tofu

The first time that I had this soup was with my glamorous friend, Euriele. At the time we both worked together in Palo Alto. One day we just took a long lunch break and feasted on an authentic Korean meal with multiple courses: kimchi soup, pickled cucumber, bean sprout, rice cooked with beans, Napa cabbage kimchi, Korean seafood pancake, seaweed salad and other items I don’t recall right now. There were so many! The centerpiece of the lunch was the spicy soup served piping hot in a stoneware pot. You cracked a fresh egg over the soup and watched it cook while at the same time you waited for the soup to cool down enough to eat. I love spicy food. That said, some Korean dishes are not for beginners when it comes to chili pepper intensity. This soup is an exciting and hot example.

spicy kimchi soup aka Kimchi Jiigae

spicy kimchi soup aka Kimchi Jiigae

To make my kimchi jiigae, I used the rest of the Napa cabbage kimichiI had prepared the previous week.

This recipe was adapted from this you tube video. The video uses meat, so I changed it here. If you’re vegetarian then no need to watch it :)

spicy kimchi soup aka Kimchi Jiigae

1lb silken tofu (extra soft type) chopped into 1x1x1 inch thick pieces
5 cups chopped kimchi and juices
1tsp sugar
1tbsp Korean Gochugaru hot pepper paste
1tbsp Gochugaru pepper flakes
½ cup red onion chopped
3 whole scallions chopped
Water to cover the chopped kimchi by two inches
Toasted sesame oil
½ head iceberg lettuce cut into large wedges

Place chopped kimchi and juices in a large sauce pan with onions, scallions, gochugaru peppers, sugar and water. Bring everything to a boil, cook on high for about 10 minutes, reduce temperature to medium and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Add tofu towards the last 10 minutes.

Place a wedge of iceberg in each bowl. Add a couple of ladles of the soup, and drizzle with some toasted sesame oil. Serve with a side of rice.

{ 3 comments }

cashew and cardamom fudge

by Stevie on August 31, 2012

This tofu dessert… yes, you read correctly, tofu dessert, is another super recipe from Nguyen’s Asian Tofu. She touts it as a higher protein version of the Indian kaju barfi, typically made with milk, sugar and cashew nuts.

cashew and cardamom fudge

cashew and cardamom fudge

Mine was delicious but didn’t quite have the consistency of what I consider to be fudge. This was soft. Perhaps I should have simmered the sweetened condensed milk longer to have less liquid? In any event, the flavor was wonderful and unlike most tofu-bearing recipes, you’ll never even know it is there.

cashew and cardamom fudge

8 oz super-firm tofu, grated with your finest grater
3½ oz raw cashews
1 can sweetened condensed milk
¾ tsp cardamom—I used whole pods which I ground and removed some of the fibrous shells
2 tbsp chopped pistachios

Line a small pan (she recommends 8”x8” but I didn’t have one so improvised) with parchment paper.

Grind cashews in food processor to a coarse texture. Add to shredded tofu (shredding the tofu was the hardest part of this recipe.) Toss to combine.

In a medium pan on medium heat, add the sweetened condensed milk and the tofu cashew mixture. Cook, stirring periodically, about 15 minutes. Don’t let it boil. Remove from heat and add ground cardamom.

Press into prepared pan. Press chopped pistachios on top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

When ready, cut into squares, bars or diamonds. Enjoy.

{ 1 comment }

sweet and sour tofu

by Stevie on February 17, 2012

This recipe comes from an enjoyable blog that we’ve recently begun following, almost veg. Sweet and sour sauce is a classic that’s often popular with kids, as it is so yummy and not particularly spicy. I found it especially appealing because there’s no pineapple. Almost-veg writes “I like pineapples but not in savory foods.” Well, I like them too, but they don’t care for me. I’ve a terrible allergy and get hives all over my body in a matter of hours after eating even a tiny mouth-watering morsel of this glorious tropical fruit. Not a pretty picture. Or appetizing, so to move on…

sweet and sour tofu

sweet and sour tofu

I changed around the recipe a little by adding more veggies and using hoisin sauce instead of plum. I had the first and not the second, but no time to shop. I used poblano with the sweet bell peppers since we really enjoy its smoky flavor.

