Tag Archives: vegan

A taste for tofu

13 Feb

Though tofu is much less maligned than it was when I first developed an interest in diversifying my protein sources over ten years ago, I still meet people with a real hate-on for my beloved bean curd. The thing is, tofu doesn’t have much flavour at all; it’s more about giving tofu a taste you enjoy than it is about developing a taste for tofu. Tofu haters don’t last long in the face of the delicious dish I’m about to introduce you to.

If you’re shaking your head in dismay and thinking “the texture is the problem”, rest assured: fresh tofu is available in a variety of textures. The most common are soft/silken tofu, which is usually sold in boxes, and firm/cotton tofu, which is usually sold vaccuum-packed (in larger grocery stores) or stored in buckets of water (in smaller/specialty stores). The latter can more easily be eaten with chopsticks and doesn’t jiggle like the former.

Vacuum-packed, cotton-style tofu

Vacuum-packed, cotton-style tofu

It’s the kind of tofu involved in this recipe, and I encourage you to try it out and see what you think. It just may change your mind about tofu forever (you’re welcome).

Faced with this?

Cubed tofu

Cubed tofu

Gather the following 4 ingredients for a marinade…

Marinade ingredients

Marinade ingredients (aka Why I'm a Librarian and Not a Food Stylist)

and transform it into this (see recipe below):

Cooked tofu

Ginger-garlic tofu

The best thing about this tofu dish is its versatility. You can add it to spinach salad for some extra flavour and protein. You can toss it in a stir fry. You can pile on some corn kernels…

Tofu with corn kernels

and a generous helping of mashed potatoes…

Tofu, corn, mashed potatoes

then stick the baking dish back in the oven on broil for a few minutes and have a delicious non-shepherd’s pie.

Non-shepherd's pie

Non-shepherd's pie

Serve with salad for a complete meal!

Eat your greens at every meal

Complete meal

That’s cranberry juice, btw.

You can also serve this tofu straight-up in lieu of the meat in a meat-and-potatoes dinner (move over, tofurkey). ‘Cause eating well is all about options. Without further ado…

Ginger-Garlic Tofu

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 block firm/cotton tofu, cubed

Method:
1) Mix all ingredients except tofu in a baking dish
2) Add the cubed tofu to the marinade and mix to coat evenly
3) Let sit for 15 minutes
4) Cook on 350F-400F for 10-15 minutes, until tofu is browned

My Obsession with Aux Vivres’ Dragon Bowl Sauce

19 Oct

by Marsha Taichman

If you know me, and we eat together at a restaurant  more than once, we will probably go to
Aux Vivres (4631 St. Laurent Boulevard in Montreal) if I have my way. This is the sad truth for my friends (all three of them). As far as I am concerned, everything there is tasty and nothing hurts my stomach because there is no dairy to be found anywhere, and I am lactose- intolerant. The restaurant/cafe serves fresh and often organic foods and is a proudly vegan institution. The food is so delicious there is no need to apologize for its meatless-ness or mimic meat and dairy, but they do have a lot of foods that feature creams made from tofu or nuts, and tempeh bacon and tofu scrambles are popular items on their weekend brunch menu. My boyfriend and favourite dining companion, Henry, pictured below, always gets the BLT on chapatti bread, which is composed of lettuce, tomato and smoked coconut with a white spread that is reminiscent of good old mayonnaise.

Henry

Henry and his BLT on chapatti bread

The sandwich is smoky, salty deliciousness. Every week there are specials that showcase seasonal items, and recently they had a beet latke plate and sweet potato burritos.

