Zoodles and Crispy Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce


Zucchini noodles (zoodles) were one of the first things I planned to make when I got my spiralizer a couple years ago. And then I proceeded to spiralize potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets many times for a number of recipes, but not zucchini. As much as I wanted to replace my pasta with zucchini noodles, I just couldn’t—it was a cooked zucchini texture thing.

Even with the suggestion of doing half pasta and half zoodles, I still resisted. It wasn’t until I came across a few recipes where you—wait for it—leave the zucchini raw, that I saw the zoodle light. They wouldn’t be mushy, they wouldn’t be soggy. It would be an al dente experience and I was on board!

Making just a few tweaks to this Pinch of Yum recipe, we’ve got a new summer favorite that’s quick enough to pull together on a weeknight and there are always leftovers for brown-bagging the next day. When packing your leftovers, keep the sauce separate and mix it in just before eating, otherwise the zoodles will absorb the sauce and you’ll lose the creamy sauciness that makes for a truly special dish. Enjoy!

Zoodles and Crispy Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce


Adapted from this Pinch of Yum recipe

One 15 oz. block of extra-firm tofu (I like Trader Joe’s organic)

1 tablespoon peanut oil

3-4 medium zucchini, ends trimmed (a combination of green and yellow zucchini looks especially nice)

Sliced scallions, for garnish

Sesame seeds, for garnish (I like the look of black sesame seeds, but white are just fine)

Spicy peanut sauce:
½ cup smooth peanut butter, preferably natural (or make your own, recipe here)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (then add water to measure 1/3 cup)

1/3 cup tamari (wheat free) or soy sauce, reduced sodium if you have it

¼ cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons Asian chili paste such as sambal oelek

1 ½ tablespoons sugar

1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced

1 heaping teaspoon of fresh grated ginger root

To remove excess moisture from the tofu, place the tofu block between a couple layers of paper towels and set on a cutting board. Top with another cutting board and weigh it down with a large can of tomatoes or a couple cookbooks. Let sit for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile spiralize your zucchini and set it aside.

To make the spicy peanut sauce, place all sauce ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined.

Cut pressed tofu into bite-sized pieces. Heat peanut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add tofu to pan and cook one side of tofu pieces until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Turn pieces and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Add ½ cup of the spicy peanut sauce to the tofu and let simmer for a few minutes. Using a spatula, turn tofu pieces, scraping sauce and any brown saucy bits from the bottom of the pan. Repeat the simmer, turning, and scraping a couple more times until tofu is crispy brown.

To serve, place zucchini noodles in individual bowls and top each with a ¼ cup of spicy peanut sauce, stirring to coat the zoodles. Top with some tofu pieces, sliced scallions, and sesame seeds. Makes 4-6 servings.

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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.

Orange Tofu Tacos with Tomatillo Pineapple Salsa

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With Cinco de Mayo this week, Mexican recipes have been on my radar. Particularly a tomatillo pineapple salsa in New York Times Cooking from an organic farmer who operates just down the road from us in Stillwater, MN.

The only ingredient I was worried might be hard to find was the padrón or shishito peppers. Not sure what either type looked like, I relied on the signs at the best-stocked grocery store near me. No padrón peppers, but there was a good supply of peppers with a sign that said shishito on the bin. The cashier had trouble finding the code for the habanero pepper so she had to call a manager. The manager then told her the other peppers were anaheims. I said no, the sign said shishito. He then broke the news to me that they were out of shishitos and replaced them with anaheims and hadn’t changed the sign. Disappointed, I said I couldn’t use the anaheims, and asked if they could put them back. Sure, they said.

On my way out the grocery store door, I was trying to figure out where to go for the peppers and the produce guy comes running out with the bag of anaheims saying that for the inconvenience of having the peppers labeled wrong, I could have the peppers I had bagged up, at no cost. He said they would make a suitable substitution for padrón or shishito peppers. Not one to turn down free produce, I accepted the offer and thanked him.

Turns out I couldn’t find the right peppers after checking two other stores, so I decided to go ahead with the salsa using my free anaheims. It’s delicious and I’m not so sure it would be better had I found the right peppers.

To incorporate the salsa into a full meal, I pan-fried some tofu and simmered it in orange juice before adding some of the salsa to make a flavorful “meat” for some vegan tacos that had a lot going on. But all the components came together for the best tofu dish I’ve had in years.

