Guest Blogger: D’s Grilled Asian Tofu

Hello blog world! This is D (AKA Big Daddy Veg) with a guest blog post! As a teacher I have summers off, and this inevitably leads to a daily “honey-do” list every morning from S. It also usually leads to me having a lot of free time on my hands, and so I get to spend a lot more time flexing my culinary muscles in the kitchen!

For last night’s dinner, I was inspired by a block of tofu that was already pressing in the fridge just begging for a marinade. We always have a section in the fridge full of Asian condiments, but I wanted to do something a little different. S has been making smoothies in the morning and so we had a container of pineapple in the fridge… light bulb! This marinade is full of the natural sweetness of the pineapple and it makes for an excellent char on the grill. The best news is since the tofu isn’t raw meat, the marinade can do triple duty by dressing the soba noodles after they are cooked and the rest can go on top of the tofu as a sauce after it comes off the grill!

Sweet, tangy, charred, and salty-- a great combo!

Sweet, tangy, charred, and salty– a great combo!

Grilled Marinated Tofu

1 block extra firm tofu, pressed for a day to remove water, then cut lengthwise into three “steaks”

Soy sauce

Hoisin

Sambal, or other Asian chili sauce

Pineapple, canned or fresh (we used canned)

Garlic

Ginger

Demarara or brown sugar

Combine all ingredients except tofu into a small blender or mini-chopper and puree until a smooth marinade forms. Put tofu in a zip-top bag just big enough to hold it, then add in all the marinade. Put the bag in a container to prevent leakage and place the container in the fridge. Flip the tofu every few hours to marinate evenly anywhere from one to two days (I did two). When you are ready to cook, get a grill as hot as possible and grill the tofu on both sides until a nice char and crust forms (it helps to leave the cover down to heat the whole piece through). When done cooking, remove the tofu from the grill and serve topped with extra marinade and over noodles and baby bok choy (recipe to follow).

For the soba noodles, cook in boiling water according to the directions on the package. Drain, then return to the pot and add in enough marinade to coat while tossing.

 

Steamed Baby Bok Choy

3 baby bok choy

Garlic, minced

Ginger, grated or thinly sliced

White miso paste (to taste)

Slice each of the baby bok choy in half lengthwise. In a deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid, add water, ginger, garlic, and miso paste and whisk to combine. The mixture in the skillet should still be watery, and come up to about halfway up the pan wall. Place the bok choy in the skillet, put on the lid and raise the heat to medium. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until bok choy is tender.

S and I put the noodles in the base of a bowl, topped them with a few pieces of bok choy and then put a tofu steak on top. The flavors in this are explosive! The sweet and spicy sauce, the perfumed bok choy, the base of the noodles… we scarfed this one down! The best part is you can customize the marinade to suit your own tastes: less spicy, less sweet, more ginger… happy eating!

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I’ve Got (Vegetarian) Friends in Low Places….

Food brings people together. It’s a universal language of yumminess that is understood no matter where you come from, no matter what you grew up eating, and no matter what language you speak. And yet too often, vegetarians are isolated in dining situations and made to feel as if their personal choices (whatever they may be) can be accommodated, not praised or valued. I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel less valued at a restaurant than the phrase “we can accommodate your vegetarian lifestyle”.

Luckily, one of the things we value most out of our vegetarianism is the fact that our friends and family are incredibly supportive. We have been able to maintain our lifestyle while enjoying some pretty fantastic food. Our friends truly respect our choices and understand that being vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean missing out on anything. We often dine out with non-vegetarian couples and order multiple dishes to share—there is no “this is my vegetarian entree” but rather “OUR vegetarian shared meal”. And we consider ourselves incredibly lucky to get to enjoy things like asparagus panzanella, a broccoli country captain, and green gumbo with great friends, good wine, and the amazing culinary team of Butcher&Bee at their most recent Lettuce Turnip the Beet vegan dinner.

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Spring Greens Ravioli with a Minted Pea Puree

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Spring Vegetable Succotash with peas, butterbeans, boiled peanuts, and Charleston gold rice

This weekend we also said goodbye to a close (vegetarian) friend as she heads across the Atlantic for the summer for professional and personal growth opportunities. In true Lowcountry style, an outdoor potluck was arranged and we feasted under the stars for hours on an entirely veggie-meal. We brought 2 different quinoa dishes (both vegan!) to compliment a green salad with pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds, cherry tomatoes, hearts of palm, and cucumbers, plus a baked ziti. Here’s how to be the talk of your next potluck – hopefully it inspires you with some fun summer meals. With quinoa cooked up in advance and stored in the fridge for up to a week, these are also great weeknight dinners for the nights it’s just too hot to cook!

Baked Ziti, Salad, and Quinoa 2 ways-- happy friends all around!

Baked Ziti, Salad, and Quinoa 2 ways– happy friends all around!

Cold Quinoa Salad with Jicama and Corn (farthest right in the picture)

2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled

1 medium jicama, diced finely*

¾ cup corn, either frozen or cooked kernels off the cob (depending how far in advance you’re making it, you can even throw the corn in frozen-it will thaw!)

½ jalapeno, seeded and finely diced OR2 dried jalapenos diced (soak in warm water to rehydrate)

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 TBSP apple cider vinegar

Shake of chili powder

1 tsp paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

Pinch of cayenne

1 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Mix the jalapeno, all spices, and oil in a small bowl or Tupperware container. Whisk or shake to combine. In a large bowl, combine quinoa with jicama and corn. Pour the dressing over and let sit for a few hours to absorb the flavors. Before serving, taste and re-season as needed.