I order the same thing every time I go to Aux Vivres, which is the Dragon Bowl. Just typing “the same thing every time” makes me feel a little, how do you say, boring. In my defense, I have ordered other dishes there, thoroughly enjoyed them, and then pined for the Dragon Bowl all the way home. It is a bowl of organic brown rice topped with piles of fresh vegetables: spiraled beets, shredded carrots, chopped lettuce, two kinds of sprouts, and daikon radish. This mound of goodness is sprinkled with gomashio (unhulled black and white sesame seeds and salt) and is served with Dragon Bowl sauce, which is liquid gold.

dragon bowl

dragon bowl

I eat the vegetables and rice in the Dragon Bowl because they are a vehicle for said sauce. You can purchase it bottled at Aux Vivres, but then you have to cut up all the vegetables and cook the rice and I figure I will never be able to do it as well as they do (I have yet to invest in a mandolin for that perfectly thin daikon slicing), so I am happy to pay about ten dollars to feel like someone is looking after me for an hour or so.

Recently, my friend Lorie pointed me to a recipe for Dragon Bowl sauce written by the talented jae steele, who used to make Aux Vivres’ desserts. Her sauce calls for:

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
2 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
2 tbsp. filtered water
1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic

Blend all ingredients with a hand blender, or in a blender or food processor. Makes enough sauce for 3 Dragon Bowls. Store any leftovers in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to 1 week.

This version is good, but not as good as the one I long for when it’s been a while since my last fix. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I used regular soy sauce rather than tamari soy sauce, and my olive oil might be a little off. Next time I will follow the recipe and maybe add a bit less than 2 tbsp. filtered water. But try it! Or just go to Aux Vivres and have a Dragon Bowl. You won’t be sorry. At least, I never am.

Check out Marsha’s bio on the Contributors page.

Can you can?

3 Oct

By Tara Thompson

You know canning food is not popular when you are in Real Canadian Superstore in mid-September and learn that all the canning supplies have been cleared to make room for Halloween candy. But never fear, I found my needed 250mL jars and proceed to continue our family tradition.

Canned tomatoes in the canner
Canned tomatoes in the canner

I remember going to my Gran & Poppa’s house every fall to can peaches and pears. We would all, usually about 5-6 of us, sit around a card table set up in their kitchen and proceed to blanch, peel, cut, pack, and process about 30 jars. I even remember my Mom making pickles and relish when I was a kid. When I met my husband, we incorporated his family’s tradition of canning tomatoes, making tomato/vegetable sauce, and creating jams. Now each year is a little different depending on what is needed (tomatoes and peaches) and what recipes strike our fancy (pickles and pickled pears).

Canned pears and peaches
Canned pears and peaches

I think that besides the tradition of  “this is what is done in the fall”, I like that I know exactly what is in the jars. It’s similar to when we make stocks; I can’t figure out why there is so much sodium in store bought stock, as we never add salt to stock. This made me think of tomato juice. Whenever I’ve tried any of the store bought tomato juice, I’ve found it too salty; maybe next year I’ll try making my own.

Canning isn’t complicated, but there are a number of steps. To get started, some basic supplies are needed:

  1. Mason Jars (we like large mouth jars)
  2. Two-piece lids (sealing disc & rim)
  3. Large pot to prepare the recipe in
  4. Canner (to hold the jars… water must cover the jars)
  5. Accurate measuring spoons and cups

When you find a recipe, follow it precisely and make sure that it is a modern recipe, current with today’s health guidelines.

This year’s new discovery was Pickled Pears (with a few adjustments for our tastes):

1 large lemon
8-1/2 cups water, divided
12 medium ripened Autumn Star pears (with red skins)
1-1/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
4 to 6 bay leaves (1 for each jar)
12 to 24 pink peppercorns (4 for each jar)
12 to 24 green peppercorns (4 for each jar)

Prepare the canner, jars, and lids for canning.

  • Start the water boiling in your canner (it takes longer than you think).
  • Sterilize the jars by either submersing them in boiling water or the rinse cycle of the dishwasher.
    Also while you finish working keep the jars warm to keep them sterilized.
  • Sterilize the lids by keeping them in a small pot of hot water to soften the seals. To prevent them from sticking together, put them in the water opposite each other: bottoms together, tops together.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the lemon peel from the lemon in one continuous spiral. Cut vertically into pieces (1 for each jar) and set aside.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl and add 4 cups of water.

