Golden Herbed Tofu

So… how’s everyone’s sugar hangover coming along?  This might help.  This Halloween, instead of gorging ourselves on candy, hubby and I contributed to the incomes of children’s dentists across the DC metro area by distributing handfuls of candy to our trick-or-treaters, and (muahahaha!) saved the good stuff for ourselves.  And by “good stuff,” I mean tofu.  Herb-crusted tofu, to be specific, broiled until it is golden brown on the outside and creamy on the inside.  Better than Hershey’s any day if you ask me.

I know what you might be thinking.  Tofu – really?  Doesn’t that stuff taste like, well, nothing?  Well, yeah.  But that’s the beauty of it.  Tofu is very mild in flava and so it willingly takes on any flavors you cook it with.  (Remind you of anything else?  Chicken?  Pork?  Anyone?  Bueller?)  That makes tofu extremely versatile.  But I think I found my ultimate tofu.  It’s crispy, salty and herby.  15 minutes under the broiler gives it a yummy crust and wonderful texture.  If you think you dislike tofu, try this over a bed of greens with your favorite salad dressing (Annie’s Organic Goddess for us, please!).  You might just change your mind.

Golden Herbed Tofu

1 block extra-firm tofu, rinsed and patted dry*
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
herbs de provence
kosher salt
black pepper

  • Preheat broiler to high.
  • Slice tofu as follows: cut into 1 1/2 inch thick rectangles, then cut each rectangle in half on the diagonal to form triangles.  Arrange triangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat.
  • Drizzle olive oil over tofu and brush with a silicone brush until olive oil lightly coats each piece.  Season generously with herbs de provence, salt and pepper.
  • Broil for 10-15 minutes (I needed the full 15, but if your broiler has more oomph than mine you may need less – so check it after 10) until golden brown.  Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, and serve over a salad the size of your face.

*Nota Baker: I don’t bother to press extra-firm tofu because the brand I buy (Twin Oaks, which I think is generally available at Whole Foods in Virginia – I know KERF buys it in Charlottesville – but may not be accessible elsewhere) just doesn’t seem to need pressing.  With some brands, pressing does really improve the texture.  So if your typical practice is to press your tofu, go right ahead and don’t let me stop you.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Pizza Rice and Beans

Rice and beans is one of the most versatile dinners in a vegetarian’s repetoire.  Together they make a complete protein, they fill you up without tons of extra empty calories, and there are infinite varieties.  I often do a Mexican version, but recently I decided to try making rice and beans that tasted pizza-esque.  This dinner isn’t like eating a gooey, chewy pizza (there’s no cheese and no crust), but it has similar flavors and it’s fun.  Who can argue with fun?

Pizza Rice and Beans

1 cup dry long-grain brown rice
3 cups baby kale (I used Olivia’s Organics Cooking Greens)*
1/2 jar tomato sauce of your choice (I used 365 Organic tomato basil)
1 jar cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste

  • Cook brown rice according to directions on package – generally it requires 2 1/4 cups liquid per cup of rice; bring rice to a boil then reduce to simmer and leave covered for 45 minutes.  When rice is cooked, fluff with a fork before stirring in remainer of ingredients.
  • When rice is nearly done cooking, steam kale in microwave with a little water, then drain.  (Alternatively, wilt kale with a little oil, water or broth in saute pan).
  • Stir wilted kale and all remaining of ingredients into cooked rice and allow to warm together over low heat for 5 minutes before serving.

*If you can’t find baby kale, you can use regular kale and just chop it roughly, or you can substitute baby spinach.  Both are readily available in most supermarkets.

Source: Covered In Flour

Tofu Curry with Soba Noodles

One of the best things about being a vegetarian, for me, is how easy dinner is these days – and often, how fast.  Of course, I’m not saying you have to be a vegetarian to make fast meals.  Rachael Ray would have my head on a platter (roasted up in under 30 minutes!) if I tried to claim that.  And perhaps it wouldn’t make any difference to a more organized, less forgetful person.  But for me, as an omnivore, I can’t count how many times I forgot to defrost the chicken or salmon for dinner, only to come home and stare at a pantry that was jammed full but lacking in concrete dinner ideas for me.  Being vegetarian has removed defrosting from the equation.  Tofu and tempeh don’t need to be frozen – they can chill in my fridge (pardon the pun) until I’m ready for them.  And if I’m not in a soy mood, there are always canned beans in my pantry.  These days, even if I come home and I’m not feeling whatever was on my meal plan, I know dinner is not far away and I have ample options at my fingertips.

