw fermented kimchi on the side.
  • Stuffed Peppers: I make stuffed peppers a lot, usually mixing in different grains with sauteed veggies, then baking in the oven, covered, until peppers are soft. This particular photo had short grain brown rice, corn, sauteed zucchini, garlic and baby portobellos. I added cumin, coriander, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast and sea salt for flavor. The only reason you don’t see them topped with salsa in this picture is because I had run out! I love Mexican flavored stuffed peppers topped with salsa and avocado. I either bake them in the salsa or add it after.
  • Sweet potato salad: I like to boil sweet potatoes until tender (with skins!) and toss with cider vinegar, cilantro, sea salt (to taste) and reduced fat Vegenaise. I got the inspiration for this recipe from Dr. Barnard’s book Power Foods for the Brain, which is also amazing and another frequent healthy eating reference for me.
  • Mixed Greens Salad: Toss pre-packaged mixed greens with your choice of a combination of lemon juice, olive oil, Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s (just a dash or two), apple cider vinegar, sea salt and nutritional yeast. So healthy and easy — a great way to get your greens!
  • Potato-hummus-kraut plate: Topping baked or boiled potatoes with hummus is one of my new favorite things, and something that my mom definitely got me hooked on. The plate shown in the above photo was taken on a day when I was tempted to order out because I had “nothing” in my fridge. Just goes to show you what can be made from “nothing”! I boiled Trader Joe’s “teeny tiny” potatoes (one of my guilty pleasures) until tender, then added green beans during the last minute. Drained. Added some nutritional yeast (totally optional), a healthy dollop of hummus (ok, I may have gone back after this photo to add more) and just a tiny pinch of salt. Then I topped with a heaping pile (as you can see) of raw sauerkraut (yum!). This was one of my favorite creations from my fridge full of “nothing”.
  • Sauteed beans, grains and greens (below): To prepare for busy weeks, I like to cook up a big pot of beans in my pressure cooker (aduki is a new favorite for me), and a big pot of grains such as millet or quinoa. Then, during the week, I can simply saute everything together and add some greens or other veggies, seasoning, and enjoy a meal without having to do a lot of prep. The photo below was millet and aduki/black beans, packaged baby spinach, sliced baby bell peppers (I forget what they’re called…), cumin, olive oil, cider vinegar, coriander, chili powder and some cayenne for heat. It was delicious!

Black and aduki beans, millet and greens

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Miso-Ginger Stir-Fry

I have a confession: I actually made this recipe months ago. I wanted to post it then. But it was hot out. I mean, really hot. And I kept thinking that no one in their right mind would want to make stir-fry in the middle of July. At a time when other bloggers were posting salads and grilled vegetables, I was making stir-fry. And so, as much as I was in love with this dish, I decided to sit on it and wait for a time when this recipe was a bit more suited to the weather.

You’ll notice that for a stir-fry, this recipe uses very little oil. Again, it was July when I made this. My parents had just returned from the vegetarian summerfest and were influenced by the many doctors and health experts singing the praises of a low-fat vegan diet. I learned that wine is a great cooking tool for braising or making sauces, as it adds a lot of flavor without added fat. For me, this is especially true in stir-fries. My mom took a Chinese cooking class when I was younger at an amazing Chinese restaurant my family still frequents. One of the revelations from that experience was that almost every stir-fry sauce at that restaurant utilized white cooking wine, lots of garlic and very little if any soy sauce. True Hong Kong style Chinese sauces are light and clear, not thick and brown, as is so common in Americanized Chinese places would have us believe. (For those interested in eating at the best Chinese Restaurant, in my opinion, in North America: Harvey Lo’s Yummy House in Windsor Ontario. It’s divine).

Of course, with the addition of miso, this is more of a Japanese-Chinese fusion dish. I love miso for flavor in dressings and sauces. It makes a really great stir-fry here — tangy, almost sweet and salty combination of flavors. And finally, it’s that time of year where I can make this without losing 5 pounds of sweat in the process. Hooray for fall!

Serves: 3-4 with rice

Low Fat Miso-Ginger Stir Fry:

My new secret to a good stir-fry is to bake the tofu before adding it to the rest of the dish. It tends to get crispy on the outside, but remains intact, rather than crumbling like tofu so often does when its cooked in a skillet or wok.

