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Lucky Comestible 5 (2): First Loves: The Human, the Book and the Tofu*

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fifth edition, I’m focusing on cilantro. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the second entry on cilantro.]

*I originally thought about calling this post, “First Love Three Ways,” but I can only imagine the kinds of search terms that would generate for my blog! 

What woman doesn’t remember her first love? Me, I remember my first cookbook.**



Now, don’t get me wrong–of course I remember my first love, too.  I met Spaghetti Ears (not his real name***) the summer before I embarked on my Master’s degree, when I was about twenty two. Yes, I was a late bloomer.  Okay, I was a really late bloomer.  I was a ridiculously late bloomer.  A “So-glad-You-Finally-Made-it-We’ve Already-Finished Dinner-and-the-Dishes-Are-in-the-Dishwasher,”  “Sorry-You’ve-Missed-Your-Appointment-the-Doctor-is-Leaving-Now-and-I’ll-Have-to-Reschedule-You,”  “Honey-I’m-Three-Weeks-Overdue-Would-You-Run-to-the-Drugstore-and-buy-a-First-Response-Kit “ kind of late bloomer. 

Nevertheless, it was worth the wait.  Spaghetti Ears was, truly, an ideal first boyfriend.  Smart and funny, sweet and kind, loving and gentle, he was the type of guy who’d draw sappy birthday cards by hand, fill shoe boxes with rose petals to strew across the bed for your anniversary, tell you he loved you at least once a day or buy you opal earrings that, while beautiful, were beyond his budget, just because they were your birthstone and they would look lovely resting on your earlobes.  (Hmmm. . . wait a second. . . you mean I broke up with this guy? Was I nuts, or what?) 

And now, all these years later, I never even have to wonder what’s become of him, since we’re still friends.  We email each other on birthdays and get together for an annual celebratory lunch.   He tells me about his work and regales me with proud Papa stories, while I recount stories about The Girls’ antics and other events at the DDD household. (Oh, and sorry, ladies, he’s happily married).  Apart from a few more laugh lines and gray hairs, Spaghetti Ears is pretty much the same guy today as he was when we dated.

My first cookbook, on the other hand, is in much worse shape than when we first met.  (It’s my fault entirely.  I just couldn’t keep my hands off it).

I acquired my first “real” cookbook well into my twenties (told you I was a late bloomer!).  When I rented my first apartment on my own, my initial impulse was to think about how I’d furnish it. Oh, no, not with furniture, silly (though of course I’d get some of that, too).  I wanted to furnish it with cookbooks, the kitchen being the core and most important room in the place.

Having almost no disposable income at the time, I opted for the Doubleday Book Club, where you could order 9 books for $1.00 (then, you needed only purchase 4 more books at regular Doubleday prices–plus shipping and handling–over the next two years!). I ticked off names based on titles I’d heard or was only vaguely familiar with, such as The Joy of Cooking (I was lucky enough to get mine before the travesty of a second version hit the stands); Maida Heatter’s Great American Desserts (she remains an idol of mine); or the original Moosewood Cookbook, in all its handwritten glory, words and illustrations by the multi-talented Mollie Katzen.

How I loved my Moosewood book! In those first days of breathless infatuation, I tried as many recipes as I could, and always turned to my Moosewood before any other.  I made Katzen’s Carrot Loaf (really more like a casserole) more times than I can remember.  The cookbook also supplied my  introduction to hummus, gazpacho, tabbouleh, plus a host of other wonderful recipes. My love for anything Moosewood was ignited with that seminal tome and never waned. In fact, my dream of dining at the original Moosewood Restaurant  was finally realized a few years ago when the HH and I dropped in several times during a stop in Ithaca on our way to Boston. 

Fast forward to my first encounter with the ACD ten years ago, when I was desperately seeking recipes that were both tasty and complied with my dietary restrictions. Well, I turned to my beloved once again. This Lemony Baked Tofu from The Moosewood Restaurant New Classics fit the bill perfectly, and it was the first tofu dish I truly adored. Made with fresh, simple ingredients, the offbeat combination of cilantro, lemon, and jalapeno is transformative here.  The acidity of the lemon is tempered during baking so that the final result isn’t the least bit sour; the cilantro also loses a bit of its perfumed quality in the oven, creating a heady mix that’s intensely flavored with spice and just enough camarelization to confer a touch of sweetness.  

While it’s incredibly simple to make (I just whizz everything in the food processor) and there are certainly more elaborate or trendy interpretations of tofu around these days (tofu omelets? tofu scallopstofu ricotta?), I still love this tofu hot as a main course, cold in sandwiches or wraps, or on its own as an afternoon snack (a few slices have also served as breakfast on occasi0n, alongside home fries).  Even when the HH went through his “NO-fu” stage and refused to eat most of my standard tofu-based dishes, he would still enjoy slabs of this baked tofu paired with veggies or pasta. 

I’ve tried literally dozens of other tofu recipes since then, but this has remained a steadfast favorite. In a way, you might even say that this tofu is yet another one of my first loves.  Unlike the human variety, however (and even after ten years together), this recipe remains consistently lovable, has never let me down and can always make me happy, every time I take a bite.

**My first kiss was another story altogether.  I was about 15 and, as I recall, one of us was wearing a retainer at the time.  I won’t say who. 

***That was his actual pet name.  Mine was Melon Head.  Ah, the quirky charm of young love!

AND DON’T FORGET: Laurie at Baby Bites and Toddler Tapas is giving away a copy of Sweet Freedom–and there are six ways to enter!  The contest closes September 6th.  For more details, go here.


Other posts in this series:

Other Lucky Comestibles:

Last Year at this Time: Mrs. K’s Date Cake (a Sweet Freedom recipe!)

