Thai Sesame Tofu: The Super-Secret Recipe!

Sometimes life presents you with big questions. Quit your well-paying job for a more rewarding but less stable position? Buy a house or travel around the world while you still can? Take the pranayama (yogic breathing) class you woke up early for and drove two hours to attend or skip it in favor of finding a recipe for a tofu dish you just had for lunch? Not that I want to give away my personal answer to the last question– let’s just say it involved a second unsuccessful trip downstairs to the Kripalu bookstore. (See previous post.)

At lunch later the same day I tasted the Lavender Iced Tea (previous post), I had an amazing Thai tofu dish. Of course I needed the recipe. I asked a friendly-looking guy who was re-stocking the salad bar if it would be possible to get the recipe.  He graciously offered to find the dining room manager who “would definitely help me.” A few minutes later he reappeared with said manager.  I raved about the dish and asked if I could get the recipe.  He told me he didn’t have the recipe, but that most of Kripalu’s recipes are printed in their cookbooks which were for sale in the bookstore downstairs.  Did I know where that was? “Yes” I replied, leaving out the story of my frustrating previous mission for the Lavender Iced Tea recipe. “I’m sure you’ll find it there”, he assured me.

Of course the recipe was not to be found in any of the Kripalu cookbooks for sale in the shop. So back I trudged upstairs to the dining room. (At least I was getting SOME exercise.) My friendly manager was nowhere to be seen, the day was getting on, and it seemed the only sensible thing to do was to quickly snap a photo of the ingredient list from the buffet line with my phone. I felt like a thief, and tried to be unobtrusive.

Back home, I fiddled around with the ingredients and here is what I came up with.  I substituted honey for agave and used regular, not wheat-free tamari. Bullseye! Enjoy!!

   Thai Sesame Tofu

  • l package firm tofu
  • 6 TBS each of: tamari, brown rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-2 TBS white wine
  • 2 TBS chopped ginger
  • 2 TBS chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2-2 TBS honey
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Canola or other flavorless oil for greasing the pan                      
  1. Dice the tofu into approximately 1″ squares.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Add the tofu and marinate for 30-60 minutes.
  4. Drain tofu and place the cubes on lightly oiled baking pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Kripalu Lavender Iced Tea: The Secret Recipe

A few weeks ago I had the best iced tea of my life.  Lavender iced tea to be exact. Sweet, cold, and refreshing, it sat nonchalantly all day in the communal dining room at Kripalu in Lenox, MA http://www.kripalu.org/ , resting peacefully, I assume, in its a plain stainless steel and plastic dispenser. After three or four glasses at lunch, I skipped the afternoon yoga class for which I had registered to sneak downstairs to the gift shop to try to find the recipe in one of their cookbooks. No luck. Returning home that night with neither the recipe nor the benefit of the relaxing afternoon yoga class, I immediately logged on to my computer to search for the recipe. (Of course, had I gone to the afternoon yoga, I might not have done that!)  Again, no luck. (Probably bad karma for skipping the yoga.)  I did, however, find a recipe for lavender honey.   Here’s how I made an awfully close version of the Kripalu tea.

LAVENDER ICED TEA

1. Make the lavender honey. Warm one cup of honey (I use local honey) in a small pot on top of the stove. Do not let boil. Add 2 TBS of dried culinary lavender buds. Let sit on very low heat for 15-30 minutes depending on how strong a lavender flavor you like. Strain out the buds.

2. Make the iced tea.  I used 5 plain black tea bags to a pitcher of boiling water. While the bags were steeping, I added a large handful of fresh mint, including the stems, and half a large lemon, squeezed and then put into the pitcher, rind and all.  When fully steeped, remove the bags, mint and lemon.

3. While the tea is still hot, and THIS IS IMPORTANT, add the lavender honey to taste.  Otherwise, the honey will sit as a solid mass in the bottom of the pitcher–a very frustrating situation from which even yoga will not save you.  Stir and let cool.

Note: Any extra lavender honey is sublime spread on warm biscuits or scones!

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Slow-Roasted Romas

Okay, so I got carried away with the San Marzano tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market today.  But stuck in my mind was the gorgeous photo of roasted plum tomatoes on Tea&Cookies’ recent blog post.  (If you’re not familiar with this blog, see my blog roll on the right for the link.) The smattering of dirt on these babies’ faces made them even more appealing, as if local and organic weren’t enough.  At an irresistibly low price this late in the season, I bought , let’s just say, more than several pounds’ worth.

