Friday, June 01, 2007

what a little smoked tofu can do

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Ok, it's the first day of June, and you are going to ask yourselves why I'm devoting a whole post right now to what seem like colder weather foods. True, Syracuse has been basking in 80-degree temperatures for the last week or so, but we had chilly days and nights right into late May. So, as a way of exorcising the cold weather once and for all, I hereby bring you our last batch of cold-weather foods, and promise nothing but fresh summery goodness from here on in!

One day, a couple of weeks ago, Daiku got a sudden spaghetti carbonara craving. For those not familiar with the dish, it's what you would find illustrated in a dictionary were you to look up the phrase "heart attack on a platter"- spaghetti tossed with a sauce of cream, eggs, bacon, cheese, and butter. Daiku, however, veganized it admirably with a secret weapon:



Smoked tofu! By sauteeing small pieces of smoked tofu in olive oil until they were crisp, he achieved the flavor and texture that bacon would regularly bring to the dish. The dish was finished off with onions and garlic, soy cream and peas. The result was spectacular- a hint of sweet offset the smoky chewy tofu perfectly. And, we didn't gain 56 lbs. just by eating dinner.



A little smoked tofu goes a long way, and since smoking preserves it, it lasts a long time in the fridge. A few days after the carbonara, split pea soup was on the menu. Again, the dish started off with a little smoked tofu sauteed in our pressure cooker pot until it was crispy, and had imparted its aroma. Next were added carrots and onions, bay leaves and other spices, all deglazed with a little white wine. Next went in a bag of green split peas and some veggie broth, and the pressure cooker was turned on. In less than 10 minutes, we had the world's thickest, richest split pea soup. The house smelled like a log cabin - a very woodsy aroma.

Next to the split peas were Amey's english muffins. I was so excited when she posted a recipe for english muffins a few months back, and I never realized that they could be so fun and easy to bake. (And they freeze well, too!) Look at those nooks and crannies I made all by myself. These english muffins were made with about 3/4 whole wheat pastry flour and 1/4 white bread flour, and they were marvelous.



Finally, we have vegan ham and beans. Another simple, nutritious, and stick-to-your-ribs dish with very little fuss but a lot of flavor. This time, the ingredients that went into the pressure cooker were smoked tofu, onions, bay leaves, and rosemary. The pre-soaked navy beans were cooked in a veggie broth, and the whole thing was done again in under 10 minutes. (Can I just tell you how much I adore my pressure cooker? It makes cooking beans a quick task. In the 6 months since I've had it, I've learned how to adjust flavorings and time so that the beans come out perfect every time. And, for the first time, I can make palatable garbanzo beans at home, when I used to think that only the ones from a can were any good. This pressure cooker cost under $20 and is one of the most useful kitchen gadgets I can think of.)

To go with the ham and beans, some skillet cornbread:



Coming out of the oven



Cut into a wedge, so you can see the corn and charbroiled poblano pepper chunks.



This fluffy, spicy and sweet cornbread, some kale sauteed with garlic and red pepper, and smoky ham and beans. What more could you ask for on a cold May night?

Oh yeah, a warm May night!

P.S. The little block of smoked tofu we bought at the Asian grocery store was made in Long Island City, the neighborhood in Queens where I used to live! And, it's not all gone yet- watch out for it to be making its final appearance in a batch of jambalaya, coming soon...
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35 comments:

Samantha said...

Oh that corn bread, yummmmmy!

b36Kitchen said...

vegan carbonara! that looks heavenly! i'm glad it won't give any heart attacks.

JENNA

Sarah said...

Could you provide the brand info about the pressure cooker, please? I've been wanting one but the ones I've seen were much more expensive than $20. I figure at that price it's worth a trial. Plus, your comments (and dishes) make it sound great!

maybepigscanfly said...

Smoked tofu, how fun!

Thanks for the info on the pressure cooker. I never really even considered buying one. I guess because I don't really know what they do. What kind do you have, and what else can you use them for?

Here in SF the weather has been chilly too:(.

-Teresa

Chris said...

Wow that all looks so good! I used to love the carbonara back in my pre-veg days too.

I second the question about the pressure cooker. I've thought for a long time about getting one but have never actually done it. At that price though....

bazu said...

Hi Sarah and Teresa,

Mine is a Philippe Richard 5-quart pressure cooker. You can see a picture of it here: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=14214674

I've used it for beans, split peas, and soups of all kinds. I've also heard you can cook rice and other grains in there. It's a fantastic time-saver, and saves money too, since dried beans are cheaper than canned. Less sodium too. Hell, it's perfection. =) One thing I've learned though, is that pressure cooking things dulls their flavor a little bit, and so it's best to compensate by putting in extra herbs, spices, and other seasonings, like broth, wine, etc.

I got it at JC Penney on sale for around $15, I think. The link above lists it for $19.99.

Bridget said...

You just reminded me I have to get a cast iron skillet. That corn bread looks fantastic. Okay, all of it looks fantastic. Never thought of using smoked tofu. Will have to remember that for future use.

Anonymous said...

I just love your site. Thanks for all the delicious inspiration!

Laura Faye said...

I think that's the same pressure cooker that my boyfriend got me for Hanukkah. I love it! I got Lorna Sass's Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure to go with it and it's got some great recipes.

I've never tried smoked tofu, but I really want to!

Courtney said...

