8.06.2013

Herb Marinated Tofu + Green Bean and Tomato Salad

As much as I've been enjoying The August Break, it was nice to put together a good recipe to share with you all today...and it was even nicer to eat it. Andy said he wished every night was "blog dinner" night...I can't decide whether to be pleased or offended by that comment. ;)

The challenge for this edition of What She Ate was "from the grill." Apropo for summer, right? Welllllll....since I'm not too big on meat, and I live in an apartment in the city and do not have a grill, I had to think a bit. At first I thought I'd try grilling fruit, but that's not such a novel idea anymore, and then I settled on the idea of trying my hand at a vegetarian classic: tofu. Since I don't have an outdoor grill, I used the next best thing, a grill pan.

Tofu gets a bad rap. Yes, it can be bland and rubbery, but so can a plain chicken breast if you don't cook it right or season it. Also like chicken, it has the advantage of taking on whatever flavor you want it to, and it can be adapted for pretty much any cuisine . This is less of a recipe and more of a technique for cooking excellent tofu.

First, you HAVE to press the water out of it. Start with extra-firm tofu, slice it into 1cm or so slabs, and lay out a stack of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Lay the slabs out, put some more towels on top, and then place something flat on top, like a cutting board or cookie sheet. Then, add weight. I used my cast iron dutch oven which worked marvelously, but some canned goods or even some books would be good, too. Then, wait 20-30 minutes. When you come back, you'll have compressed tofu slabs, all ready to replace the water you extruded with delicious flavors. So, now for the delicious flavors!

You can use any kind of marinade that you would normally see on meat, but basically some kind of vinaigrette variation. Here, I went with fresh herbs from my front step. I don't think the proportions of the herbs matter too much, since most of it won't stick to the tofu in the end anyway. Just use what you like or what you have! But, for reference, here's what I used:

HERB TOFU MARINADE

2 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. finely chopped basil
1 tbsp. finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp. finely chopped tarragon
1 tsp. thyme leaves
S+P

Whisk together, and coat the tofu in a shallow dish or ziploc bag and put in the refrigerator. Then....wait. If you were smart, you'd do this in the morning or even the night before and REALLY let it marinate. But, if you're like me, you didn't think that far in advance, and an hour is the best you can do. No worries, it still turns out tasty! When you're ready to grill, get the pan going over medium high heat, and make sure it's good and hot before you start. While it's heating, get out some corn starch, and pour some into a shallow dish. I dredged these, but I thought it went on a little unevenly. Next time, I think I'd try sprinkling with a sieve or something, like with powdered sugar for a light dusting. Either way, the corn starch will help get you the crisp crust you're after. Then, grill away! Get both sides nice and crisp, and eat immediately. NOM.

I used the marinating time to put together a quick summer salad with the gorgeous tri-color beans and orange grape tomatoes that came in our CSA box last week. This is the second time I've cooked with purple beans. Too bad they're so pretty raw, but lose that gorgeous color when you cook them! At least I caught their splendor in a photo.
GREEN BEAN + GRAPE TOMATO SALAD

1/3 c. olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 small sweet onion, sliced thinly (I used Walla Walla)
1 1/2 c. grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 lb. green beans (or yellow, or purple...)

Whisk the olive oil and vinegar together, and then add the onion and tomatoes. The acid from the vinegar and tomatoes will take the edge off the onions, so do this first so it can sit for a few minutes while you prep the beans. Next, put a pot of salted water on to boil. While this heats up, snap the heads and tails of the beans off, and cut smaller if desired. When the water has come up to a boil, drop the beans in for 4-5 minutes, cook until crisp-tender. Drain and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When you're ready to serve, pour the tomato and onion mixture over the beans, and season with salt and pepper. I didn't have any, but I bet a big handful of feta crumbles over the top would be heavenly on this...next time!

All in all, this was a lovely summer meal, and we enjoyed it on a balmy Seattle night. Nothing tastes better than produce cooked at the exact peak of freshness, especially when you made it with your own two hands.

shanti >> sondra

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5 comments:

  1. Mmm this looks yummy. I just picked up a bag of purple green beans (purple green??) because they were only $2 for a bag and from a local farm at my co-op. I can't wait to eat them!

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  2. Ooh, I appreciate this post and would love to see more tofu recipes...especially ones for beginners and people who (like me) have no clue about what to do (or even where to get it.) Is there like, a brand difference? See...I know nothing, but I'm willing to experiment.

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  3. abhaya_sondra8/7/13, 11:52 AM

    Yeah, welcome to the world of tofu! I don't cook with it too often, but I could definitely point you in the right direction. I have not noticed much difference in brand, but look for "extra firm" on the package. If you have a Trader Joe's near you, I like their Organic Sprouted Tofu, but really, any is good. It's refrigerated, and usually near the dairy section at most stores. Then, just be sure to press the water out like I explained above, and then use it like you would meat, for the most part. Good luck, let me know if you try it!

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  4. abhaya_sondra8/7/13, 11:55 AM

    They are soooo pretty! I love them. I don't like them raw, unfortunately, but they'd make such a pretty dish if you like them that way!

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  5. Thanks! We do not have a Trader Joe's anywhere near here. *Le sigh. I think we're the only city on the planet that doesn't have one. Hopefully someday....

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