But how to roast them?  I went back to Tea&Cookies (Tea, I love your blog!) and found her recommendation for preserving them well into the winter, when tomatoes have all the flavor and texture of a paper bag.

San Marzano tomatoes with fresh parsley

The directions are so simple that they don’t even qualify as a recipe.  Here’s what to do:

1.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

2. Line a large cookie sheet or tray pan with tin foil.  Slice the tomatoes length-wise . Try to keep the slices approximately the same thickness.

3. Place them cut-side up on the sheet.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.  You can also sprinkle on some herbs if you wish–I didn’t this time.

4. Roast for about 7 hours or overnight, if you’re comfortable with that. The sides should be crinkled and dry and the interiors still juicy.

About halfway done

That’s it!  I’m thinking of using them to liven up pasta this winter, with maybe a little basil or parsley thrown in along with the EVOO, salt and pepper.  Come to think of it, I ‘ll probably add some red wine vinegar to the mix.  Maybe I can use them on top of pizza crust slathered with EVOO. (Can you tell I have a bit of an EVOO addiction?)

How would you use them? Do you think they’ll freeze well? I honestly have no idea, but I’m counting on it!

Looking forward to your comments,

Heidi

Presto Pesto! (And healthy too!)

With still a huge bouquet of basil left from last Sunday’s farmers’ market, I thought of making another batch of pesto, a family favorite around here. (I have two “World Famous” recipes in my repertoire (self-proclaimed, sadly).   Pesto is one of them.  The other is my bolognese sauce, but I won’t divulge that one until at least the first bite of winter!

But having gorged all summer long on enough butter and cheese from pesto to last a lifetime (okay, maybe only until next summer), I decided to make a lighter version which is not only lower in fat, but dairy-free as well.  Best of all, it comes together in less than half the time of the usual pesto, since there is no sauteing (in butter) of pine nuts and no shredding of big cheese chunks.  Oops…I may have given away the secret of my W.F. pesto recipe…

Here’s the light version:

Ingredients:

1 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups EVOO
10 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried*, no stems
4-6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon

Method:

1.  Preheat a small skillet over low heat.  Add pine nuts and lightly brown by shaking the pan and stirring the nuts, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn.  Set aside to cool.

2.  Add all ingredients to food processor or blender.  Puree until desired consistency, either chunky or smooth or somewhere in-between.

This recipe makes about 2 cups of pesto.  It can be stored for about 5 days in the fridge.

* A salad spinner works well to dry the leaves.

CELEBRATE LATE SUMMER WITH PANZANELLA

It happens to me every year around this time.  I start getting tired of summer produce.  (I feel guilty saying it; please understand.)  But I’m not yet willing to switch to apple pie, apple quick breads, and everything and anything made with cinnamon.  So this morning I glanced (with just a hint of annoyance) at the lineup of produce on my kitchen counter from yesterday’s farmers’ market and wondered what to do with it all.

Here’s yesterday’s catch:

one truly masterful, locally made 3-grain French Country Batard
several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, including heirloom cherry tomatoes
one small, dirt-covered red onion
one big bunch of bright-green basil, since my own is raggedy this late in the season
one bottle of white wine crafted by a local vineyard

In summer I always have on hand great-quality EVOO*, and red wine and balsamic vinegars, so I decided to make Panzanella, the one summer salad I haven’t already put together.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can use any quantity of the ingredients you wish, and you can add or subtract the extra ingredients to your liking, since no one likes to be told what to do this late in the summer!

Basic Ingredients:

mixed varieties of summer tomatoes
boule or baguette of whole grain french or other rustic bread, cut into bite-sized chunks
EVOO
good quality red wine or balsamic vinegar, or a combination of the two
red onion, sliced and halved
fresh basil, julienned, chopped, or torn
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1.  Cut the bread as directed above.  To add some crunch, you can toast it by sauteing it in EVOO over med-low flame for 5-10 minutes. Un-toasted bread, on the other hand, works well to soak up the oil, vinegar, and tomato juices, so it’s your choice.  One or two-day old bread is preferable but not necessary.

2. Assemble all ingredients. Let sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to blend flavors.  (Sip some of the wine while waiting.)

