Crusted Lemon Tofu

A simple marinade for tofu that has a bright and fresh lemony flavor. Pan frying the pressed tofu in arrowroot flour creates a crispy outside that is so tender on the inside. This recipe can be used year round with a side of any vegetable of your choice forming a complete meal. You also might want to check out a blog post I wrote a little while back on how to successfully press tofu so that you always have a fabulous tofu.

Ingredients

2 blocks extra firm tofu, pressed and drained
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon agave
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 cup arrowroot powder, for dredging
2 tablespoon neutral tasting oil (refined coconut or canola preferred)

Sauce Ingredients

½ cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave
2 tablespoon sesame oil 

1 inch knob finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, diluted with 1 ½ tablespoon water
2-3 sliced lemon wedges, for serving

Toasted Sesame Seeds, for serving

Directions

  1. Press the tofu over a rack for about 10 minutes, or check out this product I reviewed on pressing tofu, which I now use regularly.
  2.  Slice into about ¼ inch thick strips. Drizzle the strips with the rice vinegar and agave and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Allow the marinate to coat the tofu for 10-30 minutes.
  3. While the tofu is marinating, create your lemon sauce by combining all ingredients except arrowroot and water in a sauce pan. Heat for approximately 3 minutes and add arrowroot slurry. Whisk and cook for only one additional minute. Set aside, covered to keep warm.
  4. Pre-heat a large skillet and add the oil.
  5. Place 1 cup arrowroot powder in a large dish and dredge each piece of the tofu in the arrowroot.
  6. Sauté coated tofu on each side for approximately 3 minutes, or until the tofu is golden.
  7. When the tofu is finished, place on platter and top with lemon sauce. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and lemon wedges.

Zucchini & Carrot with Tofu in a Coconut sauce

A few years ago, I went to Costa Rica’s Vista Del Valle (View of the Valley). It’s a lush self-sustaining hotel that grows its own produce, has an estuary, tropical birds and a butterfly garden pitched atop a mountain that is carved into the tropical forest. Below you will find some of the photos from our trip. The restaurant uses all the produce that grows in the forest, creating surprising dishes from Earth gifts. The head chef there served this dish to me from El Rosario, Costa Rica who graciously shared this simple and outstanding Zucchini & Carrot with Tofu in Coconut Sauce. I decided to post it now, because I just got some fall carrots from my CSA and had some zucchini to throw in. At the bottom of this post you will find directions on how to purchase tofu and make it taste outstanding.

Race Horses flown in from Spain
Outdoor restaurant overlooking the lush mountains. Even the tables are made from the trees that fall in the forest.

Zucchini & Carrot with Tofu in Coconut Sauce

Follow post to the bottom where I make suggestions on how to purchase and make tofu taste great.
Serve this dish over jasmine rice and garnish with some fresh basil for a beautiful presentation.

 Serves 4

 

Ingredients
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 (16 ounce) package of firm tofu, pressed and drained (click on link for directions) and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion
3 carrots, julienned
2 zucchinis, trimmed and julienned
½ cup Coconut Milk 
½ teaspoon red pepper
1-teaspoon sea salt
Brown Jasmine Rice or your favorite rice
, for serving
 
Directions
  1. Preheat that skillet over high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil. Spread over the surface of the pan. Pat the tofu dry one more time and put it in the skillet it in a single layer, with plenty of room around each piece. Don’t crowd the pan, or the heat will drop too much and the tofu will steam, not brown. You will probably need to do this in two batches if it’s too crowded. Cook on one side until it is deeply golden brown, then flip. If you are doing cubes, it becomes impractical to get all sides of every piece, so instead you’ll just toss them every minute or so and hope to get most of them.  When both sides are done, remove to a plate.
  2.  In the same skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, stirring and shaking the pan, for about 7 minutes or until it just begins to turn translucent. Add the carrots and sprinkle with salt so that the carrots will sweat. Cook, stirring often for 5 minutes. Then add the zucchini and stir to combine with all the other ingredients. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover the skillet, add the tofu to the vegetables and stir gently. Pour in the coconut milk and red pepper and stir to distribute evenly. You can add salt to taste if you like.
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Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu

 
I use this method in lots of recipes, and frequently for simple stir fry weeknight meals. It is easy to do, takes just minutes, and the results are far superior to simply cutting up cubes and throwing them in your stir-fry.Step 1: Buy Good Tofu. Find a store that moves a lot of tofu so you are getting the freshest tofu available. You want the stuff packed in a rectangular, water filled box (or maybe wrapped in plastic), in the refrigerator section, not the shelf-stable boxes. Choose an extra-firm tofu with the latest expiration date you can find. If you open it and smell more than a tiny whiff of sourness,  or it feels slimy, it isn’t going to be good.
Step 2: Dry Your Tofu. Open the package, drain out the water, and press it. You can follow another post I wrote I pressing tofu here. Cut the tofu into desired cubes or slabs. What we need to do is get the surface of your tofu dry so that it browns up on the skillet. Put down a clean dishtowel. Lay the tofu out in a single layer on said dish towel. Put another clean dishtowel on top and pat well, all over, to remove as much surface moisture as possible. It will also reduce dangerous and unpleasant sputtering when you put it in the skillet.

