Monday, June 18, 2012

Braised Cinnamon Tofu

I used to wait tables with a guy who refused to eat tofu because soy contains too much estrogen. I laughed, because it seemed like such a ridiculous thing to worry about. Did he think he'd sprout breasts just from having tofu in his pad see ew? I ignored his frivolous worry and continued to enjoy tofu often. Recently I've been more concerned about tofu, though. I've read a couple of very silly extremist articles condemning soy products. Did you know they have high levels of goistrogen, protease inhibitors, and phytates?!??!!??? I have no idea what any of those are, and I can't figure out if I should actually be concerned. Should I stop eating tofu because of all the scary soy problems? Are the people who complain about soy just overreacting? The jury is still out. Meanwhile, I think I'll enjoy some absurdly delicious braised cinnamon tofu.  

Braised Cinnamon Tofu
serves three

This soupy dish from one of Nina Simonds' cookbooks wins all tofu competitions. It's warming and hearty, but extremely healthy (if you ignore the cries of the tofu haters). Make sure to start with plenty of time before you want to serve, because this cooks forever, but it's worth it! The house will smell lovely. This recipe is very easy to make vegetarian or vegan. 

1/2 t safflower or corn oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
3 slices fresh ginger, about the size of a quarter each, smashed lightly with the side of a knife
1/2 t hot chile paste
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 t anise seed
1/4 c soy sauce
3 cups chicken stock, veggie stock, or water
1 pound firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 pound spinach, rinsed
1 1/2 T minced scallion greens, to garnish

Heat a large pot or casserole over medium-high heat with the oil. When hot, add the garlic, ginger, chile paste, cinnamon, and anise. Stir fry until fragrant (about 15 seconds), then add soy sauce and water. Heat until boiling. Add the tofu and boil again.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer. Skim the surfact to remove impurities and fat. Cook one hour on low heat. Remove ginger slices and cinnamon stick.

Add the spinach and heat until the spinach is wilted. Ladle the mixture into serving bowls and serve garnished with scallions.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Rainy Day Cucumbers

Daddy and I were raiding the fridge to find something to make for lunch. He grabbed a cucumber and suggested some sort of salad. Even though it's June, it's one of those dreary cold days that makes me drag out my fuzzy slippers and sip a cup of tea all day long, so I didn't think I could handle any cold food. Luckily I thought of the delicious sounding coconut cucumbers from this month's Bon Appetit. Sauteed with chopped tomatoes, sliced chilis, garlic, and scallions, these flavorful cucumbers seemed perfect for a warm lunch. Except we didn't have most of the ingredients. Instead, we devised an extremely simplified version. We cooked cucumber slices and beautiful yellow tomatoes gently, and added just a little bit of coriander chutney for a tiny hint of spice. The flavors were delicate and delicious. Cooked cucumbers are extremely tender, sweet, and juicy. I'm going to have to make a mental note to cook cucumbers more often!

Sauteed Cucumber and Tomato

canola or other veggie oil
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Heat a small amount of oil in a big skillet. When hot, add the cucumbers and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they are beginning to soften. Add the tomatoes and cook until the cucumbers are becoming translucent. Stir in the cilantro chutney and serve hot.