Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blackened Tofu with Cheezy Polenta and Greens

Before I was vegan, I used to make a dish much like this, but with blackened shrimp. However, considering shrimp are one of the worst seafood choices we can make (they are responsible for the destruction of mangroves and fetch between 12 and 68 pounds of bycatch [dolphins, porpoises, albatross, gulls, sea turtles, and at least 250 other sea creatures] for just ONE pound of shrimp), shrimp is an unfathomable delicacy that we can certainly do without. For you tofu-haters- give it up already. It's delicious, especially when fried. 

To make this dish gluten-free, you can use chickpea flour rather than white flour for gravy. 

6 cups water
2 cups polenta
2 tablespoons Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
½ cup cheddar Daiya
salt and pepper to taste

Heat water over high heat until boiling. Pour in polenta and stir, reducing heat to low. Cook for about 10 minutes, checking and stirring periodically, until polenta is cooked through and creamy. Remove from heat and stir in margarine, Daiya, pepper, and salt. Return lid and keep warm. 

Cajun Blackened Tofu
4 tablespoons olive oil, or enough to coat the entire bottom of the pan
½ teaspoon celery salt

½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cubed into ¾ inch cubes

While heating oil over medium high heat, combine celery salt, black pepper, thyme, oregano, paprika, cayenne, garlic and cornstarch in a large bowl. Toss in tofu until well coated. When oil is hot, add tofu to pan. When browned on one side, stir and flip, until all sides are blackened. Remove from pan and keep warm. Keep pan on medium high for making the gravy.

Basic Gravy

1 tablespoon Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
3 tablespoons flour
1½ cup veggie broth

Melt margarine in the pan you fried the tofu in. Add flour and whisk. Keep whisking and heating until the color of a copper penny. Pour in broth, whisk, and cook until thickened. 

Basic Greens

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch Lacinto Kale (or "dinasour kale"... it's my favorite green!!) or any green you want
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Heat oil over medium high heat. Saute garlic. When beginning to brown, add kale and cover until wilted. Remove from heat, and toss with vinegar. Keep warm.

To serve, plate the polenta, and greens, ladle-on the gravy, and top with blackened tofu. 


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Teriyaki Tempeh

This was really an exciting creation we had last night. I had been wanting to try making teriyaki seitan for a few weeks now, but all of a sudden in a moment if clarity I realized that tempeh would be a very premium teriyaki vessel. 

And it was. I decided to use the technique commonly used for making hot wings (where the chicken is dredged in flour, fried, and THEN tossed in the hot sauce. Frying the tempeh gives it a crispy outside and of course tender inside, and the teriyaki sauce is a perfect complement. 

This is a super basic recipe with only a few ingredients, but because Saturday night cooking around here looks more like "My Drunk Kitchen" I didn't record any amounts. This will be a lesson in free-form cooking, and most quantities are estimated, so you may need to add more or less depending. 

The one thing that is for sure is that one pound of tempeh will feed four people- that would be two standard 8oz packages (16 ounces total). Also, many recipes call for tempeh to be boiled or steamed prior to using. Do NOT do this for this recipe. If you do, the tempeh will crumble and fall apart, rather than stay as a coherent, bite-sized morsel. The tempeh will be plenty cooked because of the small morsel size and the process of frying. 

Finally, coating the tempeh in cornstarch may sound bizarre, and I don't remember where I picked it up, but I once used a recipe for fried tofu that had been coated in cornstarch rather than flour, and it was amazing.  It's my go-to dredger now. Plus for those of you to whom it matters, it makes the recipe gluten-free. :) Just be sure to find some gluten-free soy and teriyaki sauce! 

Teriyaki Tempeh
serves 4

2 8oz packages tempeh, cut into 1 inch cubes
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 -3/4 cup cornstarch
peanut oil
1 bottle teriyaki sauce (I used Whole Foods' 365 Organic Teriyaki Sauce, $2.99, and it was delicious, with more ginger flavor- if you're into that sort of thing)
3 cups cooked rice 
1-2 red peppers, sliced julienne
1 bunch scallions chopped
4 large carrots, sliced widthwise (if you're wondering why my carrots look weird it's because I used purple carrots from the farm I work at)
Sesame seeds 

Heat peanut oil in a large, flat pan over medium high heat. Be sure that you use enough oil to thoroughly cover the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile toss the tempeh in the soy sauce until coated, then dredge in cornstarch. Toss well to make sure that every cube is evenly coated. 

Once oil is ready, toss in the tempeh. The key is to resist the urge to stir frequently. Once the tempeh has browned, it releases from the pan surface more readily (because we have a little bird in the house who could be poisoned by Teflon emissions, we don't use nonstick cookware. If this is not a problem in your house, using non-stick cookware will make this much easier). Turn tempeh every 4-5 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from pan, and toss with teriyaki sauce. I would advise starting with 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce, then add little by little until the tempeh is coated, not drenched (no soggy tempeh after working so hard to get crispy tempeh!) Set aside for just a few minutes.

While the pan is still hot, add the peppers, scallions, and carrots. Saute until softened but still slightly crispy, just a few minutes at most. 

Serve tempeh and veggies over rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and make liberal use of the remaining teriyaki sauce.