2 tablespoons refrigerated white miso OR 3 tablespoons white shiro miso (not refrigerated)

¼ cup white wine

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons arrowroot + 2 tablespoons water, whisked together

2 tablespoons vegetable broth

1 head broccoli florets, chopped

1 red bell pepper, julienned

4 shiitake caps, sliced

½ yellow onion, sliced

Baked Tofu:

¼ teaspoon sesame oil (omit oil and use some veggie broth for an oil-free baked tofu option)

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari

1 block firm or extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry. Sliced or cubed.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together sesame oil and tamari in a shallow bowl. Dip slices of tofu into mixture and and then lay flat on non-stick or silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together miso, wine, tamari, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Set aside.

3. In a very hot wok, add broccoli, bell pepper, onion and vegetable broth. Stir over high heat until broth evaporates and vegetables begin to soften. Add in shiitakes and pre-made sauce. Stir until sauce reduces by about 1/2 and vegetables are softened but still crisp. Add in arrowroot and water mixture and pre-baked tofu. Stir until sauce is thickened. Serve immediately.

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Tofu Broccoli Stir-Fry

While I like to consider myself a healthy person, this classification is occasionally challenged as I learn about the food philosophy of some of my blogging peers, read a report on the potential dangers of an ingredient I’m frequently using, or listen to someone else’s take on what we should be putting into our bodies. While healthy debate and ongoing curiosity about our ideal dietary choices is probably a good thing, at times the information can be downright confusing. Depending on who you listen to, either fat, carbs, protein, soy, sugar, cooked food or processed food is the enemy.

I am not a doctor, a nutritionist or a scientist. Maybe this is the reason I’m not firmly committed to any one philosophy. I stopped eating animals because I learned the backstory of what happens to them before they’re our food (though I’m also fairly skeptical of the healthiness of many animal products). I stopped eating gluten and sugar because bloodwork results told me these were two of the reasons I was constantly sick. Pretty much everything else is (almost) fair game.

That said, I do adhere to some personal — albeit somewhat loose — rules for what to eat. They are as follows:

1. Too much of any one thing is probably not a good thing.If I eat a carb-loaded breakfast or lunch, I’ll go with salad for dinner. If soy has been a constant presence for the day, I make sure to ease off of it for awhile. While fruit is full of vitamins and often fiber, it can also be high in sugar, so I eat it much less often than I would actually like. This “rule” could probably re-stated as follows: much like one’s investments, one should diversify her diet.

2. Whole food is almost certainly better than processed.But I won’t kill myself over the occassional processed ingredient, because I’m fairly sure that it’s not going to kill me.

3. Listen to your body.I stopped eating kiwi when I was about five years old because it made my throat itch like crazy. I was not yet reading full books or doing fractions, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out when something’s not right. Your body is smart. Listen to it.

4. Have an open mind.

My final rule — to be open-minded — sort of indirectly inspired this stir-fry. Over Thanksgiving, my uncle loaned my mom this book called Eat to Beat Cancer*. The book lays out a general diet plan for cancer prevention, along with individual sections aimed at preventing specific types of cancers. But the primary focus of the book seems to be on the list of super cancer-fighting foods from different foods groups, along with a few common foods to avoid (dairy being the main culprit). Some might scoff at a book that professes to help prevent a disease that has preyed on many seemingly healthy, active, health-conscious people. But my take is that there’s really no harm in making a point to eat more of at least some of the foods on the list, many of which are indisputably healthy in their own right. And if it helps to prevent cancer, well, hooray! If not, what did I really lose?

Of the foods that jumped out to me from the book were broccoli, soy and sesame seeds (now do you see where this stir-fry comes into play?) Still, you can basically choose any protein or vegetables you wish for your stir-fry. The sauce is really the star here, and will probably bring any combination of other ingredients to life. I’ve been trying out stir-fry sauces for seemingly as long as I can remember, and have never been completely happy with how they turned out. Whether they were too salty, too sweet or too sour, I’ve just been somewhat unimpressed until I tried this recipe the other night. It’s not necessarily adapted from any recipe in particular, though it’s probably inspired by many of those I’ve seen over time. Just the perfect sauce to help get more broccoli, tofu and sesame into my diet — whether I really need it or not!

