[Sometimes, you just want a dish that's quick and easy--no fuss. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so simple to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
Some people love surprises. Me, I’m not a big fan of the unexpected. Well, let me rephrase that: I’m not a big fan of the unexpected when I’m the one being surprised. If someone else, on the other hand, is treated to an unforeseen birthday party, or engagement ring, or earwig, well, then, I just lurve surprises!
Case in point: some of you will recall my snowbound trail-walk with the Girls a couple of weeks ago, which I reported on Facebook. It was the afternoon following (yet another) snowstorm**, and I’d spent the requisite 27 minutes bundling myself in layers as protection from the cold: two pairs of socks; long underwear topped with thick corduroy pants; cotton undershirt under cotton turtleneck, under fleece-lined sweater. On top of that, I added a pair of thick rubber galoshes, a padded ski jacket, a pair of thin gloves underneath a pair of thick gloves, a fleece hat topped with earmuffs for good measure, and my hood. Oh, and let’s not forget my sunglasses, huge contraptions that I wear over my regular glasses (really).
Looking like some bizarre Alaskan zombie, I somehow managed to ease myself out of the car and waddle my way along the trail, which was still blanketed in pristine snow that had clearly not been trod by anyone else that day.
The Girls always love these walks, so I’m happy to provide them. Besides, it’s kind of fun to watch Chaser scampering and leaping, bunny-like, through the snow whenever she’s off-leash. On that day, however, she was doing something different: not just leaping and prancing, but diving face-first into the snow, burying her entire head in it, over and over, at 2-foot (3/4-meter) intervals. Then she’d surface, nose covered in powder, sniffing the air as if a steak were sizzling nearby. What was up with that? I couldn’t help but laugh as I recalled a documentary the HH had been watching a few nights earlier about foxes, who thrust their snouts into the snow in order to seize their prey. How funny, I thought. Tee hee hee. . .
And then, it happened. Chaser dove head-first into the snow and came up with. . . a mouse! A LIVE MOUSE.
IN. HER. MOUTH!!
What followed could have come straight out of a National Lampoon vacation movie. I started shrieking like a banshee: “Drop it! Drop it! DROP ITTTTTT!!!!” as I sprinted (well, more like shuffled, zombie-like) through the snow toward her, arms flailing like a flag in a hurricane. And, to her credit, she did drop it.
The mouse stumbled across the path (by this time a bit wobbly), aiming to scoot back into its burrow. By now Elsie had figured out something was afoot, and came charging; she too, grabbed the tiny rodent in her muzzle and held it aloft for me to admire, the mouse’s feet and tail flapping uncontrollably. And again, my horrified shrieking, “DROP IT!!!” as I leapt to grab The Girls’ collars and prevent any further nose-poking of the mouse across the snow. By now my voice was pretty hoarse and my face was pretty darned red.
But as I threw myself forward, I lost my footing and crashed down–thwack!–rather ungracefully onto the snow (luckily, the depth of the snow, combined with my natural padding “back there,” saved me from injury). Before I could regain my composure, the mouse went berserk, zig-zagging across my legs. All I can say is that I’m glad there was no one else around to see what ensued as I struggled to get up, legs jerking like loose wires in an electrical storm, still shrieking (shrieking even more!), still clinging for dear life to the Girls’ collars so they couldn’t dive in for Round Two.
Finally, with all three of us panting and our hearts racing, I steadied myself, once again upright and watched as the mouse ambled back to safety under the blanket of snow. Frankly, I am still not sure which one of us was more traumatized by the experience.
So as you can see, I don’t react too well to unexpected, er, “visitors.” Needless to say, we won’t be back to that particular trail as long as the snow remains on the ground.
Now, when I receive an unexpected surprise from food, well, that’s a whole ‘nother story. This spread (or dip) came about, for instance, as a serendiptious discovery because we had run out of fresh produce. What with all the book edits, I’ve had not time for grocery shopping. (I know, boo hoo for me. Okay, cue violins). The only green ingredients left in the fridge were a few limp stems of fresh cilantro, half a cucumber from our CSA, half a lime and that neglected chunk of the HH’s brie cheese, cowering way at the back. I decided I’d create something based on all the nonperishable ingredients in the cupboard that I’ve been hoarding saving for a day just such as that one. I rooted around to find a can of black beans and some almond butter. I could work with that!
A quick whir in the food processor and my slightly unconventional black bean dip was made. We ate it with leftover corn chips from our previous nacho night along with the remnants of the cucumber. The following day (after a trip to the grocery store), I smeared it on a raw collard leaf, added grated carrot and sprouts, and had a fabulous raw collard wrap. If you’re looking for a high-protein snack or light meal, this is a great recipe.
And–don’t let it surprise you–you may just discover that you love it.
** I’ve officially dubbed this season “The Winter that Refused To Leave.” I mean, really, Mother Nature? This isn’t funny any more.
DDD READERS: It May Be Time To Update Your Subscription!
I know that many of you, like me, read your favorite blogs via Google Reader. Well, if that’s how you keep up with DDD, be warned that Reader is closing down as of July 1, 2013! (I know–boo hoo).
I am always so grateful for your visits and your comments on the blog and I don’t want you to lose touch! To ensure that you continue to receive notices whenever I add a new blog post–or to get updates on the new cookbook or other happenings here at DDD–you can easily subscribe via email. That way, you won’t miss a thing! Just click here to receive every new DDD post right in your Inbox.
Thanks so much for reading. (And if any of you know of other good readers to use instead, please share in the comments!).
Oil-free Black Bean Spread or Dip
This is a super-quick twist on classic black bean dip, with more protein than the original. If you like a spicy dip, add about 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) minced jalapeno.
1 can (15 ounces or 400 ml) black beans, well rinsed and drained
juice of 1/2 lime
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) natural smooth almond butter
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cumin
1/4 cup (60 ml) cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
2 Tbsp (30 ml) water, or more, to taste
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add more water until desired consistency is reached (you’ll need more for a dip vs. a spread). Makes about 1-1/2 cups/360 ml. Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
Welcome back, Americans! Hope you had a great July 4th weekend. And hello again, rest of the world!