The salsa was the only putzy part of the process, but if you make it a day or two in advance, dinner will come together fast enough for a weeknight. The recipe makes a lot more than you will need for this one meal, so feel free to half it. I’ve also found tomatillo salsa freezes well.
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While the tofu is frying/simmering, you can get your taco accompaniments ready, using whatever you prefer or have on hand.
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A few days ago I used up some macadamia nuts and cashews lurking in the back of the freezer and made this macadamia nut ricotta and a vegan parmesan cheese from the awesome Minimalist Baker blog. Great vegan substitutes and believe me, you won’t miss the dairy.

I rounded things out with whole wheat flour tortillas and lettuce, radicchio, scallions, tomato and radish. Avocado would be great too. Enjoy! And happy Cinco de Mayo!

Orange Tofu Tacos with Tomatillo Pineapple Salsa


Salsa recipe from Eduardo Rivera, as published in the New York Times

1 pound tomatillos (about 6 medium)

6 Padrón peppers or shishito peppers), stems removed, or 3 anaheims, cut in chunks

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup diced pineapple

1 habanero pepper, stem removed

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon salt, more to taste

1 cup diced onion

½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse well. Halve the tomatillos and Padrón or shishito peppers (if using anaheims, cut them in big chunks).

Set a skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the tomatillos, peppers, pineapple, habanero pepper, garlic, oregano and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything starts to char, 6-8 minutes.

Once charred, transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender or food processor and add 1/2 cup water. Blend until almost puréed. Pour mixture into a bowl and chill for 1 hour.

Stir in onion, cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt to taste.

Orange Tofu
1 pound extra-firm tofu

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup orange juice, fresh squeezed, if possible

Whole wheat flour tortillas or corn tortillas for a gluten-free version

Toppings such as lettuce, radishes, tomato, scallion, vegan or dairy cheese, avocado

Unwrap and place block of tofu on a plate lined with several layers of paper towels. Put more paper towels on top of tofu place a small cutting board on top. Weigh down the cutting board with a large can or books for 20-30 minutes. After tofu has been pressed, blot it dry and cut it into bite-sized cubes.

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the tofu and cook for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally for even browning. Reduce heat to medium and add orange juice. Let simmer for several minutes until orange juice has mostly simmered away.

Stir about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the salsa into the tofu. Let simmer for several minutes until it thickens up a bit.

Warm your tortillas in a damp tea towel in the microwave or, in batches, over low heat in a medium pan.

Place orange tofu mixture on warm tortillas and add toppings of your choice. Makes 3-4 servings.

Vegan Caesar Salad

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My appreciation of the Caesar Salad began years ago about the same time I went meatless. Little did I know there were anchovies in some form or another in Caesar dressing. A fact I discovered, much to my surprise, after after a salad I ordered arrived with anchovies on top (gag!). So sadly, when eating out, I no longer was able to order this umami bomb and was once again relegated to the mundane “garden salad” when I wanted some greens before (or as) the main course.

It’s still that way in restaurants, but a few years back, I came across a recipe that’s not only vegetarian, it’s vegan, so now I can often enjoy a hearty Caesar salad at home. It’s just as delicious, if not more so, than the traditional recipe, plus, there’s no raw egg to worry about making you sick! Yes, it contains tofu, but don’t let that put you off–you’d never know it. Seriously!

The dressing has that creamy garlicky bite you expect and satisfies like the traditional recipe with no saturated fat to weigh you down. Homemade croutons, where YOU control the fat content, round out the dish and with the protein provided by the almonds and tofu, it’s a full-meal salad. Enjoy!
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Vegan Caesar Salad

Adapted from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

Dressing:
1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 cup silken tofu
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon caper brine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Croutons:
1 medium sized loaf bread (your choice, Italian, pumpernickel, rye, whole wheat), or your favorite gluten-free variety
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons granulated garlic or garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Salad:
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped, or a combination of red & green leaf lettuce
Handful or two of spinach and/or arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces (optional)

Prepare the dressing: Pulse the sliced almonds in a food processor or blender until crumbly. Empty the ground almonds into an airtight container that you’ll be using to store the finished dressing. Blend the garlic, tofu, and oil in the food processor or blender until creamy. Add the lemon juice, capers, caper brine, sugar, and mustard powder, and process until blended. Adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste. Put into the container with the ground almonds and mix to combine. Cover and allow the dressing to chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes, optimally 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

While the dressing is chilling, prepare the croutons: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the bread into ½ inch slices and cut slices into cubes. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt & pepper. Pour over bread cubes and toss until bread is well-coated. Spread croutons on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until crisp. Toss the croutons twice during the baking process. Remove from the oven and cool the croutons on the baking sheet.

