Friday, July 29, 2011

Szechwan Style Grilled Tofu

When it comes to tofu, many people hold their nose, even vegetarians. My theory is folks just don't know what to do with it. My first recommendation is to check out good Chinese cookbooks, like this one, or simply browse a decent Asian market and see the diversity of tofu products available. But in the meantime try this recipe and get hooked on the stuff!

This is a great go-to recipe when you want a meatless protein for the grill. It's inexpensive - 5-6 slices per package that for organic tofu probably cost $2.99 - and so so satisfying! Garlic, soy, sesame marinade soaks into the tofu in a flash, grills up to create a crispy crust and then pour extra marinade on top for a delicious finish! Although I didn't picture it, marinading green onions with the tofu and then grilling them is the perfect accompaniment!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cucumber, Lime and Mint Agua Fresca

My garden got off to a rocky start, literally. It turns out what I thought was such a gift - the empty lot next door - has topsoil that is practically impenetrable from all of the embedded concrete rubble left behind after the house that used to stand there was demolished. Deep rooted veggies - everything except tomatoes, peppers and zucchini - were not strong enough to break through the topsoil beneath their raised beds. C'est la vie! Live and learn.

I'm starting another garden (hurray for California Fall which is really another Spring!) Once again cucumbers and mint will feature in my garden because a) homemade cornichons make me feel so smug! and b) mojitos are my favorite drink, period!

So it is little wonder that this agua fresca won my heart at first sight - cucumber, mint, lime - what more could a girl ask for! Agua Fresca - literally "fresh water" is a fruity, watery puree found at taqerias everywhere. They are great thirst quenchers, with more water than fruit, so they help put out the fires in your mouth that chile-ladden tacos can start!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Grilled Zucchini with Basil and Red Wine Vinegar

If you have a garden and if your garden contains a zucchini plant or two, then you will recognize the groan of over-abundance that said plant (or three!) provides your table.

Zucchini in the garden are so seductive because they grow so fast, especially when everything else seems to be in slow-mo and you're anxious for that garden fresh produce. But then it becomes the runaway train, the bellowing, maddened bull, trampling everything in its path and giving you nightmares about drowning in big leafy stalks with batons the size of tri-athletes' calves. Ok, maybe that's going a bit far, but they do terrorize me a little.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Apricot Chipotle Glazed Grilled Tofu

Do you like a little sweet with your spicy? Ever since making Sweet Chipotle Glazed Salmon the idea of brushing that glaze on tofu has been simmering on my back burner, patiently waiting for me to give it a try. With the stove on the fritz and outdoor grilling season here, it clearly was time.

Wow! Just 30 minutes of the tofu marinated/smeared with glaze (and despite the fact that some of it stuck to the grill) and this was still some of the best tofu I have eaten! The caramelized glaze with the smokiness of the grill were a perfect match.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bell Pepper Salad

Ahh bell peppers. They made me a pariah at high school lunch tables as seat mates were grossed out by the smell (?) as I ate them raw for lunches. But my love for them continued unabated. I eat them whole like apples or toss them into salads with other veggies. But a recent post from Smitten Kitchen led to this incarnation of highlighting bell pepper in all its glory; tossed in a simple vinaigrette with onion and cilantro. That's it. Super fast, super easy. So refreshing on a hot day!

Smitten Kitchen's recipe truly was my muse; it took some searching to find which blogger had inspired me so that I could pay fair tribute; I neither read the recipe nor the ingredients list before assembling my own version. So while my version does not take the extra step of quick pickling the onion as Smitten Kitchen does, by making it in advance and allowing it to sit in the refrigerator the red wine vinegar mellows in flavor and softens the bite of the onion. This one is a real winner!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hibiscus and Rosehip Sun Tea

Full Moon Feast, by Jessica Prentice, was my first introduction to the magical combination of hibiscus and rosehips. Prentice wrote of a recipe for creating homemade sodas that used dried hibiscus and rosehips, noting that both are natural sources of vitamin C. The combination, along with a sweetener, tastes distinctly of Hawaiian Punch, that ruby colored sugar treat forbidden to me as a child. Naturally, I fell head over heels in love with the combination!

