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Archive for the ‘Meatless Monday’ Category

I thought I had come up with a ground-breaking idea the other day when I conceptualized gnocchi made from tofu. Not quite sure how to go about doing it, but with a few ideas, I googled it. Much to my dismay, Craig Koketsu (chef at Park Avenue Spring and Quality Meats) had already done this. On the one hand I was a little upset because I can’t claim to be the first. On the other, it confirms my genius that a high-caliber chef had also come up with this idea. He did his as a re-imagined way to do Mabo Tofu. Mine was a Meatless Monday way to get protein into a dish. At any rate, I decided that it was best to use his recipe for the gnocchi themselves since it was already a proven method.

In a food processor I processed two 12 oz blocks of extra firm tofu along with 1 cup of tapioca flour and 1 tablespoon of salt. I’m not real sure why he used tapioca flour, but it is a finer ground than regular flour as well as being a better binder. It’s almost a cross between starch and flour. Once everything was well blended I poured it all into a large ziplock bag (I don’t have a piping bag, so I used the ziplock and snipped one of the corners off).

I brought a pot of water up to a high boil. After the mix had rested in the bag for about ten minutes I started to squeeze it out, snipping off approximately 1 inch lengths. I let it boil until the gnocchi had all started to float to the top. Then I drained them and chilled them in a bowl full of ice water. Once they chilled I drained them again and patted them dry, then set them aside until the sauce was ready.

To kind of bridge the gap between Italy and Asia I used a mix of vegetables that included 5 oz of sliced shiitake (instead of cremini), cherry tomatoes (during cooking I changed my mind and used a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes instead), 1 carrot chopped, 3 garlic cloves minced, some back porch basil, 1 celery rib halved and chopped, 6 green onions sliced, and a large handful of baby spinach (about 3-4 oz).

To make the sauce I heated up my pan and poured in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I let the garlic gently fry for about a minute and then tossed in the carrot and celery. About 5 minutes later I added the shiitake and green onion. Once they were cooked down a little, maybe 3 minutes, I poured in 1/4 cup of white wine and let that boil away. After the wine had evaporated I poured in the can of diced tomatoes and seasoned with salt and pepper. Once the juice from the can of tomatoes started to boil I threw in the spinach and turned off the heat.

In about 1/4 cup of boiling water I threw in two portions of the gnocchi and let them heat up for about 2 or 3 minutes.

To serve, I took the gnocchi out of the water with a slotted spoon and laid them on the plate. I topped them with some of the sauce. Then I garnished with parmesan cheese and basil.

All in all this dish wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. The gnocchi were great and the sauce was ok, they just didn’t quite meld together they way I had it in my head. I make sauce like this quite often, but it is definitely better with regular pasta. As far as the gnocchi, I would try a Mabo Tofu next time as I think those flavors match tofu much better. This was not a complete failure, it just wasn’t a huge success. Lesson learned.

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Meatless Monday last night ended up being Yakisoba. Yakisoba is a traditional noodle dish (even though it’s origins are from China, it has become a staple of Japanese cuisine much like Ramen) that is typically served with various vegetables and pork. I omitted the pork to accommodate Meatless Monday.

First thing I did was get the protein ready. I made a thin omelet of two eggs and a little cream. In my heated large skillet I poured a tablespoon each of soy oil and sesame oil. I swirled that around to coat the entire pan and then poured in the scrambled eggs. I swirled the eggs around to make a thin omelet, much like a crepe in appearance. I turned the heat down so it wouldn’t burn. Once the bottom was cooked and the top set I carefully flipped it over to get a little crust on both sides. Then I slid it out of the pan and onto a cutting board, cut it in half, then made thin “noodles” out of it. I set this aside because this was my garnish.

For my vegetables I used 6 green onions, 1 carrot, some haricots vert, 6 ounces of bean sprouts, 1 red bell pepper, 6 cremini mushrooms (I wanted to use shiitake, but I had cremini in my fridge already), some ginger and a few cloves of garlic. I sliced everything thinly so that they would mix in well with the noodles.

The noodles I used are called Chuka Soba, which translates to Chinese Noodles. They’re wheat noodles, but honestly, you could use a chow mein or ramen noodle if you wanted and get the same results. I cooked the noodles according to package instructions.

Using the same skillet I used for the egg I heated another tablespoon each of soy and sesame oils. I threw the garlic and ginger in for about a minute and then added the haricots vert, carrot, bell pepper, and green onions. I let those cook for about 6 minutes before adding the mushrooms. I let the mushrooms cook for about 4 minutes and then seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Then I poured in about 2 tablespoons of sake and let that boil off. After that I added the sprouts and then about 1/3 cup of Bull-Dog Sauce. I don’t know if you can get Bull-Dog Sauce at many places. We get ours at Mitsuwa, but you may be able to find it in ChinaTown or some other Asian Grocers.  