To assemble the salad, place the greens in a large salad bowl. Top with ½ cup of dressing and toss to combine. Add more dressing as necessary, to your preference. Toss until greens are well-coated. Add croutons (you may not need all of them) and toss salad again. If desired, add a little more dressing. You will most likely have left over dressing (that’s a good thing—more Caesar salad tomorrow!).

Serves 4 to 6 as a side, 2 to 3 as a main.

 

 

Vegan “Crab” Cakes with Lemon Dill Aioli

Crab Cakes
The last few years, Pete and I have opted for a quiet home-cooked dinner on New Year’s Eve. This year, after just returning from an especially cold (sub-zero temps, but sadly, no snow) trip to the cabin, staying in by the fire was a welcome way to celebrate.
Icy rocks on Lake Superior

Having received two new cookbooks for Christmas (my favorite gifts!), it was fitting to pull our dinner menu from them. Our entrée was the Eggplant and Three Cheese Calzone out of Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Apparently traditional calzones, which originated in Naples, didn’t have a red sauce inside like most of the restaurant versions we’ve all had. This recipe, however, included a simple, but delicious garlicky tomato sauce to serve on the side. It all came together for one amazingly delicious entrée!

Our delightful appetizer, though, is what I’m sharing today. It’s a combination of a vegan “crab” cake recipe I came across years ago and a non-vegetarian Maryland-style version in my other new cookbook, Party on the Prairie, by Sarah Nasello (available in her and her husband’s restaurant, Sarello’s or online by emailing dine@sarellos.com).

Firm tofu stands in as the crab and finely chopped veggies and herbs combine with bold seasonings to make an appetizer that can be enjoyed by everyone from vegan to carnivore. The accompanying aioli (recipe below) brings the first course to completion with creaminess and bright lemony-dill notes. Enjoy!
Crab cake mixtureCakes cooking

Vegan 'Crab' Cakes with Lemon Dill Aioli

Adapted from a “crab” cake recipe by Sluggo’s Restaurant in Pensacola, FL and Sarello’s Crab Cakes in Party on the Prairie, a cookbook by the lovely and talented Sarah Nasello

1 14-16 oz. block firm tofu

½ half a medium organic green pepper, finely chopped

½ a medium red onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot, grated

2 stalks celery, diced

½ cup fine dry whole wheat bread crumbs

½ cup vegan mayonnaise (i.e., Earth Balance Mindful Mayo)

1/8 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, plus extra for garnish

1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (I like Annie’s Naturals brand)

Juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

1 teaspoon white pepper

Salt, to taste

1 cup Japanese panko bread crumbs

Peanut oil

Lemon Dill Aioli (recipe follows)

Remove tofu from package and wrap in several layers of a clean tea towel (or paper towels) and place on a plate. Place another place on top and weigh it down with something heavy like a large can of tomatoes for about a half hour to release excess moisture. Pat tofu dry and crumble into large mixing bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients except for the panko bread crumbs and the peanut oil. Mix thoroughly (I use a spatula and then my hands for the final mixing). If it seems too wet, add some more bread crumbs, and if it seems to dry to hold together, add a little more mayo.

Dump the panko bread crumbs into a shallow bowl. Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) over medium heat. Add a tablespoon or two of peanut oil, and swirl the pan so that it’s evenly coated. Once oil is hot, form tofu mixture by the ¼ cup into patties, coating each patty in panko and place in skillet (you’ll need to do this in batches), making sure not to crowd the patties. Flatten each slightly with a metal spatula once in the pan. Cook until bottoms are golden, about 3-4 minutes, flip and cook several minutes more. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil. Repeat with remaining tofu mixture, adding more peanut oil to pan, as needed, for each batch. Makes about 12 cakes. Serve with Lemon Dill Aioli and top with chopped fresh dill.

Lemon Dill Aioli

½ cup vegan mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Salt, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Place a dollop on each “crab” cake and garnish with chopped dill.

Tips: Use any leftover “crab” cakes for a nice breakfast/brunch benedict. You can freeze the cakes before cooking or after for up to a couple months. If freezing before cooking, thaw completely before cooking per recipe instructions. If freezing after cooking, thaw completely and bake on a baking sheet or stone at 400 degrees F. for about 15 minutes, until hot.

Chive Pesto with Roasted New Potatoes & Tofu over Quinoa

Plated with flower pieces
After a relaxing weekend getaway to the cabin and North Shore, where we took in outstanding music (Pushing Chain and Alison Scott) and explored Grand Marais’ Fisherman’s Picnic festival; getting a really great massage after returning home; and a spate of ideal summer weather, I’m in a particularly good mood. Life is more than good, it’s grand!