One final note before I give the instructions: I was amazed by the tofu! I had always wondered how Chinese restaurants get that thin crispy coating over soft tofu. And now I know. I will definitely make that again.

sweet and sour tofu

1 package tofu (I used regular)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 poblano pepper; stem, seeds and ribs removed; cut into bite-sized chunks
1 onion, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt to taste
6 tbsp canola oil
¼ cup cashews (optional)

for the sauce:

2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1½ tsp rice vinegar
½ tbsp oyster sauce (veggie)
½ tsp sugar
4 tbsp water
½ tsp toasted sesame oil

Cut tofu into 1 inch cubes. Toss with cornstarch then mix with rice wine. Add 4 tbsp canola oil to a large non-stick skillet and fry tofu for a few minutes on each side to brown. Set aside.

Mix sweet and sour sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

Add remaining canola oil to skillet with onion and garlic. Add a bit of salt. Sauté for a few minutes until the onions become translucent. Add remaining veggies and continue to sauté. After they’ve softened a bit, add tofu, cashews if using, and sauce. Fold together gently and allow to warm through for a few minutes. Adjust salt if needed.

Serve with rice.

{ 3 comments }

vegetarian bi-bim-bap

by Heguiberto on December 2, 2011

I’ve wanted to make bi-bim-bap at home forever but have always been put off by the amount of work involved. All that chopping, individually cooking everything then assembling the dish seemed monstrously time-consuming and a bit annoying. The bi-bim-baps I’ve had at Korean restaurants are all served in one of those really hot stone pots (dolsot). Often you just crack a raw egg over the dish, mix all the lovely ingredients together and enjoy. The egg cooks perfectly in the hot pot and the rice at the bottom forms this marvelous toasted crust of which I’m particularly fond. Delicious!

colorful and flavorful vegetarian bi-bim-bap

colorful and flavorful vegetarian bi-bim-bap

I remember as a kid every now and then my mother would burn her rice and get super upset about it. What to her was a disaster to me was a treat because I loved eating the slightly burned and smoky crust. Anytime I eat bi-bim-bap I feel that there is somehow a bit of Brazil in the dish.

I regard bi-bim-bap as a version of paella or pilaf. All of them are rice dishes mixed together with other ingredients. Here are some other recipes for it: here, here and here.

fern brake

fern brake

My dish calls for what to me is a novel ingredient, fern brakes. I found these dried and rehydrated at my local Korean market. I bought both types but since they need to soak overnight, I used the rehydrated ones. They have a lovely tea-like aroma and mild flavor, somewhat like subtle fiddlehead ferns.

To make this vegan, simply leave off the eggs.

vegetarian bi-bim-bap

1½ cups Thai Jasmine rice
3 small zucchinis – julienned with a bit of salt sprinkled over
2 medium carrots – julienned
1 cup broccoli florets
2 bunch spinach
3 eggs
½ red bell pepper – julienned
½ orange bell pepper – julienned
1 container brown beech mushroom
1 cup of soy bean sprouts (nato sprouts)
1 cup fern brakes
1lb firm tofu cubed
8 cloves garlic minced/smashed
2 heaping tbsp Gochujang hot pepper paste
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
olive oil
toasted sesame seed oil
sea salt

To make the rice:

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a saucepan on temperature high. Add rice and give it a good stir. Add 2½ cups of water, stir again. Bring to a boil, stir again. Reduce heat to simmer for about 15 minutes, until water has been absorbed. Remove from heat let it rest, lid on for another 15 minutes.

To prepare veggies:

slicing all the veggies for vegetarian bi-bim-bap

slicing all the veggies for vegetarian bi-bim-bap

All veggies must be cooked separately.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop in broccoli florets and cook for a minute or so. Transfer to a bowl.

Drop in spinach and let it blanch for a minute or so, transfer to a colander, allow it to cool down a bit. Squeeze to remove as much water as possible.

Using the same saucepan add soybean sprouts and a dash of salt and cook for 10-12 minutes. Strain and squeeze to remove water.

Add 1 tsp of olive oil to a skillet, 2 cloves of garlic minced and sauté until aromatic. Add bean sprouts and cook for few minutes. Season with one tablespoon of soy sauce and ½ tsp sesame oil. Set aside.

Wipe skillet and return to burner. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 garlic cloves minced and mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms on high heat for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with some salt, cover the pan and let the mushrooms sweat. Set aside.

Wipe Skillet with a paper towel. Add ½ tsp of olive oil, 1 clove of minced garlic and sauté. Add spinach and cook for another minute, season with 1 tsp of soy sauce. Set aside.