Once the sauce was mixed in well with the vegetables I tossed the noodles in and let them fry a little while mixing everything together. It’s important to keep the heat on to dry the sauce up a little while the noodles absorb it. This gives a nice texture to the noodles.

To serve I simply used my tongs and put a big pile of everything on a plate. Then I topped it with some of the sliced eggs and drank a cold beer. For the leftovers today I sliced some Black Forest Ham and added it to the mix. Since it’s not Meatless Tuesday I’m cool with that.

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For Meatless Monday last night I made a Cambodian-style noodle soup. It’s very similar to Vietnamese Pho, but the broth is slightly different. Pho usually has star anise and cinnamon in the broth, I didn’t use either of those. Stylistically though, their very similar. And why not? They are neighboring countries after all.

To get the Cambodian flavor I used ginger and lemongrass. I left the skin on the ginger and the tough outer layers of the lemongrass in tact. The ginger was sliced and those marks you see on the lemongrass are from banging it with the back of my knife. That loosens up the fibers and helps release the oils.

I put them in a sauce pan along with 1 quart of vegetable stock, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1 cup of water, and a lot of fresh cracked white pepper. I brought that all to a boil and let the flavors steep for about 20 minutes. Then I strained the broth into a large bowl and let it sit until later on in the cooking.

My ingredient list included bean sprouts, enoki mushrooms (not Cambodian, but nevertheless delicious and healthy), fresh made tofu from the HMart that I cubed, ginger and garlic that I minced, asparagus that I cut up (again, not Cambodian), half of an eggplant diced, green onions that were sliced about 2 inches in length, and rice noodles.

I started by heating up about 1/4 cup of soy oil and a few tablespoons of sesame oil. I let the ginger and garlic go until they were fragrant, about 1 minute, then added the green onion and asparagus. Once they started to slightly soften I added the eggplant. That took about 5 minutes until it was mostly cooked through. Then I added the tofu and enoki. Those both heat through relatively quickly, about 2 minutes. After all of those vegetables were heated I poured the broth in and let it come to a boil, then turned the heat down and let it simmer, covered, for only about 5 minutes.

During that time I cooked the noodles according to package instructions. Once cooked through I drained them thoroughly and divided them up into the serving bowls and ladled the soup on top. I topped all of that with the bean sprouts, some cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.

Half-way through eating I realized that something was missing….SRIRACHA!!! I took my sriracha out, squeezed a little into the broth, and all was good.

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For Meatless Monday last night I made a Dahl, an Indian-style lentil stew. I had a handful of okra left from the farmer’s market this weekend, so I decided that this would be a good way to use them up.

My ingredient list included the okra (cut into 1/2 inch slices), 1/3 cup of red lentils, a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, one medium onion diced, an inch of ginger, two garlic cloves, and one medium russet potato that I skinned and diced. I also used one cup of water and about a teaspoon of turmeric along with salt and pepper.

Over med-high heat I melted about a tablespoon of ghee and grated the ginger and garlic into it. Once they became fragrant, about 30 seconds or so, I added the onions. Those sautéed for about 5 minutes and then I added the potato. A few minutes later I stirred in the lentils just until they were fully coated with the ghee and then I poured in the water. I let the water come to a boil and then scraped up the garlic and ginger that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then I added the turmeric, salt, and tomatoes and let that all come to a boil. Once boiling, I turned the heat down to med-low, stirred in the okra, covered the pan, and let it all simmer for about 30 minutes. After that, I added some black pepper and adjusted my salt. A garnish of halved cherry tomatoes and it’s ready to eat.

Besides the okra, I also had a few baby carrots from the farmer’s market that I needed to use up. Even though their skin was purple, the flesh was either orange or yellow. They were so tender and sweet, possibly the best carrots I’ve ever cooked with. I didn’t want to take away from their natural sweetness so I kept it really simple. After skinning them I quartered them length-wise. I drizzled some olive oil all over them, then sprinkled some cumin, salt, and pepper. I put them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. To serve, I just layed them on top of a mixed green salad.

As happens more often than not in my kitchen, white rice was served on the side.

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I made a quiche for Meatless Monday this week. I’ve never made one before, and while I really wanted to use some bacon, it turned out surprisingly delicious. Probably the best quiche I’ve ever eaten. Yuki, who is a big fan of quiche, thought so too.

For my vegetables I slices up 5 button mushrooms and 5 cremini, I chopped half of a Vidalia onion, I cut one head of broccoli into small florets, and minced on clove of garlic.