Step 3: Pan Fry Your Tofu. The optimum pan for this job is a cast iron skillet.  It holds a ton of heat, and develops a lovely non-sticking surface. You will cook this over very high heat, in a flat bottomed skillet because it allows the tofu to stay in contact with the hot surface for longer periods of time.

So: preheat that skillet over high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of a neutral vegetable oil that can tolerate a high smoke point, like sunflower oil or canola oil. Spread over the surface of the pan. Pat the tofu dry one more time and put it in the skillet it in a single layer, with plenty of room around each piece. Don’t crowd the pan, or the heat will drop too much and the tofu will steam, not brown. You will probably need to do this in two batches if it’s too crowded.
Cook on one side until it is deeply golden brown, then flip. If you are doing cubes, it becomes impractical to get all sides, so instead you’ll just toss them every minute or so and hope to get most of them.  When both sides are done, remove to a plate. Don’t add the vegetables and sauce on top of the tofu. It will ruin the crust. Instead, remove the tofu from the pan, do your vegetables, then add the tofu back just in time to marry with the sauce.

Spiced Pear and Almond Sesame Parfait

Last week was the final week of the fruit share for the season from my CSA. Bless them… for a good portion of the fruit share I received apples and pears. So much so – that I just could not eat them fast enough. I decided that the best use for the pears was a spiced pear parfait.


 I spiced up the pears with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom- scented them with vanilla and added some golden raisins to it. The combination of golden raisins and cardamom are classic combinations along the Silk Road- adding just a bit of bite to the sweet moist plump raisins.

Then I made some tofu cream- for all those out there that are vegan or avoiding dairy all together. I spiced up Silken Tofu with vanilla and blanched almonds. To top off this creamy Sunday, I made a sweet and salty almond crunch. 

A beautiful presentation in a glass with layers of golden pears and lightly colored cream laced with cinnamon. Whip some up in the fall when pears are at their peak. Thanks to Amy from the FragrantVanilla Cake for sharing this recipe and inspiring me to recreate desserts into healthier wholesome delights.

Serves 4


Ingredients


Pear Filling

4 Forelle Pears, peeled, cored and cubed

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup golden raisins

2-teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2-teaspoon cardamom

1/4-teaspoon nutmeg

2-teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt


Cream

1 package silken tofu

1/4-cup maple syrup 

1/4 cup blanched almonds

1/4-cup raw white sesame seeds

1-tablespoon vanilla extract

1-teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 tsp sea salt



Nut topping (optional)

½ cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2-tablespoon maple sugar

1/8-teaspoon sea salt


                      1      Place pears in a skillet over medium heat and combine with sugar, raisins, lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Stir occasionally so that the pears don’t stick to the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until pears have softened. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract, and salt. Let mixture cool completely then place in the refrigerator until cold.


                       2      To make cream: In a food processor, combine tofu, maple syrup, almonds, sesame seeds, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, lemon juice and salt and process until very smooth. Place in the fridge to chill until very cold before assembling parfaits.


                         3      To make nut topping:  preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Toss almonds, sesame seeds, maple syrup and salt until well combined. Spread out on prepared sheet, and bake for 7 minutes until seeds are fragrant and toasted. Remove pan from oven and let cool completely.


                       4       To assemble:  line up 4 (8 ounce glasses). Place a third of the cream in the bottom of each, dividing evenly between the three.  Top with half the pear mixture, dividing evenly between the three, then half the remaining cream, then the rest of the pears, then the last of the cream.  Top with the almond sesame mixture. Serve immediately.




Spicy Tofu and Asparagus Stir Fry (vegan, Gluten free)

It has been well over a year since I have been writing my cookbook. A labor of love getting all the recipes I grew up with (Central Asian cuisine) and turning it mostly to vegan versions. At another post, I will discuss the concept of my cookbook more. So I was looking for inspiration with the concept of mindful cooking and mindful eating…. along I found Robin Robertson. She has written several vegan cookbooks, but my all time favorite book of hers is The Sacred Kitchen, which explores the interconnection of world wisdoms to elevate the kitchen into a healing shrine. It just so happens to sit well with me because I come from so many different cultural worlds myself- my parents are Afghan/Bukharian Jews who lived in Pakistan, India, Israel, Thailand and the United States. My fathers’ side of the family lives in Italy and Hong Kong. You should see my passport with all those stamps!

