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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Marinated Stir Fried Tofu

IMG_1844This marinade convinced us both that tofu can be yummy. It is a simple combination of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and Franks Original Louisiana Hot Sauce. We love chicken wings, so whenever we make a trip to the states we bring back a large bottle of Franks. And Franks is the original. From Buffalo New York. My dad will tell you. As a proud student of Sociology at SUNY-Buffalo, he frequented the Anchor Bar where Frank and Terresa created the now world famous wings — and before they were world famous. I am proud of that anecdote.

Its such simple recipe and goes well with all sorts of stir-fried veggies, rice, noodles, ect. Make it however you like. We used shitake mushrooms, broccoli, and onion, cuz thats what we had lying around. And we topped it with toasted pepitas (picture below) for a little Guatemalan toque.

IMG_1826

IMG_1842Frank’s Asian Marinade:
1/4 cup lite soy sauce
1/4 cup Franks (or hot sauce of choice)
6 garlic cloves minced
1-2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
12 oz extra firm tofu, cut as desiered

Marinade anywhere between 30 minutes to a few hours. I marinated it for an entire day, and it was so strong I didn’t put any of the sauce with the stir-fried veggies and noodles. 30 minutes is sufficient for absorbing the flavors. It is much more rapid than chicken or steak. Its good with fish too, I should mention. Remove from juices and pan fry until golden brown. In the same pan fry the onion, mushrooms til tender and golden. Add blanched broccoli, and the noodles last. Use marinade for added flavor if desired. I like a few drops of sesame oil at the end as well.