Yum--your vegan ham and beans looks great! I may have to invest in a pressure cooker--cooking beans in the summer makes the kitchen way to warm. Thanks for the info!

Courtney

Okra Mary said...

Mmm..My g-ma used to make ham and beans with johnny cake bread. I'm going to have to get some smoked tofu.

PS: I'm going to test out your salt trick with my pressure cooker and some more chick peas.

Celine said...

your cornbread is honestly perfection incarnate. so fluffy! so delicious! wow. care to share the recipe?

Emmy said...

That rocks how Daiku veganized spaghetti carbonara. Loved reading about how you used smoked tofu. The split pea soup looks so comforting. Although I won't eat fresh peas, I do like split pea soup. Cornbread is one of my favorite things and I bet the poblano pepper in it made it extra yummy.

laura jesser said...

Smoked tofu--brilliant! I've never had spaghetti carbonara but I think Daiku's way is much, much better than what you described! And in the split pea soup... wow. I need to pick some up! I love the colorful chunks in that cornbread! I still haven't found a cornbread recipe I'm satisfied with...

Urban Vegan said...

smoked tofu is more versatile than we ever could have imagined. I am a big fan of anything smoked.

you two get the award for most consistently healthy-eating couple.

Johanna3 said...

im drooling! looks so good.

springsandwells said...

oh yeah!
I'm so glad you enjoyed the english muffins! Aren't they tasty and fun?? They look like they turned out perfectly.

also, I love the pressure cooker info. I have one that my mom got me at the thrift store. It works well, but I don't really understand how to use it. So keep sharing recipes, and maybe I'll work up the courage to experiment with it some more. I definitely need to be eating more beans... so that's a good place to start.

Vivacious Vegan said...

Holy smokes! That tofu sounds delicious and extremely versatile. I can't believe I don't have a pressure cooker. I buy a lot of canned beans but I like to buy organic and they're so expensive considering how many we go through. Will you please post some of your tried and true bean recipes so that I can feel confident buying a new pressure cooker?

P.S. Thank you so much for the invite. We just might take you up on it. :)

Jackie said...

The vegan carbonara sounds great. I must try it as I love pasta dishes.

I cannot live without my pressure cooker. I actually bought an old fashioned heavy one at a household auction for almost nothing and it is still working fine after 10 years with me and probably 20 years with the old owner.

The cornbread looks wonderful.

Midwest Vegan said...

I'm scared of pressure cooking because I happened to visit a friend years ago after a little incident with her cooker. She was in the process of cleaning a mess off of her counters, ceiling, table, etc. I'm with Crystal though, if you posted tried and true recipes, I may feel more confident buying one and using it. I haven't had good white bean soup since going veg. Yours looks so yummy. Beans and cornbread are one of my favorite comfort foods (even in hot weather).

Can I say how jealous I am that you had a vegan BBQ? It's nice that you've met some other bloggers in your area to hang out with.

Judy said...

Oh my Bazu, you are a truly ingenious and wonderful cook! I'd love to try that smoked tofu - I've never seen or heard of it, but I'll check for it next time I'm at the store. And that cornbread, wow!

aTxVegn said...

You are a wizard with smoked tofu! Everything looks and sounds so delicious. I especially like the looks of the breads. I've been craving bread lately.

Tracy said...

Golly, everything looks divine! I just loved smoked tofu..a tiny bit makes such a huge difference in some dishes..

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

The skillet cornbread looks fabulous - I really like how you put poblano pepers inside. Thanks for sharing Daiku's secret weapon - you're lucky to have such a skilled dude in the kitchen! :o)

Theresa said...

Thanks for the great cold-weather meal ideas! We've been looking for good hearty recipes to warm us up--split pea soup is going to be making an appearance soon, I think.

Brooke said...

I *heart* smoked tofu. Thanks for all the wonderful smoked tofu-ey ideas!

Candi said...

I love how varied your recipes are! The pasta looks awesome. I love the idea of the peas, soy creme, and smoked tofu. I will have to try this, since I think I used to love that non-vegan dish.

The English muffins look so good, but I don't have a mixer. Do you think I could do it by hand or in my bread maker? I want to make them! :)

Charbroiled poblano pepper chunks? I'm moving to NY to be with you!!!

Kati said...

Yum yum! I've never tried smoked tofu, but I love all the different things you did with it - it seems very versatile.

Your post reminds me that I really need to get a pressure cooker. It's been on my most-wanted-kitchen-items list for awhile, but I'm trying not to buy a lot of stuff that I'll only have to pack up and move in a couple months.

I'm so impressed with your English muffins, too - what great nooks and crannies!

scottishvegan said...

Wow…I love the idea of soup in under 10 minutes. I will have to think about getting a pressure cooker! Your cornbread looks so yummy! And I loved you vegan BBQ from the last post!

Mikaela said...

That cornbread and kale looks great! :)

meesh said...

Smoked tofu? - Brilliant.
You never cease to amaze me.

Sarah said...

Thanks for the link and rec., Bazu!
I can't wait to get one and try it out.

Carrie™ said...

Awesome stuff Bazu! I've seen smoked tofu at the store, and have been rather intrigued. You've come up with some great ideas on how to use it. Pea soup!! YUM!

KleoPatra said...

Smoked tofu!!!?? Smokin', Bazu!!! Great photos, too. Lovin' the post.

Miss you!

K

Susan said...

I've been seeing so much about smoked tofu. I have to get some. I always buy plain. Thanks for the delicious idea!