As promised last time, today I’m going to share the main course that the HH and I enjoyed a few nights ago. Because I know that many of you are only today back at work, and perhaps even more of you are still recovering from a long weekend filled with carousing and celebrating and much imbibing, I’ll keep it short and sweet and won’t burden you with my typical 1500 word blog post (I’m just trying to be considerate of your recovering brain cells, truly).
I made this dish on Saturday evening, in honor of Canada Day (well, I can’t eat maple syrup or butter tarts and I can’t drink beer and I was too lazy to make this tortiere. . . and we grow soybeans in Canada, don’t we? And the HH and I are both Canadian, aren’t we? And we ate it during the Canada Day weekend, didn’t we? Okay, so that was the best I could do).
When the HH heard I was making tofu “cutlets,” he demurred rather quickly. “I’ll make myself some real food–steak!” was his reaction. But then he checked the freezer and found there were no steaks to be had. What ensued was a conversation we have fairly regularly in the house:
HH (rummaging in freezer): Hey, we’re out of steak [or "coffee" or "bread," or whatever]!
Ricki (not looking up from her cookbook): Really? Was it on the list?
HH (a slight whine in his voice): List?! We should just have it in the house! You should just buy it.
Ricki (as if speaking to a small child): I don’t keep track of your meat [or coffee, or bread, or whatever]. I don’t eat it and I don’t cook it. So it’s really up to you to let me know when you need more. If you want, you can run out right now and get some. I’ll hold off cooking the tofu [or kale salad, or beans, or whatever] until you get back.
HH (frowning): Naw, forget it. I’ll just eat what you’re having.
And so, dear readers, that is how the HH’s extreme indolence afforded me the opportunity to sneak some healthier food into his diet.
I found the recipe in an old issue of Vegetarian Times, in an article about non-meat cutlets. Nestled beside “Braised Seitan Cutlets in Mushroom and Red Wine Sauce” and “Tempeh Cutlets Provençal” was a recipe for “Tofu Cutlets with Cilantro Pesto.” Apart from the marinating time (which was overnight), this recipe was incredibly easy to make. While the original called for baking the tofu, I decided to cook it only partially in the oven before grilling for the final few minutes of cooking time. The cutlets were incredibly flavorful on their own, with a slightly caramelized, slightly crispy exterior and a deep Asian sensibility. After sampling the pesto, I worried that it would be too sour (from the rice vinegar), but after tasting it atop the tofu, I was smitten with the combination of the two together. So was the HH, as it turned out.
“How is it?” I asked, tentatively.
“Not too bad,” he replied, a slight pout still on his face. He speared another bite-sized piece. “Actually, it’s very good. The pesto really makes it,” he said, beginning to brighten.
I continued to savor my own (very delicious) cutlet, glancing occasionally across at the HH as he scooped up raw kale salad and tofu. In no time, his plate was clean, and he was smiling.
“That was great!” he beamed, setting his fork and knife down on the empty plate. “You should definitely make this again!”
A pretty great Canada Day present, wouldn’t you say?
Glazed Tofu Cutlets with Cilantro-Ginger Pesto (suitable for the ACD, all stages)*
I’m always looking for novel ways with tofu that are both quick and simple. Although the cutlets have to be marinated overnight, once cooked, they’re a perfect main dish, sandwich filling, or takealong lunch. I loved the cutlets on their own, but combined with the pesto, the resulting gustatory synergy elevates both to a level greater than either one on its own.
For the cutlets:
1 16-oz (454 g) package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained
1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable stock or broth
1/4 cup (60 ml) Bragg’s aminos, wheat-free tamari, or soy sauce
2 Tbsp (30 ml) rice vinegar (use apple cider for ACD Stage 1),divided
Make the tofu: the night before you wish to serve it, wrap the block of tofu in a clean kitchen towel, or place between a few layers of clean folded paper towels. Place the tofu (still in or beteen the towels) on a plate; cover with another plate. Place something heavy on the top plate (I used two large cans of tomatoes) and leave the tofu to press for at least 2 hours. Unwrap the tofu and cut widthwise (parallel to the shorter ends) into 8 equal slices.
Meanwhile, prepare the marinade: Whisk together the broth, Bragg’s, 1 Tbsp (15 ml) vinegar, agave and 1 Tbsp (15 ml) sesame oil in a small casserole or 8 x8 inch (20 cm) square pan. Once the tofu is sliced, place it in a single layer in the marinade; turn the slices once or twice to coat. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, turning pieces at least once while marinating.
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
Remove the tofu from the marinade and place in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Brush the tops with some of the excess marinade. Bake for 20 minutes, until the cutlets begin to brown. Turn them over, brush the tops once again, and bake another 20 minutes, brushing the tops occasionally with any excess marinade. A few minutes before they’re fully browned, you may remove them from the oven and grill quickly on a grilltop to achieve the classic crosshatch, but this isn’t necessary; if you don’t grill the cutlets, continue to bake until the tops are browned and edges are just becoming crispy.
While the tofu bakes, make the pesto: In a food processor (I used my MiniPrep for this), pulse the cilantro leaves, ginger and cashews until finely minced. Scrape down the sides and add the remaining 1 Tbsp (15 ml) vinegar, 1 tsp (5 ml) sesame oil, and salt. Continue to blend until a smooth (if necessary, add a teaspoon or two/5-10 ml of water, taking care not to add too much!).
To serve, place two cutlets on a plate and top with about 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of the pesto. Makes 4 servings. Will keep, covered in the refrigerator, up to 4 days.
Y’all are familiar with oxymorons, right? (no, I’m not referring to your neighbor who fires up that buzz saw at 6:30 AM all summer; or your coworker who spilled coffee all over your crucial report; or your Aunt Edna who practically yodelled the news that you were pregnant even before you told your best friend–those are all just plain “morons.”). Oxymorons are those odd-but-true figures of speech that encapsulate two apparently contradictory terms (or opposites) in what turns out to contain actuality:
That metal post was so cold that it burned my fingers.
