Crispy Tofu with Spicy Sweet Garlic Sauce


I’ve had tofu so bad I wouldn’t serve it to my worst enemy and I’ve had tofu so good I wanted it all to myself and wouldn’t even share with my best friend. This recipe is the “so good you won’t want to share” kind.

The secret ingredient that makes this tofu crispy like deep fried without deep frying it is the arrowroot powder/starch/flour (all the same, just different names). It ever so slightly coats each piece of tofu and enables the pieces to crisp up and taste like you’re eating something much less good for you. The spicy sweet garlicy sauce takes things over the top.

Arrowroot isn’t difficult to find—small bottles can be found with the spices at regular grocery store and larger bags can be found in the natural foods section of well-stocked grocery stores, at natural foods stores, and online. I like Bob’s Red Mill brand. You could use corn starch if you can’t get arrowroot, but corn starch is much more processed and most likely contains genetically modified corn (boo, hiss!).

The recipe is from a cookbook I purchased after seeing the author on one of the local Saturday morning news shows. Vegan chef Tess Challis was in town to present at the Twin Cities Veg Fest, which I wanted to attend, but just couldn’t fit it into my jam-packed weekend.

One of her cookbooks is called Food Love and I looked it up online to potentially order and ended up ordering the e-version, which was only $10; I got it immediately and no trees were harmed in the process. There are a number of recipes I’d like to try and this was the first. Based on how good this was, I’m excited to make more. Enjoy!

Crispy Tofu with Spicy Sweet Garlic Sauce

Slightly adapted from a Food Love by Tess Challis recipe
1 pound extra firm tofu, organic and non-gmo, sprouted if you can find it

2 tablespoons tamari (darker, richer and less salty than soy sauce, and wheat-free)

1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder/starch/flour (less processed and non-gmo compared to cornstarch)

1-2 tablespoons grapeseed or coconut oil (I used grapeseed for a more neutral flavor)

Sauce:
¼ cup sriracha sauce

¼ cup raw agave (honey [not vegan] or maple syrup would work as well)

2 tablespoons water

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

Sliced green onions, for garnish

Cut block of tofu into quarters, and each quarter into two slices. Lay slices flat on two layers of paper towel. Cover with two more layers of paper towel and lay a cutting board on top. Set something heavy, like a cast iron pan or a big can of tomatoes on top and let sit 30 minutes; this will remove moisture from the tofu.

While tofu is pressing, mix sriracha, agave, water and minced garlic in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cut each tofu slice into quarters and place into a large zip lock bag. Mix tamari and granulated garlic in a small dish. Put arrowroot in another small dish. Pour tamari mixture over tofu, seal bag, and toss to coat. Sprinkle arrowroot starch/flour, in several batches, over tofu, and shake bag after each batch.

Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon grapeseed or coconut oil. When oil is hot, lay about half the tofu pieces in the pan, cook for 3 minutes, turn, and cook 3 minutes more. Remove tofu to a paper towel lined plate.

Add another tablespoon oil, if necessary, to pan and when hot, add remaining tofu and cook the same as the first batch.

Serve with garlic sriracha sauce and green onions as garnish. Makes about 4 servings.

Homemade Peanut Butter

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Way back when I was a kid, the peanut butter in most households was Jif, Skippy or Peter Pan. That was pretty much it. Except if you were my family, then it was the natural kind that you had to stir to incorporate the oil. It wasn’t very common back then either, but once again, my parents were ahead of their time when it came to healthy eating. And I hated it!

I wanted nothing more than to have Jif or Peter Pan peanut butter like “normal” kids. Even Skippy, which wasn’t as good, was better than that natural stuff in my kid mind. I remember being over at a friend’s house and for a snack we had white bread (which we never had in my house either), toasted, with Jif peanut butter. I was in snack heaven!

My how our tastes changes as we grow up. I wouldn’t eat those name brand PBs filled with sugars, added oils (often hydrogenated) and preservatives now under any circumstances.

For years, I’ve purchased the “natural” peanut butters where the short list of ingredients was peanuts and salt. My adult taste buds loved the pure peanut taste that wasn’t masked by sweeteners and other oils. Trader Joe’s was my brand of choice. Just open the jar, pull out a butter knife and use your brute force to stir it up so the separated peanut butter and peanut oil were mixed together. Then keep it in the fridge. Only bad part was once you got down to about the last quarter of the jar, you had pretty hard peanut butter that was a pain to spread. I never thought much about it, but the stirring and bottom-of-the-jar hard PB kind of sucked. That’s just what you need to accept when you want “natural” peanut butter, right?