The wild flowers along Lake Superior’s North Shore are in full, vibrant bloom and stunning! I took lots of photos near the cabin—wild roses, lupine, daisies, chive flowers, and several other varieties that were oh so pretty, but I have no idea what they were.
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Pine Cones
Especially excited about the chive flowers, we cut a ton of chives to bring home and included the flowers to use as a garnish. Their vivid lavender hue adds a splash of color to any dish, plus, they’re edible, imparting a pleasant mild onion flavor. Use as a garnish, in a compound butter, an omelet filling, or in gnocchi, this is a versatile flower.
Chive flowers

There was no way I’d use the amount of chives we brought home simply by adding them to scrambled eggs, or chopping them over a salad, and the idea of using them in a pesto came to me as I woke up from a nap (I’m not the only one who has recipe ideas come to them in their sleep, am I?). Pesto would be nice way to use a good portion of that “ton” of chives and freezes well. Not really feeling like pasta to go with that pesto, I decided to use some pretty little red potatoes from the farmers market and opted to roast them with a little extra-firm tofu, serve it all over a bed of organic quinoa, and, of course, garnish with chive flowers.
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The pesto recipe is adapted from James Beard Award-winner Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table. In the past, any pesto I’ve made has been in the food processor, but this recipe was unique because of the chopping involved. As mentioned in previous posts, I find chopping, dicing, mincing—really all kitchen knife work—very therapeutic and relaxing, so this intrigued me and sounded delicious (although, if you don’t have the time or inclination for the chopping, this would be equally delicious all whirred up in a food processor)! Enjoy!
Plated with flowers

Chive Pesto with Roasted New Potatoes & Tofu over Quinoa

Pesto adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table

Pesto:
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 large garlic cloves

1 tightly-packed cup of coarsely chopped chives

3 tightly-packed tablespoons fresh basil

1/4 medium white onion

1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Roasted potatoes and tofu:
1 ½ pounds small red new potatoes, washed and halved

6 oz. extra firm tofu, cubed

1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

Salt & pepper to taste

Quinoa:
1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 ¾ cup water

Salt

Chive flowers, if available, for garnish (optional)

Pile the kosher salt on a chopping board. Crush garlic into it with the side of a large knife. Chop fine. Chop in the chives, basil, and the onion until very finely minced. Then coarsely chop in the almonds. Blend with 2 tablespoons oil right on the board, seasoning to taste with salt & pepper.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place halved new potatoes in a medium bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt & pepper. Place potatoes, cut side down, on a rimmed baking pan and roast for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss tofu cubes with ½ tablespoon olive oil and salt & pepper. After the potatoes have roasted for 10 minutes, rotate the pan and add the tofu to one section of the pan, in an even layer. Roast potatoes and tofu for another 15 minutes or so, until potatoes are pierced easily with a knife. Remove to a serving bowl and toss with the chive pesto (you may not use all of it—gauge it depending on your preference).

While the potatoes and tofu roast, rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a mesh sieve. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa with 1 ¾ cups water and a generous pinch of salt. Cover and heat to boiling, then reduce heat to low and cook about 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff quinoa with a fork.

To serve, place a couple scoops of quinoa on each plate and top with potato-tofu-pesto mixture. Garnish with chive flowers, if you have them. Serves 4-6.

 

 

Cold Spicy Soba Noodle Bowl and Diner en Blanc

Diner

Saturday night we had the great fortune to be part of an incredible event. It was an exciting, elegant, sophisticated, yet down-to-earth, welcoming, bring-your-own-everything, leave-no-trace affair. Diner en Blanc Twin Cities 2013.

Diner en Blanc (Dinner in White), basically a flash mob dinner party, originated in Paris 25 years ago, when a group of people decided to meet up for a picnic and the leader of the group suggested they dress in all white so they would be able to find each other easily. A mystery couple coordinated the Twin Cities’ first Diner en Blanc in 2011, with the secret location only announced an hour prior, and each year it has grown in size, with an estimated 365 white clad revelers in attendance this year. In addition to wearing white, table linens and accessories are generally white too, including candelabras and flowers, if you so choose. You bring everything—food & beverage, tables, chairs, table accessories, and when you leave, you haul it all with you, including garbage, hence the leave-no-trace description.