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs


23 comments to Lucky Comestible 5 (2): First Loves: The Human, the Book and the Tofu*

  • Love your fine print commentary for the title of your post, hahahaha 😀


  • hehe, i don’t think my first boyfriend was until my senior year of high school… love your stories 🙂 and this tofu does look quite tasty!


  • How funny..I did the same thing! I joined one of those book clubs when I got my first apartment and got the original Moosewood cookbook! Opal is your birthstone? Are you an October baby like me? Forget diamonds..opals are amazing! I must try this tofu..been looking for a new tofu recipe to try and I must have missed this one back in 1994 so I guess I’m a late-tofu bloomer. =)


  • It’s funny because while I wouldn’t be caught dead with a piece of tofu I really love the moosewood cookbooks too. I love the vegetable love, the hand written recipes and the warm tone with which it is all written. Beautiful photography as usual. I have so much to learn.


  • Great post!! I love reading highlights of awkward moments and funny memories 🙂 I found my first love at age 22 also. Actually, I thought it was in high school (my first bf Joey) but when I look back I know I was NOT in love with him. I thought I knew what love was, but clearly did not!

    Great tofu dish. I really need to get a food processor, I think it would make my cooking experiences MUCH easier!


  • This tofu dish sounds delicious! No wonder it turned out to be your first tofu love: with lemon and cilantro, what’s not to love?


  • that’s too awesome that you’re still friends with your first boyfriend, Ricki! not many people can say that, ya know? i was a late bloomer as well. my first came along when i was 20 – guess what? my first boyfriend was dan! (we were married about 6+ years after we met!) isn’t that crazy?!?! i think it kinda is – but fun, too! i love it & i love him the most!

    one of the moosewood cookbooks (i can’t remember which one i first bought) was also one of my first cookbooks, and a gigantical “cooking light” cookbook, too. actually, in thinking about it now – i should go through the cooking light book & see what i can veganize and make even more awesome! your lemony baked tofu sounds delightful, perfect for summer, and it’s so pretty – i love the color! dan & i will be making this soon – i can’t get enough of all this cilantro infused awesomeness! mmmmmmm!


  • Jes

    That’s so great that you’re still in touch with your first beau! And that tofu, it looks so perfect for a light summer meal! Moosewood is so the best 🙂


  • OK this is on my list of things to try – given that I have found cooked cilantro quite palatable I would like to try this dish – endorsed by both DDD and Moosewood it sounds irresistable

    The moosewood was one of my first loves when I went vegetarian – although I still dream of visiting – you are lucky to have had the chance! Hope it was every bit as good as the cookbooks


  • Who doesn’t love a great love story!


  • VeggieGirl,
    Ha ha! I wasn’t ready for the consequences!

    The tofu really is delish!

    Yep, an October baby! I’m a Libra (and according to the HH, I act like one!). 😉 Hope you like the tofu–it’s worth the wait. 🙂

    I know there’s lots of mixed reviews on tofu, but I am okay with it in moderation. And yes, the book is just lovely. What amazed me the most was the consistency of her characters–they could have been printed!

    A food processor is great, but often not essential. It does speed things up, though!

    I’m with you on that–I love that combination of ingredients, too!

    That is so great that you and Dan are still together! And I bet there are loads of other dishes you can veganize–I turn to the Moosewoods all the time and can always find something!

    I feel pretty lucky that he’s such a nice guy. 🙂 And the tofu really works beautifully in summer, as it’s equally yummy cold.

    Yay–a cilantro dish you can try! And the restaurant was fabulous; I’d highly recommend it!

    Count me in (I’m such a sap) ;).


  • What a lovely story – I remember both my first cookbook and fist love – must say I am glad I kept the first cookbook and ditched the first love!


  • Ahhhh first loves, first cookbooks, what a great post! That dish looks so bright and tasty, tofu is one of my favorite things, thanks for posting this recipe.


  • I just love your stories, Ricki. So glad with you back in full blogging mode!


  • It’s a good week for tofu recipes. I am always on the lookout for new ones and this sounds great. Good story too!


  • Rosemary,
    I’m sure many of us feel the same way! 😉

    Voracious Vegan,
    Glad you like it (the story AND the recipe–though the recipe is far more satisfying in the long term). 🙂

    Aw, thanks! (The marinade would work on other foods, too).

    Me, too–I actually love tofu now that it’s become a regular part of my menus.


  • I think my first cookbook was a Barbie cookbook that someone gave to me when I was 10 or 11 or something. I don’t think I ever made anything from it but I loved looking through it! I just had to email my mom to make sure she didn’t get rid of it (she’s in the process of moving right now). Anyway! This tofu, I must try it. I’ve tried a lot of tofu recipes but have only found a few that I make again and again. I have a few Moosewood cookbooks but not that one so must look for that.


  • Ahhhhhhh memories of first loves….love your stories.
    The tofu dish looks very good.


  • Yeah, looking back at some of the guys I left I find myself thinking “now *why* did I break up with him again?”… I’ve enver broken up with tofu, though. I hope I never do.


  • I was a late bloomer too, Ricki. Although I went on a few dates at 20 and 21, I didn’t have a serious boyfriend until 22–my hubby.

    I just can’t give up on tofu. I make a mean marinated jerk tofu from the PPK recipe Web site. It contains a lot of ginger, so a more toned down lemon tofu sounds appealing.


  • Ari

    You’ve made me a tofu convert! This is my absolute favorite recipe! 🙂 Thanks so much! 🙂


    Ricki Reply:

    Yippee! This is one of my all-time favorite tofu recipes, too. 🙂


  • […] that you’ve shared and you won’t feel isolated as the only person munching that baked tofu or kale […]

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