Saturday, August 27, 2011

Spicy Broiled Tofu

I am so lucky to work with some incredibly intelligent, creative, and caring people in my day job. One of these people, Bridget, is truly a one-of-a-kind, unique individual. She is the most enthusiastic and energetic person I've ever met. When she turned 60 last year, Bridget decided to focus on being more healthy and was determined to begin liking vegetables.

She asked me to be her "vegetable cooking coach" and we had some fun afternoons in her kitchen making recipes from this blog. Bridget was a model student and now includes vegetables daily in her diet, I'm so proud of her for making such a big change in her lifestyle.

During her well-being journey, Bridget went to a holistic doctor and told him about our vegetable cooking lessons. He told her to tell me (he'd never met me) that he had a strong intuition that I should avoid tofu for awhile. I'm not terribly superstitious, but I love this kind of mystical, esoteric stuff. So I haven't eaten much tofu in the past few months, just in case he was on to something. I hope the danger period has passed now though, because I was craving some tofu and made this awesome recipe last night.

This is my new favorite way to cook tofu. It takes only 12 minutes and turns out chewy, flavorful, and delicious. I used a pre-mixed spice rub which includes garlic, salt, ancho, paprika, oregano, pepper, lemon peel, cayenne, and chipotle. You can make your own spice mix or even just use a grill seasoning blend. Rub the sliced tofu with spices, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and broil for 6 minutes on each side.

The tofu is awesome as a snack just like this, either warm from the oven or even at room temperature or chilled. It would also be great on a sandwich or salad. But since it was spicy and I had some fresh tomatoes that were begging to be made into fresh salsa, I went with tacos. This was just charred corn tortillas, fresh guacamole, salty feta cheese, spicy broiled tofu, cabbage, and fresh pico de gallo. It was phenomenal!

Spicy Broiled Tofu, adapted from Peas and Thank You

1 lb super firm tofu, cut into 1/4 inch slices (if you don't have super firm, you may need to press extra moisture out of the tofu by putting it on a plate and topping with a heavy pan for 30 minutes or so)
3-4 Tbsp of your favorite spice mixture (make your own or use a store-bought blend)
1 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat your oven's broiler.

Rub both sides of each tofu slice with your spices. Place tofu on sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Broil 6 minutes, flip and broil another 6 minutes.

Enjoy as is, or add to sandwiches, salads, or tacos.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pesto Tofu Kebabs

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

I thought if I started this post title with "double chocolate" you would skip right over the third word up there....zucchini. Yep, these brownies are loaded with zucchini - which is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins C, K, and B6, Riboflavin, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium, and Manganese. In short, these are super healthy brownies.

There's an old joke around these parts about how if you don't lock your car in late summer everyone will unload their extra zucchini on you when you're not looking. Friend or foe, everyone has zucchini to get rid of at this time of year. I have lots of great ways to eat zucchini, but this might be my new favorite.

I first made these brownies over a week ago (out of simple curiosity - how could almost fat-free brownies be any good?) and brought them to work. My co-workers had positive comments and I thought - OK, mildly successful. But, I had posted the recipe next to the free brownies advertising that they were healthy (out of allergy concerns). So I was skeptical and just thought that these co-workers were just being Minnesota nice to my face, but behind my back snickering at my gullible nature to believe that zucchini brownies could actually taste good.

Then, I sent the recipe to my sister-in-law Kim, mom extraordinaire to my awesome nephew Nathan. Nathan's only flaw, as far as I can tell, is an aversion to anything green (one exception - she got him to love green smoothies by calling them "scooby snack smoothies." She is brilliant). Kim made these brownies and on Sunday I watched that kid scarf down two of 'em and beg for a third. OK, if they taste good enough to fool a 3 (nearly 4) year old, they are good brownies.

Finally, I made the recipe again for an al fresco dinner party my friend Ann hosted tonight. All in attendance have high culinary standards and were unanimous in the brownie love. Therefore, I decree that these brownies deserve a spot in the Green and Lean Hall of Fame (which doesn't exist. But if it did, these would be in it).

Take all of these diverse groups of people at their word - these brownies are DELICIOUS and you would never know they are actually pretty good for you. The green flecks in the batter all but disappear after a brief stint in a hot oven.

The brownies taste good - cakey and warm - immediately out of the oven. But, trust me when I say they are much better after a night in the refrigerator. They become even more fudgy and moist and the chocolate chips become more noticeable with a big crunch. I wouldn't be opposed to adding something nutty, like walnuts or pecans, but some people get squeamish about that kind of thing in their brownies so I'm OK leaving them as is.

