Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Remember in elementary school when you would have 'ketchup' days? Days to catch up on work you hadn't done? Well that's it for me today on this blog. I'm having a terrible day and I have a terrible headache. So I'm self-medicating with blogginess. Maybe by the time I'm done I'll be able to talk about why I'm having such an awful time of it.
'Vietnamese' marinated grilled tofu, grilled squash/zuchini/peppers, corn on the cob

Both times Michael and I have gone to NYC, we've eaten at this great Vietnamese restaurant called Saigon 88. They have some completely awesome lemony/basily tofu there that one of us always gets. So we tried to recreate it. If you remember, my mom gave me an abundance of lemon basil when I went home, so we figured lemon basil = lemongrass + basil. This is how we did it.

'Vietnamese' Marinated Grilled Tofu
1 package firm tofu (not silken), pressed and cut in half, lengthwise
3-4 Tbs chopped fresh lemon basil (or you could use lemongrass and basil together)
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs garlic chili sauce
1/4 cup (or more) soy sauce or tamari
1-2 Tbs minced or grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 Tbs rice wine
1 Tbs vinegar (we used red wine vinegar)

Ok, so after your tofu is done being squished, score it on both sides a few times (see picture below). Then mix up your marinade in a shallow, flat dish. The marinade doesn't make enough for the tofu to be swimming in it, and the tofu will soak up ALL of this marinade. You will want to flip the tofu every 15-20 minutes, for about an hour...hour and a half (the longer you let it go, the better it will taste, but once it absorbes all the liquid, you're pretty much done). The kicker then is to take all the stray stuffs like the herbs, garlic, and ginger, and stuff it into your cuts you made earlier. This packs a helluva flavor punch that you cannot live without, I promise you. It should look like this:
You can see we didn't even get everything inside, but it was still delicious. I think we may have stuffed the rest of that stuff in there after I took this photo. Cram as much in those slots as possible. Then, just grill it for about 5-10 minutes on each side (depending on the heat of your grill) until you get a lovely brown color and nice, firm texture. We used an electric indoor grill and sprayed the top with canola oil first, to be sure they didn't stick. This is probably the best tasting thing we've concocted in a long, long time.

Here's Michael's hand, flipping our veggies on our silly electric grill! We don't have a yard or a real grill, and my mom and dad gave me this one ages ago. It's really very handy.

Next up is another completely made up by me recipe that was inspired by a few things:

1. Swiss chard. I had a bunch of it and I remember seeing recipes for Swiss Chard Packets in my mom's Moosewood cookbooks, and wanted to try something like it out for myself (but with no cookbooks or references on hand).

2. Fresh green beans + a thread on PPK about green beans.

3. 2 lbs of nutritional yeast that my mom so graciously got me from the health food store in her area and the fact that I had not had any mac n cheese since we ran out weeks before this point.

4. Still jonesing for that lemony Vietnamese tofu we made a few nights before.

Hence, I present to you.....
lemony tofu swiss chard packets, lemony mac n cheese, and roasted green beans with dill and garlic

First, the packets. It was super easy and fun. It was basically the exact same ingredients for the marinade of the grilled tofu above, but just all smooshed together in a bowl. And I didn't press the tofu first. To make the packets, you simply blanche the chard to make it easier to work with (toss in boiling water for 1 minute, then dump into an ice bath for a minute). It didn't even matter that it was wet when I started using it.

Just take a leaf, put it face down, spoon a little mixture (of whatever you want, really) onto the leaf, and fold into a packet. This is most easily done by folding in 2 sides, then either just folding in the other 2 sides or rolling it up. Place in a baking dish and cook at 350F for 50 minutes. Covered. The leaves get nice and wilty and the tofu inside gets really firm and chewy. Yum!
lemony tofu swiss chard packets

Next was the beans, which I accidentally overcooked. I just minced up some dill and garlic, sprinkled them with olive oil, and put them in the oven. For far too long. But they were ok. Make sure you check roasting times/temps for green beans before you attempt this, obviously.

Somewhat overcooked beans :(

Annnnd, finally, the lemony mac n cheese! This did not really turn out how I imagined, since I didn't think twice about the fact that I was using lemon basil instead of regular basil, but once I got past that fact, I realized that it was a delicious creation, all on its own! Here's what I did.

Lemony Mac N Cheese
1 box elbow macaroni (or whatever short pasta you like), cooked according to directions

1 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 cup plain soy yogurt
1/4-1/3 cup tahini
2 Tbs mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
dash of lemon juice
dash of hot sauce
dash of cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

2 scallions, minced
2 Tbs lemon basil, minced
1 can fire roasted tomatoes

Combine sauce ingredients in a blender and blend til smooth. Pour over cooked macaroni and add remaining ingredients. Mix well and transfer to a baking dish (i used 8x8, but i also didn't use a whole box of pasta...go for 9x13). Bake at 350F for an hour, covered for the first 40 minutes, uncovered the last 20. Here's what you get:

This is a little sweet and tangy, so don't be scared off. I didn't have soymilk or tofu (key ingredients in my regular mac n cheese recipe) so I used the yogurt in place of both. It ended up making it ultra creamy (but still, the sweetness). I must say though that it was a very successful side dish creation.

As a tip: the pasta and tofu packets mixed together is ROCKIN.

Ok, I think that's all the recipe-ing I can do for right now. This has distracted me nicely. In case you're curious, my terrible day had to do with my job and the fact that I am seriously underpaid and got a 'raise' that ....is laughable. Like I feel like they are laughing at me behind my back, it's so bad. So I have to prepare for conflict again tomorrow because I am just going to have to be like 'WTF I am worth more than this, you jerks', but in a nice way. Plus every dish in my house is dirty, I'm the one who has to clean them all up, all I really want to be doing is finishing freezing my veggies, I have a headache, and a friend of mine is leaving town (forever) tonight and as much as I love her, I do not feel up to being out and about this evening. Which makes me feel bad.

So... eh. Hope the rest of you have better days and that my recipes are tasty enough to make their way into your kitchens.


jessy said...

oh man, i hope you start feeling better! :) happy-fun-feel'n-good thoughts are coming your way...and hang in there with all the craziness at work - that freak'n sucks!

your tofu = amazing!!! and swiss chard packets - hot damn, they look glorious! thanks for all the recipes, too! that rocks the hardest! :D

Anonymous said...

your little grill is so cute!

i'm going to try some of the recipes (thanks!)

jess (of Get Sconed!) said...

your little grill is cute!

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