After his speech, the silence was deafening.
(a gem from Woody Allen): “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering–and it’s all over much too soon.”
(on the same theme, from Ashley Montagu): “I want to die young at a ripe old age.”
(. . . and, the classic from George Carlin): Jumbo Shrimp.
For me, one of the most memorable oxymorons in real life was what I call The Summer of Uncertainty. It was the summer I met an incredibly gorgeous, incredibly romantic man.
During the second summer of my PhD, I found myself living in the university residence. While all my friends were occupied with their current boyfriends, I, as usual, was single. Why couldn’t I find a boyfriend, I wondered? I mean, wasn’t I as smart as my friends? Wasn’t I as funny? Wasn’t I (almost) as good looking? It just didn’t seem fair: they all had beaux, and I–none. (Why, it was sort of like an oxymoron!). I resigned myself to yet another summer alone.
And then, on a whim, I went with an old friend to a Saturday night bash at another friend’s house. Almost as soon as we arrived, I was approached by a tall, astonishingly handsome man (let’s call him “Rock.”) Towering over me in a dusty blue T-shirt and black jeans, a tousle of slick, onxy-black hair and a jaw even more square than your grandparents morals, Rock beguiled me from the first instant, and didn’t leave my side all evening. I could barely concentrate on our witty repartee, I was so taken by his good looks. Could he–was it possible?–be interested in l’il ole me? Naw, I thought, which freed me up for a great evening of conversation. At the end of the night, I said my goodbye. Rock smiled and murmured that it had been great to meet me.
The following Monday, when I sauntered into the graduate English department, the secretary beckoned me to her desk. ”There’s this guy who keeps calling and asking for your number,” she said. “He says he met you last Saturday–his name is Rock.” My cheeks flushed crimson. ” Who the heck is this guy, anyway?” she asked. “Well, I told him I’d give his number to you if you wanted it.” She handed me a piece of paper. If I wanted it?! Was she kidding??!!
Maybe it was my scintillating conversational skills that had prompted him to track me down. Or perhaps it was our mutual love of Modern American Literature. Most likely it was the hot pink mini dress and white fishnet stockings I wore that evening. Whatever the reason, I didn’t care–I called him back immediately. That call prompted a summer of romantic, entertaining, intense, exciting and confusing evenings.
“Confusing”? Why, yes. You see, I never did quite figure out Rock’s motives. Let me give you an example: for our first date, Rock took me to a Bruce Springsteen concert (believe it or not, I didn’t know who The Boss was before that evening. Of course, I realized immediately that I was familar with every single song he sang. Thrill!). After the concert ended, Rock walked me back to residence, rode up the elevator to my room, stood outside the door and gazed down into my (entirely mesmerized) eyes. And then. . . he said, “This was fun. Goodnight.” And walked away! No “can I come in?” No attempt to make a pass. No kiss on the forehead. No hug, even! “Okay,” I reasoned, “first date.” No biggie.
Another rendez-vous was a custom picnic in Earle Bales Park, one of the largest and most beautiful parks in the city. Rock’s basket was brimming with glass wine goblets, real silverware and china plates. The food was from Toronto’s premier upper-crust shop at the time, Bersani & Carlevale. (Before that evening, I’d often passed by the shop and lingered, longingly, at the window, knowing I could never afford anything inside). Rock’s culinary choices included a good cabernet sauvignon, crusty bread with all manner of spreads and dips (artichoke-caper compote, oozy cambozola, giant, spicy, brined green olives and rabbit pâté–my first–and only–encounter with rabbit as food, which I declined to try, though I chose not to hold it against him). We ate our feast on a blanket on the grass, then watched a live performance of Romeo and Juliet in the park. Seriously, what could be more romantic?
Or imagine this: after an hour-long, meandering midnight phone call (topics included TS Eliot, American Literature, Hemingway, the fact that Rock had had a poem published–good thing he couldn’t see me swoon over the phone–and Ezra Pound), I returned to my campus residence the next afternoon to discover my mailbox overflowing with a hand-painted card, a copy of Eliot’s The Wasteland, and one perfect red rose. ”I thought you might enjoy this,” Rock had written inside. “Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee/ With a shower of rain.“ Swoon, Take Two.
And yet. . . every shared evening ended the same way, with Rock gazing into my eyes, thanking me–and promptly leaving. By the end of August, I was more than perplexed; I was downright frustrated. One evening, I couldn’t resist posing The Question: just what, I wondered aloud, were his feelings toward me? (any woman who’s ever posed the question already knows it as “The Relationship Kiss of Death”). Now he was the one who seemed perplexed. “Well, I like you,” he stammered. Yep, clear as mud. Shortly thereafter, I returned to my PhD and Rock returned to his job; fairly quickly, the connection faded. It wasn’t until many years later, my girlish naiveté finally evaporated, that it struck me: holy moly! What if Rock were gay?
I never did find out. Instead, Rock left me with some unique memories of a summer filled with music, poetry, culture, and great food. In fact, it was he who served me one of the best pasta salads I’ve ever tasted, a combination of pesto, garlicky bruschetta tomatoes, and finely chopped vegetables, all mixed with Italian spices and a sprinkling of sass. I had never tasted pesto before, and I was besotted.
This 2011 iteration offers a creamy alternative highlighting the flavors of basil and cilantro. The smooth sauce hugs the pasta with just the right hint of richness and a little heat from the sriracha. With the occasional crunch from fresh vegetables and a touch of citrus, the salad is delicious either cold or at room temperature. It’s the perfect dish for a buffet, or a quick dinner for two.
Rock, this one’s for you. As you savor it, I hope you’ll experience both cool delight and the spark of spicy heat, all at the same time. Think of it as my gift for that summer long ago, my own gastonomic oxymoron made just for you.
