Meatless Monday – Sesame Crusted Tofu

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I’m sorry for going MIA this summer.  A combination of travel without my computer,(Iceland is another coming post)  made blogging (and cooking) difficult and the recent illness and death of my beloved father left me with a void that I am struggling to fill.  He was a kind man. He chose family and a career in education over wealth and prestige. Dare I say it was not the exciting career he probably thought he was going to have. He and my mom fostered dozens of kids and believed in uplifting others, especially those that really needed help the most.  I suppose, his death, following hers three years ago, only reaffirms my growing belief that we should try our best to  leave a gentle footprint on the earth and make a positive difference in the world, no matter how small.  Kindness matters. Voting with your pocketbook matters.  Our choices matter. Speaking up for those that have no voice matters.  I guess a tofu recipe is a good start.

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This is my favorite, quick and easy, protein filled, go-to dish.  I especially like to make it for my meat eating friends who think they don’t like tofu.  I have changed some pretty closed minds with this one.  The tofu is savory and crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  I like to serve sesame crusted tofu over pasta or rice to take advantage of the yummy pan drippings.  Surprise! Vegan food can have pan drippings. This time I tossed together some sugar snap peas sauteed with ginger and garlic until they glisten, tender but firm.

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I love the combination of black and white sesame seeds, but if you think they are just a pretty decoration you would be mistaken.  They add a nutty flavor and add to the crunchy texture in this dish, but for their small size, they also provide quite a bit of nutrition. Sesame seeds  are an excellent source of copper, a very good source of manganese, and a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fiber.  Black sesame seeds are unhulled while white seeds are hulled.  Since most of the calcium is in the hulls, black sesame seeds have more calcium.  Otherwise, they are nutritionally similar.

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TIPS:  This time, I served the tofu over thin spaghetti which picks up the sesame seeds and spices easily but angel hair pasta would work well too.  I just stirred the hot, cooked pasta in the same pan I cooked the tofu to evenly coat the strands. I often serve this with brown jasmine or basmati rice.  Just cook with vegetable broth and a 1 inch knob of peeled fresh ginger or teaspoon of ginger paste and drizzle the sesame oil and pan drippings over the rice.  Yum!…  (*smacking lip sound*)

This recipe serves two to four people, depending on appetites.  I can only eat one 4 ounce tofu steak but my husband can eat two.  You can easily double the recipe. I also prefer the 4 oz steaks because I like the crispy edges.

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SESAME CRUSTED TOFU

  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsn sesame oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free tamari)
  • 2 Tbsn cornstarch
  • 3 scallions, minced (optional garnish)
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti

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  • Drain tofu and slice in half lengthwise into two wide slabs (8 oz. steaks).  You can also cut the slabs half again for four 4 oz. servings.  Arrange in a single layer on double papertowels or a clean dishcloth, cover with more towels and let drain 15 or 20 minutes.  Placing a heavy pan on top might help press the liquid out.
  • Cook spaghetti as directed, drain and set aside

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  • If you are making sugar snap peas, in a cold saute pan, stir together a Tablespoon each of olive oil and sesame oil, 1 teaspoon minced ginger or ginger paste and several cloves of crushed garlic. Remove stems and strings from the peas, rinse and stir them into the garlic mixture.  They can sit until you are ready. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat just before you cook the tofu.

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  • Place cornstarch in a shallow pie pan or plate

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  • Stir together 1 Tablespoon sesame oil and 1 Tablespoon soy sauce

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  • Combine sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, garlic and onion powders in a shallow pie pan

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  • Heat a heavy fry pan (cast iron if you have) on medium heat and add remaining sesame oil while you prepare your tofu.
  • Dredge tofu on all sides in cornstarch

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  • Dip tofu in soy/sesame mixture, all sides

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  • Press tofu into sesame seed mixture making sure to coat all sides. Repeat with remaining pieces.

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  • Cook in hot sesame oil several minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden brown.  Lower heat if the oil starts to smoke.

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  • Remove tofu from pan and set aside. Turn heat to low.

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  • Toss cooked spaghetti in hot pan used for cooking the tofu until sesame seeds and oil are evenly distributed.  Add any remaining seeds and spices or a drizzle of sesame oil, if desired.

