Ginger & Garlic Roasted Tofu

I’m going to have used every one of my housewares in a shot in a minute, here.

Okay, I’m making some changes to this, which I’ve previously done with mushrooms included.

Tofu gets such a bad rap, even now, for not tasting like anything, when that, really, is the point. I had to acquire a taste for tofu – I certainly did not have one when I became a vegetarian. I’ll admit, I drink plain unsweetened soymilk, but I’ve been to a Japanese restaurant or two where there was plain ol’ unadorned tofu in my hot pot, and I found I had to try to just be all Zen about it to enjoy it. (Apologies to my friend the Asian philosophy expert for the colloquial use of be all Zen about it.)

There is tofu you can buy that not only tastes like something, it tastes great right out of the package – there’s all sorts of baked and marinated stuff, like the baked tofu from White Wave. It’s in half-pound packages, though, and plain tofu comes in pound packages, and the flavored stuff will really set you back.

So I’ve posted something like this before, but I’ve done it a couple more times and wanted to put it down, first of all, and build on it. I’ve increased the paprika as it improves the browning, and I’ve removed the lemon juice, as it adds liquid that needs to cook off but little flavor in this application. I realized I used more soy sauce than I had originally indicated. I haven’t used the fresh ginger here, as the idea was to create something that was really, really easy and could just come from pantry ingredients.

For now, I’ve got this one recipe worked out, but there are other flavors that could be applied to tofu that would benefit it. Consider this the first in an occasional development series.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1 lb. extra-firm tofu
1/2 t. ginger powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 T. paprika
1 T. canola and/or sesame oil
1/4 c. tamari

First, liberate the tofu from its container and pat dry thoroughly. Cut into 1/2 in. cubes. Mix the remaining ingredients together to comprise the marinade. Add the tofu and stir to mix. It will only take it a minute or two to take up the marinade. Place the marinated tofu into a 13 x 9 inch roasting pan (glass will work better than metal) and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 30 minutes.

Makes about four servings, unless you are preaching to the tofu-converted, which may happen after they taste this.

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Fried Rice

This was an old post, but I made fried rice tonight and revised my method. I liked the results well enough to bring this to the front.

Fried rice is serendipity. If you look in the fridge and see leftover rice, you’re most of the way there. The other stuff you need you might already have – and it’s infinitely flexible – if you have no carrots, in goes a bell pepper. If you have no broccoli, in go some leftover green beans. Leftover brown rice is the best, but even basmati will work. Most Chinese restaurants put egg in their fried rice – and as we’ve previously established, I’m Not Much On Eggs, so I don’t. But you could, at the end, put in a well-beaten egg and stir until you got that bits-of-egg-everywhere effect. Easy enough.

This is what I do with leftovers instead of casserole. Because of that, a recipe isn’t really necessary – so I’ll offer a plan, as I sometimes do. (In one recent batch, the leftover tofu from the Tofu and Onions in Caramel Sauce went in.)

Ingredients:
canola and sesame oils for the pan
1 onion, chopped

Heat the oil – about half and half canola and sesame – over medium-high heat in a large skillet or pot. Saute the onion until starting to color. Remove and set aside.

Add:

vegetables chopped as for stir-fry, including these – leftovers are okay:
carrots
celery
bok choy
cabbage
peppers
green beans
asparagus
green onions
etc.

and vegetables that don’t need chopping:
snow peas
frozen peas
mung bean sprouts
etc.

Put the thick or dense vegetables (carrots) in before the quick-cooking vegetables (bean sprouts). Have enough vegetables that they won’t look paltry compared to the volume of rice. Once the vegetables have been stir-fried over high heat for a few minutes, remove them and set aside.

Have ready:
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 in. piece fresh ginger, minced
¼ t. red pepper flakes

Add a small amount of oil to the pan, put the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes into the oil and sauté until aromatic, just a few seconds.

Then add:
a quantity of rice (I’m usually dealing with about 3-4 c.)
a few dashes of soy sauce

and stir-fry until the rice and seasonings are incorporated. Add back the vegetables – at this point you can add frozen peas if you’d like – and stirl until all parties have all gotten to know each other quite well. If you have some leftover tofu, that can go in too.

Roasted Tofu and Mushrooms

Oh yeah, doesn’t that sound awesome?

Really, if you’ve never liked tofu, this is a good place to start. The time in the oven does away with the squishy cloudlike blandness, reducing the tofu to crispy-edged little hunks of protein and the mushrooms to an intensely flavored chewy adjunct. It really is good.

As a bonus, once the initial chopping is done, this dish requires very little tending – it goes in the oven and requires only an occasional stir.

This is a fine thing to toss with just about any stir-fry. The reason for doing it in the oven is that browning tofu in a pan takes a lot of time, attention, and oil, and adds enormously to the time it takes to get a stir-fry together. If you can do the tofu part in the oven, where it can tend itself, everything else goes much easier. At the end, serve yourself your rice, stir-fry, and then some tofu and mushrooms on top.

