Monday, October 26, 2009

Vegan Feast; Baked Tofu and Vegetable Medley

Luis and I are by no means vegan but every once in a while I forget to defrost meat and have to make due. More and more of my friends seem to be discovering they have food allergies or just want to try to go vegan for awhile, so this meal is for you.

I recently discovered a recipe for Oven-Baked Tofu that is incredibly easy and tasty. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take a typical package of tofu, remove from water and pat dry with paper towels. Place block of tofu on a pie dish (or something oven safe with sides) and brush with soy sauce. (If you don't have soy sauce you can just salt the block.) Let bake for 1 hour; then slice to serve.

A good accompanying dish is a variety of vegetables - also baked. For this combination, I used the following;
  • 3 medium zucchinis, sliced
  • 3 small summer squash, sliced
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 green peppers, sliced
  • half large onion, sliced
  • 10 cloves garlic, cut in half
  • 1 teaspoon celery flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of the baking dish with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the vegetables, spinkle with herbs, salt and pepper and toss with 2 TBLS to 1/4 cup of olive oil. (Use more or less olive oil per your preference.) Place in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees and bake for an hour.

You can use any combination of vegetables and herbs you want here. It is all about what you have around and want to mix.

Finally, I cooked up some quinoa - which a grain-like seed that is high in protein and has a pleasant, nutty flavor. It's easy to cook; boil 2 cups of water or stock, add 1 cup of quinoa, lower temperature and simmer for 10 minutes or until all the liquid is gone.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Orange Juice Small Grain

Let me preface this by first saying that while this turned out delicious, there are many things I would have done differently. So, I wasn't sure what the title for this post should be.
I stole this idea from my friend, Cinzia, who brought this to a dinner party last night. She used Israeli couscous, but since I didn't have any on hand and had some orzo pasta, I thought, why not?
Things I Would Have Done Differently #1: Use a grain not a pasta. I think the difference is that there was A LOT of starch in the pasta and since you aren't draining it, the starch stays in the dish and makes it gummier than if you stick to a grain. Cinzia said she made hers in her rice cooker, too. Much easier I would think. The trick she taught me is to cook the grain/pasta in orange juice instead of water or stock. She used half orange juice half carrot juice.
Things I Would Have Done Differently #2: Do not use all orange juice. Orange juice is made up of a lot of sugar, right? When you boil it (and combined with all the starch in the pasta) it gets very thick. Cinzia's dish was more creamy than thick OR gummy. Actually, I think depending on your taste and price range (because carrot juice is pricey, man) you could just use a combo of water and OJ. I think 2/3 OJ to 1/3 water would work. I ended up adding water in the end to finish cooking the pasta.
Next are the shallots. Cinzia just said she fried some shallots. I sauteed them in butter.
Things I (maybe) Would Have Done Differently#3: I might use olive oil next time. It occurred to me that since I plan on serving this cold for my lunch tomorrow and olive oil is a liquid at room temp, using olive oil instead of butter might also have helped the texture of the dish. It's only a LITTLE bit compared the rest of the dish, but it couldn't hurt. The shallots, I think, are the key to this dish. The garlicky/onion taste combined with the sweetness of the juice make the dish. So, whatever else you do, don't forget the shallots.
Cinzia's dish was: Israeli couscous cooked in half OJ, half carrot juice, shelled edamame, sauteed shallots and sliced almonds. It was absolutely delicious!
My pantry's substitutions: Orzo cooked in OJ (eventually slightly diluted with water), shelled edamame, sauteed shallots, chopped peanuts and diced cilantro. Still pretty darn good.
I wish I could give you exact measurements, but I eyeballed everything. Here's a guess:

1 1/2 cups orzo
2 cups orange juice (I would suggest 1 1/2 cups oj and 1/2 cup water or stock)
Extra water to add while stirring the cooking orzo (I ended up cooking it like a risotto, stirring often)
1 cup edamame
2 large shallots sauteed in 3 tsp butter
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
Can be served hot or cold.


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