Prentice's soda used yogurt whey to create natural carbonation; I didn't want to work that hard. My method was to add it to already fermented kombucha producing a gorgeous colored fizzy drink that is actually nutritious and low in sugar. But sometimes I'm lazy and impatient so I make sun tea instead.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Shaved Fennel Salad with Dill and Feta

My garden is not doing so well, other than the zucchini, which of course is growing like gang busters! The garden is fixable, so stay tuned on that front, As for the zucchini, I was thrilled to find a recent post at 101 Cookbooks that was a totally different spin on a fresh zucchini salad and turned out to be just as delicious as anticipated!

Heidi of 101 Cookbooks obviously used a mandoline to shave the fennel and zucchini paper thin; my mandoline leaves much to be desired, so my knife skills had to do. While my veggies were not as transparent (check out her photos versus mine), the dish was still fantastic.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Quick Pickled Okra

I have family members who are compulsive shoppers for clothes, shoes, bags, furniture, you name it. Usually it is in thrift or second-hand stores and much of the old stuff gets sent back to the same stores, so it is a zero-sum game. Me, my impulsive shopping is at the Farmers Market; no surprise there.

Show me an interesting herb or green and I'm sold. Baby anything - squash, eggplant, artichokes - and out comes the cash. At least by limiting my cash flow my purchases are usually of a reasonable size.

A pound of okra found its way into my bag simply because I was sucked into the horde voraciously picking over the first okra of the season. Cornmeal crusted and pan-fried is my go-to recipe for the feared pod but I decided to branch out and found Pickled Okra on Food Blog Search. Crunchy, tangy, with lots of dill and garlic flavor, this was a great find!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Watermelon Tomato Salad

A couple of seasons back on Top Chef a contender made a salad similar to this one and won the Quick Fire Challenge (it was to do a 2 minutes segment for Good Morning America - 2 minutes!!) At the time I was really shocked at the combination - tomato, watermelon and a sharp cheese (she used feta). It was one of those instances when I decided that tasting was believing, since I wasn't so convinced.

Enter Mark Bittman talking about the same style salad. Welllll, Mr. Bittman melts my stubborn food heart so I gave it a whirl. It really is pretty fantastic. Sweet watermelon, tangy cheese and luscious tomatoes really do create some serious magic. Better late than never!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Four Spice Salmon from Mark Bittman

Are you a Mark Bittman fan? I am, roaringly so. He's one of the few people I would gush over, in person, or probably lose my voice and faint dead away. I really do kind of worship him. And his Minimalist is back! Well, sort of, but actually in a better format because he is revisiting recipes and doing them in video format on the New York Times website (I paid for a NYTimes subscription so that I can watch him, really. That was all it took to make me fork over money to read a website.)

This recipe was the first of his videos that I watched and it does not disappoint! Four spices - cumin, coriander, clove and nutmeg - and you have an amazing rub. Wild salmon, particularly Sockeye and King, are at their peak right now which means they are less expensive than usual. If you can find some pick it up and give it a rub, your stomach with thank you heartily!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Classic Herbed Potato Salad - Happy 4th of July!

Potato salad, it was made for cookouts! But if you're looking for a lighter version than the traditional mayo-based one, check out this fresh herb and olive oil salad. Lots of fresh herbs plus a few dashes of olive oil and cider vinegar and you'll hardly recognize that there are potatoes hiding under all that greenery!

Adding green bell pepper (or any sweet peppers) gives a little crunch and the red onion provides a bit of savory punch (did that just rhyme!?) I have also made versions with bits of dill pickles tossed in for a some added texture and more sourness, but that is a matter of preference.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Green Chile Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

Reading Mexican cookbooks makes me realize that while the ingredients are humble, the steps are many. But do not let this deter you; it is so worth it!

I had never cooked with tomatillos but when they came across my path at the farmers' market recently, it clearly was time to give it a go. Enchiladas seemed like the perfect way to showcase these sour cousins of the tomato and this dish did not disappoint!