In any event, Robin wrote a cookbook with a title of a similar name that I was thinking of for my cookbook (subsequently I will not be using it) Vegan, Fire and Spice. The book is an homage to world cuisines- of course I can appreciate that. Spicy Tofu brings such family nostalgia for me- my years in Thailand visiting with my parents and the Thai food is spicy and sweet (much like me!). The recipe I am posting today is from Vegan, Fire and Spice, a very simple stir-fry that took less than 10 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook. The sauce is quite simple made up of mostly soy sauce, sugar, and a little seasame oil. But the tofu is enhanced with fresh garlic and ginger. And lastly, the extra spice of red pepper flakes will clear your sinuses. The flavors so simple, but exquisitely paired with the delicate asparagus. Be sure to buy the asparagus that are thin, otherwise you will need to trim the bottoms and pair them.

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 tablespoons soy sauce (Gluten Free)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 bunch asparagus, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, well drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 scallions, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds (optional)

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, sesame oil, water, and sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet or wok, heat the canola oil over medium‑high heat. Add the asparagus and stir‑fry for 2 minutes, then transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon.
  3. In the same skillet, add the tofu, garlic, ginger, and scallions, and stir-fry until the tofu is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Return the asparagus to the skillet along with the red pepper flakes and stir‑fry until the asparagus is just tender. Add the soy sauce mixture and stir‑fry a minute longer, or until hot.
  4. Serve over Jasmine rice and top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Cabbage Slaw in Peanut Sesame Dressing (vegan, gluten free)

The name of this salad is actually called  Ying Yang Salad with Peanut-Sesame Dressing from the Real Food Daily Cookbook. I’m going to provide a link over to 101 Cookbooks for the recipe, since Heidi Swanson reprinted it with permission, which I don’t have.

The reason it’s named such is because it is an homage to the ancient Chinese philosophy that all things in the universe contain elements of both yin and yang. The philosophy of yin and yang lies at the heart of Chinese culture. The first reference to yin and yang come from the classic works of Confucius. Taken literally, yin and yang means the dark side and sunny side of a hill. People commonly think that they are opposing forces, but in fact they are complementary pairs. In Yin and Yang cooking there is always a balance in color, flavors and textures. The challenge is to consume a diet that contains the balance between the two. The crunchiness and coolness of the cabbage and carrots are the perfect counterpoint to the rich and creamy peanut dressing.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 cups shredded napa cabbage
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 (2 1/2-inch) piece daikon radish, peeled and julienned
10 scallions,  julienned
1 cup Peanut-Sesame Dressing (recipe below)
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes chilled ginger tofu (recipe below)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Toss the cabbage, carrots, radish, and green onions in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat.
  2. Mound the salad into 4 wide, shallow bowls or onto plates.
  3. Arrange the tofu around the salad. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve.

Peanut-Sesame Dressing

 Makes  1- 1/4 cups

    Ingredients

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Gluten Free Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
Directions
  1. Blend the peanut butter, vinegar, maple syrup, water, tamari, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and crushed red pepper in a food processor until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add the cilantro and blend just until it’s finely chopped The dressing will keep for 2 days, covered and refrigerated.

Gingered Tofu

     Ingredients
2 (12-ounce) containers water-packed extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained
2/3 cup Gluten Free Soy Sauce
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon canola oil
Directions

  1. Drain the tofu and save the containers. Cut into 1-inch wide strips, and pat dry with paper towels. Cover a large baking sheet with more dry paper towels. Place the tofu in a single layer over the towels on the baking sheet and let drain for 2 hours, changing the paper towels after 1 hour.
  2. Whisk the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a bowl to blend. Pour half of the marinade into the reserved tofu containers. Return the tofu slices to the containers, and pour the remaining marinade over. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400’F.
  4. Oil a heavy, rimmcd baking sheet with the canola oil. Drain the tofu and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes on each side until golden brown and heated through. Serve warm or cold, or at room temperature. The tofu will keep for 1 day, covered and refrigerated.

Mixed Vegetables and Tofu in Lime Ginger Sauce (Vegan, Gluten Free)



It’s South Asian night at my home with this sweet lime ginger tofu stir fry. I used string beans, red and green peppers, baby corn and broccoli, but you can use what ever veggies you prefer. The tofu is lightly fried to a crispy outside and a moist center that just explodes with a symphony of sweet ginger and garlic and punch of lemon and lime. Tofu is one of those legumes that just absorbs flavor like a sponge and can be morphed into anything you embrace it with.  Serve over hot jasmine rice and reserved marinade.


