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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Pan-Roasted Tofu

Pan-Roasted Tofu 

I'm Kyle and I'm a meat-lover.
There, I've said it.
I don't eat meat or chicken or fish recreationally anymore, but when I did, I enjoyed it. 
And I miss it sometimes.
Lean meat is an easy and efficient source of protein and at one point I ate almost nothing but and was probably in the best shape of my life.
Alas, I now prefer to enjoy animals while they're alive and eschew eating them.
But, man, I do still crave savory snacks.
And I find most faux meats to be unhealthy and overprocessed, so I end up making my own, usually from beans or beets or raw vegetables; with good results.
I keep tofu in the fridge for when I need a quick topper for a salad or to bolster the protein in a dish but I'm not what you'd consider a fan.  
Right out of the package, it's bland and texturally unexciting. 
I always figured that if I'm going to do the kind of work it would take for me to actually enjoy it, I might as well do that work with something I actually like - like cauliflower.
And then...
I recently found myself in a 5 star hotel with free time and some money to burn.
I'll let you use your imagination on this one as what you're thinking is probably much more exciting than the actual story.
So, after a dip in the pool and a cocktail overlooking Central Park, I ordered room service.
There were a surprising number of healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu, but I was able to show some restraint and selected just a few.
My favorite was probably the simplest - the Miso soup, which was divine.
But what was most impressive was the roasted tofu that came with it.
It had a miso glaze and a crispy crust and was soft and creamy but hot in the center like a piece of perfectly cooked salmon.
Of all of the amazing meals, drinks, and experiences I had that weekend, that tofu steak is what resonates the most.
So, of course, I had to try to replicate that at home.
I mean, if a chef at a 5-star hotel can do it...right?
My version is, of course, slightly less refined, but had the feel of that delectable morsel from my past.
I've made this dish a few times now and it's better each time.
This adaptation is with the tofu cubed.  
I did it in a cast iron grill pan in the oven and had to flip each piece every ten minutes to get the golden crust and the grill marks.
For subsequent renditions, I cut the cubes in half so they were slices I only had to flip once.
I experimented with 3 different marinades.  
The Buffalo chicken wing version is best hot as a snack with bleu cheese dip and the Balsamic is the most versatile and would work well as a main dish for holidays.
But the soy sauce marinated one is still my favorite.  
Maybe because it makes the most sense and is a classic pairing.
Or perhaps because it takes me back to my day as a baller.

Clockwise from top: Balsamic Vinegar Marinated Tofu, Buffalo Chicken Marinated Tofu, Soy-Sesame Marinated Tofu

Pan-Roasted Tofu

1 lb              Extra Firm Tofu - I like House Foods 
                    Marinade (3 Suggestions are below)
~ 1/2 Cup  Vegetable Stock or Water as needed
                    Salt & Freshly-Ground Pepper

Balsamic Vinegar Marinade 

1/2 Cup      Balsamic Vinegar
~1 Tbsp      Olive Oil
1 Tbsp         Dried Rosemary
1 Tbsp         Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp         Dried Parsley
1 Tbsp         Dried Thyme

Buffalo Chicken Marinade
1/4 Cup     Frank's Red Hot Sauce
~ 1 Tbsp    Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup     Apple Cider Vinegar

1 tsp           Minced Garlic or Garlic Paste

Soy-Sesame Marinade
1/4  Cup      Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup       Rice Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp         Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp         Miso Paste

Cover a baking sheet with 2 layers of paper towels.
Cut the tofu into 6 cubes or 12 slices and place on the towels to drain.
Cover with another layer of paper towels.

To make the marinade:
In a large bowl, combine the liquid ingredients except the vegetable stock.
Whisk in garlic or herbs and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Taste to adjust seasonings. 
You want this to be thick and strongly-flavored.

Place the tofu in a deep container with flat bottom and tight-fitting lid.
Pour the marinade over the tofu to cover completely.
Add water or vegetable stock as needed.
Cover and shake to mix.
Refrigerate at least 24 hours.
This can be done days in advance of cooking.
You may take it out and flip the pieces every morning & night if desired.