Then one day my co-worker Jill asked if I make my own peanut butter. Make my own peanut butter? Whhhaaatttt?!? I had never thought of it. Why had I never thought of it? A quick google made me laugh at how easy it is. Dump a bag of roasted peanuts in a food processor and turn it on. That’s it—after a few minutes you have your “natural” peanut butter with just peanuts and salt, or if you buy the no-salt-added, just peanuts. Put it in a jar, pop it in the refrigerator and you have silky smooth, no-oil-separated peanut butter whenever you have a hankering. Thank you, Jill!

I usually buy the 50% salt Trader Joe’s peanuts which gives the perfect level saltiness for my taste. And it never separates or becomes hard, even near the bottom of the jar. Who knew? And it’s cheaper than buying a jar of the same amount of peanut butter. I haven’t bought a jar of peanut butter since.
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A few people at work, besides Jill, have been as surprised as I was about this making-your-own-peanut-butter thing, so I thought it would be worth sharing in a blog post. I should note, this works equally well with cashews or almonds. But don’t thank me; thank Jill. Enjoy!
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Homemade Peanut Butter

  • Servings: 1 16 oz. jar
  • Print
I’ve used this in baking too–in cookies and bars–with good results

1 pound roasted peanuts (unsalted, lightly salted, or salted)

Salt, to taste (if peanuts are unsalted and you want salted peanut butter)

Put the peanuts and salt (if using) in the bowl of a food processor. Process for about a minute and stop it and scrape down the sides (be warned, it’s really noisy at first!). Process for a couple minutes more, until it is to your preferred consistency. You may need to scrape down the sides a couple times. The amount of processing time will vary on the power of your food processor—the right time will be when it looks right to you.

Scrape the peanut butter into a jar and refrigerate. Unless you rarely eat peanut butter, it will keep longer than it takes for you to use up the jar. Makes a 16-oz. jar.

Vegan Chorizo and Crispy Potato Tacos

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Yesterday was National Taco Day. Seems like there are more and more of these “holidays” I’ve never heard of before, Siblings Day, Pet Day, Popcorn Day, etc. Today is National Kale Day. I kind of like them—it’s actually rather fun to have a theme for the day.

I hadn’t really given Taco Day much thought until I remembered I had some Trader Joe’s vegan chorizo in the fridge and some fresh corn tortillas. A quick google of chorizo tacos brought up a number of recipes, but the one that caught my eye had “crispy potatoes” in the title. My potato-loving husband would definitely approve.

I had all the ingredients or suitable substitutes on hand and this all came together quickly for an easy, filling, and delicious weeknight meal. And there were plenty of leftovers for Day After Taco Day lunch. Enjoy!

Vegan Chorizo and Crispy Potato Tacos

Adapted from this Serious Eats recipe

One pound russet or gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice

Kosher salt

1 tablespoon white vinegar

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided (grapeseed works well)

12 ounces fresh vegan chorizo sausage (Trader Joe’s is my favorite)

To serve:
10 warm corn tortillas

Sliced yellow onion

Fresh arugula

Chopped fresh tomato

Homemade or all natural store-bought salsa verde

Lime wedges

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Add vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until potatoes are just cooked through, about 5 minutes after coming to a boil. Drain potatoes and let rest over sink until mostly dry.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add chorizo and break it up with a spatula. Cook until just beginning to crisp. Remove chorizo from pan to a bowl and set aside. Wipe pan clean.

In the same pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add potatoes, shake to distribute around the pan, and cook, tossing and stirring occasionally until very crisp and golden brown on all sides, about 15 minutes.

Add cooked chorizo to pan with potatoes. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt, if needed (mine didn’t need additional salt). Serve chorizo and potato mixture immediately in warm tortillas with onions, tomato, arugula, salsa verde, and a squeeze of lime.

Vegan Sweet Corn Farro Risotto

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On a day of spectacular weather at a crowded rooftop brewery space, tables are shared with other beer lovers out of necessity, even if it’s not in your somewhat introverted nature (that’d be me). You discuss beer, but sometimes you unexpectedly discovered other shared interests.

While enjoying a weekend at the cabin recently, we stopped by the Voyageur Brewing Company in Grand Marais for a beer on their upstairs deck that has a stunning view of the harbor (I can’t get enough of their Trailbreaker Belgian Wheat Beer—yum!). Sharing a picnic table, we met a friendly young couple from Minneapolis and their cuter than cute dog Brew (yes, really!). As they enjoyed the vegetarian pho new to the menu (they are vegan), we got to talking about vegetarian and vegan food. I pulled up my blog on the iPhone and showed them a photo of my vegetarian pho and they quickly pulled my blog up on their phones. We also talked football, dogs, hiking spots, the Herbivorous Butcher, and the best Grand Marais restaurants.

Our lives intersected briefly, and we’ll probably never see them again, but they will stay fondly in my memory. While mulling over a new recipe to blog, as a nod to Brew’s vegan mom and dad (got the dog’s name, but not theirs), I decided to try something I’ve never made before, vegan risotto.

