Indonesian Rice Bowl


Back to school. Back to work. Back to quick, easy bowl foods for dinner. This one makes great leftovers for lunch, too. I don’t think I’m the only one who looks at a bowl of red (or brown) rice, assorted veggies, some nuts, tofu and sauce and gets excited for dinner.

This one is special to me. I don’t normally make a dish more than once, but this has been in regular rotation for years. I think it’s the coconut milk, chilies, ginger and macadamia nuts that make it really sparkle. If you can’t find (or afford) red rice for this, it tastes just as good with brown rice. And I’ve made it with all manner of vegetables to match the seasons: asparagus in the spring, green beans for summer, brussels sprouts in the fall…

Don’t be scared away by the list of ingredients, it actually comes together fairly quickly.

rice-and-nutsIndonesian Rice Bowl

1 c. red (or brown) rice
8 oz. firm tofu (my belly likes the sprouted kind the best), cubed
1/3 c. macadamia nuts, chopped
1 T. coconut oil (or any other oil you like)
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 in. piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chili, seeded, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground coriander
a couple carrots, sliced on the bias
1 head of broccoli florets, sliced thin
1/2 c. coconut milk
2 T. shoyu
juice of one lime
chopped cilantro, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350. Start the rice in a heavy bottomed pot with 2 c. water. Bring to a boil then cover, turn down to low and simmer until tender. Depending on the type of rice, that could take anywhere from 30-50 minutes. When it’s done, the water will be gone, then let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and slide into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until browned and fragrant.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu in a singer layer and let it sit until it forms a crust and doesn’t stick to the pan, it may take up to 5 minutes. Flip the cubes and let at least 2 sides get brown, maybe more. It took me about 15 minutes altogether. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat more oil in the same pan if you need to and add the shallot, garlic, ginger, chili and coriander. Fry for about a minute, then add carrot and broccoli. Cook them until they are tender, or “crisp-tender” if you prefer. Add the tofu back in the pan.

Pour the coconut milk, shoyu and lime juice into the pan. Let everything simmer together for a few minutes, then stir the whole thing into the cooked rice.

Serve topped with the macadamia nuts and cilantro.

serves 4


Corn Salad with Grilled Tofu

Us Midwestern girls know a thing or two about corn. We’d wait until the height of corn season (late July – August), then my mom, sister and I would drive out through the country roads to the farm stands and pick out produce for dinner. Sis and I were in charge of finding the best ears of sweet corn. We’d peel back the husk a bit to expose a few of the uppermost kernels and poke a thumbnail into one. If it shot corn juice into our eye, we knew it was good. Mom always cooked it that might for dinner, because it’s best right after it’s been picked. As soon as sweet corn is harvested, it’s made up of 80% sugar and 20% starch. Within 24 hours it becomes it’s opposite, 80% starch and 20% sugar. The cobs would get slathered in butter, salted and gobbled up. Those were the evenings when a few corn cobs, tomatoes, peaches and a baked potato were dinner.

Sorry to say, even the best Jersey corn can’t really live up to that. So, we have to gussy it up a bit. Enter – the corn salad. The corn gets shucked and kernels are cut off, mixed with chopped pepper and sauteed a bit. Add avocado, fresh herbs and a chipotle-lime dressing, and you’ve got dinner. I marinated some tofu in the dressing for a few hours, then grilled it, to make this into a full meal. I threw in some feta cheese for good measure, but that’s optional.

Preparing corn-on-the-cob for the first time can be a little intimidating, but we’re not going for perfection here. Just peel back the husk and silk, then break off the bottom. Don’t worry about the few silks that are hanging on. Standing the cob upright in a bowl, hold your knife perpendicular and slice down the whole thing. You want to try and stay somewhat close to the cob, but don’t sweat it.