Servings 4


INGREDIENTS
1 16-oz package extra-firm, water-packed tofu
1 (12-oz) bag Fresh Stir Fry Veggie Medley (or cut your own – whatever veggies you like!)
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil (any light-tasting oil)
1-1/2 tablespoons water


Marinade
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup soy sauce (Gluten Free)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
teaspoon minced ginger
teaspoon toasted sesame oil


Directions


1. Drain tofu; cut into 6 slices width-wise. Press tofu for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour.


2. Mix ingredients for marinade; Cook over low heat in a saucepan and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Reserve approx 2/3 cup for sauce, 1/3 cup for actual marinade.


3. Cut pressed tofu into cubes (6 cubes per slice). Place in a glass dish or plastic zipper bag; pour the 1/3 cup of marinade over the tofu. Marinate for at least 1 hour; preferably 4-6.


4. Heat 2 TBSP oil in large skillet or wok over medium/medium-high heat. Remove tofu from marinade.


5. Make sauce: Add reserved marinade to a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil; boil for 2 minutes to reduce a bit and concentrate the flavors. Continue to stir until sauce starts to thicken; reduce to low heat. Sauce should lightly coat the whisk.


6. Cook Tofu: Add tofu to hot pan, being careful to not overcrowd. You’ll probably need to do it in 2 batches. Resist the urge to touch your tofu cubes until they are golden brown on one side – then use tongs to flip. Once golden brown on both sides, remove from pan. Add veggies to pan (you might need to add a bit more oil) and stir-fry until bright and tender-crisp.


7. Combine: Return tofu to pan with veggies. Add enough sauce so that everything is lightly coated, but not drowning in sauce.

Orange Spiced Tofu (Gluten Free, Vegan)

Tofu is one of those meat alternatives, made from the soy bean that is so versatile because it absorbs the flavors of anything it’s marinated in. The trick with tofu is to buy the right one suitable for the dish you are preparing, press out the water and marinate it. Once you have all those three steps down, you are sure to make a fabulous tofu dish.

Cooking Tips to Make Tofu Taste Good
Tofu needs to be “pressed”
Tofu is packed in water, and it’s a lot like a sponge – if you don’t press out the old water you can’t get any new flavors in. This is really easy – it just takes some advanced planning. Here’s the break-down (this assumes the use of extra-firm, water-packed tofu, not the silken kind in the little boxes):        1      Slice open the package and drain out the water. Cut the block into however many slices you want.

        2      Lay a dish towel on a cookie sheet or tray; place some paper towels on top of that.

        3      Spread the slices of tofu out in a single layer on top of the towels. Put more paper towels and another dish towel on top of that.

        4      Set some heavy objects on top, like this cookbook.

        5      Leave it alone for at least 30 minutes, but preferably a couple hours. You can leave it like this all day or night if you put it in the fridge. If you’re really in a hurry, you can apply some “manual pressure” and cut back the time to 15 minutes, but it’s not going to be quite as awesome.

        6      Uncover; leave as “tofu steaks” or cut into cubes, marinate & cook according to your recipe.

 Some other things to keep in mind:

 Tofu loves being marinated

If you don’t marinate it, it will taste like nothing. Tofu hates marinades containing oil

Tofu has a lot of water in it, even after you press it, and oil and water don’t mix. Using oil in your marinade will actually create an oil slick on the tofu and the flavors will never sink in. Don’t forget about broiling, grilling & grill pans

Tofu is great on the grill, in a grill pan and under the broiler. Just marinate it, spray your grill or pan with a little canola oil spray to prevent sticking, and cook until you get nice grill marks or crispy edges (about 7 minutes per side – can be less on a scorching-hot grill). and now for the recipe….

Orange Spiced Tofu    
The citrusy flavor along with the spices creates a flavor that is both complex and exciting where East meets West. This dish is such a snap to prepare and can be eaten at room temperature.
Serves 4-6
 
Ingredients 1 (16 ounce) package of firm tofu (sliced into 16 pieces and prepared according to above directions on pressing)

Non- Stick cooking spray
3 tablespoons of Duck sauce 5 tablespoons of orange juice

 ¼ teaspoon each of salt, cumin, garlic powder, turmeric, ginger powder & paprika, combined for seasoning mixture

 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

 Directions:

                        1      In a separate bowl , mix duck sauce with orange juice and seasonings.
                        2      Place tofu in a medium size rectangular dish. Pour marinade over tofu and refrigerate for at least an hour.
                        3      In a large frying pan over medium high flame, spray non-stick cooking spray.
                        4      Remove tofu with a flat slotted spoon from marinade and sear tofu slices for 4 minutes on each side. There should be slight browning.
                        5      In a separate small pot under a medium flame, bring reserved marinade to boil. Once boiling pour remaining marinade over the tofu slices and serve with sprinkled toasted sesame seeds.