The Minimalist Baker’s vegan parmesan has graced dishes from salads to pizza to garlic bread lately in my kitchen, so why not risotto? And with the weather ever so slightly hinting of fall, why not make it a little heartier and use farro instead of rice? Oh, and corn would be delicious in a hanging-on-to-the-last-vestiges-of-summer sort of way. Farro is an ancient grain in the wheat family and contains much more protein, fiber and nutrients than white rice and has a great nutty taste. You can find it in well-stocked grocery stores, co-ops, and online.
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The resulting recipe is a riff on two risottos, my Mushroom & Spinach Farro Risotto with Roasted Cauliflower and a corn risotto from Minneapolis’ wonderful Birchwood Café’s cookbook. I copied the cookbook’s pairing suggestions and the resulting dish was as pretty as it was delicious. The risotto is great on its own too. Enjoy!
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Vegan Sweet Corn Farro Risotto

1 cup farro, soaked in cool water for 1 hour, then drained

2-3 ears sweet corn, husks and silks removed

5 cups vegetable broth or stock

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or vegan butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup vegan parmesan (quick and easy recipe follows; you will have lots leftover for other uses)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

If desired, pair with garden fresh goodies such as tomatoes, melon, green onions, green beans and a drizzle of balsamic reduction and hot chili oil (balsamic reduction and chili oil can be found at Trader Joe’s or you can make your own)

Scrape kernels from cobs and set corn aside. Break cobs in half and place in a medium to large saucepan. Add vegetable broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower heat so that stock remains at a simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Discard corn cobs—no need to strain the broth.

If making the risotto right away, keep broth simmering. If not, broth can be cooled and refrigerated for several days. Bring back to a simmer before starting risotto.

Heat olive oil or vegan butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until slightly translucent, 2 or 3 minutes. Add drained farro and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the wine is absorbed. Add broth, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring occasionally until broth is absorbed before adding the next cup of broth. After adding the third cup of broth, stir in the corn kernels. Continue until broth is gone and farro is cooked. Reduce heat to low and stir in the vegan parmesan. Add salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Serve alone or with any or all of sliced garden fresh tomatoes topped with a drizzle of balsamic reduction, melon balls, green beans, scallions and a drizzle of chili oil. If you don’t want to or don’t have time to make  your own balsamic reduction or chili oil, Trader Joe’s has them already made.

Vegan Parmesan
¾ cup raw cashews

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

¾ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Add all ingredients to a food processor and mix/pulse until a fine meal is achieved—be careful not to mix too long, or you’ll end up with cashew butter. Store in the refrigerator to keep fresh. Lasts for several weeks.

 

Tomato Corn Skillet Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Crust

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With the bonanza of tomatoes our garden is producing, I’ve been searching for recipes beyond sauces, jams, and chutneys, looking for a main dish where the tomatoes could be the star of the show.

101 Cookbooks, one of my go-to sources, had my mouth watering with this Tomato Tart Tatin recipe. I imagined it with the addition of fresh sweet corn and easily topped with packaged puff pastry from my freezer. The harissa and lemon zest options intrigued me, as well, and I went to bed Sunday night excited to make this after work on Monday.

Fast forward to Monday, 5:00 PM, apron on and ready to get cooking, and I pull the box of puff pastry out of the freezer. Damn! It’s not puff pastry! It’s phyllo dough. Shoot—that’s just not going to work. I didn’t feel like driving to the store either. My sails were totally deflated!

I thought about making a homemade pie crust, but that’s more butter than I wanted in my dinner (yes, I know the puff pastry probably had just as much, but I wouldn’t have seen it all by itself sitting in front of me). Then I remembered in the notes of Heidi’s recipe, she mentioned this would be good with a biscuit crust. Bingo! How about a cheddar biscuit crust!?! Yes, please!

I haven’t made enough biscuits to be able to pull a batch together without a recipe, but after a quick Google search, I had a plan to adapt the biscuit crust from this Epicurious recipe. Subbing half the all-purpose with whole wheat pastry flour would make it a little healthier, and I decided to reduce the butter a bit too. Skim milk with a little apple cider vinegar would replace the buttermilk I didn’t have, and all was once again right in my culinary world.

Considering all my starts and stops, this came together quickly and we were eating before evening starvation mode set in. Enjoy!
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Tomato Corn Skillet Pie with Cheddar Biscuit Crust

Adapted from these 101 Cookbooks and Epicurious recipes

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kernels cut from one ear fresh sweet corn

1 1/2 pounds (24 oz. small tomatoes)—I used larger cherry tomatoes from our garden)

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

2 tablespoons harissa (or 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar)

1 tablespoon flour

Zest of ½ a lemon

Cheddar Biscuit Crust (recipe follows)

Garnish with chopped fresh herbs (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 C).

Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions and a couple pinches of salt, stirring regularly, until the onions are deeply golden and caramelized, 10-15 minutes. Stir in corn during the last minute or two of cooking. Remove from heat.

While the onions are cooking, cut any larger cherry tomatoes in half. You can leave the extra small cherry tomatoes whole. Add to the caramelized onions and corn, along with the ½ teaspoon sea salt and harissa. Stir in the flour and sprinkle mixture with lemon zest.

Plop spoonsful of biscuit dough over the tomato mixture, until it’s evenly covered and you’ve used all the dough. Bake until the crust is deeply golden and the tomatoes are bubbling a bit at the sides, 25 – 30 minutes. Serves 6-8.

Cheddar Biscuit Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup shredded parmesan

5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk (I used skim milk mixed with a tablespoon cider vinegar; let stand 5 minutes after mixing)

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add cheeses and toss to coat. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir just until a dough forms.

Swiss Chard and Mushroom Galette

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2016 was the first summer Swiss chard has graced our garden, but it certainly won’t be the last. I’ve had fun incorporating it into many dishes, but my favorite is to pair it with mushrooms. After recently cutting several large bunches of chard and enjoying it with mushrooms in pasta, I decided to look for a little different recipe for this delicious combination. The one that rose to the top after googling “Swiss chard mushroom recipes,” was a savory galette from Epicurious.

I’ve made dessert galettes several times, using pre-packaged puff pastry, for an easy and impressive (looking and tasting) fruit-filled treat, but a savory galette with homemade crust was new to me. No stranger to pastry from scratch recipes, this didn’t intimidate, but excited me, especially because it included whole wheat flour—that always makes me feel a little less guilty about a butter crust. And if pastry from scratch intimidates you, a galette is a great way to hone your skills because the rolled shape needn’t be exactly round like a pie.

The dough needs to chill for at least two hours and can be kept in the fridge for up to two days, an ideal make-ahead aspect to this recipe. I made the dough in the morning for a same-day supper.

Don’t be tempted to skip the little herb salad topping after the galette is cooked—it adds another layer of flavor and really boosts this to rock star recipe status. Enjoy!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Swiss Chard and Mushroom Galette

Slightly adapted from this recipe

Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (one stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Galette:
3/4 cup ricotta

¼ cup Boursin cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 ounces maitake mushrooms, torn, and/or crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 large bunch Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed, leaves cut into bite-size pieces

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

All-purpose flour (for parchment)

1 large egg, beaten to blend

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup mixed fresh tender herbs (such as flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, dill, and/or chives)

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

For whole wheat dough:
Pulse all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl; drizzle with vinegar and 1/4 cup ice water. Mix with a fork, adding more ice water by the tablespoonful if needed, just until a shaggy dough comes together; lightly knead until no dry spots remain (do not overwork). Pat into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 2 hours.

DO AHEAD: Dough can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

For galette:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix ricotta and Boursin; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add half of chard, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing, until slightly wilted. Add remaining chard and cook, tossing occasionally, until completely wilted, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured sheet of parchment to a 14″ round about 1/8″ thick. Transfer on parchment to a baking sheet. Spread three-fourths of ricotta/Boursin mixture over dough, leaving a 1 1/2″ border. Top with reserved chard, then mushrooms. Dollop remaining ricotta over vegetables. Sprinkle with parmesan. Bring edges of dough up and over filling, overlapping as needed, to create a 1 1/2″ border; brush crust with egg. Bake galette, rotating once, until crust is golden brown and cooked through, 35–40 minutes. Let cool slightly on baking sheet.

Toss herbs with lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl; season with pepper. Top galette with herb salad, zest, and sea salt. Makes 4-6 servings.

Creamy Sriracha Potato Salad

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Scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches have been the extent of my culinary adventures lately as I recuperate from total hip replacement surgery. Until my appetite and agility return and I dive back into cooking escapades worth sharing, here’s a potato salad recipe I came up with last month. A little creamy, a little tangy, and subtly spicy. I hope you like it. Enjoy!
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Creamy Sriracha Potato Salad

½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes

1 cup sliced radishes

¾ cup sliced scallions

¼ cup sour cream or plain Green yogurt

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon dill pickle juice

1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce (depending on how much heat you’d like)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ cup chopped parsley or dill

Cut potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Place in a pan and cover with water and throw in some salt. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and cook potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, and dump into a large serving bowl. Add radishes and scallions and toss.

While potatoes are cooking, combine sour cream, mayo, lemon juice & zest, pickle juice, sriracha, olive oil, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth and creamy.

Pour dressing over potato mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle in parsley or dill and toss again. Cover and chill for a couple hours before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.