Corn Salad with Grilled Tofu

8 oz. firm tofu (I like Wildwood Sprouted tofu)
3 T. lime juice (from 1 juicy lime)
3 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder (or more to taste if you like it spicy)

1 T olive oil
3 ears of corn with kernels stripped (see above for a how-to)
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 avocado, sliced
a big handful of basil leaves (cilantro would be good, too) cut into pieces
2 oz. feta cheese (optional), toasted pumpkin seeds would be good, too
the rest of the tofu marinade

Slice the tofu into 4 thin slabs. Wrap them in a towel and press to dry a bit. Mix the rest of the tofu ingredients in a ziploc bag. Add the tofu to the bag in a single layer, make sure it gets coated in the marinade, then let it sit for a few hours (I did 2, it was very flavorful) If you don’t have much time to marinade, just do what you can and brush more on when you grill.

Heat the rest of the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and corn and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the rawness is cooked out, but corn still pops in your mouth. Set aside.

Grill the tofu. On my grill pan it took 15 minutes on medium high, turning them halfway to get some nice marks. It may take a little  more time on a real grill with a moderate heat.

Pour the rest of the marinade out of the bag and onto the corn and peppers. Mix with feta and half of the basil. Lay the avocado and tofu on top, then garnish with the rest of the basil.

serves 2 for a meal, 4 as a side

*Note: if you decide to use fish or meat instead of the tofu, do NOT use the marinade for a dressing! I bet you don’t need to marinate at all, but if you choose to, throw out the marinade and make more for the dressing.

Inspired by this weeks Food Matters Project, Corn-Avocado Salad (with a little something seared on top)

Curried Chickpea Stir-fry

This is going to be a quick post. I just want to share with you this great, super-quick dinner. It’s inspired by an old recipe of Heidi’s that I dug out of the archives as I searched for some ideas for the zucchini that was about to go bad in the fridge. I added some curry powder and changed up the cooking order a bit.

This is actually a very easy one skillet meal. You could serve it over cooked rice or quinoa if you want, but I didn’t think it needed it. And instead of prepping everything first, like I would do for a traditional stir fry, I chopped as I went, which further cut down on time (what can I say, I was hungry…). First, while chickpeas get brown and crusty, I cubed the tofu. While the tofu is getting brown I chopped the onion and zucchini. You get the idea.

A few notes: This is one of those times you want to get the firmest tofu you can find. Since the pan is already hot when you add the tofu, it browns pretty quickly, but tofu stuck to the bottom of a skillet is really a horrible tragedy. Also, I used ghee, a toasted clarified butter, in this. It stands up to heat well, unlike olive oil. If you can’t find it, use butter, or coconut oil would be great (and vegan). Also, the curry powder I used is pretty mild, which is why I used so much. If you only have Madras, you may want to use less, unless you really like the heat. Feel free to sub whatever vegetables you’ve got in your fridge.

Curried Chickpea Stir-fry

a few tablespoons of ghee, divided (or use butter or coconut oil)
2 tsp. mild curry powder, divided
1 c. chickpeas (canned are fine)
8 oz. firm or extra firm tofu, cubed small
1 onion, chopped
2 small zucchini, or one large, cubed
1/2 tsp. sea salt, and more to taste
1/2 bunch of kale, finely chopped
juice of half a lemon

Heat a dollop of ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it has melted, add one tsp. of curry powder. Pour in the chickpeas and stir to coat in the curry. Cook for at least 10 minutes, until they are browned and start to form a crust. They may even shrink a little. While you’re waiting for the chickpeas to cook, prep the rest of your ingredients. When they are done, take ‘em out of the pan and set aside.

You may need to add more ghee to the pan, or not. You decide. Toss in the tofu and let it sit without stirring for a few minutes to form a crust. Use a thin spatula to loosen it from the pan, and flip a few times until the tofu is brown and springy. Remove from pan and set aside (you can use the same bowl the chickpeas are in).