Easy to throw together yet robust and flavorful, this pasta salad is perfect for a summer evening lounging on the patio, or–dare I say it?–a picnic in the park. [Note: if you prefer to make a soy-free salad, you can use the Avocado Pesto dressing from this recipe, adding the sriracha, lemon zest and cilantro as described below.]
For the salad:
1/2 pound (225 g) dry pasta of choice (elbows or spirals work best)
1 medium chopped sweet bell pepper (any color, though I prefer orange or red)
1 small red onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups (480 ml) baby grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/3 cup (80 ml) cilantro, chopped
For the dressing:
1 package (12 oz or 350 g) firm silken tofu (I used Mori Nu) or medium tofu
1.5 oz (40 g) fresh basil leaves (50-60 leaves)
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh cilantro, unpacked
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 ml) sriracha, 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) hot pepper sauce, or 1/2-1 small jalapeno, minced
2 Tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of one lemon
fine sea salt and pepper, to taste
To make the salad: Cook pasta according to package directions; rinse with cold water, drain well, and place in a large bowl. Add the chopped pepper, onion, celery, tomatoes and 1/3 cup (80 ml) cilantro and toss to mix.
While the pasta cooks, make the dressing: place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Pour about 2/3 of the dressing over the pasta and toss to coat; add more dressing if a creamier pasta salad is desired (you can save any extra dressing in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 4 days; use as a dip, with more pasta, or as a spread in wraps or sandwiches). Makes 6-8 servings. Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Soy-Free Variation: Make the Avocado Pesto dressing from this recipe, then add the sriracha, lemon juice and lemon zest from the dressing recipe above.
[Have you entered the Cookbook giveaway yet? Choose any cookbook you like and you could win it as my Christmas present to you this year! Click here to enter--only one day left!]
I meant to post about this recipe yesterday, but somehow, I’m, er, running a tad behind schedule. How did I get so woefully tardy on my holiday preparations this year? Usually, I’m that student you always hated, the one who handed her essay in two days early. Or that friend who’s already seated, calmly sipping tea and reading The History of Love, when you arrive at the restaurant for lunch at the designated time. (Sorry, really. Seems I couldn’t help it. . .just anal that way).
But not this year; no sirree. I suppose I can attribute the shift in efficiency to a strange confluence of medical and dental appointments, late-in-the-term exams and massive marking duties, some broken plumbing and emergency repairs plus various and sundry other distractions scattered throughout the month. I could blame the influence of the HH (always a great fallback position) and his über laid-back approach to Christmas shoppingthe holidaysshovelling snow everything, leaving chores or errands until the last minute, which seems to work just fine for him but is in fact disastrous for me. Or I could blame this infernal candida (even better fallback position), which has been acting up as if sparked by the holiday spirit itself.
Years ago, I vowed I would never leave holiday shopping to the last minute. This pledge came after one particular Christmas in Montreal during my graduate school years. I’d flown “home” from Toronto to be with my family, but as a don in residence, I wasn’t allowed to leave the campus until December 23rd. The CFO suggested we wait until I arrived so we could shop together–on December 24th. “We’ll just start really early, before the crowds develop,” was her reasoning. It must have been the jet-lag, but it seemed logical to me, and I agreed.*
Entering the first shopping mall, I was overcome with a mounting sense of dread as we shuffled along amid the throngs, shoulder to shoulder with a mass of strangers moving in unison from displays of scarves and mitts to shelves of sweaters and lingerie to stacks of boots and books to walls lined with dresses and coats to counters replete with mixers, radios, food processors, mixing bowls, wine glasses, can openers, oven mitts. . . . within minutes, I was a little light-headed and approaching dizzy.
After about half an hour of such torture, the CFO and I looked around at the mob of seemingly lifeless bodies perambulating like automatons, no expression (or worse, grim determination) on their faces, moving as if compelled by some unseen, insidious force. . . wait a minute–did that guy have both his arms outstretched before him, palms toward the ground? Was that a little drop of blood I saw in the corner of that grandma’s leering mouth? Was that woman at the Henckels counter lifting that blade a little too high over the saleswoman’s head? Suddenly, we both decided we had to get out of there. Now.
With only a few meagre bags at our feet, sipping cappuccino (as I still did in those days) at a nearby café, we felt enormous relief at having escaped relatively unscathed from what seemed like the scene of the latest horror movie: Christmas Night of the Living Dead, perhaps, or Invasion of the Booty Snatchers, or The Lost Buys. Or, even more to the point, simply The Shopping Mall (Mmwhahahahaaaaaa!).
Nope, never again.
Okay, so maybe December 22nd is, in reality, not much better than December 24th, but at least I got the job done yesterday (with minimal dizziness or bloodshed). The HH, on the other hand, still hasn’t even started his Christmas shopping. Mwhahhaahahaaaa!
This salad will provide a refuge from the holiday insanity (or, perhaps, some rejuvenation after the Big Day). I came across the recipe on Shannon’s blog while catching up on blog reading (another area I’m woefully behind). The original hails from Molly, and, like all of her recipes, it’s a winner. It’s quick (start to finish in less than 30 minutes), satisfying and nutritious all at once. The combination of butternut squash (for just a hint of sweetness) and chickpeas (for protein) with a smattering of red onion (for bite) and aromatic cilantro (for–well, for deliciousness) is addicting.
I had it for lunch yesterday, then again today. The creamy cloak of tahini drizzled over the warmed squash base makes for a delightful contrast in flavors and temperatures, reminiscent of the all-in-one dinner bowls I wrote about a while back. In fact, I think this would be more than sufficient for dinner if served with a healthy grain or hunk of hearty bread.
*Of course it wasn’t jet-lag; there’s no time difference between Toronto and Montreal. It was just wishful thinking.
Warm Butternut Salad with Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing
Oddly, even though the original recipe is called “Warm Butternut Salad,” Molly’s instructions tell us to cool the squash and not re-heat it. I simply used the squash almost straight from the oven to keep the base warm, and to save time.
