Archive for February, 2009

Asian Fajitas

As I was experimenting with making my own version of scallion pancakes, I came up with something really more like a crepe that is both sturdy and soft – perfect to wrap around a saucy vegetable filling, like mu shu vegetables.  Since I’ve never actually had mu shu vegetables and used only what was readily available in my pantry, here’s my version…it’s as simple as a stir fry with a few optional embellishments, plus easy-to-make, yet sort of fancy, wrappers with a bit of an Asian flare.  I added egg and baked tofu to the filling, but you can leave it as is or add any protein you like.  We really love the scallion pancakes and the flavors blend very well with the filling, but if you are pressed for time, you can certainly serve this over grains or with noodles, or with some kind of pre-packaged wrapper…

For the filling:

  • 2 Tablespoons cooking oil (I use olive, but sesame or peanut oil would be more traditional)
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 1/2 small cabbage (any kind will do), chopped
  • 4-5 small carrots, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small stalk of broccoli, flowerettes chopped and stem peeled and chopped
  • 1 egg, cooked like a crepe and then shredded
  • 1/2 recipe cubed baked sesame tofu (see recipe below)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons tamari
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice (I used 1 T each of brown rice and ume plum vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon agave
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Heat a large saute pan or wok over medium heat, add oil, then add scallions and cook until soft.  Add cabbage, carrots, bell pepper and broccoli and stir to combine.  Add remaining ingredients, cover and continue to cook until desired tenderness.  Add tofu and egg and cook until heated through.

For the scallion pancake wrappers:

  • 1 cup whole grains, sprouted or at least rinsed and soaked overnight (I usually use 1/3 cup each quinoa, millet, and raw buckwheat)
  • 2 Tablespoons flaxseed
  • 1 cup water, plus more to achieve correct consistency
  • 1/4 cup oil (again, I use olive oil and, while not traditional, works just fine; you could also try sesame or coconut oil)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 -3 teaspoons coconut sugar, optional but using just a bit will enhance flavor and allow them to brown
  • 2-4 scallions, sliced and sauteed until soft (you could put them in raw, but I had to temper the scallion taste a bit for my family)

Place all the ingredients, except the scallions in the blender and blend until smooth.  Add more water as necessary (could be a fair amount more water; depending on the moisture of the grains).  When the batter is thin, but still has some consistency (maybe a little thicker than maple syrup), stir in the scallions.  Heat a crepe pan or skillet over medium heat.  Cast iron is best and, if well-seasoned, won’t need to be greased.  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you may need to coat your skillet with a thin layer of heat-tolerant oil.  When a drop of water skips across the skillet, it’s hot enough.  Put a hot pad or wrap a dish towel around the handle of the skillet.  Now, pour about 1/4 cup (assuming it’s about a 9-inch skillet) onto the middle of the skillet, lift by the handle, and tilt the skillet in each direction so that the batter forms a thin circle almost to the edges of the skillet.   Cook until the top of the pancake is set (usually 30 seconds to one minute, but this will depend on the thickness), then loosen around pancake with a spatula and flip.  Cook the other side for about another 30 seconds and place on a plate.  The second side will not brown as much, but will be sort of speckled.  Continue with remaining batter and just stack them up as you go.  The batter will thicken up as it sits, so add more water if necessary.  I’ve made these a little thicker, closer to traditional scallion pancakes, as well as paper thin like crepes and both are great, so don’t fret too much about the consistency of the batter.  That being said, you do not want it to be watery, so better to err on the side of thicker pancakes.

Note: if these sound difficult, please give them a try anyway.  They are actually very forgiving and, while the first few may turn out in weird shapes or rip, they are still yummy.  Everyone should know how to make crepes, just for the heck of it.

Sesame Tofu:

  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, frozen, thawed, and pressed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons tamari
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar (brown rice, ume plum, cider, etc)
  • 2 teaspoons agave
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • optional: ginger, cilantro, crushed red pepper, etc.

Cut the tofu into eight pieces.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour evenly over tofu pieces.  Allow to marinate if time permits, but you can also cook it right away.  Grilling is my preference, but you can also bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Use in stir fry, salad, skewers, sandwiches, etc.

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Comfort Food…

So, I’ve had kind of a rough week. I mean, I’m great, but between unpleasant dental work, taking my car to the shop, a flat tire, and, to top it all off, breaking my crockpot (by far the worst of it!), I was ready for some comfort food. Of course, comfort food is different for everyone. For me, it’s a simple, satisfying meal (or snack) that leaves me feeling nourished.

The meal of the day is French lentils with greens and creamy butternut squash soup. The rich colors will appeal to your senses even before you take a bite. Then, when you dig in, you get a little saltiness, a little sweet, creamy and warm – pretty much everything you need for comfort food, as far as I’m concerned.

And, of course, simplicity. French lentils don’t need soaking and cook in under an hour, with very little effort on your part. The squash takes about the same amount of time to bake, again with very little effort. Once that’s all done, it’s just a matter of a pan and blender and about 10 minutes of your time…

To cook the lentils, place in a pot (I use 2 cups so I have plenty for now and some for the freezer too), then cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook with the cover off just enough to let a little steam escape until soft. This takes about 45 minutes, maybe a bit less, for me. Do use French lentils, as they hold their shape, while other types of lentils do not. And, they are extra yummy.