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  • Serve tofu topped with tofu steaks and sugar snap peas, garnish with scallions, if desired.

 

 

 

 

Sesame Crusted Tofu

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

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  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsn sesame oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsn soy sauce (or gluten free tamari)
  • 2 Tbsn cornstarch
  • 3 scallions, minced (optional garnish)
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti
  1. Drain tofu and slice in half lengthwise into two wide slabs (steaks).  You can also cut the slabs half again for four servings.  Arrange in a single layer on double papertowels or a clean dishcloth, cover with more towels and let drain 15 or 20 minutes.  Placing a heavy pan on top might help press the liquid out.
  2. Cook spaghetti as directed, drain and set aside
  3. If you are making sugar snap peas, in a cold saute pan, stir together a Tablespoon each of olive oil and sesame oil, 1 teaspoon minced ginger or ginger paste and several cloves of crushed garlic. Remove stems and strings from the peas, rinse and stir them into the garlic mixture. They can sit until you are ready.  Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat just before you cook the tofu.
  4. Place cornstarch in a shallow pie pan
  5. Stir together 1 Tablespoon sesame oil and 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  6. Combine sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, garlic and onion powders in a shallow pie pan
  7. Heat a heavy fry pan (cast iron if you have) on medium high heat and add remaining sesame oil
  8. Dredge tofu on all sides in cornstarch
  9. Dip tofu in soy/sesame mixture, all sides
  10. Press tofu into sesame seed mixture making sure to coat all sides
  11. Cook in hot sesame oil several minutes on each side, or until crispy and golden brown.  Lower heat to medium if the oil starts to smoke.
  12. Remove tofu from pan and set aside
  13. Toss cooked spaghetti in hot pan used for cooking the tofu until sesame seeds and oil are evenly distributed.  Add any remaining seeds and spices or a drizzle of sesame oil, if desired.
  14. Serve tofu topped with tofu steaks and garnish with scallions, if desired.

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Sesame Crusted Salmon

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If you’re short on time but need a protein packed, nutritious main course, here is a delicious one that you can have on the table in less than 30 minutes. Salmon is a favorite, even of people who aren’t seafood lovers because of it’s mild, non-fishy taste and moist, flakey texture.  It’s considered one of the world’s healthiest foods-rich in protein, heart-helping omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. A 4 ounce serving of salmon, baked or broiled, has only 157 calories and a whopping 22 grams of protein. For this preparation, I let the salmon sit in a simple marinade of olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, honey and sesame oil while I got everything else ready.  Just before cooking, I sprinkled the fish with white and black sesame seeds and thinly sliced scallions to add color, flavor and texture.  I like to cook salmon at a fairly high heat, first on bake to make sure the bottom and center of the fish is cooked through, and then on broil until the top is caramelized a golden brown and the sections flake easily.

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Photo Credit: pcplanetindia.com

I love the addition of black and white sesame seeds with this marinade, but if you think they are just a decoration you would be mistaken.  They add a nutty flavor and a slightly crunchy texture when cooked, but for their small size, they also provide quite a bit of nutrition. Sesame seeds  are an excellent source of copper, a very good source of manganese, and a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fiber.  Black sesame seeds are unhulled while white seeds are hulled.  Since most of the calcium is in the hulls, black sesame seeds have more calcium.  Otherwise, they are nutritionally similar.   “Open sesame”—the famous phrase from the Arabian Nights—reflects the distinguishing feature of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity. The scientific name for sesame seeds is Sesamun indicum (which actually sounds more like Harry Potter to me than Aladdin).  If you are like me, you actually visualized both movies upon reading ‘Open Sesame’ and ‘Sesamun indicum’, or perhaps that’s just the mom in me showing..

 

 

As always, when buying seafood, check with Seafood Watch to see if it’s a healthy choice.  For example, this is what they currently have to say about salmon:  Salmon is one of the most commonly eaten fish in North America. Wild-caught salmon is generally a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative,” but if you’re considering farmed salmon, try to find out where it comes from. While there are several more sustainable sources, most farmed salmon is on the “Avoid” list due to concerns such as the use of antibiotics important to human health and the potential for parasite and disease transfer to wild salmon populations. The Marine Stewardship Council certifies some salmon fisheries as sustainable.