For the Salad:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ (2.5 cm) pieces
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) allspice (I’d go with 3/4 tsp or 3.5 ml next time)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
fine sea salt, to taste
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked chickpeas, or one 15 oz (425 g) can, drained and rinsed very well
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh cilantro, finely chopped
For the Tahini Dressing:
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
3 Tbsp (45 ml) well-stirred tahini
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced
3-1/2 Tbsp (52.5 ml) fresh lemon juice (not bottled)
2-4 Tbsp (30-60 ml) water, as needed
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, 1 clove garlic, allspice, 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, and salt to taste. Use a large spoon or your hands to toss the squash until everything is evenly coated. Turn the mixture onto the baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is just tender (take care not to overbake at this stage). Remove from oven and cool about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing: in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil and tahini until smooth. Add remaining ingredients (start with just 2 Tbsp/30 ml water) and whisk until smooth; the sauce should be the texture of thick cream. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (I had to add a bit more lemon juice).
To assemble: combine the baked squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl and toss gently (so as not to break up the squash). For individual servings, spoon onto plates and drizzle each individually with dressing. Or toss the entire salad and serve in a large bowl, family-style. Makes 4-6 servings. Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now. I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]
True, the HH is one of those people who’d rather not make a fuss over the holidays (or, hmm, anything, come to think of it). So I am usually the instigator when it comes to setting up our little tree, decorating the house, wrapping and putting out presents, or planning a festive feast. This year, though, I’ve been dragging my feet.
Could it be that my loathing of winter has finally superceded my adoration of the holidays? Could it be that the HH and his laissez-faire attitude have finally exerted their influence on me? Could it be that the infernal interloper, the ACD–who showed up unexpectedly last winter and now refuses to leave until all my candida symptoms are eradicated–has put a damper on the season? (Well, even I have to admit that it’s a tad more difficult to cook up a traditional feast–complete with holiday sweet treats–on this diet. Which is why I’ve been working really hard on a slew of holiday and festive recipes–including ACD-friendly desserts–that I’ll be offering in an ebook in just a couple of days!).
Unlike last year, when I went a wee bit overboard creating all manner of gastronomic gifts, I just haven’t immersed myself in the spirit as of yet (I suppose being unable to imbibe any type of spirit this season may have something to do with it as well). It’s amazing how many homemade gifts are meant to be sweet, or baked, or desserts, isn’t it?
But then it occurred to me–what about all the other delicious foods: condiments, seasonings, dips, spreads, dry soup mixes–that could constitute gifts? And suddenly, the spirit of Christmas Present touched me once again. Whoo-hoo! Time to get to the kitchen!
I’ve decided to give a few homemade, foodie gifts this year, even if I can’t eat them all. Into the mix will go ACD-friendly recipes as well, but only if anyone could appreciate them. This pesto falls into the latter category.
A milder take on conventional (basil-and-pine-nut) pesto, this cilantro based version is extremely versatile and very tasty. I originally created the recipe because I wasn’t allowed many alternatives on the ACD and wanted to use Brazil nuts–one of the only nuts I could eat–in a novel manner. Now, I must admit, I like it at least as much as “regular” pesto, if not more. And the beauty of this recipe is that it’s incredibly quick and easy; just blend, scoop into a clean jar, label and wrap for a perfect hostess gift, treat for a co-worker, or stocking stuffer.
Slather the pesto on crackers for a quick snack, or toss with your favorite grain for an instant pilaf. As in the photo, below, you can also toss with still-warm potatoes, grape tomatoes and sliced green onions for a delicious winter potato salad. I also like this tossed with freshly steamed kale.
Don’t you feel like hopping right up and starting to make some foodie gifts right now? I’ll race you to the kitchen.
Now, that’s the spirit!
“Mum, it’s not true that Dad never makes a fuss over anything–he fusses over us all the time. Just try wagging your tail and kissing his hand when he comes home from work, and he’ll make a fuss over you, too.”
* Honestly, I wouldn’t have even known such things existed, except The Nurse actually owns one of these!
Brazil-Nut Cilantro Pesto
Use as you would any pesto, in pasta, soups, or as an appetizer on crackers.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (120 ml) halved Brazil Nuts
1 cup (240 ml) very loosely packed cilantro leaves, or use a combination of cilantro and parsley
2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml) extra virgin olive oil, as you like
1 Tbsp (15 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
pinch fine sea salt
In a small food processor, blend together the garlic and nuts until crumbly. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth but still grainy. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 10 days. Makes about 1 cup (240 ml).
* Or, Oddly Alluring Blend of Mudlike Green Vegetables to Clear Your Sinuses
[Don't you expect a giant, hairy, muddy hand to suddenly lurch from under the surface of that liquid, and grab you?]
I’ve enjoyed green smoothies for several years now, and they’ve always been a staple when I need a quick and nutrient-rich breakfast. Until recently, however, I’ve always added blueberries to a green smoothie as a way to “mask” the color and create a more palatable palette. Well, not this time!
Remember in grade school when you played with water colors and, in an attempt to discover a new shade of say, red, you combined orange and yellow AND blue? And what you were left with was a cloudy, miry composite that resembled the distinctive grayish-brown of, maybe, a mud puddle, or perhaps a wet greyhound, or sort of like a cup of stale coffee, or–most likely–a stretch of swampland?
Today’s smoothie isn’t quite that bad. . . only mildly resembling fungus in color. To me, the shade of this smoothie evokes moss and green olives and slightly overcooked asparagus. . . green, yes, but tempered with a hint of gray.
Still, desperate times required desperate measures. Stricken with a nasty bug over the past few days (which, from what I’ve been reading, is making the rounds through the foodie blog world), I decided I needed to pull out the big guns–or, in this case, the big cucumbers–and create a smoothie that would soothe, nourish, and fight viruses and bacteria, all in one green, velvety solution. A Superhero Smoothie!