Wipe skillet off again. Add ¼ tsp olive oil. Drain zucchini; add to skillet and sauté for 1 minute. Set aside.

Repeat process, this time with no oil with peppers and carrots.

Return skillet to stove. Add 1 tsp of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic minced, cook until aromatic. Drop in fern brakes and sauté for a couple of minutes, towards the end add 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil. Set aside.

layering some of the veggies over the rice

layering some of the veggies over the rice

adding the soy bean sprouts to the bi-bim-bap

adding the soy bean sprouts to the bi-bim-bap

To prepare pepper sauce:

Meanwhile, mix rice wine vinegar, 3 cloves of garlic minced and Goshujang pepper paste together. Once all mixed it should have the consistency ketchup. Taste it and adjust flavors if necessary. Look for spice, sweet, umami and sour flavors. The paste will be used as a condiment to the Bibimbap at the table.

To assemble dish:

Add a few drops of sesame oil to a non stick paella pan. Using a paper towel rub oil all over its surface including border. Add cooked rice and press with a spatula, making sure the surface and borders are filled. Cover, bring temperature to high and cook for about 10 minutes. This is where rice develops the smoky, brown, nutty slightly burned crust.

Time to assemble the dish! Place cubed tofu in the center over the toasted rice; arrange mounds of each of the ingredients interchangeably along the border, forming a kind of flower pattern. Cover and let it warm through. Serve with fried egg sunny side up and dollops of Goshujang sauce on top of everything. The flavors are out of this world!

rewarming everything before serving

rewarming everything before serving

You can serve this dish with banchans, or side dishes, like pickled cucumbers or/and kimchi. I was going to serve both but forgot to bring the kimchi to the table.

{ 4 comments }

mouth puckering mu shu tofu

by Heguiberto on October 3, 2011

A couple of weekends ago Steven and I spent the afternoon in the quaint northern California coastal city of Half Moon Bay, located just 30 minutes south of SF. It is fun to leave the city for a bit sometimes, just to decompress. The trip alone, down California highway 1, is already a magical experience for the eyes, ears and nose. I am enchanted with the rugged coastline, secluded beaches, beautiful cliffs, marine life, the sculptural Monterrey Cypress trees scattered here and there, and the scented air perfumed by the occasional waft of sea sprays, sea weed and the wild sagebrush that the coastal wind knows how to mix so well. If you have not yet done this quintessential trip you are truly missing out.

mouth puckering mu shu tofu

mouth puckering mu shu tofu

In the town of Half Moon Bay, we did a bit of window shopping, eventually ending up at the Ocean Books used books store. My favorite section is always where you find the cookbooks, which is where I headed. There I discovered The Complete Soy Cookbook by Paulette Mitchell. It is a bold title, though I’m not too sure about ‘the complete’ part. Nevertheless, it does have a bunch of recipes that I intend to try. This mu shu tofu is the first.

California coast along Highway 1

California coast along Highway 1

standing at the California Coast at Half Moon Bay

standing at the California Coast at Half Moon Bay

a grand and very sculptural Monterrey Cypress

a grand and very sculptural Monterrey Cypress

ocean pitted rock along the California coast at Half Moon Bay

ocean pitted rock along the California coast at Half Moon Bay

This recipe caught my eye because I used to enjoy mu shu pork back in the day. Aside from the fact that I misread the recipe and ended up using a ¼ cup of sherry vinegar instead of a ¼ cup dry sherry, two totally different things, the dish came out pretty good.

I am getting a puckered mouth as I remember this…..

I plan on making it again using dry sherry and perhaps with a bit of sherry vinegar because I actually liked the sour component in there. Of course much, much, much less of it lol

mouth puckering mu shu tofu

1 carrot
2 broccoli stalks and stems
4 flour tortillas
½ cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup baby Portobello mushrooms, slivered
1lb tray tofu, cut into finger sized sticks
½ cup water or vegetable stock
¼ cup dry sherry and a splash of sherry vinegar
¼ cup shoyu or tamari
2 tsp corn starch
3 tbsp olive oil
Hoisin sauce

Peel carrots and broccoli stems then pass through a mandolin to make fine sticks. Place broccoli florets in food processor and whiz it for a coarse grade. Mix with carrots and stems. The total amount should be about 6 cups.

raw shredded veggies for mu shu tofu

raw shredded veggies for mu shu tofu

Place dry sherry, sherry vinegar, shoyu, water or veggie stock and corn starch to a small bowl. Whisk it to incorporate.