By now you probably need more ghee in the pan. Also add the other tsp. of curry and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir in the onions to coat. Cook a few minutes until they get translucent and add the zucchini, stirring again. I like to let it sit and not stir too much so that it gets a little brown. Once the zucchini has almost softened to your liking, stir in the kale. About a minute later add the chickpeas and tofu back in and stir it all together. At this point, squeeze in the lemon juice and scrape some of the brown bits off the bottom of the skillet. Taste and add more salt if needed (depending on how salty your curry powder is). Let the whole thing warm up and mingle for a minute or two before taking it off the heat.

Transfer to a platter and serve.

serves 3-4

Roasted Tofu & Veggies – A One-Pan Meal

I apologize for not getting this out to you in time for Cinco de Mayo. With it’s fresh mexican flavors of lime, chili and cilantro, this dish would have been the perfect easy meal for those of you on your 3rd margarita by supper time. The whole thing roasts on one baking sheet, making for easy prep and clean up. I wish this brilliant idea was my own, but I first read about it on The First Mess. She roasts kale with the tofu, uses a different flavor profile all together, and credits Bryant Terry for her recipe. No matter where it came from, I love the idea, so plan on seeing plenty of riffs on it in the future.

The only thing you really need to pay attention to here is the timing. I suggest waiting until you see a decent amount of browning on the tofu before you even think about adding the vegetables to the pan. Otherwise, the mushrooms and asparagus will be done too soon. The mushrooms take up quite a bit of space to begin with, but will shrink down before it’s time to add the asparagus. I chopped the asparagus into smaller lengths, mostly because they are easier for me to eat and fit on the baking sheet. They would probably look better if you left them whole, so go ahead  if you are so inclined. And if you need to feed a family with this, you can use two baking sheets when you double it, which will make timing a bit easier. Or you could just make the same amount and serve it with rice, polenta, or some other grain.

I don’t want you to think me snooty when you read the need for organic limes here. See, the strongest lime flavor and fragrance comes not from the juice of the lime, but from the zest, or the outermost part of the fruit. This is the case for all citrus fruits. So, while the inside of a conventional lime (or lemon, orange, etc.) isn’t exposed to a whole lot of pesticides, the zest sure is. And on top of that, conventional citrus is waxed. Again, not a big deal if your only eating the inside, but if you are using the peel, as in this recipe, I suggest going organic. Of course you all know there are other reasons to buy organic and local produce, but from the personal safely perspective it’s extra important for certain things. For more info on this, check out The Dirty Dozen, 12 fruits and veggies with the most exposure to pesticides.

I can see this going in a million different directions. Pretty much any veggie that can be roasted would work. Try broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, sweet potato. Swap lemon juice for the lime, or brown rice vinegar. Add sunflower or sesame seeds to give it an Asian flair, pine nuts for Italian-ness. And for vegans, swap out the  creme fraiche for avocado. If you come up with any inspired ideas, please share!

Roasted Tofu & Veggies

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. chili flakes
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 organic lime, zested and juiced
1/4 c. avocado oil (or other oil)
8 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8 oz. shiitake (or crimini or portabella) mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus
2 T. pumpkin seeds
1/2 cilantro, roughly chopped
a dollop of creme fraiche, or grating of jack, or white cheddar, or some diced avocado, or…

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle and pound into a paste. Alternatively, sprinkle the salt over the garlic on your cutting board, and smoosh into a paste with the flat side of your chef’s knife. Add the chili flakes, cumin and zest, and pound or smoosh some more. Mix in the juice and oil.

Place cubed tofu in a bowl. Pour over about 1/3 of the lime/oil mixture and toss to coat. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms. Leave any small ones whole, medium sized get halved, and the large ones are quartered. Basically, you’re trying for similar sized, so they cook evenly. Tip these into the same bowl you just had the tofu in, and pour another 1/3 of the lime mixture in, tossing to coat.

After about 20-25 minutes, your tofu should be starting to brown. Flip it, and add the mushrooms to the pan. They  take up a lot of space, but will condense as they cook. Give them about 10 minutes in the oven.