*Jicama is also called a Mexican potato- it’s almost like a mix of a potato and an apple. It’s crunchy, a bit sweet, and fun to experiment with. Peel off the outer skin with a knife or vegetable peeler then cut into slices, stripes, and dice.

 

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad (center of the picture)

2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled

1 large cucumber- peeled, seeded and diced

1 red bell pepper

¼ cup tahini

Juice of 2 lemons

Olive oil

1 clove garlic

Salt and pepper

Feta cheese (optional)

Cut the bell pepper into large pieces (remove the ribbing and seeds) and rub with olive oil. Char over a gas stove or grill (alternatively roast it in the oven) until softened and the skin is lightly blistered. Remove from heat and let cool, then dice. In a small bowl, mix tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stream in olive oil until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste. In a large bowl, combine quinoa with cucumber and roasted red pepper. Pour dressing over the quinoa and toss to coat. Let sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours to let the flavors marinate. Add in feta cheese if you’re not worried about being vegan—the saltiness and creaminess is a great complement!

 

Having a strong support system is one of the most essential components to enjoying a vegetarian lifestyle instead of feeling like its an uphill battle with society. With close friends who understand our dietary choices, we’ve been able to not only maintain our social lifestyle but also share our values and passions with others in a very non-confrontational, non-proselytizing way. And when there’s good food on the table, it’s hard to not enjoy the friendship of those around you!

Southwestern Tofu with Corn Relish and Black Beans

This week marks the beginning of the school year for us, so in the spirit of starting off the year on a good note, I’m sharing what we have in the works for this week:

Sunday-Southwestern Tofu

Monday-college welcome back cookout, complete with black bean burgers!

Tuesday-leftover Rainy Day Soup

Wednesday- Roasted Root Vegetables with Tempeh-Pesto Pasta

Thursday- TBD

We have been overwhelmed with great produce in the past few days, so tonight’s dinner represents the true essence of summer in the Lowcountry. We have an abundance of jalapenos from our backyard garden, got some ears of corn last week fresh from the farm when S spent the morning gleaning, and have some random tomatoes that somehow survived the crazy weather of this summer. With tofu pressing in the fridge, it was only natural to head to the Southwest tonight! D even popped open a Tecate to complement dinner.

our most recent jalapeno crop- does anyone in the Lowcountry want some!?

our most recent jalapeno crop- does anyone in the Lowcountry want some!?

175 pounds of corn went to needy families and 4 ears came to our house!

175 pounds of corn went to needy families and 4 ears came to our house!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southwestern Tofu with Corn Relish and Black Beans

Tofu marinade:

-lime juice

-vegetable oil

-Worcestershire

-honey

-red wine vinegar

-cumin

-dried oregano

-smoked paprika

Corn Relish:

-2 ears of corn, cooked and cut off the cob

-2-3 jalapenos (depending on your spice preference)

-red and green bell pepper, cut into a very fine dice

-lime juice

-olive oil

-sherry vinegar

-agave nectar

Black Beans:

-1/4 of an onion

-1/2 tomato

-1 clove garlic

-1/4 of a jalapeno, seeds removed

-olive oil

-sherry vinegar

-1 can black beans (retain liquid, DON’T drain)

-cumin

-dried oregano

-smoked paprika

Mix all marinade ingredients together and marinate a piece of (pressed) tofu for at least 3 hours, ideally longer.

For the relish:

Cut the tops off of the jalapenos, cut lengthwise, and remove all seeds and ribs. Put cut side-down on a foil-lined cookie sheet and broil until the skin is blistered, but not burnt (approximately 5 minutes). Remove from oven and place on a flat surface (a cutting board works) and place a metal bowl upside down on top of it to trap the steam- let sit for 15 minutes. The steam will help to pull the charred skin away from the peppers so it’s easier to remove.

While the jalapenos are steaming, put the corn kernels and diced bell peppers and broil them until slightly charred but not burnt. Remove from the oven and add to a small prep bowl.  When 15 minutes has elapsed, use the back of a sharp knife to scrap the jalapeno skin off, then dice the flesh of the pepper and add to the bowl. Season to taste using above seasoning.

For the black beans:

Puree first 6 ingredients together to form a sofrito. Heat oil in a small pot over medium heat then add sofrito and spices. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the black beans (with liquid) and 1 cans worth of water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the beans are creamy.

When ready to serve: grill tofu (ideally outdoors, but a grill pan works) for approximately 6 minutes per side. Cut and top with relish, and serve with black beans. Serve with lime wedge (and Mexican beer, if desired!)

The relish is also delicious directly on top of the beans!

The relish is also delicious directly on top of the beans!

Smoky, creamy, spicy, and just enough bite from the lime. It felt great to be using all local products and to have such a filling but light dinner to end our last weekend of quiet time before school chaos, wedding planning, and the Jewish holidays wreak havoc on our life. This dinner would be incredibly easy to prep over the weekend and then just grill and assemble mid-week, but is also easily doable from scratch in just a few hours. You could add some rice if you like a heavier meal, or quinoa would be a great addition too. I can’t wait to have the leftover beans and relish with lime juice as a lunch this week!