Caramelized Cabbage with Tofu Scramble (Vegan)

I dedicate this post to my vegan friend, Colleen. And also Maggie, my friend Julie’s awesome sister who introduced me to tofu scramble!

Some nights I come home from work tired and hungry, completely uninspired and without an ounce of creative energy to put towards making anything, let alone a new and nutritious meal I’d never attempted before. Other days I have an idea of what I want to do, ingredients I want to use in a new way, and I’ll go to great ends to hunt down everything I need so I can make it this very minute. I bring out all the guns.

This week was particularly exhausting, and even though we had some things planned I barely had the energy to pick up a knife or rinse off some veggies. But we had two heads of half-used cabbage in the fridge left over from the Ribollita (still!) and it wasn’t going to last forever. We hate wasting food. So with some encouragement and inspiration from Hec, we put the cabbage to work.

I’d never cooked with cabbage much. Besides the Japanese Pizza, and the Ribollita, I never really use it. As a child it made an appearance every New Year, alongside a pork roast and applesauce (for good luck, of course). Other than that, I had no memories of how my mom used it…so I was at a loss. But I found a few recipes using a “caramelized” style cabbage. And I love caramelized onions, so I decided to see what would happen with the cabbage.

We had some fresh tofu sitting in the fridge…also close to the expiration date. The other protein options were frozen or still dried and requiring a soak and a few hours in the crock pot. When preparing tofu we usually go the pan-frying rout, and even sometimes the baked. One requires the forethought of marinating, and the other over an hour in the oven.

Then I remembered the scramble. The first time I had tofu this way was at a vegan restaurant in D.C. I want to say it was Soul Vegetarian (there is one in Chicago too!). I actually thought they were real eggs. I was young and naive, don’t laugh please. The texture was very much like an egg, I remembered. In my opinion, for some dishes, its the prefect technique. It’s hard to get wrong. It will never be too moist. And because the pieces are so small, the flavor is absorbed into every bite, whereas in pan frying, if you pieces are too thick, it takes a little more time and patience. Not to mention the oil. Also with the scramble, there is no need to marinate.

I used garam masala as the seasoning, inspired by Heidi. I thought the sweet spices would be a nice complement to the caramelized cabbage.

This meal was a delightfully surprising success. Not because the mix of ingredients combines surprisingly well…that makes perfect sense. It was surprising because I was at such an energetic low. But with some support and encouragement around the kitchen (like washing the dishes, chopping some veggies, a big hug) what could have been a box of pizza from Domino’s ended up a very nutritious and delicious meal. Plus, its incredible how a success in the kitchen can really brighten up someones day.

Garam Masala Scrambled Tofu
1 lb firm tofu, crumbled
2 t olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 T garam masala
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted
salt to taste

Directions:
Heat the oil in the pan to medium. Add the onions and salt to the pan an allow to soften completely through, caramelizing just a little to create some juices. Once they are soft, 10 minutes or so add the garam masala and stir. Let the flavors absorb for a minute or so. Turn up the heat a little and add the tofu. Stir frequently, allowing all the flavors to mix, and the tofu to lose some of its moisture. Salt to taste. If you need more garam masala, or even some chili flakes, go for it. Top with pepitas.

Caramelized Cabbage
1 T olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
2 cups mushrooms, washed and sliced (optional)
1/2 t salt
2 T brown sugar
1 t fennel seeds, toasted

Directions:
Heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the cabbage, salt, and sugar, combine well. After a minute, lower the heat to medium. Stir occasionally and cook for about 20-30 more minutes. A dark syrup should form as the water leaves the cabbage and the juices thicken. Sprinkle the toasted fennel seeds on top.

Serve the tofu along side or mixed in with the cabbage. It’s a wonderful combo.

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Good Things Happen When You Buy Too Many Beets: Beet Slaw Three Ways

There different versions with the same base: grated raw beets and carrots. The raw beets maintain more of there superpower nutrients than boiled or even roasted beets. And they are fresh and delicious. Besides how they stain my hands, I love how they make everything they touch fuchsia. People, give beets a try!

Beet Salads - Mint

1. Beets, carrrots, apples, grated. Red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, freshly torn mint leaves- quite a bit of it.

Beet Salads - Cilantro Dressing

2. Beets and carrots grated. Cilantro-lime yogurt dressing (1/2 cup plain yogurt, juice of 1/2 a lime, 1/4 cup cilantro pureed). Salt and pepper to taste.

Beet Salads - Pepitoria and Queso Seco

3. Beets and Carrots grated. One tablespoon pepitoria (ground, toasted pumpkin seeds. Try sesamee seeds or sunflower seeds as an alternative, toasted and crushed a bit in a coffee grinder). One tablespoon queso seco (use finely grated parmesan or roman as an alternative). Juice of one lime. Toss to combine.

Grapefruit Salad with Emmenthal-Apple Croutons

Grapefruit Salad - Salad and Toast

This is a light refreshing salad, accompanied by a savory-sweet, even tangy cheese toast. The red onion gives its usual bite, which complemented quite nicely the refreshing bittersweetness of the juicy grapefruit. And I always enjoy the savory crunch of the pepita tossed on top. The toast adds to this light salad a bit more substance, so that as a lunch it could last you through the afternoon. I used Emmenthal cheese, initially because it was what we had leftover from the fondue, but I’ll tell you that it was a true complement to the grapefruit. Remembering how the apple was the favorite of all the dunkers in our fondue mixture, I decided to place a sliver of a slice of an apple on the whole wheat bread before layering on the slices of cheese and baking it until it bubbled over to a crisp. Cut into little triangles made a lovely appearance, and the toast gave was just enough robustness to make this salad a meal.

