Australia: Tofu Mini-Steaks in Vegemite-Ginger Marinade

Given our fearless (führless?) leader’s inexplicable rudeness toward Australia, I interrupt the series about banned countries to include a recipe with an Australian ingredient: Vegemite. I picked up a jar after the strange political upset and tried a bit, and found it very salty. If it’s an acquired taste, I don’t know that I plan to acquire it. But I put a tiny bit in a marinade for tofu steaks this evening and they came out the bomb.

240g extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp vegemite
1 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp hot sauce

Slice tofu into 1/4-inch-thick rectangles, then slice each by half to get smaller pieces (this way it absorbs more marinade.) Place at the bottom of a shallow dish. Mix all other ingredients of the marinade and pour on top of the tofu. Heat up a grilling skillet and grill the tofu well on both sides.

Tofu with Tomatoes, Brussels Sprouts, and Mushrooms

Did you like Brussels sprouts when you were young? I most decidedly did not, though I reluctantly ate them when they were placed in front of me. These days I adore them, and mostly prepare them simply: cut into halves lengthwise and baked in the oven, and later sprinkled with vegan parmesan. But today I prepared them in a very tasty stir-fry; it’s a refreshing combination of textures and tastes and I hope you’ll like it.

Three garlic cloves
1 square inch ginger root
250g tofu (a block about the size of one cup)
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha or other soy sauce
2-3 tomatoes, cubed
about 15 Brussels sprouts, cut lengthwise into halves
1 1/2 cup of different mushrooms – any kind will do-chopped into bite-size pieces

Mince garlic and ginger and place in wok. Turn on the heat and add a little bit of water. Cook until aromatic, then cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and add to the wok. Add soy sauce and sriracha and swirl around pan until the tofu is a bit browned and coated with the sauce. Then, add the tomatoes, the Brussels sprouts, and the mushrooms. Cook for a few more minutes, until the Brussels sprouts are cooked through but still retain their crunchy personality, and the tomatoes wilt into lovely, gooey bits. Serve on a bed of grains, or if you’re like me and just like tofu and veg, on its own.

Vegan Salade Niçoise

It’s been a month of bad news on every possible level: personal losses, professional disappointments, you name it. To keep our spirits up, we’re trying to eat healthy and well, and today I was inspired to put a little French elegance into our dinner with this simple version of a salade niçoise. The components of this nice composed salad are easy to make and a breeze to assemble.

I’m not particularly in love with the pre-made fake tuna product we used, Vegan Toona, and next time I make this recipe I’ll make a chickpea substitute from scratch (this recipe looks intriguing.) But let’s discuss the different components.

Ready-made stuff you’ll need include cherry tomatoes (colorful ones are especially fun,) Persian cucumbers, tiny radishes, and good olives (not the nasty canned stuff.)

You’ll also need tiny waxy potatoes–we used red and purple–which you can bake for about 20 mins. at 350 degrees, and green beans, which you’ll steam or pressure-cook (I do it for 1 minute in the Instant Pot on high pressure) and, when still crunchy, drop immediately into ice water.

Another component is my beloved tofu eggless salad, which I made this time with olives in lieu of pickles, lots of green onion and parsley, and some kala namak salt for extra egginess.

And finally, Toona is sorta good if drenched in fresh lemon juice and mixed with some thinly minced green onions.

After organizing all the components on the plate, drizzle them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Herbs de Provence.

Tropical Pudding

It’s been a difficult few weeks for us. A couple of weeks ago we lost our beloved cat, Spade, to a car accident, and we are wrecked with grief. Our grief is, of course,  compounded by the results of the recent U.S. election and our concerns about fascism, bigotry, and authoritarianism on the rise. The most healing thing we’ve done was spend time at home with Spade’s brother, Archer, and newcomer kitten Inti. At first they were a bit suspicious of each other, and so we separated them, but gradually we increased their face time and now they are best buds.

Several lovely friends came to visit us, to alleviate our grief over the loss of Spade and to meet little Inti and see how well he and Archer are getting along. And so, we served vegan fruit pie from Mission Pie, as well as a delectable pumpkin pie which we made based on Minimalist Baker’s recipe. We also served a nice tropical pudding, which was exceedingly easy to make: 
1 ripe mango
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 cup silken tofu
1 handful cashews
1 tsp vanilla extract
blueberries for garnish
Pop first four ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour into little ramekins or cups and refrigerate for a couple of hours – the pudding’s consistency will improve. Then, decorate with blueberries and serve in the little cups.