* Bonus fact about the author: according to Amazon.com, he received his doctoral degree in environmental toxicology from my alma matter, The University of Michigan (so this book must be legit).

Serves: about 4

As far as I know, pretty much every ingredient for this stir-fry can be purchased at Trader Joes or at your local grocery store. I love when that happens; when a recipe is accessible to just about everyone.

Stir-Fry Sauce

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

3 tablespoons wheat-free tamari (of course, non gluten-free folks can use regular soy sauce)

3/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 teaspoons cornstarch (or arrowroot starch)

2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

You will also need:

15 oz. extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry, cubed

1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used grapeseed)

1 head broccoli florets, roughly chopped (about 4 cups)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Whisk together all ingredients for stir-fry sauce. Set aside.

2. Heat oil* in a large (preferably non-stick) skillet. Add tofu and saute over high heat, stirring occassionally, until all sides are lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add broccoli and stir-fry sauce and toss until broccoli has softened and sauce has reduced by about half, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sesame seeds. Serve over brown rice or with rice noodles.

* I also saw on Dr. Oz that tossing your food in the oil before cooking instead of heating the oil in your skillet helps to preserve the benefits of whatever oil you’re using. I didn’t do this (I forgot), but you could always toss your tofu in the oil first if you wish to do so.

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Asian Vegetable-Noodle Soup

I have to admit, I’ve not always been the biggest soup person. That’s not to say I don’t love certain (indeed, many) soups — crushed lentil, gazpacho and Tom Yum come to mind — it’s just that old standards like chicken noodle, lentil or potato-leek never really did much for me. My slight apathy toward certain soups gained momentum when I started eating a vegan diet. Vegetable stock necessarily replaced chicken as a base, and I was immediately disappointed with how inadequate a substitute it could be in certain applications. Take, for example, an Asian broth. Something about a backdrop of celery, turmeric and onion — three ingredients nearly always going into a traditional vegetable stock — just doesn’t balance with the salty, subtle, umami-like taste of most Asian soups.

Enter this homemade broth. Inspired by my recipe for vegetarian pho (an excpetion to the vegetable-stock-is-no-good rule), I decided to infuse my own broth with ginger and garlic, then add soy sauce for a salty, Asian flavor. A hint of sesame oil adds a bit of nuttiness and added flavor.

If you commit this recipe to memory, my guess is you’ll be rewarded when cold and flu season hits. In my experience, an easy, light and subtle hot broth is as much a required remedy as zinc, vitamin C and rest. You can omit the noodles if you choose, swap out certain veggies (though the baby bok choy seems to me to be a must here), and add some red chile flakes for spiciness if you’d like.

Serves: about 4

Soy-Ginger Broth:

6 cups water

1 large bulb ginger, washed and chopped into 4-5 pieces

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed but left intact

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari sauce

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

salt to taste

Additions:

3 bunches baby bok choy, washed and chopped

1/2 block extra firm tofu, diced

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

rice noodles (cooked according to package directions)

chopped scallions (optional)

Directions:

1. Add water, garlic, ginger and soy sauce to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Remove garlic and ginger from broth using a strainer. Add vegetables and simmer until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add tofu and heat through.

2. Remove soup from heat and stir in sesame oil. If necessary, add a little salt to taste. Ladle broth and vegetables over prepared rice noodles and serve immediately.

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Creamy Almond Butter Noodles

So, there are days — more frequently, lately — where I have this nagging urge to just stop what I’m doing, throw my hands to the air and scream why can’t I just be normal?!?!?!?!?!?

Am I alone here?

Take, for example, today. Dishes piled high in the sink. Wedding thank you notes waiting to be written. A workout routine that’s been neglected for far too long. Friends whose calls have gone unreturned. Job applications waiting to be sent out. A doctors appointment that needs to be made. It would be a good idea to tackle one of these items on my to-do list, don’t you think? Yeah, I think so, too. So what do I do? I decide to bake a cake.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!

