Archive forOctober, 2010

Poached Tofu Cutlets

Holy cats, have I been busy! I don’t know why, but October is always an insanely busy month for me. I guess part of it is both our birthdays, and our anniversary, and Halloween, and I always end up travelling – sometimes multiple times – in October. I’ve also been working a lot lately. All that that is why I haven’t been posting much.

We went to Charleston, SC a couple of weeks ago to visit Mark’s family. We left mid-week and right before we left, I did a quick sweep of the refrigerator for perishables and realized I hadn’t used the tofu I’d made that weekend, so I quickly threw it in a container and popped it in the freezer. I’m not a huge fan of frozen tofu; the texture doesn’t win me over as it does some, and it is so sponge-like it always seems to absorb so much salt it tastes too salty. Nonetheless I wasn’t about to waste homemade tofu, so in the freezer it went.

I was looking for a way to use it and came across this post on the wonderful Just Bento. This idea is totally ripped off of Maki, but for my broth I just started pouring things into my Dutch oven, trying but not really to keep the sodium down.

Poached Tofu Cutlets

1 block frozen tofu, thawed
3 cups vegan broth (I used “chicken”-flavoured)
1/4 cup red wine
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed


Slice the tofu into four slabs like this:

Whisk together the remaining ingredients except the cornstarch in a Dutch oven or wide saucepan then add the cutlets. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for 20 minutes or longer. I think I left mine for 45 minutes or so.

Remove the cutlets from the broth …

(In the wild, poached tofu is the same color as bamboo chopping blocks in order to elude knife-wielding cooks.)

… and coat with cornstarch.

Pan-fry on both sides in olive oil, or do as I did and grill on an electric grill (I brushed the grill with oil first):

Meanwhile you can thicken the (strained) leftover broth with some cornstarch (add the cornstarch to a small amount of cold water then whisk it in and heat until thickened) to make a gravy, though that’s optional.

Look at these baby sweet potatoes I got. LOOK AT THEM!

I love baby vegetables almost as much as I love baby animals. They’re tiny and sweet…just like Torticia! (By the way, upon hearing what they were, Mark informed me he hated sweet potatoes, but he tried them anyway and liked them! I know because he actually ate them! Baby vegetables are awesome!)

Plated meal:

Wow – this was the best meal I’ve made using frozen tofu, and though I’d be hard pressed (haha, like my tofu) to call the broth low-sodium, it wasn’t too salty. The texture was good too: chewy, but not overly sponge-like. Very flavourful. I think I still prefer my tofu fresh but it’s great to know I can make something really good with it even if I end up having to freeze it. And actually, frozen homemade tofu is probably better than non-frozen store-bought tofu.

In other news, I had pre-ordered then forgotten about Harold McGee’s new book Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes and was therefore pleasantly surprised to find it on my doorstep this evening. It’s almost as big as the mega-wonderful On Food and Cooking, though not nearly as dense, and looks like it contains a bazillion helpful hints. I’m almost (but not quite) sorry it arrived today, because I’m feeling a little overwhelmed between work, social obligations, and the seven or eight “spooky” books I just bought for Halloween, which were added to my queue of..oh geez, 37 books. (In other news, I’ve read exactly 100 books so far this year!)

And …

Gomez, light of my life, fur of my clothes. My kitten, my cat. Go-mez-ian: the tip of your tail twitching to and fro across my toes. Go. Mez. Ian.

He is Mez, plain Mez, in the morning, standing on my chest. He is Mezzie when he plays. He is Mezzaluna in the kitchen. He is Gomez on the vet bills. But in my arms he is always Gomezian.

…and for Halloween he is Dracula!

Which is extra awesome because growing up I had a cat named Dracula, who prior to Tigger, Brachtune, Gomez, and Torticia, was the greatest cat who ever lived, and though he now has to share the title, still has a very special place in my heart. (And my skin; I have a tattoo of him.)

(My mom made Dracula’s Halloween costume just like she made all of mine!)

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A Meal for Mandelbrot

I was sad to hear that Benoit Mandelbrot passed away last Thursday. A few years ago I asked myself where my obsession with physics came from and although it took a lot of thinking to remember, I finally recalled a day I was visiting the beautiful main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, looking through the science section for a book on fractals. I did in fact find a beautiful book on the Mandelbrot set, but on my journey to it I also came across a book on string theory, and I was hooked. That’s sort of a roundabout way of expressing my love of fractals, but my point is, like string theory, fractals – and specifically the Mandelbrot set – are one of those things that sort of define me because I love them so much.

I was hoping to find romanesco – a fascinating fractal member of the cauliflower family – at the farmer’s market, as I did last year, all summer and autumn, to no avail. I’d given up, so it seemed like kismet when I found it at Wegmans tonight.

I knew immediately I’d dedicate our meal tonight to Mandelbrot. I don’t really have a recipe for you – I just steamed the romanesco and whisked together a quick sauce – but I took some photos for your geeky pleasure. I guess it’s dorky, but to me this had a lot of symbolism: I find an intense beauty and peace in mathematics and science, and when you combine it with something as simple and nourishing as a vegetable, well, I’m just supremely happy.

