No-Kebab Kebabs: Vegetables with Lemon-Herb Tofu

I’ve been trying to put together a lemon-herb tofu for a while, and I think I’ve finally got it.

The original inspiration for this was kebabs. However, you will notice that no sticks were harmed in the making of these vegetables.

They did not go on sticks for a couple reasons. Mixed skewers are beautiful-looking, with all the vegetables arrayed in a colorful progression, but no matter how evenly everything is cut, one foodstuff inevitably cooks before another, resulting in burned something and nearly-raw something else. Additionally, I don’t own a grill (it seems somewhat pointless when my favorite food is beans) and I find that placing the vegetables flat on a baking sheet under the broiler works very well.

I usually make something like this at midsummer, when there are plenty of appropriate vegetables. I especially like broiled small tomatoes, their skins puckering and their flesh slumped into a juicy mass that collapses over the other ingredients when tossed together. In May, though, there are no such ideal tomatoes on offer, so we limited ourselves to what was locally available: the yellow squash and red onions from our CSA box, plus zucchini and fennel from the farmers’ market.

Despite the lack of tomatoes, these came out very well. The summer squashes developed a buttery, almost nutty toasted flavor, the onions softened and caramelized beautifully, and the fennel yielded its crunch just enough to provide an interesting counterpoint to the softer vegetables and the springy-textured seasoned tofu.

I’ve been wrestling all week with how to describe the red onions used in this recipe – I would call them green onions, because they have their soft stalks on – except they’re red on the bottom. Green red onions sounds confusing. Perhaps they’re immature red onions, because they haven’t been dried for storage?

For the marinade:
1 bunch parsley (about 4 c.)
1 bunch mint (about 60 leaves)
6 cloves garlic
Juice of one lemon (about 4 T.)
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. water
Salt and pepper to taste

For the tofu and vegetables:
1 lb. extra-firm tofu
4 zucchini, cut in thick rounds
2 yellow squash, cut in thick rounds
1 young red onion, cut in thick rounds
2 small bulbs fennel, split into wedges

The night before, cut the tofu into even squares and place it into a wide, flat container. Place all of the marinade ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal S-blade. Process until minced but with some texture remaining. Apply about half the marinade to it and refrigerate at least eight hours or overnight.

Preheat the broiler and arrange the marinated tofu on a large baking sheet with a rim. Place the tofu about four inches from the broiler and cook about eight minutes, checking every two minutes for brownness. Once one side is browned, turn and cook the other side the same way. Remove to a large warmed plate and cover.

While the tofu is cooking, mix the vegetables with the remainder of the marinade. When the tofu is finished cooking and removed to a plate, arrange the vegetables flat on the baking sheet. Place them under the broiler and cook until browned on one side, about eight minutes, then turn all the vegetables over and broil another eight minutes on the second side.

Combine the vegetables and tofu on the plate and serve with rice pilaf. You can also, if desired, pass lemon wedges at the table to squeeze over individual servings.

Makes four servings.

4 thoughts on “No-Kebab Kebabs: Vegetables with Lemon-Herb Tofu

  1. Saw your entry for spice is right# 2.Very good recipe.
    Happy to know indirect inspiration of my recipe ” mustard greens”.You wouldn’t believe me that ths recipe was in mind that I am going to try with bamboo
    skewers.Thanks for your sharing.

  2. This looks absolutely gorgeous, makes me salivate just thinking about it. i’ve got used to tofu plain, but have also discovered the wonders of marinades as opposed to the simple chinese/japanese technique of just deep frying it…. mmmm. Only trouble is, being English, I don’t really talk of/know of broiling, we only really ‘grill’. Is it like putting the food over a hotplate or something??

  3. Hi Rayma! Nice to ‘meet’ you! Thanks for the compliment on the Spice is Right soup. I know I’m already puzzling over what to do with edible flowers for #3. I hope you like the vegetables and marinade!
    I’m enjoying reading your blog – I am trying to learn to make some of the things you have mastery of, like sambhar and simple coriander chutney, so it is really helpful to me. I really liked hearing your memories about mangoes and especially your take on asparagus, that it reminded you of bananna trunks – is that the stems from the leaves? I have not had the good fortune to try banana trunks as yet.

  4. Thanks, Sophie! I consulted with Chimp, who lived in England as a teenager, on the off chance that he might remember what broiling was called, and he said he hadn’t the slightest idea. It was probably not the foremost topic on his mind at that age, I suppose.
    Then I went to Wikipedia and they straightened me out:
    Yes, broiling in the U.S. is what is referred to as grilling in the U.K. and Australia. Grilling in the U.S. is cooking food on a barbeque.
    I love deep-fried tofu as well – I’ve had people laugh when I describe it, as they think deep-frying something that’s ostensibly healthy is ridiculous, but it sure does remove the spongy blandness that plain tofu has.

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