Take the tofu out of the refrigerator and uncover an hour before cooking.
Place a cast iron grill pan, pan, or baking sheet in the oven at 425
Remove the tofu from the marinade to a plate or platter (do not drain on paper towels).
Whisk remaining marinade and use it to brush all sides of each piece of tofu.
Lightly season all sides with salt and pepper.
Place on preheated pan and roast 10 minutes per side.
Serve hot.  Also makes a great snack at room temperature.
Refrigerate any cooled leftovers up to a week.
Leftover marinade may be reused for weeks or used as a dip or glaze.

Balsamic Vinegar Marinade

Buffalo Chicken Wing Marinade

Soy-Sesame Marinade

Left to Right:Soy-Sesame Marinated Tofu, Balsamic Vinegar Marinated Tofu, Buffalo Chicken Marinated Tofu

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Kaled Eggs

Funny how we're ruled by our schedules.  Selling caviar is a hyper-seasonal business.  I work pretty steadily all year and do a lot of traveling, but during peak times, I tend to move around the least.  I spend entire days sitting at my desk taking and making calls for fear of missing an order while on the subway.  This time of year, it gets so intense I barely have time to get in a meal.
I keep a bottle of water at my desk and drink lots of tea - especially since it's been so cold here in NY - but taking time to prepare an actual meal and consume the entire thing is sometimes a difficult task.
To avoid unhealthy snacks, I have a few super-fast go-to deals that are filling and nutritious.
This one is loaded with nutrients courtesy of my friend kale and protein from eggs.
I've also created similar meals with the addition of canned beans or whatever leftovers I had in the fridge.
It is wonderfully warming right out of the microwave in the morning and, luckily, tastes great cold at the end of the day if I haven't gotten to it.

Kaled Eggs
Serves 1

1 Small Bunch    Kale, Washed, dried, chopped 
4 Cherry              Tomatoes, washed and cut in half or 1 Plum Tomato, diced
1/4                        Onion, peeled and thinly sliced.
3                            Crimini Mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp paper towel and sliced
1 clove                  Garlic, minced
2 Large                Eggs 
Splash                  Lemon Juice
Drizzle                 Vegetable Oil
Glug                     Milk or Milk-like substance of your choosing (optional)
                              Salt and Freshly-Ground Black Pepper 
In a large bowl, toss together kale, tomatoes, onion, mushrooms
Add the garlic.
Drizzle with lemon juice and oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Massage vegetables into kale.
Cover bowl tightly and microwave for 3 minutes or until softened.
Remove cover, massage again and transfer to small serving bowl.
In a separate small bowl, beat the 2 eggs with a splash of milk (optional).
Pour over the kale mixture, cover, and microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes or until eggs are cooked.
Taste to adjust seasonings.
This is nice with a drizzle of balsamic glaze, greek yogurt, mustard, salsa, or soy sauce, depending on your mood.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Delicata Squash Pie

Holidays will always mean friends and family and celebratory get-togethers.
While I love spending an entire day cooking and preparing special dishes, Thanksgiving and Christmas are no long so much about the food for me as taking time to spend with the ones I love and a break from everyday life.
They're certainly not about gorging myself like when I was younger or needing to have a little bit of  everything like the spreads my family used to put out - especially when it's sometimes just me & my husband.
Although things like turkey and ham are no longer the focal point, I do try to have at least one standout item on the table.  This Christmas, I went with a Delicata Squash Pie.
The presentation was festive and it was hearty enough to be our main course.

Delicata Squash Pie


1 Large                     Delicata Squash, washed and dried but not peeled
1/2 Large                 White Onion, peeled and sliced against the grain
6  Baby or 1 Large  Bell Pepper, washed, dried, & cored
1/2 lb                        Crimini Mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp paper towel, sliced 

1/2 Bunch                Kale, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped
~2 Tbsp                    Vegetable Oil
2 Cloves                    Garlic, smashed, peeled, smashed again,& diced finely 
1 tsp                           Rosemary; fresh, finely chopped or dried 
1 tsp                           Sage; fresh, finely chopped or dried 
1 tsp                           Thyme; fresh, finely chopped or dried 
Dash                          Red Wine
                                   Salt and Freshly-Ground Black Pepper to taste

Place a large sheet tray in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.
Cut the stem off the squash and slice it thinly cross-wise with a serrated knife.
Remove seeds from each slice with a spoon and set aside (you can rinse and  roast those).
Place the slices in a large bowl, drizzle with oil, and toss well to coat.
Carefully remove sheet pan from oven and place the slices on it.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, flip and repeat on the other side.
Return tray to oven and roast about 15 minuted until browned and softened.
Remove tray from oven and set aside to cool slightly. 