The sauce is just some soy sauce, tahini, Dragonfly’s Dry, Bulk Uncheese, water, and lemon juice, whisked and heated until a bit thickened.

In other news, tomorrow is my birthday, but Mark could not wait and made me open my present tonight. (He’s always been like this. He meant to propose to me on Valentine’s Day, but he picked the ring up three days before and ended up proposing that night because he couldn’t stand it.) Our house is rather dark – perhaps I should call it mood lighting – so this picture is lousy, but I got a much-desired iPod dock; this is it blasting my “All Nick (Cave) All the Time” playlist:

The kittens aren’t too sure how they feel about ole Nick (actually, having just read the wonderful Room, I don’t think I can refer to Nick in that manner, it being too close to “Old Nick”).

They’re both pulling some weird “I’m an owl!” thing, and I don’t know WHAT Torticia’s doing in that top picture.

I don’t know if it’s ever come up, but Mark is an amazing artist. This is the tag that was on my present:

I love the cartoons he does of himself, and I think this is the first time Gomez and Torticia have made it into one. (Since I’m sharing, this is my favorite.)

We just got back from Charleston. For any Stone Roses fans, I’ll describe the trip down in verse:
Driving south ’round midnight
Man, I must have been insane
Driving south ’round midnight
In a howling hurricane

It was not good. But once we got there, Charleston was warm, sunny, and full of delicious vegan pizza. And I got to see the following in a swamp!

Six minutes to my birthday, which means I’ll begin receiving a bunch of phone calls from friends singing

I’ve come to wish you an unhappy birthday
Because you’re evil and you lie
And if you should die
I may feel slightly sad but I won’t cry

…which, yes, is their way of saying they love me.

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Pierogi for people who cheat

I’m not a big cheater. I’m one of the most honest people you’ll ever meet – I can not stand telling lies – and I really do believe that you only cheat yourself when you cheat others. And you know me: I make my own tofu, miso, pasta, pickles, bread…everything. Today, though, I was trying to figure out what to make with a fresh batch of homemade sauerkraut, and simultaneously wondering what to do with leftover mashed potatoes, when it all became so clear to me: pierogi. But then a minute later I thought, “ugh, I REALLY do NOT feel like rolling out pierogi dough”. But I still thought pierogi were a brilliant idea. So I cheated. I used gyoza wrappers. Sue me. But it was easy and, as far as pierogi go, fast. And still tasted great. So here you go: pierogi for people who cheat, or can’t be bothered with making pierogi dough.

Unfortunately for people who require strict measurements in their recipes, I cheated that way too. I didn’t measure anything. I just smooshed everything together. I’ll try to estimate what I used, but this is really more an idea than a recipe.

Pierogi for people who cheat

pre-made gyoza wrappers (check that they are vegan)
1 small or medium onion, diced
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes – mine were made with (vegan) sour cream and Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix, a happy accident as they are my standard – and delicious – mashed potatoes and they turned out to be absolutely perfect for pierogi
1 cup sauerkraut
another small onion, diced (optional)

In a heavy (preferably cast iron) skillet, heat some oil, then add the diced onion and saute until beginning to brown. Remove from heat and cool at least slightly. Meanwhile, use kitchen shears to cut the sauerkraut into smaller pieces in a small bowl, then mix in the mashed potatoes and sauted onion.

Next, assemble the pierogi. I found it easiest to use my fingers to place about a teaspoon of the potato/sauerkraut mixture into the middle of each gyoza wrapper, and since that made for messy fingers, I set several pierogi up at a time before closing and sealing them. Keep the remaining gyoza wrappers covered with a damp towel while working in batches.

I used a simple Asian dumpling contraption to make my pierogi. I lifted each one onto the dumpling maker …

… then squeezed shut to seal. If they aren’t sealing well, dab some water on the edges first.

Alternatively, close and seal with your fingers. Continue until all the filling is used up. I made about 32 pierogi.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop about 8 pierogi in at a time – you don’t want to crowd them.

Boil until the pierogi float, then remove with a slotted spoon. Continue boiling the rest of the pierogi this way, or you can freeze half of them, which is what I did.

You can eat the pierogi boiled, with (vegan) sour cream if you like, or you can take the extra step of pan frying them. If you pan fry them, you can first brown a diced onion in some oil in your heavy skillet, then add the pierogi and brown on each side.

Pierogi are really, really, really, really good. I served them with additional sauerkraut and some leftover cucumber salad.

In other news, I know I keep talking about how huge Gomez is, but this weekend I noticed Torticia is getting bigger too. I think she’s going through a growth spurt because she is eating a ton of food and she looks noticeably larger to me. (She is also currently sitting on my lap “helping” me type because she’s the sweetest cat on the entire planet.) She’s still much smaller than Gomez, though she’s also still the dominant one. Gomez would hardly ever get into trouble if his sister didn’t lead him there, but she does, and she does it often. You can see “trouble” written all over her, can’t you? That’s Torticia with a capital “trouble”.

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