Peel, quarter, and core the pears, placing them in the lemon juice solution to prevent discolouration.

Place the sugar, vinegar, and remaining 4 1/2 cups water along with the reserved lemon peel in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Drain the pears and add them to the boiling syrup. Return to a boil and remove from the heat. The syrup should be a pink colour (from the skins).

In each sterilized Mason jar, place 1 piece of lemon peel, 1 bay leaf, 4 pink peppercorns, and 4 green peppercorns. Pack the pears into the jars to within 3/4” of the top of the rim of the jar (headspace). Remove any air trapped in the jars by sliding a rubber spatula down the sides of the jar. Fill with syrup, to the 3/4″ headspace.

Wipe the jar rim with a clean damp cloth. Centre the canning lid on the jar. Apply the screw band (rim) and tighten until just finger tip tight.

Place the jars in the canner and when the water is boiling time the process for 10 minutes. The water should cover the jars by at least 1”.

When 10 minutes is up, remove the lid from the canner and wait 5 minutes before removing the jars. Place the jars on a tea towel or wooden board. Let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check that the jars have sealed properly: sealed lids curve downward. Remove screw bands and store them separately (we don’t do this, but it is to prevent moisture and rust). Wipe jars clean, label and store them in a cool dark place until ready to serve.

Makes 3X500mL jars or 6X250mL jars.

    Adapted from “Picture Perfect Pickles: Pickled Pears.” Harrowsmith Country Life. October 2009 (No. 208) pg 86 (also available online through EBSCO’s MasterFILE Premier – check your library’s e-resources!).

    Other canning recipes are available in many places.  Two good books that I found are:

    Put ‘em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling by Sherri Brooks Vinton.

    You Can Can: A Guide to Canning, Preserving, and Pickling ed. Jan Miller

    Check out Tara’s bio on the Contributors page.

    The joy of soup

    6 Sep

    By Jennifer O’Donnell

    This summer it’s been one great farmers’ market salad after another – garnished with delicious strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches and plums. But amidst all of my salad making, I hadn’t really noticed the vegetables so much.

    That changed a few days ago when I started reading Anna Thomas’ Love Soup. I’d been inspired when I heard about her on a blog – specifically, that the recipes for Love Soup had been created when she found herself living with a teeny tiny kitchen for several years while her house was being renovated.

    But in this time and teeny space, she continued to entertain her friends with homemade vegetarian food – especially soups.

    This resonated with me because my own kitchen right now seems so very small. I rushed out to get Love Soup (from the public library, of course). Anna’s recipes all look wonderful and she speaks so lovingly and passionately about farmers’ markets. The next day, bags in hand, I headed off to get the ingredients for her Basic Light Vegetable Broth and Sweet Corn Soup. Last night, I made the broth (along with an incredibly tasty dinner, but that’s another story). I’d forgotten my shopping list, but with a few minor substitutions, the broth smelled amazing.

    And today, I made the Sweet Corn Soup. I couldn’t believe how easy it was! All I had to do today was chop an onion and slice the kernels off the ears of corn. Seriously! Oh, and then I had to sauté the onion while the corn simmered in the broth. The bulk of my ‘cooking time’ was spent sitting, reading, and listening to the rain fall gently outside while the soup cooked. It was a little slice of heaven.

    I must admit that for a moment I was rethinking the wisdom of spending so much at the farmers’ market in order to make the broth and soup. After all, I still have student loans and am on a tight budget. “I’m just throwing the veggies out after the broth is made.  It seems like a waste,” I thought. “Maybe next time, I’ll just get less expensive veggies from the grocery store to make the broth…”

    But then… I tasted the soup. I had figured it would be good because it had so many fresh ingredients. It seemed too simple: the only things I’d put in the soup today were caramelised onion and corn kernels. Oh, and the broth. But my goodness, I wasn’t expecting such a rich, full-bodied taste! The flavours are blended together in the puree, and yet it seems as though I can detect each of the distinctive flavours of the soup and broth.