Kelp Noodle Salad

Kelp noodles are so nice to work with! I’ve posted a couple of recipes that include them here and here, but I think this salad is really wonderful. It’s a really nice dinner on a hot day–light and zesty.

1 package kelp noodles
1 large carrot
2 large zucchini
1 package collard greens
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp white wine/whiskey
3 tbsp soy sauce or liquid aminos
1 tbsp salsa
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped ginger
1/2 package extra-firm tofu
2 tbsp raw tahini

There are three steps here, and each of them could produce a separate dish.

Collard Greens

Chop coarsely and sauté in olive oil. When soft, add booze and lemon juice and sauté for another couple of minutes.

Baked Tofu

Heat up the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Make the marinade with salsa, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and some water, make cubes out of the tofu, and let them rest in the marinade for half an hour. Then, bake the tofus. Save the marinade.

Assembling the salad

Get kelp noodles out of package and wash with water. Place in big salad bowl. Thinly slice or spiralize carrots and zucchini, and add. Mix tahini with marinade to produce a dressing, pour over noodles and veg and stir well. Add collard greens and tofu cubes and stir again, until just combined. Serve at room temperature.

Leftover Reincarnation: Chinese Takeout with Kale, Mushrooms, and Kelp Noodles

Cooking at home is usually cheaper, tastier, and more satisfying than ordering in, but we’re all human, and sometimes after a tiring week the last thing you want to do is make something from scratch. Yesterday we tucked into some Chinese takeout that included braised tofu in a light sauce. This morning’s brunch made use of the leftover tofu with some fresh ingredients, and it was delicious! Do this with whatever Chinese takeout leftovers you have, though tofu dishes work really well.

1/3-1/2 container leftover braised tofu, málà dòufu, or other Chinese takeout dish
1 tsp sesame oil
1 package fresh red kale
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
5 white mushrooms, sliced
1-inch cube of ginger, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 splash Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1 tsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp Ultimate Umami Spice
1 package kelp noodles

Take kelp noodles out of the package and soak in some warm water with the shiitakes. Meanwhile, heat up the sesame oil in a pan or wok and add chopped garlic, ginger, and sliced white mushrooms. Sprinkle umami spice on top. After a couple of minutes, retrieve shiitakes from broth, slice, and add to pan. Let that sautee a minute, and then add your leftovers. After the leftovers are heated through and mixed with the aromatics, add the kale, Bragg’s, and sriracha. Cook until kale wilts, then drain kelp noodles (reserve a bit of the liquid) and add them to the pan. Stir-fry with the noodles until the kelp reaches the desired consistency (some folks like it with a bit of crunch, some folks like it thoroughly softened). Use some of the shiitake soaking broth if you need a bit more moisture in the pan. Serve hot.

Baked Tofu

In my grad school days, I used to eat sometimes at a little joint on Bancroft Avenue that served what Chad and I affectionately referred to as “Kentucky Fried Tofu”: crispy, spicy tofu cubes as a snack. It was very tasty and I’ve wanted to reproduce it ever since, preferably without the deep frying.

Today I worked quietly at home, and the rain outside (thank you, El Niño, from our vegetable garden!) made me want to have some warm snacks. I had a giant bowl of salad for lunch, followed by kale chips and oven fries, and am cooking a lovely chili on which I shall report later today. But for an extra snack, I’m making baked tofu, and my premature tasting suggests that this perfectly and deliciously replicates the crispness and joy of Kentucky Fried Tofu–without a drop of oil.

1 package extra-firm tofu
1 cup soy sauce, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, or a combination of both
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch ginger chunk, minced
a spritz of liquid smoke
a spritz of Sriracha
1 tbsp cornstarch

Remove tofu from packaging and place on a plate or in a bowl. Place a cutting board, or plate, on top of the tofu, and place a heavy object on top of that. Leave for about half an hour.

When you return, the tofu will have drained from some of its liquids. Great! Cut it into cubes (I’m doing about 3/4 inch cubes) and place in a tupperware. Throw in all remaining ingredients (save for the cornstarch) place lid on top of tupperware, give it a good shake, and leave it for 30 mins to absorb the taste. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking sheet.

Now, remove tofu cubes from marinade, toss with cornstarch, and place in one layer, cubes not touching each other, on baking sheet. Bake for about 15 mins, then toss a bit, and bake for another 15 mins. SNACK TIME!

Adventures in Soy: Soymilk, Okara Cake, and Vegan CrabCakes

Being unwell at home has its advantages: boredom breeds big kitchen projects. Happily, I was well enough to mill about the kitchen, and we had a package of dry soybeans lying about.