Place a large saute pan over medium heat (I use cast iron).
Drizzle in enough oil to just coat the bottom of the pot.
Stir in the onion and toss in the oil to coat.
Cover with tight-fitting lid and cook until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. 
Stir, reduce heat, and cook other 5 more minutes to lightly carmelize.
Remove onions to bowl and set aside.
In the same pan, repeat one at a time with the peppers and mushrooms, adding a little more oil if necessary and placing them in separate bowls to cool.
Finish with the kale in the same manner, adding the garlic at the end.
Season with Rosemary, Sage and Thyme.
Stir in enough red wine to moisten the bottom of the pan.
Replace lid and cook on low until most of liquid is gone.

Oil a pie plate and arrange half the squash slices on the bottom and up the sides, overlapping, as the crust.
Layer the other vegetables atop the squash one at a time.
Cover the pie with the remaining squash slices.
Cover with foil and back for 30 minutes.
To Serve:  Cut into wedges and remove from pan with spatula.
Allow leftovers to cool before refrigerating, coverd up to 3 days.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Me On A Plate

As many of you may know, I have been working toward hosting a cooking show.
I also dream of one day having a mobile cooking school.  
I'd love to travel to parts of the world with high incidences of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, Cancer, and Heat Disease to teach folks how to cook healthy meals for themselves on a limited budget.
In the meantime, I teach, blog and go on auditions when I'm not hawking gourmet food for The Man.

I don't live to be on reality TV, but it is a popular and accessible platform where I may get some exposure and have my message heard.  Reality TV Cooking shows offer prize money to the winner, which could potentially kickstart my goals. 
So yes, I have applied for many.  I prefer to apply online and have a one-on-one audition, but the more popular shows tend to host open calls.  The process can be fun and entertaining and I have met several really amazing like-minded people.  The regular series show ask applicants to to bring a dish to the call to show their talents and cooking style  - essentially "[the person] on a plate".
Because I am multifaceted there are quite a range of dishes to choose from.  I rely on the climate of the show, the season, and my mood to determine a dish or an outfit.  Although the type of cuisine, ingredients, and cooking methods may change, the end result is always colorful, healthy, and unseemingly complicated - just like me.
This is a perfect example:  Skillet Eggs.
The dish has many components - each made from scratch; prepared and seasoned separately but with a common theme.  It is also healthy, colorful, and at once rustic as well as sophisticated.
With this one, it's "me" in a pan.
Because, really, does it have to be a plate?    

Here is a link to the recipe for the pictured dish:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Huevos Rancheros

Breakfast is my favorite meal and I love Mexican food, so Huevos Ranceros is always a special treat for me.  It's always an easy choice when I travel since it's easy to find and very filling as a complete meal.  In my version, I often skip the tortilla.  This time, I made my own with teff flour, which is low carb and gluten free.  I used seasoned beans and made everything from scratch, so it is super fresh.

Huevos Rancheros
Serves 2

2                   6" Tortillas (I made my own from teff flour; link below)
4 Large        Eggs 
1 Cup           Seasoned Beans (link to recipe below) 
1 Large        Tomato, washed, cored, and diced
1/2 Large    Avocado, pitted and sliced
2 Tbsp         Fresh cilantro, washed, dried, and finely chopped
1/2                Lime, washed and cut into wedges, pith removed
2 oz              Crumbled cotija cheese ( I made that, too.  Link below)
                      Vegetable Oil
                      Salt and freshly-ground Black Pepper 
                      Hot Sauce, Sour Cream, Salsa if desired