I melted one tablespoon of butter in my saute pan and started with the garlic for about 30 seconds and then the onion for about 4 minutes. I threw the mushrooms in and let them cook down for about 4 minutes. Then I tossed in the broccoli and let that go for another 4 minutes. I let them cool on a plate.

While the vegetables were cooling I whipped up the egg batter. I used 4 eggs, 1/2 cup of soy milk, 1/2 cup of fresh grated Gruyère, some salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of nutmeg.

I rolled out a puff pastry so that it would fit nicely in my 9″er (a man can dream). I lightly buttered the pan then laid the pastry in and trimmed the edges. I laid the vegetables on the bottom so that they were evenly dispersed. Then I poured the egg batter on top. I rolled the sides of the crust dow till they were just slightly higher than the batter. I topped it all with some more grated Gruyère and threw it into a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned.

I let it sit for about 10 minutes after taking it out of the oven. The quiche needs to rest a little and it will lose some height as it settles.

I served it with some white rice and a mixed green salad. The salad had some tomatoes and a shiitake vinaigrette.

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Feeling relatively uninspired for Meatless Monday last night I decided to clear some of the older veggies out of my fridge. The best way to do that is a simple stir-fry. Instead of meat I just added some cubed tofu.

I halved and quartered some shiitake depending on their size, separated and cleaned up some baby bok choy, chopped up a carrot, half an onion, 6 green onions, and a chinese eggplant.

I mixed together 1 tablespoon of paprika, 2 teaspoons of cumin, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of cayenne. After pressing the liquid out of the tofu in the fridge for about an hour I cubed it and tossed it in the spice mix. Then, in a hot pan, I stir-fried the tofu in soy oil for about 5 minutes. After that I put the tofu back into a bowl, wiped out the pan, and then cooked the veggies.

I started by adding some minced garlic and ginger to some hot soy oil. Then every few minutes I added another vegetable. I started with the onion, then carrot, green onion, shiitake, and eggplant. Once all the veggies were in I seasoned with salt and pepper. Then I tossed the tofu back in and added the juice of one lime and 2 tablespoons of honey (I had mixed the two together beforehand in order to get the honey fully integrated). I let that cook down for about 3 minutes or so before it was ready to serve.

I steamed the baby bok choy for about 4 minutes.

To serve, I laid the baby bok choy down on the plate and then topped it with the stir-fry. White rice was on the side.

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Last night I was back at it with Meatless Monday. I haven’t used tofu in a while so I decided to make a dish with it. I treated it like a piece of fish or chicken and cooked it en papillote with some vegetables. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I used foil instead of parchment paper. Same cooking method though.

I had some baby bok chow in the fridge, so I finished that up by separating it into individual leaves. I sliced half of an onion, a small red bell pepper, and halved some shiitake mushrooms. I picked up a block of firm tofu, I prefer silken because of its silky texture but they didn’t have any. Any kind of tofu works. I pressed the water out of it for about an hour in the fridge then cut it into 4 equal “steaks” before cooking. I also picked up some yellow string beans.

On a square of aluminum foil I first laid down a couple of bok choy leaves. On top of that some onions and then a tofu steak. I scattered some pepper slices, yellow beans, shiitake, and more onions on top and around the tofu. Then I put a couple small pats of butter on top with 1.5 teaspoons of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of sake. A little bit of black pepper and my packet was ready to be sealed. I make 4 packets. I wanted to make sure that the foil was completely sealed so that the vegetables would steam inside and not lose any good juice.

I threw them into an oven at 425 degrees and let them cook for about 20-25 minutes. They were opened at the dinner table to keep the steam in. I used chopsticks to open mine so that I wouldn’t burn myself with the steam.

For the tomato and bread soup I used 6 Roma tomatoes, two cloves of garlic, three dinner rolls, and some fresh basil from my balcony. I started by skinning the tomatoes in hot water. Just make a small “x” with a sharp knife on the bottom of each tomato and drop them all into boiling water for about 15 seconds. The skin will come loose and you can easily peel it off. Then I chopped the tomatoes into half-inch square pieces. I also chopped up the rolls about the same size. The garlic was minced and the basil chopped.

In a hot pan I poured about a quarter cup of olive oil and threw the garlic and basil in for about a minute. Then I added the bread and let it go for another few minutes.

Then I added the tomatoes and seasoned with some salt. I poured in about a 1.5-2 cups of the water that I used to skin the tomatoes. Once that came to a boil I lowered the heat to medium, covered the pot, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. That’s it, just check for seasoning and serve, along with white rice.

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