This one-pot meal is a perfect example of that.  I had planned on coconut milk-braised tofu with soybeans over brown rice for dinner.  Well, I got home after a hectic Monday and I had the same problem that I often have when rice is on the menu – I was hungry now, not 45 minutes from now.  I also wasn’t really in the mood for soybeans, although tofu still sounded good.  Two quick swaps – soba for rice and peas for soybeans – and I was in business.  Dinner was on the table 20 minutes later and hubby and I were two happy people.  More importantly, perhaps, we were two people who didn’t eat six servings of cheese because dinner was an hour away.  I really can’t complain about that.

Tofu Curry with Soba Noodles

1 block extra-firm tofu, cubed
1 can light coconut milk
1/2 bag frozen peas
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes in juice
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon sweet curry powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 handful soba noodles

  • In a large cast-iron pot, heat coconut milk over medium-high heat.  Stir in tofu, peas, tomatoes and seasonings and allow mixture to come to a boil.
  • Break soba noodles in half and stir into curry.  Allow entire dish to cook together for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (Don’t ignore it, or it will stick to the bottom of the pan!  Don’t be like me!)
  • Serve in small bowls.

Source: Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

Nota Baker: You can totally omit the soba noodles here if you are going for something less pan-Asian and more traditional Indian.  This curry would be delicious served over brown or basmati rice.  However, the soba noodles are much faster than rice and they make it a one-pot meal.  Good stuff on a weekday, in my opinion!

Potato-Leek Frittata

It took me awhile to come around to frittatas, but I have to admit: they might be the perfect brunch food.  They are savory and flavorful at their best, accommodate endless variations, and are delicious at every temperature.  This is the quintessential spring frittata: potatoes, leeks, and well-seasoned eggs that come together in a dish where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  It’s easy, fairly quick, and practically a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.  What better dish to serve on a lazy Sunday morning in spring?

Potato-Leek Frittata

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, cleaned and sliced (white and light green parts only)
2 russet potatoes, cleaned and thinly sliced
6 eggs
2 tablespoons skim milk
pinch salt and pepper
minced chives or freeze-dried chives (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan.  Add leeks and season with salt.  Saute until leeks are beginning to soften.
  • Arrange potato slices over leeks in concentric circles.
  • Meanwhile, beat together eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Pour egg mixture over potatoes and jiggle pan until egg mixture fills in all crevices.  Cook until sides are just beginning to set.  Transfer to oven.
  • Bake 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.  Remove to a serving platter and garnish with chives if desired.  Serve hot, at room temperature, or cool.

Source: Covered In Flour

Provencal Lentils

Obviously I loved every place that hubby and I visited in France, but I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Provence.  I’ve wanted to visit Provence since I was a little girl.  I papered the inside of my closet door with pictures of Europe, which seemed to be disproportionately pictures of Provence (although there were a good number of Alpine villages thrown in there too) and I would stare at the pictures every day and dream of visiting them in person.  When hubby and I finally made that trip last fall, Provence was everything I imagined it to be and more.  I loved the hot sun, the lush grapevines, the sleepy hill towns, the bustling markets, the towering Pont du Gard and the spires of the Palais des Papes in Avignon, and the relaxed outdoor cafes where – even if it’s not on the menu – you can always get pastis.  And of course, I loved the flavors of Provence – the tomato-pepper-eggplant trio that makes up ratatouille, the briny olive taste of pistou (I even had a risotto that seemed to have olive tapenade mixed in – outrageous – note to self: must recreate) and the quintessential herbs de Provence, naturally.

With these lentils, I am putting a Provencal twist on a very simple, rustic dish (which is kind of Provencal in and of itself, if you think about it).  If you’re simply going to cook up a pot of lentils – and why not? – herbs de Provence impart a heady lavender and thyme flavor.  And I went one better than that, even, by adding a teaspoon of fennel seed to give a whiff of the licorice aroma of pastis. In one bite of these lentils, I felt as though I had stopped by the Arles market to collect a big bunch of aromatic dried herbs and then sauntered into a corner cafe, sat down and requested pastis, sil vous plait.  Not a bad trip for a Friday night in my kitchen.

