Wheatless Wednesday – Tofu ‘Steaks’ with Chimichurri Sauce

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Is there a place where meat lovers and vegans can co-exist in happiness?  I think I’ve found the holy grail!  Here is a  ‘steak’ a meat lover will find tasty and satisfying while a vegetarian will be in raptures…  Each tofu steak is a hefty seven ounces and my meat loving husband devoured his (I’m talking a full member of the clean plate club) and went back for seconds.  Furthermore, when my 20 year old son walked into the kitchen, he said “It smells so good in here!”  Winning!  The tofu is first brushed with a spicy and savory marinade and then pan seared and topped with a fresh and zesty chimichurri sauce, a South and Latin American condiment that is loaded with chili peppers, fresh herbs and garlic.  I also sauteed broccolini and topped that with a bit of chimichurri for added punch.  Trust me, chimichurri is good on almost anything and it can be made spicy or mild depending on your taste.  No wonder it’s so popular.  Originating in Argentina, it is commonly used to top grilled steak, which is one reason it’s so good on this dish.  Long grained brown basmati rice served as a nice base but these tofu steaks would also be great in a sandwich with crusty bread, some fresh greens and, of course, chimichurri.  I  will definitely be making this again!

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Even though the tofu should be allowed to drain for about 10 minutes, this recipe still takes less than 30 minutes.  Just slice the tofu and let it drain.  While it’s draining, prepare the chimichurri sauce and the marinade.  Brush the tofu with the marinade and let sit while you prepare the rice or other veggies you’re serving.  The tofu only takes about 6 minutes to cook.  Easy, fast, delicious!

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TIPS:  I made dinner for two using one block of extra firm tofu but I knew I had a hearty appetite to consider (my husband), however, you can cut the block into fourths OR buy two blocks.  I loved the thickness (about one inch) of the steaks and my husband loved the size (7 oz each).  Tofu is normally cut into thinner slices or cubes so this is a nice difference. The outside was so flavorful and the inside had a wonderful consistency that you don’t get with thinner pieces.  If you cut one block into fourths, stand the tofu on an end and slice lengthwise through the narrow side into 1 inch thick halves.  Then cut each half in half crosswise, resulting in four smaller one inch thick 3.5 oz. rectangles. (That is the size of my serving).

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TOFU ‘STEAKS’ WITH CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

15 – 16 oz extra firm tofu
1/4 cup avocado oil (or other high heat oil)
1 bunch broccolini(optional)
1 cup brown rice (optional)

Tofu Marinade:
2 Tbsn olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Chimichurri Sauce:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (or red wine vinegar)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 fresh red chili pepper, seeded and minced (or 1 tsp dried hot pepper flakes-or both)

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  •  Drain tofu and stand it on it’s end and cut in half vertically on the narrow side so you end up with two wide one inch slices.  Place tofu on double thick paper towels and top with another paper towel and place something heavy (like a cast iron pan) on top to help press out the water.  Let sit at least 10 minutes. Tofu can be cut into 7 oz or 3/5 oz ‘steaks’.  See TIPS.

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  • Mix all Chimichurri ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

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  • Combine tofu marinade ingredients and brush them onto tofu covering top, bottom and all sides.  Marinade should be fairly thick and pasty. Set aside.

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  • If you are serving with rice, get it started.  If you are preparing a vegetable, like baby broccolini, heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet and saute broccolini with some chopped garlic, 8 to 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and tent with foil or cover and use a new pan for the tofu.

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  • Add more oil to the pan if necessary, or use a grill pan or grill, and heat on medium high until almost smoking.  Add tofu and cook 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Turn and cook the other side another 3-4 minutes.

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  • Serve with a big spoonful of chimichurri sauce.

