Monday, May 31, 2010

Grilled tofu and tofu crepes

Emeril's Korean Barbecue Tofu - Planet Green

This dish was featured just now on the TV show Emeril Green. It looks really good, so I thought I'd share it!

He made tofu crepes for dessert.  Before you cringe, check it out.  I've made desserts with soft tofu and you would not believe how good they are.  Remember, tofu has little flavor on its own, so when you add citrus or vanilla, the flavorings are clear and intense.  I am a bit skeptical of the crepes themselves--I like my traditional crepe recipe--but Emeril shares a vegan crepe recipe here.

Emeril's Orange Crepes--with video

The key to enjoying tofu is to not expect it to "taste just like cheese" or "taste just like chicken breast".  It doesn't (although it can be pretty close).  If you approach tofu dishes thinking you're going to have an identical substitute, you're going to gross yourself out.  Let the tofu be what it is, in its own way, and you'll love it.

Have trouble grilling grill tofu?  Here are some techniques:
  • Buy extra firm tofu and drain very well.  For some brands, that's enough for you to be able to grill it, as long as you're gentle and don't try to flip it and move it around more than twice.  If that doesn't work...
  • Try slicing it after you drain it, and freeze it.  It will be very dry, so this method is suited to sauced dishes.  This does work--the tofu doesn't fall apart.
Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fried chic peas--sublime, yet simple

Here is a fast meal I make when I'm pressed for time, or just lazy. ;) 

It's appropriate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack.  A whole can makes leftovers, which taste just as good when reheated.

Simply open a can of chic peas (ceci or garbanzos) and drain really, really well.

Heat up a skillet with a little olive oil.  Once it's hot, add the beans and saute until lightly browned.  They will shrink a bit while you're cooking, but don't worry--that just concentrates the good flavor.

I don't feel they need any seasoning at all, but if you must, you could try cinnamon, cloves, oregano, basil, cumin, curry--the possibilities are endless.

Here is my meal with fruit, fresh vegetables, and artisan whole grain bread:

Here's a close-up of the beans:

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I couldn't figure out if I had to buy a certain type of seed in order to grow my own beans.  Some said yes, others said no.

I couldn't find seeds to my liking, so I decided to try sprouting a few dried pinto beans from the market.  I put them in a little soil and covered them with plastic.  They sprouted within 24 hours and are now several inches high.


OK, capers aren't technically beans, but they deserve some attention.

Capers grow wild in the Mediterranean in warmer areas.  They are a sprawling bush-like plant that prefers to grow between rocks in hot, dry, sunny areas.  Like my front porch, where nothing else grows because it's too hot and sunny.

I love capers.  If you've never had them, they taste kind of like a cross between green olives and mild green peppercorns.  They're great in a salad.

I ordered some seed on the Internet, put them in a zip-sealed bag with a damp paper towel, and set them in a warm, semi-sunny spot.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.

A few weeks later, they had begun to sprout.  I transferred them to a pot with a mixture of organic potting soil and sand, because I figured they'd prefer that--it's closer to the way they grow wild.  I added some pebbles on top and put them in the sun.

I had seeds left over, so I put some of my soil-sand mix on top of a few large rocks lying around my yard, surrounded them with a few other rocks to prevent the soil from washing away, planted the seeds, and sheltered it with a flat rock.

I am really hopeful I'll have a few plants this summer.  The package says they survive up to -20 degrees F.  I'm not sure they'll like my humidity though.

Refried beans (refritos)

Here are my refried beans.  The photo is totally unappetizing, I know, but they're just not known for their beauty, so get over it. ;)

I soak pinto beans overnight, drain, and replace the liquid with a beer and some water.  I add spices--use whatever you like--and then cook them in my pressure cooker for half an hour or so.

I LOVE onions--don't we all--but I don't like having onion breath for the next day or three.  I've struck upon a compromise that keeps my taste buds and my coworkers happy.  I cook half an onion in the pressure cooker and then discard it after cooking.  This way I have some flavor but am not eating chunks of onions.

The beer is an absolute requirement in my book.  If you are serving this to children or don't drink alcohol yourself--and no, it does not cook out--try a non-alcoholic beer instead.  I've done that and it tastes just as good.

I eat these with a fried egg on top and a warmed tortilla, or in a wrap with some melted extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Sicilian-style falafel, a.k.a. panelle

Here's a little experiment I tried today.  If I do say so myself, it turned out awesome awesome awesome.  (!!1!)

I took some garbanzo bean flour (also called besan, gram or chickpea flour) and made a sort of polenta with it.  I soaked it briefly in water and some olive oil.  I added a whole bunch of spices, figuring it would be really bland without them, and I was right.

I whisked it constantly on the stove until it thickened, then cooled and sliced it--just like polenta.  With me so far?

Then I fried it in a frying pan with maybe half an inch of oil.  "Mmmm" does not adequately describe this dish.  It's SO tasty.  It has the perfect texture we all aspire to in fried foods--creamy inside and crunchy outside.

I found I didn't need any extra salt after frying, and the cucumber basil sauce I made as an accompaniment took away from the fritters' sublime goodness.

Here they are.  I've read Sicilians eat them on a sandwich bun.  Unfortunately, when I was in Sicily recently, no one I talked to had ever heard of them.  I suppose I was either talking to the wrong people, or it was just one of those American myths of what Italy is really like.

Either way, these are REALLY good.

Lupini beans

I've been hearing about these elusive beans for years and was beginning to think they were myths, like Zeus, Xenu, homoepathy, and Rush Limbaugh's college education.

And then I found them in my beloved market--Wegmans.

I had read they needed to be heavily salted in the cooking process, and man, that was the understatement of the century.  It was like a salt lick!

I rinsed the beans a number of times with filtered water.  I added a garlic clove, a few slices of lemon and some fennel fronds, then let them marinate for a few weeks in the fridge.  Much better.  They are pretty tasty and crunchy.  I know "crunchy" usually is an insult when it comes to a bean dish, but in this case, it's intentional.

You have to peel them, which makes a mess, so this is not a good first date food--but worth a try.

Kumquats remake two sublime treats

I saw some organic kumquats in the market yesterday.  I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I bought them anyway, as I often do.  I like adventures. ;)

I had a plain one and it was way too tart on its own, even for me, a lover of tartness.

So....I squeezed one over a scoop of Haagen Dazs vanilla bean ice cream.

I took another, broke it in half, and squeezed it into my espresso.  Another foodgasm.  (Kids, if you're going to try this at home, you should probably be sure to not add the kumquat until after you've mixed your cream in well.  Otherwise it might curdle.)

Making over two treats that are already perfect on their own--awesomeness. ;)