Coconut Tofu Redux, Comfort Food & Knitting

Friday night was the night. Coconut Tofu II: Son of Coconut Tofu was playing in my kitchen. First of all, I think my failed attempt from Thursday merits a couple shots. Here's the tofu cut up and ready to go into the WAY too salty marinade for the first go-round:

I roasted purple potatoes along with the tofu, and they are beautiful. Check it out:

Alright. In an attempt to redeem myself, I decided to give up the idea of baking the tofu. Tofu needs a long time to cook in the oven, and coconut takes a very short time to burn in the oven. You can see the problem.

Per the indications on "What the hell does a vegan eat anyway?" I went with the three-dish process involving dredging, slurrying, and coconutting.

A word on the coconut... It's hard to find unsweetened flake coconut! I had to go to Whole Foods, and the stuff I got was raw, and a little... woody (as my roommate described it). The fibers were really long and it didn't want to stick to anything, and if I had to do it over again, I would either run it through the food processor before using or look for the powdery stuff that I got at the Sac Co-Op a couple years ago. Complications aside, I learned from my aunt Patty long ago that anything breaded and deep-fried (or floured and fried in a half-inch of oil, as it were) is good. As such, dinner was pretty delicious. Instead of the green curry in the recipe, I had red for the slurry/dipping sauce and it was fantastic.

While I was taking care of the vegan side of dinner, my roommate made a beautiful pot of osuimono, complete with mochi, shiitake mushrooms, and some sort of greens that she pulled out of our garden and assured me were edible. So amazing.

Monday night I wanted to make something comforting and casserole-ish. This recipe is endlessly variable and customizeable. The sauce is what sets it apart, and as such I'll give a recipe for that, but the bulk of the casserole can be anything you want. Quinoa, broccoli & white beans? Sure. Bulgur & sun dried tomatoes? Why not. Brown rice, kale & lentils? Get it on!!

Anyway. The sauce. If you've never tried nutritional yeast, I would highly recommend it. It's good to sprinkle over steamed veggies or pasta, and it makes fantastic sauces in dishes where cheese or cream sauce would be the order of the day. It has a sort of nutty, sharp flavor that I've found is best highlighted by some kind of acid, be it lemon juice or rice vinegar or balsamic.

Again, making a recipe is difficult for me, because I'm an incessant culinary fiddler. Start small, taste, add. Lather, rinse, repeat. You get the idea. Give this a try if you're interested, and remember to taste frequently. When it's pleasing to your palette, it's ready!

Mine went as follows:

2 Tbsp Earth Balance
1 Tbsp white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 Tbsp nutrtitional yeast
approx. 1 1/2 cups plain (or unsweetened) soy milk
approx. 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp nutmeg (or to taste)
salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat and sprinkle in the nutritional yeast and flour. Stir to get everything mixed together and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or so. This is kind of like a roux, except with less fat. The mixture will likely be a little thick or pasty (as opposed to smooth and cake-battery like a regular roux), but that's ok.

Stream in the soy milk while whisking the mixture. Whisk until smooth and add the vinegar. 2-3 tsp seemed about right, and the balsamic makes it quite sweet. Taste and add more if you like. Add the salt and pepper and the nutmeg. Whisk for about 5-8 minutes longer, the mixture will thicken considerably as a result of the vinegar. It'll look about like this:

This sauce is rich-tasting, velvety, and open to lots of seasonings. It makes this casserole seem especially decadent, even though it's chock full of good-for-you things. Mine was made from about three cups of (mostly) cooked short grain brown rice, three onions, about eight cloves of garlic, the pine nuts and sliced almonds left over in my pantry, a container of extra firm tofu crumbled very fine, a can of red kidney beans rinsed & drained and a package of frozen peas (added with about 5 minutes left to bake).

Another suggestion I have for making these types of things is to season every layer of the dish. The water the rice cooks in is salted. I add salt, pepper and smoked paprika while cooking the oninos/garlic. I taste it all again when I add the tofu and add more seasonings if necessary. Ditto the beans. Anyway, this is the onion, garlic, nuts, tofu & rice:

And here it is with the kidney beans added, ready to stick in the oven:

Delicious. Stick it in the oven at 350 for about 40 minutes. If you're putting in anything like spinach or frozen peas, add those when the dish has about ten minutes left.

While the casserole was baking, I made some wilted red chard with lemon-garlic-Earth Balance sauce. Isn't red chard beautiful?

And the sauce was amazing... I got the garlic nice and toasty in the Earth Balance before adding some lemon juice and just tossing the wilted chard in it. Simple and VERY flavorful.

Dinner is served!

...Along with some requisite shots of my most recently finished knitting project: a handbag for my roommate that I made for her as a belated Christmas/Birthday gift. Last you all saw it, it was sitting on top of the dryer with plastic bags, air-drying after being felted.

Here it is as I started stitching on the i-cord trim:

And here it is finished:

(The lining was my first attempt at anything of that nature and as such is a little... punk rock.)

The outside:

Thanks for reading!!

1 comment:

Beauty and the Bargain said...

It says a lot that, as much as I hate cooking and enter the kitchen as little as possible, I LOVE your blog. It's some serious food porn.