There is garlic powder in this recipe, which I hardly ever use – I have it on hand for garlic bread. Sure, I love bruschetta with fresh garlic rubbed across its surface, but I also like the more pedestrian butter and garlic salt broiled until bubbling. The reason it’s here is because fresh garlic would scorch, and the idea of the dish is really more in line with that broiled garlic bread. You could make this without the garlic powder and then toss in a couple cloves of fresh garlic at or near the end, which I’m sure would be wonderful as well, but the idea was for this to be easy.

Now you know I’m a garlic powder apologist. (That phrase does not currently appear on Google…am I the first?)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

1 lb. extra-firm tofu, drained and thoroughly patted dry (I’ve used Nasoya and White Wave in this recipe with equal success), then cut into 1/2” squares.
1-6 oz. package cremini mushrooms (look for “baby bellas” if they’re not labeled as cremini), stems removed, cleaned, and finely chopped

1 T. fresh ginger, minced
1/2 t. ginger powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. paprika
2 T. tamari
2 t. sesame oil
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt to taste

Place the tofu and mushrooms in a 13×9 glass baking dish. Combine the seasoning ingredients and pour over the tofu. Toss all ingredients to combine. Place in the oven on the middle rack, and roast, stirring every ten minutes or so, until the tofu is well-colored, the mushrooms have reduced in volume, and the whole mixture is more dry. This will take 30-40 minutes. The tofu will continue to firm up and shrink after it is removed from the oven, so it does not need to be completely dry when removed from the heat.

This method is also quite nice when the mushrooms are replaced with red peppers.

Tofu and Onions in Caramel Sauce

This came from a recent New York Times food section. It was good, but not as great as the story about it had lead me to expect. A perfectly serviceable tofu recipe, though, as long as one is patient with melting sugar. Mine seized after I added the soy sauce, so I added a tablespoon or two of water and brought the heat up. It eventually melted.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup nam pla (Asian fish sauce) or soy sauce (obviously, I used soy sauce)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 pound firm tofu, cut into chunks of 3/8 inch to 1 inch
1 tablespoon butter, optional
1 tablespoon lime juice or vinegar, or to taste
Salt if necessary
White rice for serving.

1. Put sugar and a tablespoon of water in a 10- or 12-inch skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until sugar melts and browns a bit. Turn off heat, and carefully add nam pla or soy sauce. Turn heat to low, and add onion. Cook, stirring, 5 to 10 minutes, until onion is very tender. Add pepper and tofu.

2. Gently simmer, turning tofu once or twice in sauce so it is glazed and heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir in butter, along with lime juice or vinegar. Taste, and add salt, more pepper or lime juice or vinegar if you like. Serve immediately over rice.

Tahini Stir-Fry

I got this idea from a dipping sauce for asparagus that contained sesame oil and some mayonnaise. When I had originally looked at the picture, I had assumed by the color of the finished product that it contained tahini. Upon reading the ingredients, it turned out that it didn’t, but that was an intriguing thought – go a little further with that sesame theme and use tahini in a stir-fry? That seemed very close to a great number of peanut-sauced Thai dishes I’d encountered, so I forged ahead. I gave it a shot with a container of haricots verts and some extra-firm organic tofu. Pretty good – and fast.

1/3 c. sesame tahini
1 T. sesame oil
1 T. red chili-garlic sauce
1 T. tamari
1 t. mirin
½ c. water

Place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until combined – it may look for a minute like It Will Never Emulsify, but it will, I promise.

For the stir-fry:
sesame oil for the pan
1 ½ – 2 lbs. haricots vert, trimmed (mine come in little plastic boxes of about ¾ lb. each)
1 lb. extra-firm tofu, drained and dried, pressed if you have time. Cube into ¾ in. pieces.

In a nonstick pan, heat a little sesame oil over pretty darn high heat until hot but not smoking. Toss in the tofu cubes. Stir-fry until slightly browned on most sides. Place the tofu in the bowl with the sauce. (If you can do these two steps ahead, you’ll get better-tasting tofu. If not, it’s not the end of the world.) Add the green beans to the pan, and stir-fry for about two minutes, until they pick up a few brown spots. Add a couple tablespoons of water, cover the pan, and allow the beans to steam for two minutes. Add the tofu back into the pan, reduce the heat, and cook until the sauce is heated through. The tahini may brown a little on the tofu – that’s okay. Remove from the heat and serve over rice.

Broccoli Stir-Fry

Wow! I made an awesome stir-fry last night and I want everyone else to have a chance to make it too. Broccoli was on sale at Whole Foods this week, and Michael and I finally found the well-stocked Asian market in town over the weekend. It looks like a wreck both inside and out – not too clean and I wouldn’t buy anything real perishable there – but they had an awesome selection of bottled stuff for me to replenish my supply of quickie Asian ingredients with. The Lee Kum Kee black bean sauce in this recipe is an old favorite that I first found with my WFM co-worker Lorraine the day we were in Eden Market in Seven Corners and the woman checking out behind us had a live fish in her cart. I had never seen anything flipping around in a shopping cart before.

