Sunday, October 3, 2010

Still not vegan with a vengeance

I took a year and a half off from the blog for no reason other than the same reason there are so many other ghost blogs out there. I always roll my eyes when there's some media report or other that talks about how everyone is blogging. Sure, whatever. Everyone is blogging the same way that everyone is keeping a journal, going to the gym, or sticking to their diet.

But I've decided to give this another go, so we're back! Let's get going. We're doing a bunch of recipes together this time, trying to do a big delicious sushi bowl incorporating several elements. Kids, you'll want to open up your Veganomicons and mark these pages: 112 for Roasted Portabello mushrooms; page 113 for Easy Stir-Fried Leafy Greens; and page 128 for Baked BBQ Tofu. We're also going to use the sushi rice instructions from the Spicy Tempeh Nori Rolls on page 47.

Let's start with the Baked BBQ Tofu. I decided I wanted to do kind of a Korean take on this dinner. Not really sure why, given my previous experience with Korean Barbequed Tofu. Take a look at my impressions of another recipe I tried from the bizarre classic Tofu Cookery, which inexplicably has almost 5 stars on Amazon. I made and rejected this gem at the tender age of 12.

The first step of the recipe is to press the tofu. If you haven't done this before, let me tell you three things:
  1. Unlike other nuisance pre-steps like salting eggplant or preheating your oven, you really need to do this.
  2. It's worth it to do it, too. Squeezing the water out of tofu gives it a nice chewy texture. Nowhere near as meaty as seitan, but good.
  3. It's really easy.

To press the tofu, just cut your brick of firm or extra-firm tofu into four slices. Put it on a plate on top of a generous layer of paper towels.

Put another layer of paper towels on top of the tofu, and weight it down with something heavy. I used a casserole dish filled with marinating portabello mushrooms (more on that later), and topped that with a cast iron bacon pan for good measure. Let it all sit for 10-20 minutes or more. When you're done, you'll have some wet paper towels and some dry-ish, slightly flattened pieces of tofu. I cut them again through the middle to end up with eight flat tofu rectangles.

From this point on, I took huge liberties with the recipe. It ultimately turned out to be a hybrid of the Baked BBQ Tofu recipe, the Marinated Asian Tofu on the facing page, and a Korean marinade recipe I found on the web.
First I made the marinade, taking the random internet recipe, scaling it down to just one cup of marinade, and omitting the flour. I put the tofu in a small casserole dish and poured the marinade over it, and let it sit while I cooked the portabello mushrooms in the oven (we'll get to them in a sec). I think it was 30 minutes or so.

Then I went back to the Veganomicon recipe, putting the tofu on a greased casserole dish, cooking for 15 minutes on each side, and smothering it with the marinade at the end. It came out of the oven looking like this, nice and brown and fragrant.

As all this was going on, I was doing the roasted portabellos as well. I followed the recipe almost exactly on this one, except that since I was going for Asian flavors, I used mirin instead of the cooking wine, peanut oil instead of olive oil, and rice vinegar instead of balsamic.

They come out of the oven looking like this. What strikes me most about this picture is that even though veganism is supposed to be compassionate and all, it still looks like I killed something.

Whew! We're almost done. So finally, I did the Easy Stir-Fried Leafy Greens. You can use basically any kind of greens you want for this -- I used mustard.
I like to add a little extra fire to my food, so I added one step to this. Terry & Isa will have you fry the garlic and ginger first, but I put in two whole dried Thai chilis first, cooking them in the peanut oil till they were almost black. You can use this technique to add some subtle heat to just about anything. Remember to take the chilis out before serving or you risk being smacked by your boyfriend as he asks, "For the TWENTIETH time, are you trying to kill me?" It's happened a time or two friend.

The only other change I made was that at the end I couldn't find my sesame-chili oil, so I just toasted some sesame seeds and tossed them in instead. Mustard greens cook down a lot, by the way. The book indicates that this recipe serves 4-6, but especially as good as these are, they barely serve 2.
At last, we assemble the dish. Put the sushi rice in a bowl (the recipe Terry & Isa provide works nicely, by the way). Then top it artfully with a couple slices of tofu, some sliced portabello caps, and the greens. I also added some storebought kimchee.

This was delicious, and may become a dinner mainstay. I realize that with all the moving parts it sounds complicated, but it really only took just over an hour. These recipes are winners. I should also add that Iv said he'd just eat a bowl of the greens by themselves. They really were that good.


ismarah said...

An hour is pretty good for you! Please don't kill Iv though, we like him around.

More bizarre tofu recipes please - I've never got the hang of it.

Kath Urbahn said...

Hi, your writing is so entertaining, and that tofu made me drool so much I just set my pressed tofu in the fridge to marinate until supper. I tasted the marinade, and WOW is it great! I too omitted the flour, as I have celiac. Flour in marinade just seems wrong, anyway. Cheers!