I don't think you'll get a single complaint if you experiment with this recipe on your family and friends. One final note: this is untested but I have a very strong hunch that these brownies would kick ass with some real vanilla ice cream. Give it a try and let me know how it turns out.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies, barely adapted from Food + Words
Makes 16 brownies

2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup applesauce (or you could substitute oil or melted butter but that reduces the healthy factor. My applesauce was homemade and frozen from last fall.)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour (I used unbleached all purpose, but whole wheat will work)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (mine is Hershey's Special Dark)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups shredded zucchini (leave the peel ON!)
1/2 bag chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet Guittard)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8x8 inch square pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together well the eggs, vanilla, sugar, and applesauce with a fork or whisk. Add the salt, flour, cocoa powder, and soda and stir it all together until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet. Fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips.

Pour into your prepared pan. It won't look like much batter but it WILL rise significantly so don't worry. Bake 25-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. My brownies only took 25 minutes but all ovens are different.

These brownies are good warm from the oven, BUT are even better if you let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for a bit to get fudgier.

ONE YEAR AGO: Summer Pasta Toss
TWO YEARS AGO: Mexi-Hippie Chow

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pickled Red Onions

I want to hit "pause" on life today. This summer feels like it's slipping away too quickly. I'm worried that I can't possibly see, do, and eat all the things I want to in this tiny window of time where life is like a postcard for the perfect Minnesota day.

My lunch today was transcendent bliss in the form of a crusty baguette, double cream brie, and slices of ruby red, juicy, ripe tomatoes from Grandpa Art's garden, dusted with a tiny sprinkle of kosher salt and a grind of freshly cracked black pepper. So simple. So perfect. Why can't we stop time right now so I can relish and savor every second of this time of year?

I feel like a hoarder with summer veggies - today I lost my mind at the Farmer's Market and bought enough produce to feed all of Minneapolis for a week.

The vegetables are so flawless right now that there's no need to really "cook" anything. Throw together whatever is ripe and it will taste amazing. I've been doing that and garnishing nearly every meal with these pickled red onions. They add a tart and sweet crunch to any salad or sandwich and they're beautifully bright pink.

They go extremely well with beets and spinach in a big tortilla wrap, with tomatoes and corn in a salad, or with goat cheese on top of this white bean and beet veggie burger (just mashed white beans, grated raw zucchini, and grated cooked beets formed into patties and pan fried in a bit of olive oil). I'll even snack on them straight out of the jar from time to time.

Pickled Red Onions

Recipe note: If you don't have any sweet fruit vinegar on hand (why not? you really should check out my raspberry vinegar recipe - it's easy and I use it a lot!), just bring 1 cup any kind of vinegar and 1/4 cup sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and add onions as directed in recipe below.

1/2 red onion, sliced into thin half moons
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar (or any sweet fruit vinegar)
pinch of kosher salt

Put onion slices into a bowl or jar. Add vinegar and salt. Stir or shake occasionally to coat all the onions in the vinegar. Let sit at room temp or in the fridge at least 30 minutes before using.

Enjoy on salads, burgers, wraps, or on their own.

TWO YEARS AGO: Mustard Dill Fish

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Zucchini Chevre Tartine

I'd like to introduce you to my new favorite sandwich. Sandwich, this is my blog. Blog, this is my new favorite sandwich.

Even though I just met this sandwich 4 days ago, things have gotten serious very quickly. We've been together every day. I even biked to the Farmer's Market early this morning to get some special fancy local fresh chevre (goat cheese) for my sandwich.

When I dress my sandwich up in this gift, I like to call my sandwich a special pet name, Tartine, and then I feel like I should enjoy a glass of wine with my sandwich.

But under that special name and the fancy cheese, lies just two simple but quality ingredients: local in-season zucchini, and a thick slice of pumpernickel toast. I think this sandwich is The One. But I say that about all sandwiches at first.

Zucchini Chevre Tartine, how we met: A Nutritionist Eats
1 thick slice pumpernickel bread
1 medium zucchini
1-2 oz fresh goat cheese/chevre
salt, pepper, and olive oil

Grate your zucchini on a box grater and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Let sit for at least 5 minutes (the salt draws out extra water).

While your zucchini is salting, toast your bread (I used a regular pop-up toaster).