Grapefruit Salad - Solo SaladGrapefruit Salad - Toast in Oven

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Greek Salad, Guatemalan Style

Greek Salad

I eat lots of salads these days, and they are continually changing and evolving depending on the ingredients we happen to have, how productive my herbs have been, and where my cravings may be leading me. In general, my “Salad” entries will probably be quite short (although this one is not), because there are plenty of them. And in all honestly they’re not that complicated, and perhaps not anything too out of the ordinary. But I love salads, and I am quite particular about the way I have my salads (I rarely order a salad as-is on the menu, and always ask for the dressing on the side because I abhor soaked salads). Besides, this is a blog about everything I love foodwise, so I’m gonna write about them anyway. Also, its often an exploration into ingredients that are new to me that I discovered in Guatemala. Perhaps you are already very familiar with them, or perhaps they will be ingredients that are difficult to find outside of Guatemala or Central America, and maybe sometimes they will be ingredients I am longing for (like sweet wide-leaf basil).

This is a Greek-style salad. I say this mainly because it has olives (yes, we found a shop with high-quality Kalamata olives with pits in the brine – I also abhor canned olives), tomato, and a white crumbly cheese — all things that remind me of a good Greek salad. Also, I don’t care for cucumber unless peeled and seeded, so that will always be left out of my Greek Salad. This salad is different, however, because the cheese is not feta. Feta you can find here in Guate, and its not all that expensive (1/2 lb for 3USD, does that sound reasonable? I really don’t remember). Nonetheless, queso seco, a crumbly salty dry (seco means dry) is much more common, less expensive, and very Guatemalan. Despite my love of international cuisine and goods, I really enjoy keeping with Guatemalan goods and produce wherever possible. After all, when I eventually move away, it will be difficult to find some of these things. So I used queso seco.

Additionally, I added to my salad some toasted pepita, or pumpkin seeds. I was not very familiar with pepita before coming to Guatemala, although have seen them used in a few bloggers’ recipes. Here in Guate they use it on everything. They put toasted and ground pepita on unripe mangos with lime and salt, on oranges, and they even make a fresco, or juice, from it. I use pepita in a lot of my recipes, both whole and ground, especially lately. They are very inexpensive, when toasted they offer a wonderfully crisp pop to in your mouth, when ground they add a nutty flavor and crumbly texture. I especially love the sound they make when toasting — in just a few seconds in a hot pan or in the oven they pop very much like popcorn. I like to prepare everything in my salad and then toast them, and throw them on top still warm and making popping noises. I know people say to let everything cool before putting them onto greens, however I love the effect the hot seeds have on the rest of the textures and flavors.

Greek Salad Guatemalan Style (for one):

Ingredients:
3 Leaves Red Escarole, or two handfuls of any other green you prefer
1 roma tomato, diced (seeded if you prefer, but I like the juice)
5 olives, pitted and sliced
Red onion, slivered (use as much as you like)
2 Tablespoons queso seco (alternatively, finely grated romano)
2 Tablespoons toasted pepitas (perhpas sunflower seeds as an alternative)
A dash of red wine vinegar or juice of 1/2 a lime (both are lovely)
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (the cheese is salty, so you may not need any)Directions:
Start with the greens finely torn. Add the diced tomato and sliced olives, and cheese. Salt and pepper a pinch and few turns. Vinegar and Olive oil last, tossing with your fork.

Zucchini Tatziki with Pepita

IMG_2090We had a lot of zucchini laying around from nearly two weeks ago. It was one of those too-cheap to pass up kinda deals I guess. But so long ago I don’t remember. Otherwise, I don’t know what made me think we could consume that much. Perhaps it was this recipe waiting to be made. Anyway, last night was zucchini night, featuring this flavor-packed dip along with a zucchini fritata, both inspired by Almost Turkish recipes. After reading about the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine, along with finding fresh, in-the-brine olives (probably one of my favorite foods of the world next to cheese), we have been increasingly modeling our meals after the Greeks, Turks, and Italians… as well as feeling a little less guilty about sopping up our whole wheat baguettes with generous glugs of herb-infused olive oil and roasted garlic heads.

IMG_2049

This recipe fits in right there. I used thick and rich homemade fat-free yogurt, sautéed zucchini from the market, some minced and crushed garlic, plenty of dill, roasted pumpkin seeds, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. All natural, remarkable healthy, and truly addictive. I served this up with some homemade crisps from leftover pizza dough I had frozen from a few weeks ago, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and paprika

Zucchini Tatziki:

adapted from Almost Turkish Recipes

Ingredients:
1/2 cup thick greek-style plain yogurt (if you can’t find greek yogurt, I highly recommend draining what you buy at the store)
2 medium zucchini, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh chopped dil
1/4 cup pepitas, toast (or walnuts or pine nuts if you cannot find pepita)

Directions:
Grate the zucchini, salt generously, and sit in collendar for about 30 minutes to let drain. Squeeze out any remaining liquids from the zucchini using a clean dishtowel. Heat olive oil in a pan and sautee the zucchini until tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Peel and chop garlic. With a mortar, grind the 1/2 tsp salt with the garlic until it makes a paste. Mix garlic paste with yogurt and dill. When the zucchini has cooled, add it to yogurt mixture.

Toast pepitas in pan or oven on high heat. They will pop as they become toasted. This should IMG_2072only take 2 or 3 minutes. Let pepitas cool, and add to mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold on toasted pita bread or crackers.