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TIPS: I had a very large side of salmon (about 3 lbs) so I doubled the recipe for the marinade. I like to pre-slice the fish before cooking because you end up with ready to serve portions that are neat and tidy.  They also cook faster and more evenly than a whole side.  It really depends on what presentation you are looking for.  If you can’t find black sesame seeds, just use twice as many white.  Soy sauce has wheat/gluten, so those trying to avoid it should substitute a wheat free brand or try Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or fish sauce.

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SESAME CRUSTED SALMON
1 1/2 lbs salmon filet (boneless and skinless)
3 Tbsn olive oil
2 Tbsn soy sauce (or wheat free or reduced options like Bragg’s Amino Acids, Tamari or fish sauce)
2 Tbsn lemon juice
1 Tbsn sesame oil
1 Tbsn honey (or more to taste)
1 Tbsn white sesame seeds
1 Tbsn black sesame seeds
2 scallions

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  • Rinse and dry salmon filet and place in a large baking dish.  Slice into serving sized portions if not already done. Combine olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice sesame oil and honey in a small bowl.  Pour over salmon and lift pieces of fish to make sure marinade goes under and between.  Set aside until ready to cook.  I like to spoon marinade over a few times.

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  • Just before cooking, spoon marinade one last time over fish and sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions.

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  • Bake at 450 for 5-6 minutes and then broil for another 4-5 minutes (rule of thumb is 4-6 minutes per half inch thickness). If you are cooking a whole side of salmon without pre-cutting slices, the cooking time will be longer.  Fish should be lightly browned and easy to flake into sections.

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  • Serve with sauteed veggies and brown rice (optional)

 

Sesame Crusted Salmon

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 1/2 lbs salmon filet (boneless and skinless)
3 Tbsn olive oil
2 Tbsn soy sauce(or wheat free or reduced options like Bragg’s Amino Acids, Tamari or fish sauce)
2 Tbsn lemon juice
1 Tbsn sesame oil
1 Tbsn honey (or more to taste)
1 Tbsn white sesame seeds
1 Tbsn black sesame seeds
2 scallions

  • Rinse and dry salmon filet and place in a large baking dish.  Slice into serving sized portions if not already done.
  • Combine olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice sesame oil and honey in a small bowl.  Pour over salmon and lift pieces of fish to make sure marinade goes under and between.  Set aside until ready to cook.  I like to spoon marinade over a few times.
  • Just before cooking, spoon marinade one last time over fish and sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions.
  • Bake at 450 for 5-6 minutes and then broil for another 4-5 minutes (rule of thumb is 4-6 minutes per half inch thickness).  If you are cooking a whole side of salmon without pre-cutting slices, the cooking time will be longer.  Fish should be lightly browned and easy to flake into sections.
  • Serve with sauteed veggies and brown rice (optional)

Meatless Monday – Spicy Sesame Tofu, Broccoli and Mushrooms

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Winner Winner Tofu Dinner!  Yep, it’s Meatless Monday and we’re going vegan, green and spicy!  As they say, we’ve come a long way, baby!  When my three boys were little it was hard to get them to eat their veggies, (salads, forget it!) except for frozen peas and broccoli.  When I say frozen peas, I mean they liked them best still frozen like little icy pieces of green goodness.  That was a favorite snack for them to nibble on when they were in their high chairs waiting for me to make the rest of their dinner.  They were so cute, curling their fat little fingers around the tiny peas that would roll around on the tray…And trust me, it couldn’t be easier!  Broccoli was also a winner but only acceptable if  steamed and served with a mini dish of soy sauce for dipping.  Done and done!  Now that my youngest is 20, it’s no surprise that we have moved beyond frozen peas and plain veggies. My sons also eat (and enjoy) salads at dinnertime.  Will wonders never cease!  Those of you parents whose kids aren’t there yet, have faith.  It will happen… Meanwhile, frozen peas.