Tofu Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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15 – 16 oz extra firm tofu
1/4 cup avocado oil (or other high heat oil)
1 bunch broccolini(optional)
1 cup brown rice (optional)

Tofu Marinade:
2 Tbsn olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Chimichurri Sauce:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (or red wine vinegar)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 fresh red chili pepper, seeded and minced (or 1 tsp dried hot pepper flakes-or both)

  •  Drain tofu and stand it on it’s end and cut in half vertically on the narrow side so you end up with two wide one inch slices.  Place tofu on double thick paper towels and top with another paper towel and place something heavy (like a cast iron pan) on top to help press out the water.  Let sit at least 10 minutes.  Tofu can be cut into 7 oz or 3/5 oz ‘steaks’.  See TIPS.
  • Mix all Chimichurri ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Combine tofu marinade ingredients and brush them onto tofu covering top, bottom and all sides.  Set aside
  • If you are serving with rice, get it started.  If you are preparing a vegetable, like baby broccolini, heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet and saute broccolini with some chopped garlic, 8 to 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and tent with foil or cover and use a new pan for the tofu.
  • Add more oil to the pan if necessary, or use a grill pan or grill, and heat on medium high until almost smoking.  Add tofu and cook 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
  • Turn and cook the other side another 3-4 minutes.
  • Serve with a big spoonful of chimichurri sauce.

 

 

Meatless Monday – Savory Lentil and Brown Rice Pilaf

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Savory Lentils and Brown Rice Pilaf was born out of pure laziness, coupled with my love for lentils and savory/spicy food.  It was raining and I didn’t want to battle the Christmas shoppers for parking or stand in line to purchase ingredients which I would then have to lug home and turn into dinner. If you find the ‘dinner question’ to be an ordeal every day, how about an easy alternative?  Look no further than your pantry for commonly stocked items like, rice and lentils.  throw in a few dried spices and dinner is on the table.  Easy peasy!  Your pantry not very well stocked?  Well there is a simple solution to that; Stock it!  Your world becomes a lot easier if you can make dinner without having to do that last minute grocery store run, especially in the winter when gardens are not as prolific and fresh produce is harder to find.

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If you’re not sure what to stock in your pantry, consider the non perishable foods that you eat regularly; pasta, beans, olive oil, vinegar, tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, rice and other grains, broth or boullion. I like to throw in some specialty items like canned hearts of palm or artichoke hearts which help transcend an otherwise boring salad into something special.  If you bake at all, include flour, sugar, salt, your favorite spices, and cooking oil. You will also want to keep ingredients that you use frequently on hand that are perishable but can last days or weeks on your counter like fresh onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and other root vegetables. Don’t forget to use your freezer as an extension of your pantry (and not just for ice cream).  Mine is stocked with nuts and frozen vegetables.  Your pantry should reflect the kinds of foods you like to eat. If you like Italian food, you should have a supply of pasta, tomatoes and Italian herbs like basil and oregano.  If you like Mediterranean food, stock your pantry with grains and legumes plus spices like cumin, ginger and allspice.  If are a list person or just beginning to stock a kitchen pantry, check out this List of Basic Pantry Ingredients from Basic Cooking to get yourself started.

Otherwise start shopping in your own pantry!  Perhaps you want to start with this yummy but healthy ‘one pot’ recipe…

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TIPS:  Lentils are a wonderful addition to any meal.  You can add to salads, soups or stews.  Red and yellow lentils are softer and best for soups and stews.  If you want the lentil to hold it’s shape, use the firmer green or black lentils.  The regular brown lentils will work too but will cook faster (get soft and split), so I would add those in after 10 minutes or so.  I have listed the spices as 1 or 2 teaspoons, depending on how much spice you like.  The kind of broth you use will also determine how much additional salt and spice you need.  I would recommend adding 1 teaspoon of the spices when you add the broth, stir to combine and taste.  Then add salt and more spice to your taste.

SAVORY LENTIL AND BROWN RICE  PILAF

1 Tbsn sesame oil (or olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup long grained brown rice
1 cup lentils (preferably green or black firm lentils)
1-2 tsp allspice
1-2 tsp curry powder
1-2 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp ginger powder
1/2-1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
6 cups vegetable broth
salt to taste
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled (optional)
1/2 cup raisins, purple or golden (optional)

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  • Saute onion and garlic in  a heavy, wide pan until slightly soft.  Add rice and stir until aromatic. Add lentils and stir to coat.

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  • Add water and the smaller amount of spices. Taste the broth, then add salt and additional spices as needed. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

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  • Remove from heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

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  • Stir in peas, and fluff with a fork. Top with raisins and pistachios if desired.