    True, I’ve only tried two recipes so far, but I can’t help but love Love Soup. I love Anna’s love of farmers’ markets. I love that her recipes are grouped by growing seasons. I love the detail in her recipes. I love that the recipes are all vegetarian (and that 66 of the 100 soup recipes are vegan). I can’t wait to try more. As I pack up the vegetable broth and Sweet Corn Soup to freeze, I can’t help but think what I’ll make tomorrow. I’m thinking Zucchini and Basil Soup.

    Hmmm… now to find a way to meet people in my new home town. These wonderful soups should definitely be shared!

    Check out Jennifer’s bio on the Contributors page.

    Tofu with shōjin ryōri mushroom sauce

    11 Aug

    by Megan Fitzgibbons

    I am a very lucky woman. My husband cooks for me nearly every day, and we usually eat dishes drawn from “homestyle” Japanese cuisine.

    This is the first recipe that my husband tried from a beautiful shōjin ryōri cookbook called The Enlightened Kitchen by Mari Fujii (limited preview on Amazon). Shojin ryori is the traditional cuisine of Japanese Buddhist monks and does not include any animal products (although this book calls for yogurt in one dish). The diet has been explained with the principle that the monks do not eat anything “that flees when chased.” The food is based on seasonal vegetables and spices that nourish the body in accordance with the season: to warm, cool, or fortify against the cold.

    The author’s expertise in temple cuisine is due to being married to a Buddhist monk (convenient!) in Kamakura, an ancient city that we visited during a trip to Japan in 2008. For a  lovely review of the book, visit Maki at the Just Hungry blog.

    I was surprised that many of the recipes involve frying food and frequently call for copious amounts of sesame oil, maple syrup, and peanut butter. In other words, the dishes are not all necessarily low-calorie. Other staples include miso (soybean paste), kombu (a type of seaweed), and kanten (agar-agar powder).

    We cheated a little on the concept of shojin cuisine by eating a dish intended for another season. According to the book, this “nutritious tofu is served with a sauce of fall mushrooms, a dish to warm the body as the days grow cooler.” Oh, well, it was delicious in summer as well.

    As the name suggests, this dish is simply boiled tofu topped with a mushroom sauce. Simple instructions follow.

    tofu with mushroom sauce

    tofu with mushroom sauce

    The base for the sauce is kombu. My husband made a special trip to get Japanese kombu at Miyamoto Foods in Westmount, a place off our usual path. A single strip of dried kombu was needed for this recipe, and it was soaked in water for a few hours beforehand to make the stock.

    Ingredients:
    1 block silken tofu (400 grams)
    50 g mushrooms, assorted types (e.g., shitake, button, shimeji) (1 3/4 ounces)
    40 g carrots (julienned) (1 1/4 ounces)
    400 ml konbu stock (1 2/3 cups)
    2 tbsp soy sauce
    2 tbsp sake
    2 tbsp mirin
    1 tbsp sugar
    1 tsp salt
    2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water
    Chopped raw green onions (garnish)

    The tofu is simply cut into four chunks, boiled in plain water, and drained.

    To prepare the sauce:
    1. Bring kombu stock, soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, and salt to a boil in a frying pan or pot.

    2. Add thinly sliced mushrooms and carrots and simmer for a few minutes.

    3. Lower the heat and mix the cornstarch slowly into the liquid to thicken the sauce.

    4. Pour the sauce over the tofu.

    The recipe recommends garnishing the tofu with strips of blanched green beans, but we used chopped raw green onions instead.

    Final judgment: simple, satisfying, and extremely yummy.

    The next day, I ate the leftover sauce poured over rice. I had packed my lunch container the night before, and by the time I ate it, the sauce had soaked into the rice, softening the texture and adding a rich flavour.

    Megan Fitzgibbons

    Check out Megan’s bio and a link to her food blog on the Contributors page