Well, maybe more like a monster smoothie. Still, who knows why certain monsters are appealing–enticing, even? I mean, Fay Wray’s Ann Darrow fell in love with King Kong, right? Beauty was bowled over by The Beast. And why would the Princess kiss a frog in the first place? Like this smoothie, they all had a certain je ne sais quoi that drew people to them. Or maybe it’s just my febrile imagination talking. Either way, the smoothie seemed to do the trick: it got me through the morning feeling a little less congested and a little more energetic. And, for some reason, the more I drank, the more I liked it.
[Attack of the swamp thing! All that's left are the smoothie remains. . . "]
One caveat: if you’re a fan of fruity or slightly sweet breakfast smoothies, this one is definitely not for you. It’s quite tart, with a texture more like a vegetable cocktail than a milkshake. Think of it as a refreshing veggie juice and you’re more likely in line with this beverage.
I based the recipe on similar ones posted here, but this is my own concoction. Feel free to play with proportions and ingredients to your own taste.
Swamp Thing Smoothie
Look! It can actually seem vaguely attractive in this light! This smoothie is great when you’re feeling fatigued or when your body needs an immune boost. The vegetables are alkalizing, the herbs detoxify, the juice adds Vitamin C and the garlic fights illness-causing organisms like viruses and bacteria.
3-4 large leaves lettuce (your choice; I used green leafy)
1 stalk celery, trimmed, cleaned and chopped
1 small clove garlic (or 1/2 a large clove), optional
1/4 cup (60 ml) cilantro or parsley, or a combination
2 leaves fresh basil
6″ (15 cm) piece cucumber (leave skin on if organic)
juice of 1/2 lime
1/3 cup (80 ml) unsweetened cranberry juice
1/2 avocado, peeled and cut in chunks
about 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1 tsp (5 ml) agave, if desired, or 2 drops stevia
Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until very smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy immediately. Makes 1 large or 2 small servings.
[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 fifth entry on cilantro.]
The HH and I just returned from an annual sojourn to what used to be our favorite summer retreat, a country resort up in ski country. I say, “used to be” because, like so many other businesses these days, our erstwhile “favorite” has cut services to the bone and, as a result, is no longer the hotel we remember and loved. Those of you on twitter may have seen my lament that the breakfast “buffet” included precisely one food I could eat: roasted potatoes. The rest of the menu (ham, bacon, eggs, french toast, plate of baked goods and bowl of yogurts) was all verboten to me. As I chewed on my (suddenly very bitter) spuds, I wondered, what about celiacs? What about diabetics? There wasn’t exactly a cornucopia of choices for them, either. In addition, the dinner “service” was so deplorable (over 40 minutes to get our appetizers! In a dining room with six patrons!), we decided that next year, we’ll look for a new place to patronize during our annual summer weekend away.
Well, no matter. The weather, at least, was glorious, and hey–the paucity of food actually resulted in two more pounds of weight loss (for those of you who’ve been following such things, the grand total is 32 lost so far. That means I can now get into my “chubby” clothes, leaving behind my “fat” and “edifice-like” wardrobes, while I’m still not quite slim enough for my “I’m-saving-these-even-though-they’re-out-of-style-and-I’m-really-too-old-for-them-because-I-love-them-so-much” clothes). I also realized that the best way to lose weight is when you’re not really trying. (Hmm. Maybe that resort wasn’t so bad after all. All I have to do is suffer there for another week , and I’m pretty sure I’d be at goal.).
The weekend was an explicit reminder (I guess I’d sort of forgotten) that I am, indeed, following a rather restricted diet these days. Funny, even though I altered my diet to eliminate wheat, eggs and dairy about ten years ago (meat was pretty much already gone by then), I hadn’t really thought of my food intake as ”restricted” (after all, I’d still managed to gain 45 pounds eating that way!) until these past few months on the anti-candida diet. In fact, changing my diet initially prompted me to try out many foods I’d shunned until that point.
One prime example is Indian cuisine. I’d never tasted any of my current favorites–an authentic, long-simmering curry, a crispy papadum, a nubby, melting dal, or peppery masala okra–until I was forced to change my diet. Once I tried the first few dishes, I quickly grew enamored of the fragrant spices like sweet cardamom and warming turmeric, and was easily besotted with basmati rice, vibrant vindaloos and creamy kormas. In fact, it was Indian cuisine that catalyzed my conversion from cilantro foe to cilantro lover.
Whenever we stop in at our favorite Indian restaurant nearby, the HH will often order lamb. I have to tell you, if I’m sitting downwind, it can ruin my dinner. Even before I stopped eating meat, I just wasn’t able to tolerate lamb. Something about the smell–that elusive combination of unctuous yet slightly sweet–always managed to make my stomach flutter and my bile rise, even as a child and long before I understood the true source of those glistening cubes on my plate.
Well, lucky for me, most Indian dishes are naturally vegetarian. On the other hand, it only occurred to me recently that I’ve been inadvertently ruling out a whole category of recipes in my collection simply because they feature lamb, glossing right over those when I scan my cookbooks for dinner ideas.
Well, silly me! I mean, where is it written that those dishes must they be made with lamb? Why couldn’t a favorite soy product (or other legume) stand in for the meat, as they’ve often done before with chicken or beef? I must have been blinded by my visions of guileless black eyes, kinky white curls and baby hooves to even consider it. (I know, I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes).
One of my favorite sources of protein is tempeh, and it’s one I use far too infrequently. I thought it would offer a great substitute for ground lamb in a curry. After browsing through various cookbooks, I combined some of my favorite flavors to create a warm, mildly spiced, and slightly unconventional main dish. The smooth, creamy sauce is punctuated by occasional bursts of sweet peas, bits of savory tempeh, and juicy tomato. It’s perfect served over some steamed basmati rice.
And the aroma, redolent with Indian spices, is guaranteed to entice you–no matter which side of the table you’re on.
“Mum, we know you don’t want to eat sheep, but if you ever need them rounded up or led into a pen, we’d be happy to help out. (We’re both part Border Collie, you know.)”
Taking inspiration from recipes in several cookbooks as well as what I had on hand, I came up with this satisfying curry. Use crumbled tempeh, or, for more discernible pieces of tempeh, cut into small cubes.