To cook the squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds, coat the fleshy part lightly with olive oil and bake face down in a baking pan. Put a few gashes in with a sharp knife and bake at 400 degrees until very soft. Scoop out flesh and mash with a fork. If you are baking something else and think to put the squash in, it will be fine at any temperature between 350 and 425 degrees. If you are using beet greens, you can roast the beets at the same time too.  I use a combo of delicata squash and butternut squash. One medium butternut and 2 very small delicata yielded about 4 cups, but don’t worry too much about amount – you can always adjust seasonings, etc.

French Lentils with Greens, 1 serving, easily multiplied 

  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped shallot (could replace with leek, scallion, etc)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dark leafy greens (my favorites are beet greens and kale)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat small saucepan over medium heat.  Add olive oil and tilt pan to coat.  Add shallot and saute until it begins to brown.  Add Kale and continue to cook, covered, until tender.  Add lentils, cover and cook 5 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Butternut Squash Soup

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped leek
  • 4 cups mashed roasted butternut/delicate squash
  • 4-6 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube (I like Rapunzel, with sea salt)
  • 1/4 cup coconut butter, or more if you like
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until very smooth.  Heat, season with salt, if necessary, and enjoy! 

Optional additions/changes:

  • replace ginger and nutmeg with curry powder
  • puree an apple into the soup
  • replace the water/broth with coconut milk and reduce or eliminate the coconut butter

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Miso-Mustard Sauce…and what to do with it

Lemons are in season! Okay, they aren’t local here in Colorado, but in February, as my stash of local produce (except the 50 lbs of apples I got today:) has diminished, I have to resort to importing most of my produce from California.  So why not lemons too?  Miso-mustard sauce is a great condiment to add a little zing to a whole variety of foods, from raw veggies to baked tofu to cheese and avocado sandwiches.  It’s super simple and leftovers will certainly last for a few days.  Definitely use fresh squeezed lemon juice – even the jarred stuff doesn’t taste like lemons, in my humble opinion.  See the note about lemon zest too… 

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 Tablespoons dijon mustard (I’ve heard controversey about gf status of mustard; I use Natural Value, which is organic and gluten free)
  • 2 Tablespoons mellow white miso (beware, some types of miso contain gluten)

Whisk ingredients until smooth well and enjoy!  Refrigerate leftovers

A few of my favorite uses…

  • drizzled over Tofu Cutlets or baked tempeh, rice and any green veggie
  • as a dip for raw veggies, especially carrots
  • mashed into chickpeas for a yummy dip
  • mashed into avocado for a twist on guacamole
  • stirred into quinoa and green peas
  • as a sandwich spread, e.g. cheese or tofu and avocado sandwiches

Note: it is completely worth your time to zest your lemons before juicing them, as long as they are organic.  You can buy an inexpensive zester anywhere that sells kitchen utensils.  Zest adds a much more intense flavor than juice and even extracts and is great for cooking and baking.  It can be frozen, as can any extra juice and both will last months in the freezer, if you let them.  I generally use citrus zest in baking – waffles, lemon or orange poppyseed cake, gingerbread, etc, etc, etc.

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Baked Tofu Cutlets

I know, someone out there thinks soy is going to bring on the apocalypse, but I just don’t agree.  Like everything, moderation.  I don’t eat it everyday, but I do eat it in the less-processed forms (tempeh, tofu, tamari, miso, edamame) several times a week.  Frankly, I love it and it makes me feel good.  Here is one of my, and my family’s, favorite recipes for tofu…it’s versatile – could be an entree (for any meal in our house), a sandwich, or cubed and thrown into a stir fry. You can easily cut the recipe in half if you don’t want leftovers. 

  • 2 pounds extra-firm tofu, frozen, thawed, and pressed (I like Denver tofu the best)*
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 Tablespoons tamari
  • 3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon each poultry seasoning, coriander, onion powder, and garlic powder)
  • 1/4 cup millet (or other) flour
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast     

Cut the tofu into whatever shape you want – rectangular or triangular cutlets, strips, cubes.   Whisk together water, tamari, nutritional yeast, and spices.  Place tofu in a shallow dish and cover with marinade.  Leave four hours or overnight. 

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine flour and nutritional yeast in a shallow bowl that is large enough to fit a single cutlet of tofu.  Dredge each piece of tofu in the flour mixture.  Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, flip, then bake 10 minutes more, or until crispy on both sides.  If you plan to save any for another day, underbake it a bit so it doesn’t dry out when you warm it.    

*I almost always freeze my tofu as soon as I get it home from the store.  Freezing it changes the texture so it’s a bit more firm and can withstand more pressing, which then allows it to soak up more flavor.  This is a preference, but I recommend trying it.  Take it out a day in advance and allow it to thaw in the fridge.  If you forget, place the package in warm water until it’s loosened from the sides, then place the frozen tofu in a saucepan and cover with water.  Heat on the stove until the tofu is thawed.  Once thawed, place the tofu in a colander and gently and uniformly press until water stops coming out, more or less.

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