Provencal Lentils

1 cup Urban Garden mixed lentils (or brown lentils)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence (substitute thyme)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds

  • In a heavy pot, bring the lentils and the vegetable broth to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cover.  Allow lentils to cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  (Nota Baker: It’s really important that you use brown lentils here.  French green lentils take forever to cook – although you can use them if you have all day – and red lentils will break down into a delicious mush, which is great but not what we’re going for here.  The lentils I had were a mix of green, brown and red and so there were several textures represented.  That’s great, but if you can only use one, go for brown.)
  • Once the lentils have fully cooked (taste a small bite just to make sure) drain off the remainder of the vegetable broth – but don’t get too overenthusiastic with the draining; we want the lentils to be a little loose so some remaining broth is a good thing.
  • Return the lentils to the pot and stir in a teaspoon of mustard powder, a teaspoon of herbs de Provence (or you can substitute thyme if you don’t have herbs de Provence), and either 1/2 or 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds.  (I used a full teaspoon, which tasted fantastic to me, but hubby isn’t wild about the flavor of fennel seeds – he liked that it was in this dish but would have preferred it to be a little subtler.  So I’ll reduce it for his sake next time I make this, but if you like fennel seeds, then a full teaspoon will be very nice indeed.)
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve over greens, buttered baguette slices, or simply in a bowl.  Yum.

Source: Covered In Flour

Mock Tuna Noodle Casserole

April in D.C. has been acting really weird. One day it will be 75 degrees and hubby and I are eating salads and popsicles.  Then the next day it’s rainy and 41.  This is that time of year when D.C. can’t make up its mind as to whether it wants to be grey and gloomy and cold, or sunny and beautiful.  We go through this every year, but this year it seems to be taking longer than usual.  By Easter we should have sorted ourselves out, but in the meantime comfort food is still called for.  And I know that it’s still cold up north where my family is… so this recipe is a gift for all of us.  It’s warm and soothing, briny and salty from the Chickpeas of the Sea, and even includes a crispy golden crust.  In short, Mock Tuna Noodle Casserole is the total package, perfectly designed for taking us out of the winter doldrums and into spring and summer.

Mock Tuna Noodle Casserole

6 ounces egg noodles (1/2 package)
1 cup Chickpeas of the Sea
1/2 cup Homemade Bread Crumbs (or substitute panko)
olive oil

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Boil egg noodles in salted water, until al dente.  Remove noodles to a mixing bowl, reserving some of the pasta water.
  • Add Chickpeas of the Sea to the noodles and fold together gently.  Add pasta water, a little at a time, to loosen mixture as needed.
  • Remove noodles and Chickpeas of the Sea to a casserole dish.
  • Sprinkle bread crumbs in an even layer over the top of the casserole.  Drizzle with olive oil to ensure browning.
  • Bake at 350 for 3o-35 minutes, until top of casserole is golden brown and casserole is heated through.

Yield: Serves 4.

Source: Covered In Flour

Source: Covered in Flour.

Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms

Ohhhhh, yes please.  This is one of those dishes that you can make all year round, but it’s particularly satisfying in fall.  The creamy white bean and the caramelized onions and savory mushrooms come together to create an earthy, heavenly, mish-mosh of flavors and textures.  Paired with some whole-grain bread (or Ezekiel English muffins, as I did here ’cause I’m lazy), it’s a perfect dish to throw together and make you feel like life is worth living even on a rainy Monday.  I promise.  And you know I don’t make promises I can’t keep.

Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large leek, sliced thin
1 package gourmet mix mushrooms (or shiitakes)
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Warm the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped leeks and saute gently until soft.  Remove from pan and reserve.
  • In the same pan, saute the mushrooms until they are golden and caramelized, 10-12 minutes.  Keep them moving and add more olive oil if necessary (but only if necessary).
  • When the mushrooms are caramelized, add the leeks back and pour in the beans.  Mix well, season with the salt, pepper, and dried herbs, and warm the beans through.  Serve over whole grain bread or pasta.

Source: Adapted from Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Tempeh Stroganoff

So, the other day, hubby and I were in Whole Foods, and something unprecedented happened.

Messy: Hey, what do you call it when you have beef in gravy over noodles?  What is that?