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Well this Broccoli Tofu dish is like a grown up version of the kiddie broccoli dipped in soy sauce, with a lot more flavor and a definite kick.  The tofu provides ample protein, just make sure you buy organic, non-GMO tofu.  Broccoli is rich in fiber and a great source of vitamin C (one cup of cooked broccoli provides as much as an orange) and a host of other essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.  Mushrooms are not only delicious, they are the only fruit or vegetable that naturally provides Vitamin D.  They are also a good source of B vitamins, iron and antioxidants.  So tossed together in one meal, this trio is a nutritional powerhouse.  And sesame seeds they’re not just a decoration. They are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.  Did I mention the sauce is so tasty, you’ll consider licking your plate?

TIPS:  I have not mastered the art of wok cooking and timing each vegetable to be done at the same time by pushing the veggies up the side, as the darned things always fall back into the center. I actually use a cast iron pan instead of a wok and I prefer to cook each vegetable separately and then toss them all together at the end with a tasty sauce.  If you are better with a wok, feel free to attempt the precision timing thing and disregard the following instructions, however for those that are wok-challenged like me, I swear by my approach.  For added flavor (and pizazz) try using both white and black sesame seeds. The sauce can be adjusted for spiciness by adding more or less red pepper flakes.

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SPICY SESAME TOFU, BROCCOLI AND MUSHROOMS

1 block extra firm tofu (organic)
1 small bunch broccoli
6-8 mushrooms (any kind – criminy, shitake, etc)
1/4 cup avocado, coconut or other high heat oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (or 1 1/2 tsp white and 1/2 tsp black)
2 Tbsn soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1 tsp sugar or honey

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  • Remove tofu from container and cut into equal thickness slices, then cut each slice in half and then half again.  Place on papertowels in a single layer, put another layer of papertowels on top and  place a heavy pan on top to press out the water.  Let sit at least 10 minutes.

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  • Combine garlic, scallion, sesame seeds, soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and sugar together in a small bowl and set aside.

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  • Cut broccoli into florets.

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  •  If your broccoli has nice thick stems, peel and slice them and cut to similar size as florets

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  • Wipe mushrooms with a damp papertowel and slice.

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  • Heat half of oil in a heavy pan or wok and cook tofu on medium high heat until golden on all four sides.  Remove tofu to a plate and set aside.

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  • Add a bit more oil and saute broccoli on medium heat about 5 minutes or until softened but still bright green.  If the pan gets too dry add water not more oil.  Remove from pan and set aside.

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  • Add last bit of oil to pan and saute mushrooms until they lose their water.

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  • Put broccoli back in with mushrooms and toss to combine. Check broccoli for doneness (to your liking)

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  • Add tofu back into the pan. Pour sauce over the top and gently toss.  Serve over rice, if desired.

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Spicy Sesame Tofu, Broccoli and Mushrooms

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 block extra firm tofu (organic)
1 bunch broccoli
8-10 mushrooms (any kind – criminy, shitake, etc)
1/4 cup avocado, coconut or other high heat oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (or 1 1/2 tsp white and 1/2 tsp black)
2 Tbsn soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1 tsp sugar or honey

  • Remove tofu from container and cut into equal thickness slices, then cut each slice in half and then half again.  Place on papertowels in a single layer, put another layer of papertowels on top and  place a heavy pan on top to press out the water.  Let sit at least 10 minutes.
  • Combine garlic, scallion, sesame seeds, soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and sugar together in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Cut broccoli into florets.  If your broccoli has nice thick stems, peel and slice them and cut to similar size as florets
  • Wipe mushrooms with a damp papertowel and slice.
  • Heat half of oil in a heavy pan or wok and cook tofu on medium high heat until golden on all four sides.  Remove tofu to a plate and set aside.
  • Add a bit more oil and saute broccoli on medium heat about 5 minutes or until softened but still bright green.  If the pan gets too dry add water not more oil.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add last bit of oil to pan and saute mushrooms until they lose their water.
  • Put broccoli back in with mushrooms and toss to combine. Check broccoli for doneness (to your liking)
  • Add tofu and gently combine.
  • Pour sauce over the top and gently toss.
  • Serve over rice, if desired.