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Savory Lentil and Brown Rice Pilaf

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 Tbsn sesame oil (or olive oil)
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup long grained brown rice
1 cup lentils (preferably green or black firm lentils)
1-2 tsp allspice
1-2 tsp curry powder
1-2 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp ginger powder
1/2-1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
6 cups vegetable broth
salt to taste
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled (optional)
1/2 cup raisins, purple or golden (optional)

  • Saute onion and garlic in  a heavy, wide pan until slightly soft.  Add rice and stir until aromatic.
  • Add lentils and stir to coat.
  • Add water and spices. Taste the broth, then add salt and additional spices as needed. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Stir in peas, and fluff with a fork. Top with raisins and pistachios if desired.

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Ginger Shrimp & Sugar Snap Peas

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“What’s for dinner?”  That is the number one question asked when my boys are home.  The second most asked question?  “Have you seen my shoes/my phone/ my keys?”  It can be hard coming up with interesting and delicious meals, day after day.  I can remember my Mom saying “The cooking part is not hard, it’s coming up with the ideas and having all the ingredients that is so exhausting”.    “I hear you, Mom!”  I battle menu fatigue by keeping a pantry stocked with beans, grains and legumes and I try to have a lot of fresh produce around so I have more options without having to order takeout run out to the store with a long grocery list.  I also try to keep my freezer stocked with flash frozen raw shrimp and scallops that thaw quickly.

I often get dinner inspiration from wonderful produce I find at the farmer’s market, or if I’m lucky, right from my own garden.  Yesterday, my late fall gardening efforts were rewarded with  an abundance of juicy, fat sugar snap peas hanging off their vines.  I harvested a giant bowl of them and started to think about the best way to showcase these emerald gems.  Their color is fabulous so I decided to pair them with colorful bell peppers, mushrooms and shrimp for a very spring-like meal.  The beauty of this dish is that it is very simple, only a few really good ingredients, but delicious and pleasing to the eye.

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I never learned to properly stir-fry. I understand the concept of starting with the vegetables that need to cook the longest and ending with those that are fastest cooking.  I just never really mastered the technique of pushing the cooked food up on the sides of the wok.  I’m sure it was operator error but everything always ended up down in the bottom in a big jumble.  I prefer to cook everything separately so I can more easily control the level of cooking, plus each vegetable maintains it’s distinct flavor and character.  I cooked the snow peas and peppers first, then the mushrooms and lastly the shrimp.  Then I threw all the vegetables back in the pot with the shrimp and tossed them together.   I served it over brown rice, but any grain, or even pasta, is a great setting for this dish.  A very simple way to add more flavor to rice, without resorting to heavy sauces,  is to cook it with vegetable broth instead of water and toss in a one inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled but not chopped.  Just remove the ginger before serving.

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Ginger Shrimp and Sugar Snap Peas

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 lb raw extra large shrimp

2 cups fresh sugar snap peas
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
8 crimini or baby bella mushrooms
2 Tbsn grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsn coconut or olive oil
dash Creole Seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

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  • Using a sharp knife, shell and devein shrimp. VIDEO on how to shell and devein shrimp  Wash shrimp and dry with papertowels.
  •  Cut off the stem of the sugar snap peas and remove the string
  • Slice the bell peppers into strips, discarding seeds and pith.
  • Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp papertowel.  Cut off dry end of stem and slice.

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  • Heat 1 tbsn of oil in a heavy pan (I love cast iron) on medium heat.  Saute sugar snap peas and peppers (together or separately)for 4 or 5 minutes  with half the garlic and ginger.  Transfer to a large plate or bowl and leave uncovered (so they don’t continue to cook).

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  • Add a bit more oil if necessary and sauté the mushrooms with the rest of the ginger and garlic, 2 or 3 minutes or until slightly browned on the edges. Transfer to plate with vegetables.

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  • Add a bit more oil if necessary and sauté the shrimp about a minute per side, or until pink and firm.  Sprinkle with creole seasoning or just salt and pepper.
  • Add vegetables back into the pan along with any juice made by the veggies and stir until hot. Add salt and papper to taste.
  • Serve over long grain brown rice, or any grain or pasta

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