1 pkg tempeh (I used soy tempeh with seaweed)
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable broth
2 Tbsp (30 ml) organic coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 ml) minced fresh ginger
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 cardamon pods (or 1/4 tsp/ 1 ml ground cardamom)
1 tsp (5 ml) garam masala
1 tsp (5 ml) ground turmeric
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1/3 cup (80 ml) smooth natural almond butter
1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened almond milk
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh cilantro, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh mint, finely chopped
sea salt, to taste (depending on how salty your veg broth is)
cooked brown basmati rice, to serve
Prepare the tempeh: crumble the tempeh and place in a skillet with the vegetable broth. Heat over medium heat until broth bubbles; lower to a simmer, cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
Remove tempeh from skillet and set aside. Melt the coconut oil in the skillet (no need to wash it first) over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté until the garlic and ginger begin to brown and the onion is translucent, 5-10 minutes.
Add the tomato, cumin, bay leaves, cardamom, garam masala, turmeric and coriander and cook an additional minute. Lower heat and add the almond milk, almond butter and peas, stirring to melt the almond butter. Gently stir in the tempeh. Cover and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until flavors have melded and the curry is heated throughout. Add the cilantro and mint and heat for another 2 minutes. Serve over hot rice. Makes 4 servings. May be frozen.
[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 fourth entry on cilantro.]
My mom was many things: a sweet person, a sentimental person, a docile person, a loyal person; but one thing she most definitely was not, was a morning person. Because of my dad’s unique hours (he didn’t drive a car for the first 38 years of his life, so he would take the bus to his butcher shop** each day, a ride of about an hour–necessitating a 5:30 AM wakeup six days a week), this meant my Mom, too, was required to arise at the same ungodly hour each day. Her responsibility was to grill Dad’s breakfast toast, pour his tea, and pack his lunch.
The second he was out the door, my mother would retreat to the bedroom and fall back on the bed, unconscious within seconds, only to emerge about three hours later looking–well, as if she needed some sleep. My sisters and I learned at a tender age that we were on our own when it came to breakfast.
Like most of my friends at the time, I fancied cold cereal and milk above all else in the morning. Cap’n Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, _______ [insert your own sugar-filled, wheat-based choice here], but on Saturdays, the CFO and I allowed ourselves a supreme treat: saltine crackers slathered with peanut butter, and a tall glass of chocolate milk, which we made ourselves while my mother slept. We’d tiptoe down to the basement (where my parents had installed a second TV) and sit on the olive green vinyl hide-a-bed watching Saturday morning cartoons for hours (well, about three hours, that is, until Mom woke up) while we munched happily, leaving a trail of crumbs in our wake like the famous Grimm siblings.
When I got older and eventually had my own kitchen to run, I lost interest in saltines, and any other crackers. Crackers were one of those foods I never really thought about in the “SAD [ie, Standard American Diet] old days,” when I still consumed wheat, meat, sugar and aspartame. I can recall serving appetizers of smoked oysters, cream cheese and a wedge of lemon on Triscuits when I threw dinner parties in my 20s, or setting out a tray of Ritz, Stoned Wheat Thins and Water Crackers next to a hunk of cheese. But otherwise, crackers were off my radar. I mean, why would you choose dry, flavorless crackers when you could be scarfing muffins, scones or biscuits? You see my point.
So I surprised even myself by how much I enjoyed these thin, crispy wafers. Perhaps it’s the fact that I haven’t had a “true” baked good (ie, something made with flour, sweetener and, ideally, some form of chocolate) in 5 months, since I started the ACD. Or maybe my tastes are just evolving.
In any case, these were even a hit with the HH , who pronounced them “really tasty” (not a man of many words, that HH). The texture, while crispy and slightly crumbly, is nevertheless rich, like a butter cracker or shortbread; yet they stand up well to toppings and spreads.
I enjoyed them with a slather of raw almond-veggie pâté, but because the cilantro isn’t very pronounced (great for you cilantro-phobes out there), they’d even work with nut butter for breakfast. You could easily eat some while watching cartoons–but I wouldn’t recommend pairing them with chocolate milk.
** Yes, the irony is palpable. I talk about his occupation vis-à-vis my dietary choices here.
[For those of you who prefer sweets to crackers, here's the latest review of Sweet Freedom--check out the "Muffin Wars" between SF and JOVB versions!]
Grain Free Hazelnut-Cilantro* Crackers
These work equally well for appetizers or as a snack on their own. You can use any herb you like if you’re not a fan of cilantro.
3/4 cup (115 g) hazelnuts (filberts)
1/4 cup (30 g) finely ground flax seeds
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup (40 g) whole bean or chickpea flour
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
1/2-2/3 cup (120-160 ml) fresh cilantro, parsley or basil leaves, or a combination
2 Tbsp (30 ml) organic coconut oil, melted, or extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp (45 ml) water
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (this recipe requires the parchment; greasing won’t do). Lightly flour the parchment with more bean flour.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the nuts and flax seeds to a fine meal; it should have the appearance of coarse cornmeal, with no visible pieces of nuts. Add the flour, salt and soda and process again until mixture is combined.
Add the cilantro, oil, and water to the processor and blend until the cilantro is well chopped and the mixture comes together in a moist dough.
Place the dough directly on the parchment, and roll it out to a rectangle about 7 x 10 inches (17.5 x 25 cm) big . You can make it smaller or slightly larger, depending on how thick you want your crackers. (I rolled mine out to a thickness of about 1/8″ or 2 mm).
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut the large rectangle into smaller crackers (I cut about 25 crackers). Turn each cracker over by hand (be careful–these are hot!). Return the crackers to the oven and bake another 10-15 minutes, until they are golden brown throughout. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Makes about 25 crackers. These will keep, covered at room temperature, for up to a week.
[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 third entry on cilantro.]