From a distance (400x249)

My brother and sister-in-law have attended the last two years and seeing their beautiful photos made me want to be a part of this unique celebration. Originally scheduled in June, it was postponed due to weather and my excitement only escalated during the last month. Pete was a little reluctant about the wearing white thing, but was totally on board otherwise. One benefit of the rescheduled date was time to invite more people—this is definitely a the-more-the-merrier type of gathering.

Our group of 10 assembled at my brother’s centrally located house to await the location announcement by the mystery hosts via Facebook. Promptly at 6:30, it was posted: The Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center, right by the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry. I’ve lived in Minnesota for 17 years and in the Twin Cities for 5, but have never been there. I’ve come close though—each time I’ve run the Twin Cities Marathon the course goes by the sculpture garden, but either it’s not visible or I was just too focused on the race to notice.

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Scott candles

Attendees descended upon the sculpture garden en masse, arranging their elegant dining sets in a seemingly endless row, and eventually, more rows. There was much mingling and checking out others’ creativity that ranged from basic white table linens to small and large candelabras, gorgeous white flower arrangements, white-bowed chair covers, and one group even had a tall canopy frame above their table with huge Japanese lanterns; white, of course! It was fun seeing such elegance.

Lanterns

And the food! Everyone had beautiful food! From simple to super fancy multi-course gourmet, it was a feast for the eyes! My brother, the coffee connoisseur, even had a cool hand-held pump thing that magically turned a thermos of hot water into little cups of robust espresso.

Espresso

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and as dusk fell, we were treated to an almost full moon that made a stunning backdrop for sparklers, which are a tradition at Diner en Blanc. There is something absolutely magical about the sight of hundreds of people in white waving sparklers in the twilight amid the boisterous sounds of a giant outdoor party! We can’t wait to do it again next year!

Sparklers

CandlesOur menu fell in the middle in terms of elaborateness. Along with Prosecco and Rosé of Côtes du Rhône, we had an appetizer of the Vegetable Pot Stickers I blogged about a while back, and a simple salad of cucumber chunks tossed with a little rice vinegar, mirin, fresh dill and salt & pepper.

Food

Dessert was the Three Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake I posted last week and it truly was the best cake I’ve had in years! Our entreé was a spicy cold soba noodle dish filled with fresh vegetables, marinated, baked tofu, and crunchy cashews dressed with a zesty tahini sauce. If you don’t want to take the time to marinate and bake the tofu, buy already baked tofu with Asian seasoning and that will work just fine. Feel free to vary the vegetables to your liking and to what you have on hand. Also if you can’t find soba (buckwheat) noodles, whole wheat spaghetti or linguine makes a great substitute. Enjoy!

Salad

Spicy Cold Sesame Soba Noodle Bowl

12 oz. soba noodles or whole wheat spaghetti or linguine
2 tablespoons sesame oil

Sauce:
¾ cup tamari or soy sauce
3-4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 ½ tablespoon rice or white wine vinegar
3 teaspoons minced ginger root
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave, sucanat, organic sugar—your preference)
1-2 teaspoons of Asian chili paste (depending on your preferred spice level)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch green onions, sliced
A big handful of snow pea pods, sliced
2 carrots, shredded or diced
½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced green cabbage
4 red radishes, diced

½ – ¾ lbs. baked tofu (recipe follows)

½ cup chopped, roasted cashews
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

Cook noodles al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Toss with 2 tablespoons sesame oil. Chill several hours or up to a day.

Just before serving, whisk together sauce ingredients (you can make this ahead and refrigerate, but bring to room temperature and whisk it again before using). Stir green onions, snow peas, carrots, bell pepper, cabbage, radishes, tofu, cashews and sesame seeds into noodles, reserving a little bit of each. Pour sauce over noodles and toss really well. Sprinkle reserved ingredients on top. Makes 6 servings.

Asian Baked Tofu
Adapted from PBS

16 oz. extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon sriracha hot chili sauce
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of onion powder
pinch of sea salt

To remove moisture from the tofu, line a plate with a couple layers of paper towel and place tofu block on top. Lay a couple more layers of paper towel on top of tofu and place another plate over it. Weigh it down with a heavy can or cast iron pan and let sit for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment. Cut tofu into 1” slabs.

In bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients.

Marinating

Place tofu slabs in a ziplock bag or a large shallow dish. Pour marinade ingredients over tofu and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Remove tofu from marinade (reserve marinade) and lay flat on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping each piece of tofu midway through and brush with reserved marinade. Cool tofu on wire rack. Once cool, slice tofu into bit sized pieces.

Baked tofu