3. Here are some add-ins that work well: crumbles of cheese such as feta, goat, or ricotta salata, calamata olives, quartered beets, slices of white nectarines or peaches, kernels of left-over fresh corn, stripped from the cob.

* EVOO is the abbreviation of Extra Virgin Olive OIl

THREE GIFTS FROM IRENE, OR WHY I (SORT OF) AGREE WITH GLENN BECK

I’ve never been an admirer of Glenn Beck.  In fact I’ve never agreed with one word or thought that has emerged from his paranoid, oddly-emotional and sorely misguided head.  He’s been more of a laughing stock for me than a real person with anything remotely valuable to add to the conversation.  But I have to admit that he did, accidentally, start me thinking the other day in an unexpected way when he pronounced that Hurricane Irene is a blessing.  Allow me to explain.

Yesterday I was still on vacation with my family in Nantucket.  While waiting for the ferry to carry us back to the mainland (two days early due to the storm), I decided to glance at the news online. This headline caught my eye: “Glenn Beck calls Hurricane Irene a blessing.”

Normally I would have seen Glenndo’s name and scrolled right by, since I pay no attention to his wacky ideas which are always abhorrent as well, but since Irene was the flavor of the day, I read the clip.  Afterwards I shook my head in disgust and muttered the usual to myself: “What an idiot.”  Then I decided the story was amusing and served it up to my family with an extra helping of disdain in my voice, just in case they didn’t already know my feelings about the man (fat chance.)  We enjoyed a good chuckle over him together.  Here’s the edited clip:

Glenn Beck, ex-Fox News host: Hurricane Irene is a ‘blessing’ from God

BY ALIYAH SHAHID
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Saturday, August 27th 2011, 11:46 AM

Glenn Beck called Hurricane Irene a 'blessing' on Friday.

Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Glenn Beck called Hurricane Irene a ‘blessing’ on Friday.

The conservative radio host is calling Hurricane Irene and this week’s East Coast earthquake a “blessing” from God.

Beck argued on his show that the events would teach people to be prepared for natural disasters. He told his audience that for years he has been urging Americans to stockpile supplies for the inevitable “global disruption in food.”

He continued, “People have made fun of me. That’s fine, I don’t care. I’ve been telling you, ‘Don’t be in a panic situation.’ If you’ve waited, this hurricane is a blessing. It is a blessing. It is God reminding you – as was the earthquake last week – it’s God reminding you you’re not in control. Things can happen. Be prepared and be someone who can help others so when disaster strikes, God forbid, you’re not panicking.”

 Now of course I disagree with his ridiculous incitement to stockpile against a fictitious food shortage and/or Apocalypse, but the idea that Irene could be a blessing lodged in my brain as securely as a wooden peg in a lobster’s claw, and stayed there.  Back home today, while making the rounds to stock up on a few items, I felt tempted to join the nervous frenzy surrounding me. (A woman pushing a shopping cart into the grocery store shouted at a young man in front of her to get out of the way, then rammed into him with her cart screaming, “Move! A hurricane’s coming!” No apology was offered.)  As I roamed the packed parking lots and noticed everyone carrying jugs of water, I noticed my heartbeat start to quicken and my mind start to race to tomorrow and the storm ahead.  I was starting to enter emergency mode.

But then I remembered some of the central teachings of yoga, which I am trying to incorporate into my life.  These are the following three ideas.  Irene has helped me to remember them.

1. We are not in control.  Sure we can take measures to prepare, to keep safe and fed, but we cannot control nature. We cannot control the future.  Feeling like we can is folly. We can control only ourselves and only in this very moment, this very instant.

2. We need to stay in the present moment.  Are we safe right now?  Are we free of hunger right now?  That’s all that matters. A famous philosopher once said, ” the future is made up of the moment that just passed.”

3. While chaos swirls all around us, we need to be the calm in the center of the storm. In yoga, this translates as the ability to hold an uncomfortable pose and breathe calmly through it even though every bone and muscle inside you is screaming “abandon ship!” This is why we practice difficult poses: to know that we can survive and stay calm inside when all hell is breaking loose outside.

So I am grateful for Irene and see her as a blessing. She has provided me another chance to test my inner strength and beliefs against the chaos swirling around me.

I never thought it would be possible, but now Glenndo and I actually agree on something. Sort of.