I started off by making soymilk, for the first time ever. I had two recipes on hand: one from The Homemade Vegan Pantry and one from The Tofu Book. The former advocates boiling the beans for one minute and the latter instructs to soak them overnight. Since I wanted to go through the whole process from start to finish that day, I went with the former approach.

Making soymilk is a multi-step approach. It starts off with boiling a great quantity of water in a big pot. Then, the beans are added to the boiling water and boiled for one minute. The pot is then removed from the stove and left to cool for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, I drained the beans. I put some of them in my blender with fresh water and blended to the point of creating a thick slurry. I then poured the slurry into a nut milk bag over a big bowl, squeezing with all my might. The milk dripped into the bowl; okara, the by-product of soymilk, was left inside the bag. I repeated the process in batches, until all soybeans were blended and milked. I ended the process by simmering the milk for ten minutes without letting it boil. Contrary to the book’s promise, the soymilk retained much of its original, beany flavor, which some absolutely love. I’m not very fond of it, but it can be partially masked with some vanilla extract. I might make tofu out of the milk I have, but I don’t think I’ll make this process a habit. Next time, I’ll try the soaking method, but I suspect it’ll yield a similar outcome.

The silver lining of the entire enterprise was the okara; I was left with so much of it that I packaged and froze four cups. I was left with enough fresh okara for two feats: a dried fruit cake and Miyoko Schinner’s “fab cakes”, which were a resounding success.

The recipe for fab cakes is in The Homemade Vegan Pantry; it requires a lot of ingredients, but fortunately I happened to have odds and ends of everything at home. I encourage you to buy the book and try this recipe. It’s fantastic. The cake itself is made mainly of okara and silken tofu, so it’s rich in protein and fiber, and it also contains quite a bit of delicious nori. Having missed crab cakes quite a bit, I was delighted to have such a delicious substitute.

The recipe for dried fruit cake is my own, so I’m happy to share it:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup fresh okara
1 cup boiling water + 3 tbsp room temperature water
1 cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, figs)
4 tbsp flax seeds
2 tbsp brown sugar (and I think this would come out fabulous even without sweetener)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp hawaiiej for coffee (but I think you can do without)
1 pinch salt

Heat oven to 350 Farhenheit.
Pour cup of boiling water over dried fruit and leave aside to plump a bit.
Grind one tbsp of the flax and mix with three tbsp water. Leave aside to become gelatinous.
In a big bowl, mix oil, sugar, and vanilla. Add flax and dried fruit (with the liquid) and mix some more. Then, add all dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Pour into pan–I used my trusty silicone bundt cake pan–and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife plunged into the middle comes out dry and clean.

I’ve done some more reading on okara. It seems that you can easily substitute about 1/2 of the flour in almost any baking recipe with okara, though some websites prefer the use of dried to fresh. Since I used fresh okara, I can attest that it doesn’t harm the final product; the cake came out marvelous, fluffy and moist, and makes a delightful breakfast treat. What with this and the fake crab cakes, I feel like I got a lot out of my soymilk-making adventure–including newfound appreciation for commercial unsweetened organic soymilk, which I plan to continue buying most of the time!

Morning Tofu Scramble

It’s been a long morning; I started working at 5am and will be working until 10pm. Fortunately, I have a brief lull getting from home to the office and managed to make myself a decent breakfast:

100gr extra-firm tofu (about 3/4 cup crumbled)
1 tbsp chopped onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
12 cherry tomatoes
2 cups chard leaves, sliced into ribbons
3 large mushrooms
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tsp olive oil

Heat up olive oil in pan. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms, and sautee until they soften a bit. Add chard and tomatoes and sautee a few more minutes. In a little bowl, crumble the tofu and mix with the hot sauce. Add to pan and stir fry with the vegetables. Yum!

UPDATE: Great variation – pesto sauce in lieu of the hot sauce, and a little bit of Miyoko’s Kitchen mozarella! Also marvelous.

Chard from the Garden!

These are two or three chard plants from our garden, fresh and ready to eat!

I stir-fried them with tofu, garlic, ginger, coconut aminos, and sriracha, and served the whole thing over rice noodles. There’s nothing like eating vegetables straight from the garden.

We have great plans: tomatoes of four kinds, cucumbers, okra, and herbs. So far, the tomato plants seem to be doing fine. I hope there’s lots and lots of fruit, because I just got an Excalibur Dehydrator and I plan to dry lots for the winter season.