Less is definitely more when preparing a dish for potluck. Two weeks ago my friend Morgan made an unseasoned tofu with whole garlic cloves for a dinner party. The shiny white “pudding” poised in the company of a brilliant garnet yam casserole, polenta salad and an array of other colorful bowls, looked anemic by comparison, but was possibly the most talked about dish at the party.
I tend to overcompensate for tofu’s neutrality by over seasoning. So I did eye her dish with suspicion, which quickly evaporated after the first bite drove me back for seconds.
She told me she cooks it over a very low heat for a long time. Her method differed from how I usually prep tofu for a stir fry or soup; I brown the cubes in sizzling oil, then flavor with Braggs Liquid Aminos, maple syrup and lemon juice. Morgan added no flavoring beyond these fat poached garlic cloves. I loved the simplicity of the flavor for many reasons, foremost, that too often my tummy rejects all the weird food combining that can happen at a potluck dinner.
Then the following week my friend Meg, who swears she’s not adept in the kitchen, (liar) had a stroke of genius when she added diced apple to a vegetable soup. Apple. Who knew?
Last night I employed the two new strategies and the results were excellent. One caveat, I chose firm tofu in place of Morgan’s silken since I was adding vegetables.
The only catch is that the one essential ingredient is a fine balsamic vinegar. I used Olives Wild raspberry-ginger, white Balsamic vinegar. For this dish I didn’t want to discolor the tofu with a black vinegar. Olives Wild is in Flagstaff, Arizona. My best gal pal Kelly turned me on to it, and fortunately keeps a regular supply flowing my way. Thanks Kel-Kel.
This is a quick meal I made in under 30 minutes. There are few side dishes quicker or as delicious as polenta. Here is an herbaceous polenta that compliments the subtlety of the sauté.
2 ¼ cups vegetable stock
½ cup polenta
1 tsp. Thyme
1 tsp. Dry French Tarragon
1 tsp. Fresh minced rosemary
2-3 green onions, green part only
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
butter to taste
Boil stock, stir in polenta. Simmer, stirring often until the polenta thickens. This will be barely 5 minutes. Stir in the butter, herbs and Parmesan. Cover until ready to serve. If you use it immediately it will be a soft mash and once covered for a few minutes, it will solidify into more of a cake. I like both ways. If you use fresh thyme or tarragon just double the amount. And go wild with different herbs. Sometimes I don’t have one or the other and replace with parsley, oregano or even cilantro.
Penzeys Spices: This is where you can procure quality spices and dry herbs. Penzey’s publishes a great catalogue. They include customer recipes and stories. Fun stuff!
Olives Wild: This is where you can order killer vinegars and oils. The site is not operational yet, but there is an email for requesting a list of products. Trust me and just order the raspberry-ginger white balsamic. You can’t go wrong.
Apple Tofu Sauté
2 Tbl. Olive oil
One tub firm tofu cut into 1-inch squares
1 full head of roasted garlic
2 bundles of bok choy or any green leafy thing you like
1 large carrot cut into matchsticks
2 celery stalks cut fine
1 Ambrosia apple, Fuji, Pink Lady or Gala would be fine too
A generous drizzle of Olives Wild raspberry-ginger white balsamic
A sprinkle of sumac, this is a lemony spice. I think lemon pepper would be a suitable substitute.
Heat oil. Sauté tofu squares 5 minutes covered on the lowest heat on your smallest burner. Flip tofu when it is very lightly golden and add roasted garlic and sumac. Simmer uncovered not for another 5 minutes. Drizzle with Balsamic, simmering maybe one more minute. Remove from pan to a bowl, now toss in carrot and celery. Sauté till tender, add bok choy and diced apple. Toss and sauté until the bok choy is bright green but not wilting, maybe 2 minutes. Return tofu with all its yummy juices to the pan and warm for another minute.