Place 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Bring temperature to high. Add broccoli/carrot mix to it and sauté for about 5 minutes. It should still have a crunchy texture. Push mix to the side of the pan. Add remaining olive oil followed by the garlic. Let it sizzle for about a minute. Add mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes. Fold it with broccoli mix. Add sherry sauce to the broccoli/carrot mix and cook stirring until it bubbles and thickens. Add tofu and scallion, remove from heat, keep warm.

Meanwhile bring a skillet to high heat, place one tortilla in the pan and warm it up for about 30 seconds on each side. Transfer to a tray lined with a kitchen towel. Repeat process with remaining tortillas.

ready to wrap mouth puckering mu shu tofu

ready to wrap mouth puckering mu shu tofu

assembling mouth puckering mu shu tofu

assembling mouth puckering mu shu tofu

Assemble at table by spreading some hoisin sauce on tortilla, top with mu shu tofu, then wrap it like a burrito and chow down.

{ 5 comments }

I love palak paneer, that Indian dish of spinach and cheese, but every time I go to Indian restaurants I tend to stay away from it. There’re a couple of reasons. The first is that the color of the dish scares me a bit. So often, the spinach has that uninviting rusty grayish green shade that says, “I’ve been sitting here forever waiting for you to order me.” Not good.

palak tofu or Indian pesto with tofu

palak tofu or Indian pesto with tofu

But don’t get me wrong on this. Usually, I find that most types of curries, including the ones I make at home, taste even better after they get some rest. Somehow the flavors intermingle more harmoniously. Not so with palak paneer. I don’t think that it improves with rest: it just discolors.

My second “issue” is the ghee. Restaurants are very fond of that ingredient, which I know is extremely popular in India, too. But not for me. I get indigestion when I overindulge. I’m just not used to so much butter. It is true that palak (spinach) and paneer (Indian cheese) are a bit bland by themselves. And ghee does have flavor. But come on. Indian cuisine is so rich with spices, isn’t there something else that might spare my stomach and waistline?

On my quest to find the ‘ideal’ spinach curry I bumped into this interesting blog, and this other one, and this one. Then I improvised.

I think I finally nailed it. The recipe is healthy, nutritious and completely vegan. Here paneer was replaced with firm tofu, ghee was substituted with olive oil and to add creaminess and thickness, I added ground cashew nuts. We had it with carrot and cumin flavored basmati rice, minus the carrots. Steven thought it sort of resembled Italian pesto based on the ingredients and preparation method, hence my alternate name.

palak tofu or Indian pesto with tofu

1 large container of fresh spinach, leaves only (1lb)
3 jalapeño peppers, seeds partially removed, chopped
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
1 container firm tofu, cubed
1 medium white onion, cubed
3 ripe Roma tomatoes
¾ tsp grated/ground fresh ginger
5 tbsp minced cilantro
¾ tbsp grated/ground garlic
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp raw cashew nuts
Kosher salt to taste

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a pot on high. Add jalapeño peppers and sauté until soft. Add spinach and continue sautéing until wilted and volume reduced to about ¼. Set aside.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cut top of tomatoes off and make a cross incision at the other end. Plunge them in hot water and remove when skin curls. Let tomatoes cool down a bit, peel skins off and cut into cubes. Set aside.

Add some salt to hot water used to skin tomatoes, pour it over tofu and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towel. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet and gently toast/sauté the tofu cubes. Turn the heat off and keep it warm.

Place cashews in a skillet and toast them for a couple of minutes without burning them. Add to food processor and grind to a paste. Add sautéed spinach/jalapeño pepper mix, cilantro and fenugreek. Continue processing to a paste. Set aside.

sauteing tofu and preparing palak sauce

sauteing tofu and preparing palak sauce

Meanwhile heat remaining olive oil in pan, add cumin and toast until aromatic. Add ginger and garlic, stirring until raw smells are gone. Toss in onion and cook until translucent. Add spinach mix, salt to taste and cubed tomatoes, stir to combine and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent sticking.

Either gently fold in tofu or plate it as we did here. Serve with rice.