Aside from baking cakes at very inopportune moments, I have other traits that are really starting to get in the way of real life these days. Like my incessant need to tweak this site. If you haven’t noticed (and how could you not), the tweaking — of the logo, the setup, the sidebars, even the photos — has bordered on compulsive. This has made being normal quite the challenge. Weekend plans with Gennaro to catch a long-anticipated movie can be easily threatened by my sudden awareness of a glitch in the way this site appears in a certain browser. You know, because double- checking different browser shots is the kind of thing I do to pass the time before heading out to the movies. Hours later, I’ve re-vamped the entire look, only to discover, this time, that my pictures are ever-the-slightest bit bigger in this new design. And I don’t like it. By now, Gennaro is asleep on the couch, and I’m having one of those moments again.

What is wrong with me?!?

As you may have quessed, the compulsive tendencies carry over into my recipe-writing as well. I’ve even been known to make recipes after they’ve been posted and decide, this really would be better with less sweetener, and more nuts. And so I’ll change it, likely annoying several people in the process, none more so than myself. Can I pass this all off as “being a perfectionist” and call it a day? Well, luckily, I do recognize (sometimes) when enough is enough.

…Like with these noodles. I adapted the recipe for this sauce from a recipe in Delicious Meets Nutritious, the cookbook from the folks at Xagave (which is actually a pretty awesome cookbook, by the way). When I say adapt, I usually mean “overhaul,” since I am not always content to only play around with a recipe a little bit (surprise, surprise). But in this case, I made 3 very small changes. Tasted it. Loved it. Thought about it.

No, I wasn’t going to change anything else, thank-you-very-much.

It was the ultimate exercise in restraint, but the right choice. Sometimes, you have to quit while you’re ahead. This recipe was the perfect balance of creamy, spicy, sweet and salty. Over noodles, it was downright addictive. You can substitute peanut butter for the almond butter here (the original recipe calls for peanut butter). You can also use this as a dipping sauce, which is how it’s billed in the cookbook. Instead of heating this, you can also blend everything in a blender. But I like the way the flavors of the ginger and the garlic are sort of mellowed out when it’s heated through. This is such an easy, quick dinner, that it almost justifies a reckless foray into unecessary cake-baking for dessert.

Almost.  

One Year Ago Today: Turkish Shepherd’s Salad

Creamy Almond Butter Sauce:

Adapted from Delicious Meets Nutritious

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/4 cup creamy almond butter

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 clove garlic, grated or pressed

1/2 cup lite coconut milk

3 tablespoons wheat-free tamari soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine all ingredients except for lime juice. Whisk until almond butter is melted and the sauce is heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Set aside.

Toss with:

1/2 lb. cooked gluten-free linquine (eyeball it if using a 1 lb. package)

3 scallions, chopped

This recipe serves about 3-4 but can easily be doubled.

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Vegan Pad Thai

Lately I’ve been really enjoying shopping at the local Asian convenience store down the street. I sort of spend more time than one normally spends at grocery stores (even someone like me, who enjoys spending time at markets) perusing the aisles of bean pastes, chili oils, rice wrappers and seaweed. I’m sort of in awe at all the possible ingredients and flavors that can go into a particular dish. One ingredient I’ve always enjoyed in dishes when I’m eating out — but which hasn’t quite made its way into my pantry (until tonight, that is) — is tamarind. I would be happy with a spoon and a bowl of that brown, tamarind dipping sauce that comes with the pappadum at Indian restaurants. So I decided to bring some home with me the other day. This Pad Thai happened as a result.

To veganize: I used tofu to sort of mimic the texture of egg. No fish sauce? No problem. I didn’t find myself missing it at all. Also, I tend to like a lot of spice — so much so that I fear my taste buds might be impervious to heat these days. Alright, not really. I did almost rip my tongue out of my mouth a few weeks ago when I bit into a hot pepper, not knowing a large piece had fallen into my salad. But generally speaking, I like my meals (especially those of the Asian variety) to have some heat. If you don’t fall under that category, I would say omit the chili peppers before omitting the garlic chili paste, since the paste adds flavor and color as well as heat.