Preheat to 400 degrees.
Place 2 small or 1 large cast iron skillet(s) in the oven to warm for about 10 minutes.
Carefully remove hot pan(s) from oven to stovetop and brush entire inside(s) with oil.
Lay tortillas down in pan(s) and brush with oil.
Using a spoon, spread about 1/2 cup beans onto each tortilla, making an indentation in the center for each for the eggs.
Crack two eggs into the indentations ofthe beans in  each tortilla.
Return pan(s) to oven and bake 10-12 minutes, or unitl eggs are cooked to desired doneness.
Plate and season with salt and pepper.
Top with crumbled cheese, tomatoes, and cilantro.
Serve with avocado and lime. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Savory Sprouted Black Beans

make giant pots of beans on a regular basis.  Usually, I season them only with salt and pepper so they may be used in different dishes.  This batch, however, was intended for a specific Mexican dish, so I seasoned the whole batch.  I was extremely happy with the depth of the flavor.  They weren't firey hot, but did have a pleasant and familiar kick.  Because I wanted this dish to be impressive and am a glutton for punishment, I also sprouted the beans, which is something I had been meaning to do more often.  Black beans don't sprout as successfully as other varieties, but I liked the look of the tails that did show.  
The process took about 2 weeks, which was probably not worth the wait, but I had planned it into my schedule.  Sprouting beans is definitely not something I'll be doing during travel season.  A run-down of the process is included after the recipe.

Savory Black Beans

2 Cups          Black Beans, cooked and rinsed (follow link below for directions)
1/2                 Onion, peeled and diced
2 Cloves       Garlic, peeled, smashed, and minced
1                     Tomato, washed, cored, and diced
1 tsp              Ground Cumin
1 tsp              Ground Coriander
½ tsp           Chipotle  Chili Powder
½ tsp           Smoked Paprika
                      Vegetable Oil
2 Tbsp          Water, at room temperature
                      Kosher Salt and Freshly-Ground Black Pepper to taste

Heat a drizzle of oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.
Add the onion, stir to coat and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender.
Stir in garlic and saute for a minute or two.
Add the tomatoes, beans, spices and water.  
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer a few minutes more, stirring occasionally.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve hot.
Allow leftovers to cool before refrigerating for up to 5 days.

Black Bean Sprouting Process
Rinse beans and measure 1/2 cup into each sprouting jar or bag.
Add 2-3 cups water to each jar or bag, filling it three-quarters full.
Cover jars with a sprouting screen or lid.
Soak 8 hours to overnight.
Drain and rinse thoroughly. 
Invert each jar over a bowl at an angle so the beans drain but air still circulates.
Repeat rinsing and draining 3-4 times per day until sprout tails appear.
Taste sprouts daily but do not eat uncooked beans.
Stop rinse and drain process when sprouts have reached desired length and flavor.
Drain for several hours before cooking or transferring to a covered container. Store sprouts in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Here is a link to basic bean cooking directions:

Friday, June 17, 2016

Teff Tortilla

I had wanted to experiment with teff flour and thought tortillas would be a great way to start.
These came out super moist and fluffy, but with nice chewy edges.  They made a perfect vehicle for my Huevos Rancheros. The flavor was so wheaty my next project may be English muffins.

Teff TortillasPrep time: 10 minutesCook Time: 15 minutesServes: 4

1/3 Cup     Water
3/4 Cup      Egg Whites
1/4 Cup      Teff Flour
1/2 tsp        Salt

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.
Process until smooth.
Transfer to a measuring cup, cover, and rest about 10 minutes.
Place a piece of parchment on 2 sheet trays and set aside.
Preheat a lightly-oiled 8" nonstick pan over medium heat.
When the pain is just hot, pour about 1/4 cup batter into the center.
Tilt the pan to spread the batter to cover the entire bottom of the pan.
When the top is no longer shiny and sticky, flip the tortilla and cook briefly.
Remove from pan with tongs.
Place cooked tortillas on parchment in a single layer to cool.  
Wipe off any surface oil.
Repeat for remaining batter, adding oil as necessary.