{ 8 comments }

On my recent trip to the Nijiya Market I bought a one-pound tray of tofu cutlet. Tofu cutlet is just a block of silken tofu that is lightly fried, making the outer part a bit crispy but leaving the inside soft and smooth. It comes ready to use and is perfect to just eat fresh out of the package; or add to soups; to serve on sandwiches, in stir fries, or, in this case, as a delightful vegetarian hors d’oeuvres.

tofu cutlet with broccoli rabe pesto and daikon sprouts

tofu cutlet with broccoli rabe pesto and daikon sprouts

Remember on my recent post on broccoli rabe pesto I mentioned that I had some ideas for what to do with the reserve? Well the time has arrived and this is it. Tofu cutlet with pesto might be an even more delightful way to enjoy broccoli rabe than with pasta. What do you think?

tofu cutlet with broccoli rabe pesto and daikon sprouts

1 block tofu cutlet, cut into ¼ inch thick slices
Kosher salt to taste
broccoli rabe pesto at room temperature (recipe here)
Daikon sprouts to garnish

store-bought tofu cutlet

store-bought tofu cutlet

Lay tofu slices on a plate and sprinkle with salt. Microwave on high for a minute or so to warm. Spread some pesto on each individual piece. Sprinkle with daikon sprouts. Arrange cutely on a platter and serve.

This is super easy to make and will wow your dinner guests every time!

{ 5 comments }

the pumpkin pie obsessive admiring her latest creation

the pumpkin pie obsessive admiring her latest creation

The pumpkin fetish, or adventure, saga or whatever you want to call it is ongoing! My friend Heguie gave me fresh pumpkin cut up into fine pieces, which, by the way I hear is thrillingly FRENCH. So being that I love pumpkins and France, it was serendipitous. He used some for a delightful Brazilian dessert that he served with cheese. Apparently there was a lot of pumpkin leftover: also serendipitous as I wanted to expand on my pumpkin pie making experiments: this time with the added dimension of real fresh pumpkin compared to my previously canned pumpkin pies.

A lot of my pals in my inner circle think that my post-holidays, post-season pumpkin pie obsession is sort of nutty, but they’re obviously not paying attention. None of the PPOs have any nuts in them at all! Seriously, I don’t care because lots of people like different foods when they are not in season: look at winter tomatoes, for example. Some people even like traditional breakfast foods for dinner or pizza for breakfast, so I don’t let anything or anyone stop me from getting my pumpkin on!

I have yet to experiment with making real crust rather than the store bought, pre-made kind. It will come with time and more adventures.

Pumpkin pie that’s healthy is such a great midnight snack and eating it feels like such a treat but knowing that it’s made with healthy ingredients always makes me happy because it’s a dessert that doesn’t hurt…the thighs that is! It’s all about the three P’s: portion, pleasure and planning.

PPO3:  French pumpkin and tofu pie, vegan style

PPO3: French pumpkin and tofu pie, vegan style

PPO3: French pumpkin and tofu pie, vegan style

3 to 4 cups fresh French pumpkin or butternut squash
1/3 cup vegetable oil
low-fat graham cracker crust from Safeway (any crust will do)
½ package silken tofu
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons stevia (a natural sweetener)
3 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice

Preheat oven to 375.

Steam pumpkin until soft (about 12 minutes). Mix and mash pumpkin until it’s smoothed out, as if you were mashing potatoes in a bowl. Add oil and tofu then mix well by hand… to get your skinny on! Add sugar, stevia and spice mix. Stir together and mix until you are exhausted and feel like you really deserve a piece or two of this damn pie! LOL! Add the pumpkin mix to the piecrust shell and bake for one hour. Let cool for a few hours then let loose with your PPO!

P.S. it’s ultra comforting to have the pie with a cup of soy milk!

{ 8 comments }

seafood vegetable nabe

January 7, 2011

Nabe (sometimes called nabemono) is a brothy soup made with a hodgepodge of vegetables, seafood and meat that is prepared with all of the aforementioned items combined into endless “weirdcombinations.” If you have not tried classic nabes such as Oden, Sukiaki, Shabu-Shabu or Chanko Nabe you are definitely missing out! They are all delicious and […]

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tofu salad with sweet -n- spicy ginger mustard rice vinegar sauce

December 20, 2010

I was excited by the idea of this recipe when I saw a tofu salad at my local Whole Foods. It was in the salad bar, sold by weight. Helpfully, they listed all the ingredients that they used, though not the quantities or directions (that must be a trade secret.) In particular, their ingredient list […]

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