Those of you who live in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) will likely nod your heads and roll your eyes in empathy when I mention that we’ve been having terrifically odd weather this summer. One moment it’s sunny and arid as Las Vegas (minus the neon and replica Eiffel Tower, of course), the next as cold and damp as Dracula’s bedroom. This week, it’s hot and humid, with temperatures around the 25C (77F) mark, more typical of July in Toronto.
This year notwithstanding, I do love summer. As a teen, I was an avid devotee of sun worship (sounds like a cult, doesn’t it?). But with fears of overexposure, UV damage and skin cancers abounding these days, I bet the term ”sun worshipper” doesn’t even exist any more. Maybe we’re more like “sun admirers from afar.”
I must have inherited the predilection from my mom, who spent most of her summer afternoons planted on a lawn chair in our back yard, head tipped back and face directed skyward as if she were getting a wash at a hair salon. Mom could remain motionless that way for hours, until her skin turned deep bronze with just an undertone of dead lobster. But she loved it; and even though her chest eventually began to show the telltale rivulets and fissures of overexposure, her face always remained smooth and unwrinkled, appearing years younger than her chronological age, right until the day she died (which had nothing to do with skin cancer, as you might imagine).
When I was about 14, one summer I decided that I had to acquire a ”real” tan. Being naturally pallid (my skin is normally the shade of a block of raw tofu*), I knew I’d have to work up to it gradually. So I slathered on Johnson’s Baby Oil (the more “mature” among you will remember those days) and set myself the task of sunning first for 5 minutes, ten the following day, then fifteen. . . I think I worked myself up to about half an hour before I got so bored I had to go inside. (On another note, can you believe we used to slather ourselves with BABY OIL, literally frying our skin in the sun like human wontons? To make matters worse, we’d often use sun reflectors around our faces, to intensify the rays. . . like Dorian Gray, I’m waiting in dread fear for the day when that summer starts to show its effects).
I did achieve the sought-after copper hue, though. At the end of August, I arrived at a neighbour’s house to babysit, and (after she glanced at my deeply burnished epidermis), she exclaimed, ”Gee, I didn’t know your family spent the summer in the Caribbean.” Victory!
Well, that was the last time my skin was any shade darker than straw. These days, I don’t spend nearly as much time outside. For some reason, as I grew older, I developed a strong aversion to anything entomological (even those cute little Volkswagens make me cringe). As a result, I much prefer to be outdoors during the day when it’s hot and sunny and even the ants retreat to the shade. Bar-B-Q’s or dining al fresco on summer evenings just means I’m another one of the appetizers at the buffet, as the mosquitoes feast on my pale, exposed skin. Ouch. ( The HH, whose natural complexion is somewhat tawny, will often remark, “It’s fine out here. There are no bugs.” That’s only because he’s not their meal of choice. Well, that’s one type of rejection I’d actually welcome, thanks.).
Whether or not you like to spend evenings on the patio in summer, this Confetti Salad works beautifully in the heat. The mosaic of colors effectively reflects the tangle of flowers, grasses, and fresh produce that adorn many gardens and farmers markets at this time of year, their variegated colors competing for first billing in the bowl. I love the brilliant yellows and reds from the corn and peppers, the variety of textures, tastes, and colors that share space in this salad. The dressing is light and crisp, composed of lots of lemon and a hint of sesame oil.
Now I just have to hope it rains so we can eat indoors.
*How’s that for a sneaky veg*n reference?
Confetti Quinoa and Wild Rice Salad with Cilantro (or Parsley)
adapted from Calci-Yum! by David and Rachelle Bronfman
A great salad for a gathering or a light dinner at home. Serve this cold or at room temperature, and feel free to mix up the veggies to your own tastes.
For the Salad:
2 cups (480 ml) cooked quinoa, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) cooked wild rice (or use brown rice), at room temperature
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
1/2 cup (120 ml) red onion, chopped fine
1 cup (240 ml) fresh or frozen corn kernels
3/4 cup (180 ml) fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped (or use some/all parsley instead)
3/4 cup (135 g) natural almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (55 g) natural walnut halves, coarsely chopped
For the Dressing:
1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) dark sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cumin
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) coriander
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) agave nectar or maple syrup*
Toss salad ingredients together in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients and whisk to blend well. Pour over salad ingredients and toss to coat. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until cold. Makes 4-6 servings. Keeps, covered in the refrigerator, up to 3 days.
*ACD variation: Use 5 drops of stevia liquid or equivalent stevia powder instead of the agave.
[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 Classicsfit 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 (tofuomelets? tofu scallops? tofu 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!
Remarkably versatile, this dish can be eaten plain, in sandwiches or pasta, or any other way you fancy. If you’re not a fan of cilantro, try it with parsley, basil, or even dill–though I’d cut the amount of jalapeno in those cases.
1 cake firm or extra firm tofu (about 1 pound/500 g)
1/2-1 fresh jalapeno pepper, to your taste (remove seeds for less heat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and small stems)
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped, or 1 scallion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tamari or soy sauce (for ACD Stage 1, use Bragg’s liquid aminos)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) agave nectar or organic sugar
1/4 tsp (1 ml) freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Spray a nonreactive pan (glass or ceramic) with nonstick spray.
Cut the block of tofu into 10-12 small slabs or 4 thin “steaks.” Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the jalapeno, cilantro, onion, lemon juice, tamari, olive oil, agave and pepper until smooth. Add the water and process briefly to combine.
Pour about half the marinade in the bottom of the prepared pan and spread to coat the pan. Place the tofu slabs evenly on top of the marinade (try to keep them in a single layer) and pour the rest of the marinade evenly over them. It’s okay if one or two slabs must be doubled up; just pour a little marinade between them as well.
Bake for 45-60 minutes, turning the tofu over once about halfway through. The baked tofu should be browned and bubbling, and there should be almost no liquid left in the pan. Remove to a platter and serve. Makes 4 servings. Will keep, covered in the refrigerator, up to 5 days (as with many tofu dishes, this is actually better the second day).
ACD variation: omit tamari and use Bragg’s aminos instead; omit agave and use 2 drops stevia or equivalent stevia powder.