Works in Progress

February 1, 2012

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve made a few dishes whose results were pretty good, but not quite ready for prime time for one reason or another. But I figured I’d go ahead and share them anyhow, along with what I would change next time.

My first non-failure, but not-quite-there item was actually several iterations of fruit and nuts in phyllo dough. I had the rest of a box of phyllo dough to use up after making my Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions, Sundried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese in Phyllo. Since phyllo dough always makes me think of baklava (and I LOOOOOVE baklava), I thought it might be fun to make something baklavaian inspired. (I also love making up words.) So over the course of two weeks, I made three variations using different combinations of fresh apples, dried fruit, and nuts. All three tasted pretty good, but without extra butter, the phyllo dough didn’t brown well, and without extra honey to make it stick together, the layers of dough were pretty fragile. Extremely fragile. I also didn’t feel like I could eat that much of it at one time because dried fruit is fairly high in calories, so I think future phyllo dough experiments will be more along the lines of fresh fruit filling. But I have to say, it was all rather tasty, especially the final version, which was figs and dates. I just chopped up the fruit and nuts, brushed the top sheet of phyllo with some light melted butter mixed with agave, sprinkled the fruit on, and rolled it up. I brushed the top with a bit more butter and agave, and baked it at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Chopped Figs and Dates in Phyllo Dough

Chopped Figs and Dates in Phyllo Dough

My next item was inspired by a picture on one of the blogs I follow, which was too gorgeous to pass up – Lemony Chickpea and Tofu Stir-Fry on Offally Tasty (inspired in turn by a recipe from 101 Cookbooks). I bought the ingredients for the recipe, but when it came time to prepare the dish, I felt like making something more Asian-inspired (whims are a big part of my cooking). So I coated the chickpeas with a tablespoon of tamari and a couple of teaspoons of sesame oil, then baked them in the oven at 350 for about 55 minutes, stirring every fifteen minutes, to get them nice and crispy. I made some marinade with 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of tamari, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 5 minced garlic cloves, and marinated cubed tofu for about an hour in the refrigerator. Then I sautéed the onions and 2 sliced yellow squash in a teaspoon of sesame oil. I added about 3/4 of the marinade, and then piled torn pieces of a bunch of kale on top, and ‘folded’ them in until they wilted. Finally I added the remaining marinade and an extra teaspoon of sesame oil. Unfortunately, I didn’t take good enough notes as to timing (…and it’s possible I got some of the sequencing wrong in this write-up). But it was awesome tasting, so I’ll definitely repeat it.

Tofu, Squash, Kale, and Tamari Chickpeas

Tofu, Squash, Kale, and Tamari Chickpeas

The last dish was something that I conjured up because I wanted to make more caramelized onions, and needed something to go with them. I did some searches online and found a few pairings, including one with couscous, so I decided to go with that. I planned on using the great whole wheat pearled couscous I thought I had in the pantry, but I had apparently used it up, and unfortunately the Whole Foods I stopped at isn’t carrying it anymore. So plan C was Israeli couscous cooked in broth (not as much fiber, but still tasty). I also decided to use sun-dried tomatoes, and top it with gorgonzola cheese. The taste was really quite good, but next time I think I’ll add some greens, like chard or mustard greens, for more taste contrast (as well as more color).

Israeli Couscous with Caramelized Onions, Sundried Tomatoes and Gorgonzola

Israeli Couscous with Caramelized Onions, Sundried Tomatoes and Gorgonzola

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This past week I decided to branch out in my tofu preparation repertoire. I’ve been reading lately about baked tofu, and how baking it can intensify the flavor and make the texture somewhat toothier, so I thought that I’d give that a try. After pondering what kind of marinade to do, I finally settled on something Asian influenced (I just wasn’t in the mood for barbecue sauce in December, which is the type of marinade/sauce everyone on the internet seems to recommend for Baked Tofu 101). Both my husband and I were really pleased with how the tofu turned out. I didn’t even bake it as long as I probably should have (because I was too hungry to wait any longer), but even with that, it tasted really good. I decided the logical accompaniment was stir-fried vegetables, so I used broccoli, pepper, and onion. The organic broccoli that I bought had gigantic tree-stumpish stems, so I thought I’d make some thin slices out of those, and use them as well. It actually tasted a bit like kohlrabi when raw, which was nice — it was like having a fourth, bonus vegetable.

I don’t normally use a large amount of oil when I cook, but I ended up using a bit more than necessary with this recipe. And then spent several minutes exclaiming out loud that I couldn’t believe how much extra I’d supplied to the meal (I really didn’t expect all the marinade to get soaked up by the tofu. And I was unnecessarily worried about stickage with the stir-fry.). So the recipe below is adjusted to take the oil down from 6 tsp to 4 tsp total.

Tofu and Marinade Ingredients

Tofu and Marinade Ingredients

Vegetables for Stir-Fry

Vegetables for Stir-Fry

Stir-Fried Vegetables with Baked Tofu
serves 3-4

1 block extra-firm tofu
2-4 heads broccoli, cut into small florets, stems thinly sliced
1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
1 tsp peanut oil, for stir-frying

marinade
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp minced garlic cloves
1 Tbsp minced ginger root

sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine (not vinegar) or dry sherry
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp agave (or honey or brown sugar)
1 tsp cornstarch

Cut tofu block into 3 or 4 large slabs about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick (cut lengthwise into the side with the 2nd largest surface area (Ooh, geometry – I couldn’t think of any other way to specify it)). Lay the slabs down between layers of towel or paper towels and lay a skillet or heavy plate on top. Leave for about 10 minutes, then move the tofu to a drier area of towel, replace the pan, and let sit for another 10 minutes. Next, cut each slab into 16 triangles (refer to the unnecessarily time-stamped photo below).

Tofu Triangles

Tofu Triangles from 1 of 3 slabs

Mix the ingredients for the marinade together. In a container large enough to hold all of the tofu pieces in a single layer, pour the marinade over the tofu, and then use a spoon help coat all pieces evenly. Refrigerate for about an hour, then flip all of the pieces and refrigerate for another hour.

Save the garlic and ginger and what ever marinade hasn’t been absorbed by the tofu and set aside. Put the tofu pieces on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and bake in a 325 degree oven for about 1 hr. Check the tofu every 15 minutes or so, and flip the pieces. (Honestly, I wasn’t very good about flipping them since there were 48 tiny pieces. And it really didn’t seem to matter that much. I just kind of flipped en masse to move the pieces around a bit, and they didn’t really get flipped evenly).

Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce except for the cornstarch. Add a tiny bit of the liquid to the corn starch, stirring to make a paste, then adding more gradually until the corn starch is dissolved. Then add the corn starch to the rest of the sauce ingredients. Add the garlic and ginger from the marinade as well. Set aside.

After the tofu has been cooking for about 40-50 minutes, heat the peanut oil in a wok, a pan with high sides, or if you don’t have either, a large skillet over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced broccoli stems, onion, and pepper, and cook, stirring very frequently for about 4 minutes. Add the broccoli florets, and continue to cook for a few more minutes, until the peppers and onions are crisp-tender, and the broccoli florets are a bright green.

Stir-Fried Vegetables

Stir-Fried Vegetables

Add the sauce to the vegetables, and cook for a few more minutes, stirring until the sauce has thickened and coats the vegetables. Plate the vegetables, and add the baked tofu on top.

Stir-Fried Vegetables and Baked Tofu

Stir-Fried Vegetables and Baked Tofu

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