Now slice the asparagus, or leave it whole, whatever you choose. Toss in the remaining lime mixture, in the same bowl, and when the mushrooms are up, take the sheet out of the oven, scoot everything over and make space for the asparagus, spreading it into a single layer on the pan. Leave this in the oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on the width of your asparagus.

There are two options with the pumpkin seeds. Either make space for them on the baking sheet about 3 minutes before the whole thing is ready to come out of the oven – or roast them in a dry skillet.

When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle half of the cilantro over the pan and dump the whole thing into a serving bowl. Top with the rest of the cilantro, the pumpkin seeds and creme fraiche.

serves 2

Thai Peanut Noodles

I don’t know what it is about noodles that always makes me happy. I mean, they’re hard to eat – especially when there’s other stuff tangled up with them – and I always eat too much. But, my boy Darren just loves ‘em, and I can’t seem to resist myself. And because I can’t resist so often, I’ve come up with lots of variations. This great Thai peanut sauce version is inspired by Heidi Swanson’s Almond Soba Noodles

Soba noodles are different from spaghetti. They are usually made with buckwheat which gives them a heartier texture.  In a pinch you could use the Italian noodles that are hanging out in your pantry, but this dish is really better with Asian style noodles like soba or udon. Soba are the skinny ones, and udon are wider and usually made of wheat. There’s also somen, which are super thin. Pick your poison.

This recipe uses tofu as the protein. I struggled for years to brown tofu in a skillet and have it come out looking (and tasting) nice. So if you have a preferred way of browning tofu go ahead and do it, but if not, here are a few tips:
1. Get the firmest tofu you can find, I like Wildwood Sprouted Tofu (the sprouting also helps with digestibility).
2. Sprinkle a little salt on the skillet before laying the tofu down, then a bit more on top.
3. Put the tofu down in a cold skillet and slowly heat it up.
4. Don’t move it for a few minutes so that it can form a crust and won’t stick.
Of course, feel free to sub your protein of choice, or just add lots of veggies (the peanut butter is surely enough protein in itself). You can use any greens you’d like here, or whatever else you’ve got hanging around. I bet broccoli would be good. If you do use a vegetable that takes a little longer to cook, remove the tofu from the pan, add a little more oil and cook the veggies separately. 

Thai Peanut Noodles

8 oz. soba noodles
1 T. peanut or sesame oil
8 oz. firm tofu
a few pinches of sea salt
a small bunch of greens, I used kale
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 T. red curry paste
1 t. shoyu
1/4 c. toasted peanuts, roughly chopped 

Bring a pot of water to boil on high heat. Add soba noodles and cook for the time directed on the package (usually about 5 minutes). Drain and set aside, reserving 1/2 c. of cooking water.

Cut the tofu lengthwise into 4 slabs. Wrap the slabs in a clean dish towel and gently press for a few minutes to remove excess water. Stack the slabs and slice into thin strips, about as wide as a pencil.

Pour the oil into a large skillet, and sprinkle a little salt over it. Lay the tofu into the pan in a single layer, making sure they are coated with oil on the bottom. Turn the heat to medium and let cook for 3-4 minutes at least, or until they have formed a crust. Resist the urge to stir or flip, even if it sounds like it’s cooking like crazy. If you move them too soon they will stick. After a few minutes use a thin spatula to get underneath the tofu and flip. Sprinkle a little more salt and let cook until 2 sides are browned, another 4-5 minutes. In the last minute, add the greens to the pan and cook until they are bright green, stirring a few times.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Add the peanut butter, curry paste and shoyu to a jar and pour in a little of the hot pasta water. Shake well. Keep adding hot water, a little at a time, until you have a thin sauce. It will thicken as it sits, so be sure to make it thin enough. I used the whole 1/2 c.

Transfer the noodles to a serving platter and combine with half the sauce. Add the tofu and greens and carefully stir again. Pour in the rest of the sauce and sprinkle with the peanuts before serving.

serves 4