Hubby: Ummmmm… Beef Stroganoff?

Messy: Yes!  That’s it!

Hubby: Why do you want to know?

Messy: I want to make it, but with tempeh.

Hubby: How weird is this?  Usually, I’m the one who asks you what a dish is called.

He’s right.  Usually the conversation is reversed.  But I’ve never cooked Beef Stroganoff before.  I just had this thought… tempeh… mushroom gravy… egg noodles… mmmmmm.  And mmmmmm it was.  Hearty and savory, with the earthy flavors of tempeh and mushrooms perfectly complemented by the mild noodles.  I’ll be making this one again, for sure.

Tempeh Stroganoff

extra virgin olive oil
1 package shiitake mushrooms, sliced
kosher salt
1 package tempeh, crumbled
2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
black pepper
egg noodles, cooked
chopped chives (optional), for garnish.

  • Heat olive oil (about a tablespoon, give or take) in a non-stick pan until shimmering.  Add mushrooms and salt and saute until golden.  Add tempeh and saute another 5 minutes or so, until tempeh is warmed through and just beginning to crisp up.  Yum.
  • Pour veggie broth into pan, add flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens, 3-5 minutes.  Season to taste with black pepper and additional salt, if necessary.
  • Serve over egg noodles, garnishing with chopped chives if desired.

Source: Covered In Flour

Spring Onion Risotto with Roast Chicken

This dish is perfect for a special spring meal… the risotto is creamy and warm, with a subtle flavor from the shallots and spring onions.  And the “spring chicken” adds the perfect touch to make this a meal instead of just a side.  This made a wonderful Easter dinner in this non-ham-eating household, but would be just as good on any mid-spring night.  If you’re not living in DC, where summer has arrived in all its blazing glory, you might just be able to warm yourself up with this on one of the last cool nights of the season.  Please do, and then tell me how it goes.  I’m dying to live vicariously as I dump cold water over my head.  Farewell, spring!

Spring Onion Risotto with Roast Chicken

1 roasted or rotisserie chicken
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced (not minced)
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine or dry sherry
3-4 cups chicken broth
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream

  • In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter and olive oil together.  Add the shallots, season with kosher salt, and cook until just beginning to caramelize.
  • Add the arborio rice and toss to coat with the buttery, shalloty goodness.  Toast rice for approximately 1 minute, then add wine and cook down, stirring frequently, until wine is absorbed.
  • Meanwhile, warm the chicken broth in a small pot.  After wine has been absorbed, add a ladle or two of chicken broth to the rice and allow it to absorb, stirring frequently.  Continue adding broth a ladle or two at a time, stirring often, until you run out of broth and/or the rice is tender and creamy.
  • On the last addition of broth, toss in the scallions and allow them to cook briefly with the rice.  Finish off by stirring in the creme fraiche or sour cream.
  • Arrange a bed of risotto in serving bowls and place chicken over the risotto.  (You can either roast your own chicken while making the risotto – you’ll have to give the chicken a head start – or just use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and keep it warm while the risotto cooks.  When you are nearing the end of the risotto cooking process, you can take a break from stirring to carve the chicken.)

Source: Covered In Flour

Baked Halibut and Mushrooms

This is one of the easiest weeknight dinners I have ever made, and one of the tastiest.  I try to put seafood on the table about once or twice a week, because hubby and I love it and it’s generally very good for you.  But it can be hard to think of creative ways to cook fish without breading it, and it’s tricky to get it to cook through without drying out.  One thing that I love to do is to bake fish with veggies on top of it.  The veggies keep the fish moist and impart a little of their flavor, and for all the health and flavor benefits they bring, these recipes couldn’t be easier.

Baked Halibut and Mushrooms

2 halibut fillets (or any firm white fish)
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper (or truffle pepper, optional)
1 package mushrooms, sliced (cremini are nice, but button will work too)
fresh thyme leaves (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a small baking dish, drizzle olive oil over the fish and season with salt and pepper (or truffle pepper – mmmmm).  Cover with mushrooms and drizzle a bit more olive oil over the mushrooms.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes, until fish is firm and mushrooms are done.
  • Serve with mushrooms still atop fillets.  If desired, sprinkle fresh thyme over cooked fillets.

Yield: Serves 2.

Source: Covered In Flour.