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Posts tagged ‘tofu’

Chinese 5-Spice Tofu and Broccoli

Have you had it up to here with boring stir-fry? Give this one a whirl!

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Chinese 5-Spice Tofu and Broccoli

I’ve been vegetarian for six years, and my favorite dishes have changed and expanded ever since. But like a loyal friend, tofu and broccoli has always been there for me. It’s reliable, it’s easy to make, and it makes it seem like I put way more effort into lunch or dinner than I actually did. What’s not to love?

Well, one thing that could lessen the love is a lack of variety. I like making tofu and broccoli because it’s fast and dependable, but even fast and dependable can be made better with a little sprucing up. Enter Chinese 5-Spice. Chinese 5-Spice is a blend of black pepper, star anise, cinnamon, fennel, and cloves – it’s warm, it smells great, and best of all, it’s pretty cheap!

What follows is not only my secret for the easiest vegan meal you’ll ever make that doesn’t come from a can, but also a method to jazz it up with a very flavorful seasoning.

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Tofu: "Please, make me pretty!"

To start, take about a quarter of a block of tofu and cut into bite-size pieces. Sometimes I cut the tofu into cubes for faster cooking and easier stirring; but in this dish, you’ll want relatively-larger pieces for easy frying. You can pat your tofu somewhat dry if you like, but don’t drain it or make it bone-dry – you’ll want some moisture to help the spice mixture stick! No eggs or oil required.

Heat a blend of olive and sesame oils in a skillet on medium. Meanwhile, put about 1-2 tsp of Chinese 5-Spice into a small bowl with a flat bottom (you can also use a small plate, just be careful to not send the spices flying everywhere as you dredge). When the skillet is hot enough, dredge each piece of tofu in the spice blend to coat evenly. The moisture from the tofu will make the spice blend cling to it and form a nice coat.

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Once each piece is coated, add it to the skillet and start frying!

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Allow the tofu to cook on one side for up to 5 minutes, then flip. Scoot all of the pieces to one side of the pan, then add your broccoli. Adding the broccoli at this step as opposed to earlier allows it to cook through without getting soggy or burnt – it’ll be just perfect!

You may also have some extra spice left in your bowl (as I often do). Instead of cursing at your wasted spice, take what’s left and sprinkle it over the broccoli! Stir the broccoli so it gets coated in both oil and spice; if the broccoli seems dry, spray with some cooking oil. Do not add water or excess oil, as this will make the spices fall off off your food and into the skillet; we’re not eating the skillet for lunch so it shouldn’t get all of the seasoning! Once the remaining 5-Spice has been added, sprinkle both the tofu and broccoli with some sea salt to bring out the flavor further (avoid soy sauce as this will also wash off your spices).

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Yummy

Allow the tofu and broccoli to cook for about 5 minutes more, then turn off your heat and serve! I like eating this over a bed of quinoa for extra protein, but you can substitute your grain of choice – or use no grain at all! Happy eating!

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Bourbon BBQ Tofu with Chili-Lime Roasted Corn and Spinach

It’s getting warm out, which sets off my cravings for Southern-style food!

I lived in North Carolina for eight years before moving to DC, and I learned quickly that a warm, sticky day was always made better by roasted corn, cooked greens, and a warm, seasoned protein. While I wasn’t much for pulled BBQ or BBQ chicken even before I went veg, I strangely developed a liking for barbecue after giving up meat. Maybe it was the chicken and pork I disliked as opposed to the sauce! But all the same, as I walked around downtown DC through what felt more like an early summer day in Carolina, I developed a hankering for some BBQ tofu and grilled corn on the cob.

For the tofu, I used Mark Bittman’s Fast Down-Home Barbeque Sauce from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. This is a really simple recipe that just involves mixing ketchup, wine or water, red wine or rice vinegar, onion, garlic, and chili powder in a small saucepan and heating it on low for 10 minutes. However, I used the Bourbon Barbeque variation, which replaces the wine with bourbon. My bourbon of choice was Jack Daniels, always good in saucy recipes like BBQ sauce or chili.

I also used the Broiled Tofu method which appears in Bittman’s book, and offers instructions on broiling with the BBQ sauce. I didn’t have frozen tofu nor had time to press it, so I improvised with tofu which I patted dry as best I could. This still worked out well but it likely altered my cooking times, so take note. Anyhoo, I cut half a block of tofu into four pieces and broiled them for five minutes, which seemed sufficient for light browning (Bittman’s book does not specify cooking time beyond stating that you shouldn’t have to cook for more than ten minutes).

Broiled tofu, stage one

I then brushed the barbeque sauce on each slab, but just the tops and sides, and broiled for 2 1/2 minutes. Then I took them out, flipped, brushed with more sauce, then broiled one final time for five minutes. Voila! Barbeque tofu that’s great for a summer day.

Now, the sides. I’m a fan of grilled corn on the cob in the husk, but alas, I do not own a grill. However, I found a great recipe for roasting corn in the oven, which helps to replicate the experience. It was as simple as putting the corn in the oven for 30 minutes, then peeling away the husk for some golden goodness. I decided to jazz it up by adding the Chipotle Lime Butter from Vegetarian Times, using Earth Balance margarine in place of butter. I scooped out a tablespoon and added lime juice, chili powder, and cracked black pepper.

Chipotle Lime Butter

When you’re roasting corn and broiling tofu, your tiny kitchen can get rather hot. I took advantage of this and allowed the butter to melt into the seasonings and juice while cooking the other sides. The result was a nice melty spread which I brushed onto the corn after it was done roasting. Yum yum!

The melting and mixing process is best sped along by whisking with a fork

Finally, I kept my second side simple by boiling some frozen spinach with one thinly sliced clove of garlic. Normally I don’t like boiling veggies because they get mushy, but I don’t mind doing so with frozen greens because they tend to be mushy anyway, no matter how you cook them.

The result? A tasty and satisfying Southern-style meal, without the heaviness felt by their non-veg counterparts! In the future I may try roasting the corn with the butter at least part of the time, and also serving up some green beans in place of spinach. I also wouldn’t mind a slice of cornbread or two on the side. But fortunately I have the whole Spring and Summer ahead to experiment!