Serves: about 4

Vegan Pad Thai:

3 tbsp tamarind concentrate (found in Asian aisle or Asian grocery stores)

1/4 cup wheat-free tamari sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Thai chili peppers, sliced (optional)

2 scallions, sliced

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon dried mustard powder

1 block firm or extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry

1 tablespoon olive oil

~ 8 oz. flat rice noodles, reconstituted in hot water (according to package directions), drained and chopped

1 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Lan Chi garlic chili paste

salt to taste

fresh cilantro, chopped peanuts and lime wedges for serving

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, whisk together tamarind, tamari, lime juice, sesame oil, scallions, ginger, agave, garlic, chilis, coriander and mustard. Set aside.

2. Crumble tofu into a large skillet or wok. Add olive oil, heat skillet to high and toss. Let tofu cook until browned and not watery, about ten minutes, stirring pretty consistently. Reduce heat to low. Add perpared sauce and rice noodles. Toss until noodles are coated. If the noodles seem a bit dry, you can add a bit of water (maybe a few tablespoons) to loosen them up. Add chili garlic paste and bean sprouts. Stir until chili garlic paste has coated all the noodles. Taste to adjust salt.

3. To serve, top noodles with crushed or chopped peanuts, cilantro leaves. Squeeze with lime wedges before eating.

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Miso Soup

Sore throat? Check. Cough? Check. Snow storm headed into New York tomorrow? Check. If there were ever a night for a big, warm bowl of miso soup, tonight was it.

I thought about ordering delivery. That way I could just curl up and rest without dirtying up the kitchen. Problem is, I was in the mood for miso soup, and I’m not aware of anywhere where miso soup is sold in large quantities and will be delivered a la carte. My friend Liz told me that once when she was sick, she just ordered eight of the small bowls of miso soup from a sushi place. I thought about doing that, but then I remembered I had bought some shiro miso awhile ago, and it was still unopened. That’s when I decided to try a homemade miso soup. Guess what? It was easier than ordering delivery. And faster, too.

Miso Soup:

6 cups water

1/3 cup shiro miso

2 tablespoons coconut amino (substitute wheat-free tamari if you can’t find it)

1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar

2 green onions, sliced

2 kale leaves (stems removed), sliced

~ 1/3 of a block extra firm tofu, diced

1 sheet sushi nori, torn into pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Directions:

1. In a medium to large soup pot, bring water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Whisk in miso, coconut amino and plum vinegar. Add green onion and kale and stir until kale has wilted.

2. Remove from heat and stir in nori and salt. Add more to taste.

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Pan Glazed Ginger Tofu

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of eating at Kuma Inn, a small, intimate, reasonably priced Filipino-Thai tapas restaurant (bonus: it’s also BYO). All of the dishes were quite good, but Gennaro and I both particularly liked a really delicious tofu with Thai basil in a soy-mirin broth. It reminded me of how good tofu can be. So, if you live in New York or are in for a visit, be sure to check out Kuma Inn for good food, a fun atmosphere, and good music to boot (Chef King Phojanakong doubles as DJ as well).

Inspired by Chef King’s flavorful dish, I came up with this simple yet flavorful dish, and in doing so broke out of my plain, baked tofu rut. This tofu was lick-the-plate good, with a sweet and spicy sauce that goes great with some plain rice and vegetables to round out the meal. If you like a firmer tofu, you can bake the slices before adding it to the sauce, or sear it on each side before slicing. If you’re in a tofu rut like I was, this recipe is a must-try.

Pan Glazed Tofu:

1 block extra firm tofu, halved lengthwise then cut into square slices 1/4″ thick

1 teaspoon olive oil (plus more for baking)

1/4 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons reduced sodium wheat-free tamari

3 tablespoons agave nectar

3 green onions, sliced, greens topped off (save for garnish)

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

1-2 Thai chile peppers, sliced (optional)

1 teaspoon arrowroot

fresh cilantro (optional) for garnish

Directions:

1. If baking tofu first, preheat oven to 350. Lay tofu slices flat on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, turn, and bake for another 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining ingredients in a bowl for the sauce. Heat a large skillet on medium-high and add sauce. Heat until bubbly, then add tofu. Toss to coat and simmer until sauce has reduced to desired amount. Sprinkle with cilantro and green onion tops (optional). Serve immediately.

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