Attempts at a Slow Carb Life

A few meals from the last two months:

Shrimp and zucchini "noodles"

Shrimp and zucchini “noodles” – an only somewhat successful first attempt at replacing pasta with pasta-like substances. Fortunately, we like both zucchini and shrimp. Unfortunately, this was a pretty lame dinner. Next time I’ll try NomNomPaleo’s version.

Adventures in Low(er) Carb Eating

Orin asked, “Is this breakfast food?”. I said, “Today it is.” Mustard tofu with sauteed kale, mushrooms, and onions. I had this breakfast pocket on the brain.

Dinner, SELMA-style

Post vacation dinner, SELMA-style: fried eggs over pulled pork, shredded cheese, and a coarse salsa made from garden excess. I discovered exactly how many successive pulled pork meals I can stomach. The answer? Five.

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Springtime Tofu

I’ve been in a cooking slump since starting my new job a couple of weeks ago.  We’ve been busy, or we’ve been out of town, or Shane has had something going on and I’ve foraged for big salads or Plum Market takeout.  This dish was the rare exception to the slump.

A Very Green Dinner

I’ve been really into marinated broiled tofu this winter, but I think this dish marks a turned corner for me.  The tofu is baked instead of broiled, and battered instead of marinated, both of which give it an entirely different texture: chewy and nutty, sweet and savory, ripe for pairing with steamed veg and a salad.  The pistachio crust gives it a vegetal nuttiness – but roasted almonds are just as good, as we discovered over breakfast the other morning.  That’s right: I may not be able to muster a real meal for dinner most days, but I did get out of bed and get this tofu in the toaster oven before my shower the other morning.  So maybe the slump’s all in my head.

Recipe:
Pistachio-Crusted Tofu from FatFree Vegan Kitchen – I omitted the soy sauce marinade, and would recommend reducing the breadcrumbs by half in order to get more nuts, less filler

1129 Indian Spiced Peas and Tofu

I have mixed feelings about this dinner. It was good – and smelled even better – but it wasn’t a knock out, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

For one, the original recipe called for the tofu to be tossed in cornstarch, fried, then set aside for most of the recipe.  I don’t love the texture of fried tofu – or the extra fat from the oil – so we sliced it, gave it a good dose of olive oil cooking spray, then broiled it – so it had better texture but not much flavor.  Perhaps a ginger-y marinade would fix this?

For another, there was too much liquid.  The original recipe called for 28 oz diced tomatoes in liquid plus 1/4-1/2 cup water or broth.  I used fresh tomatoes but only had about a cup on hand, so I supplemented with a couple of diced peppers.  This meant that I added significantly less liquid to the pan than called for, and it still was a bit wet.  I’m not sure where the liquid is supposed to go, as everything in the recipe is full of its own moisture and certainly doesn’t need any extra.  I’m also wondering if coconut milk might be a nice substitute?

Finally, the seasoning.  Adding more of everything that originally called for – plus a teaspoon of red pepper flakes – gave the recipe a nice heat, but we both found ourselves salting generously.  Perhaps more salt and the coconut milk previously suggested would help?

Regardless, this was a fast and healthy dish, and made enough for dinner for the two of us and three lunch portions when served with steamed Jasmine rice.

Indian Spiced Peas and Tofu
Adapted from Whole Foods, presented as I made it.  See above for suggested modifications.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (14-ounce) package extra firm tofu, drained, and pressed for at least a few hours to extract extra moisture
2 yellow onions, very thinly sliced
1 generous tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 generous tablespoon garam masala
1 generous teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-2 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup diced bell peppers – I used green and red
1/4 cup water or vegetable broth
1 (1-pound) bag frozen green peas, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the tofu into 1″ pieces, then slice again into bite sized triangles.  Spread on a broiler-safe pan lined with tinfoil, then spray evenly with non-stick spray or brush with olive oil.  Place under preheated broiler for about 8 minutes on each side, or until golden and a little crispy.

Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions and ginger and cook, stirring often, until golden brown. Add spices, tomatoes, and peppers and simmer for 5 minutes. Add water or broth, peas and tofu, reduce heat, cover and gently simmer for 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, then spoon over rice and serve.