Ingredients:
2 large bunches broccoli, separated into even-sized flowerets
2 packages marinated tofu, cut into cubes

To cook:
canola or other neutral oil

Sauce:
2 T. sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ T. ginger, minced
3 T. black bean sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
2 T. red chili and garlic paste (many brands out there)
2 ½ T. sugar
2 T. mirin
1 c. water

For thickening the sauce:
2 t. cornstarch mixed with 2 t. cold water

Heat a wok or large frying pan (I make do with a frying pan) until quite hot and add a little bit of oil. Add enough broccoli to fill the pan and stir-fry for one minute. Add about 3 T. of water, cover tightly, turn down the heat a little bit and allow to steam for two minutes. Turn into a large bowl and repeat with the remaining broccoli, replenishing the oil for each batch, until all of it is cooked. Place the tofu in the pan with a little oil. Stir-fry for a minute or two, then add a few sprinkles of water and cover tightly. Allow to steam for two minutes. Add the tofu to the broccoli.

Heat the 2 T. of sesame oil in the pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot, sauté the garlic and ginger briefly, but do not allow to brown. Mix the remaining sauce ingredients together and then add them to the pan. Bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch slurry and stir until the sauce thickens. Pour the sauce over the broccoli and tofu and toss gently. Serve over rice or whole-wheat noodles.

Red Curry with Butternut Squash

I just want to emphasize that this is awesome and you all should make it.

I have tons of Indian cookbooks, recipes, spices, and enough experience with all of those things that I feel comfortable improvising. When we get into Thai food, though, I admit, I’m out of my depth. It’s something I’d like to get better at – I only have one Thai cookbook, and do not keep lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves around – so this recipe is a baby step in that direction. I had chunks of roasted squash in the fridge, which I had roasted intending to use them in some sort of tomato-squash curry, but then my co-worker Angelina and I happened to go to a market near our work on Friday and I picked up a couple bags of California chilies. Then Michael and I took advantage of another co-worker’s advice to take a look at the Asian supermarket at the corner of Herndon and Cedar, and lo and behold! I came out with a bottle of awesome chili-garlic paste. Then when I went to start cooking this evening, I went to get out the sugar, knowing that the homemade Chili-Tomato Sauce would need sugar, and hooray! Back there behind the sugar was a can of coconut milk! I could actually make something pretty Thai. I could hardly have done better if I had tried to coordinate this recipe.

All that said, it’s really an Indian recipe – Thai food ‘not so much’ with the tomatoes (as Debbie would say.) So this is living in the borderland. I know the chili-tomato sauce is kind of a pain to make, but guess what? You can use the extra for other things besides this recipe. It works great as a base for chili, and it could be used for other curries and soups too. You could even season it in a Mexican direction and use it as an enchilada sauce.

Chili-Tomato Sauce
3 oz. dried California Chilies
3/4 of a 28 oz. can of Muir Glen Roasted Tomatoes, drained

Place the chilies in a large bowl and cover with water, then weight down with a plate that fits well within the bowl. Place the bowl in the microwave and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the microwave and let the chilies soak for at least a half hour. When they are soaked, remove them from the water, reserving it, and pull the stems off of them, taking as much of the seeds with them as you can. Place the chilies in a blender and add about 3/4 c. of the soaking water. Puree thoroughly (this may take a few minutes), then force through a wire sieve with a rubber/silicone spatula (this is important so as not to get recalcitrant chili bits in your finished sauce) into a bowl. Rinse out the blender. Place the tomatoes in the blender and puree thoroughly. Add to the chili paste already in the bowl.

Butternut Squash (can be done in advance)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Split the squash lengthwise. Careful with that knife. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Set them aside if you want to roast them later. They make awesome snacks and are super good for you. Peel the squash (I suggest cutting the skin off with a knife, as it is a beast of a job – again, careful with that knife), and cut the peeled squash into rough 3/4 in. cubes. Roast on a baking sheet, turning occasionally, until tender and browned around the edges. Takes an hour or less. Set aside.

Curry Sauce:
oil for sautéing
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. ginger, minced
1/2 c. cilantro, minced
2 T. ground coriander
1 T. ground cumin
1 c. Chili-Tomato paste
1 can coconut milk (stir well after opening)
3 T. prepared chili-garlic paste (mine is Chinese)
grated rind of one lemon (organic, if you can find it, is best for this)
2 T. sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large, wide saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, cilantro, coriander, and cumin and sauté until the spices darken a few shades and the garlic and ginger have lost their raw smell. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until blended. Add the butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Serve over rice.