Gather all your zucchini with your bare hands and squeeze it to get the water out. Spread squeezed zucchini on your toast, really pile it all on. Top with dollops of fresh goat cheese (you can't use too much!).

Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, then finish with a light drizzle of olive oil. Broil until cheese browns. Eat immediately.

ONE YEAR AGO: Veggie Hummus Wrap
TWO YEARS AGO: Raw Beet Salad

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cauliflower Steaks with Broccoli Gravy

I'm disappointed that the pictures of this dinner didn't turn out as beautiful as I imagined they would. But, I'm very happy that the dinner tasted better than I ever expected! So, since I'd rather be a good cook than photographer, let's consider tonight successful, mmmkay?

I overdid it at the Farmer's Market last weekend. It was just that everything looked so beautiful, was so affordable, and I was high off the patchouli fumes of my fellow shoppers (I'm kidding Farmer's Marketers! I love hippies!). But I did end up with a house full of beets, carrots, basil, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, cauliflower, and broccoli. That's a lot of produce for one girl to eat in a week. I needed some inspiration in order to consume a bunch of it in one meal.

I recently saw the Amateur Gourmet post about Dan Barber's Cauliflower Steaks. Well, that's beyond genius if you ask me. A steak can be many things, I had just never considered a steak made entirely of the center cut of a vegetable.

I was going to make some kind of broccoli pesto (like this) separately for a different meal, but the little gremlins in my brain started to mash that pesto idea together with the Cauliflower Steaks and I came up with Broccoli Gravy. It's really just pesto though, which I just KNOW will kick ass when I pair the leftovers with some whole wheat pasta.

This meal will satisfy nearly every special dieter you know because it's vegetarian, gluten-free, and could even be veganized if you omit the parmesan in the gravy. It's also a very quick cooking meal, especially if you make the gravy in advance as I did, and just reheat before serving. I marinated the cauliflower steaks overnight which I am going to say is unnecessary - a few minutes will have just as much effect on the overall dish.

I really liked this meal (more than I expected to!), and it was a hit with my dinner guest as well (who is a seasoned meat eater). If you don't have a charcoal grill, you could do this on an indoor grill pan or under the broiler. I served my steak and gravy over quinoa (for the protein) and with grilled crimini mushrooms and grape tomatoes on the side. Wow, this was a fancy and complete meal that I was quite proud to serve to company!

Cauliflower Steaks with Broccoli Gravy
Serves 4 (with LOTS and LOTS of leftover gravy)

2 heads cauliflower
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
a handful chopped herbs (I used rosemary and chives)
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Broccoli Gravy (recipe follows)
Quinoa or other whole grain (brown rice, farro, wheatberries, etc), cooked in vegetable stock

Remove leaves from cauliflower stem. Leave stem intact as much as possible. Cut straight down the middle, then cut again 1 inch on either side to make "steaks." I got 2 steaks from a small head of cauliflower - you may be able to get more. You should get at least 4 steaks from 2 heads of cauliflower (note: use the leftover cauliflower ends for something else, or toss 'em in the marinade and grill 'em up for leftovers to go with the gravy).

Add steaks to a large zip top bag, add wine, oil, herbs, garlic, and salt and pepper. Let sit for a few minutes or overnight.

Heat grill, grill pan, or broiler to medium high. Cook steaks for 4 minutes on each side until charred. You want the stem to be easily pierced with a knife. If still very tough, transfer to a 350 degree oven to finish cooking (I did not do this). Serve over quinoa and top with Broccoli Gravy (recipe follows).

Broccoli Gravy (or Pesto)
serves: a ton

1 head or bunch broccoli, cut into florets (leave stems on - it all gets pureed anyways!)
1-2 cups fresh spinach, optional
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup nutritional yeast, optional (this is a specialty ingredient that hippies use to give things a "cheesy" flavor, you can skip it and add a bit extra parm if you'd like).
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup toasted almonds
water or veg broth/stock, up to 1 cup
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet over high heat, steam your broccoli in 1/4 inch water with a hearty pinch of salt. You may want to do stems first since they take a bit longer. When stems can be easily pierced with a fork, add your spinach (optional), cover and wilt. Let mixture cool.

Puree broccoli and spinach in a food processor with garlic, parmesan, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and almonds. Add water, broth, or stock slowly until the gravy becomes the right consistency. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.

Reheat before serving over Cauliflower Steaks or add to cooked whole wheat pasta.