1108 Peanut Tofu and Veg

This dinner was delicious, you guys.  Even better, it required minimal prep and minimal hand-on cooking time – and the former could be reduced by using store-bought peanut sauce.  Simple, plenty of protein, and full of veggie goodness.  I could use a few more adjectives to tell you how much we liked it, but instead I will tell you that even though this recipe was supposed to serve four, we ate the whole damned thing, compulsively plucking mushrooms and cubed tofu out of the serving bowl long after we intended to stop.

Tofu and Mushrooms with Peanut Sauce
Adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, grated
Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 pound block extra-firm tofu
2 cups quartered mushrooms (or more if you’ve got ’em)
1 bell pepper, cut into 1″ chunks

Combine the first set of ingredients, then refrigerate for at least an hour or up to five days. Add the tofu and marinate at least half an hour or up to overnight. When you’re ready for dinner, preheat your grill or broiler. Thread the tofu, mushrooms, and peppers on skewers, brushing everything with the peanut sauce. If you’re using the broiler, you can alternately just put everything on a foil-lined baking sheet. Grill or broil, turning once until the mushrooms are cooked through and the tofu is lightly charred, about 10-15 minutes total.

1106 SO Into this Dinner

Early on in our time in DC, I discovered Teaism on an overcast and lonely afternoon of wandering around downtown. Just a few blocks off the Mall, Teaism became a go-to spot for us if we were in the city and needed lunch after going to the Portrait Gallery or one of the other Smithsonians. On this particular day, however, I fell in love with their bento boxes.

Lunch at Teaism

The contents varied from trip to trip, but the upper right hand corner remained constant: sticky rice with a nutty savory seasoning called furikake, which I loved enough to pick up a jar that then sat unused – until today.

A Damn Good Dinner

Dinner tonight was marinated and broiled tofu – worlds better than last night’s – and a packet of Trader Joe’s brown rice with furikake. Salty, savory, and so damned good. My marinade was a bit of this and that – all measures are approximate, and you should absolutely adjust as suits your tastes:
1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 large clove garlic, pulverized by whatever means you see fit
Vegetarian alternatives to fish and oyster sauces are apparently available at ethnic food stores, but I haven’t tried them, so I make no promises. All I know is that if you marinate tofu in this stuff for half an hour and then broil it for about 8 minutes on each side, it will be all you can do to not EAT IT ALL UP.

1105 Stroganoff in Theory Only

I COOKED tonight, can you believe it?  I don’t know if it was necessarily successful, but I did make dinner and then I ate it, and I have leftovers that I might eat for breakfast tomorrow.  It just wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.  I was aiming for the flavors of a stroganoff – except with mushrooms and tofu instead of beef.  And I didn’t have sour cream.  Or heavy cream.  Or yogurt of any variety.  As you might imagine, what I ended up preparing bore absolutely no resemblance to stroganoff.

I drained and pressed a block of tofu in the fridge all day, so when I got home, I sliced half of it and topped it with a marinade of balsamic vinegar, sherry, garlic, and a little bit of olive oil.  Half an hour later, those slices of tofu went under the broiler for about 8 minutes on each side – just enough to get crispy – while I sauteed a cup or so of sliced mushrooms in butter and the remaining marinade.  In an attempt to make the sauce thicker and creamier, I added cottage cheese (I know, what was I thinking?!), which got all melty but didn’t make anything that resembled a sauce.  The end result was, well, interesting, but I ate it right up.

What I should have made:
Mushroom stroganoff from Food Network

1022 Happy mouths, happy friends.

@ Jolly Pumpkin
Photo by ryanbmolloy

I’m really having a hard time figuring out the best part of tonight. Was it the red chile tofu sandwich at Jolly Pumpkin? The trio of dips split by a trio of friends? The fact that I successfully ate something other than oatmeal or soup? Perhaps it was Shane’s walleye, which he later said he wished he could just eat forever without stopping. If walleye become an endangered species, you can blame him.

zingerman's
Photo by surlygirl

Or was it Laurie’s first visit to Zingerman’s? We were plied with anchovies, cheese, and four or five kinds of ham, culminating with jamón ibérico. Jamón ibérico! $200 per pound! Cue the sounds of angelic delight. And then we went Next Door and tried chocolate studded with cacao nibs, and were told that we were basically making more chocolate in our mouths as we ate.

Chocolates at Zingerman's

Happy mouths, happy friends.