Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Broiled Tofu

I didn't come across tofu, or bean curd, as an edible until my young manhood. It was sometime back in 1970, when I had just returned from Vietnam that I came across this product that had been a staple of Asian cooking for centuries. We never had such a thing when I was growing up in Spanish Harlem. When I first tasted it, at the behest of some adventurous vegetarian friends, I was, to be honest, underwhelmed. The thing had no flavor. But then I discovered that, ironically, that was the beauty of it: tofu can acquired whatever flavor you give it, whether cooked or not. In my bachelor days I had a lady friend whose signature dish was plain tofu, cubed, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little soy sauce, and served over rice or whatever grain was available. That such a simple dish could be heavenly, was new to me. Over the ensuing years, tofu has become a national rage, and tofu cookbooks abound, all celebrating its health benefits.

I'm not that much concerned about its health aspects, so much as its flavor profile. As noted, stir-fried, sauteed, boiled or baked, bean curd will take on whatever flavor designation you desire. You can make it mild to the taste, or more spicy as in a previous post in which I rendered Fried Tofu with Sichuan Peppercorn Sauce (05/14/14).  The recipe given does not incorporate hot peppercorns of any type. It's just a simple preparation of broiled tofu with whatever spices you have on hand. Served over steamed white rice (or brown rice, if you must), and nothing could be tastier or better for you.

BROILED TOFU

14 ounces firm or extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil or vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (can substitute white vinegar)

1. Rinse tofu under running water and pat dry with paper towels. Slice into 1-inch cubes. The  best way to do this is to slice the tofu into 1-inch rectangles, then  slice rectangles into cubes.
2. Heat broiler on high and arrange a rack in top third of oven.
2. Whisk the soy sauce, olive oil, pinch pf pepper, oregano and garlic powder in a medium shallow bowl. Dip the tofu  pieces in the soy sauce mixture to coat (let the excess sauce drip back into the bowl). Then lay the pieces on a baking sheet, or place in a baking pan (for this I always use my trusted cast-iron pan). Set the remaining sauce aside.
3. Broil the tofu until browned, about 10-15 minutes, turning the tofu every 5 minutes to brown on all sides, and remove from oven.
4. Add the scallions, vinegar and sesame oil to the reserved sauce and toss to coat. Serve with steamed rice.
    Yield: 4 servings.     

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cod Fillets in Mushroom Sauce

Fish fillets and mushrooms. A classic combination. All combined in a perfect sauce that adds that magic to a dish that even those who don't like seafood will find irresistible.

COD FILLETS IN MUSHROOM SAUCE

4 cod fillets, about 6 ounces each
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano  or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup dry white wine

SAUCE:

2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon turmeric
6-8 ounces fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced thin
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 egg yolks

1. Washed cod under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Let stand 10 minutes; then season with salt, pepper, and oregano.
2. Heat butter over medium flame in  a large fry pan or skillet. Add fish and brown well, about 5 minutes on each side.
4. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more. Stir in the parsley, and add the white wine. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove cod fillets to a preheated platter and keep warm, but reserve pan drippings.
5. For sauce: Melt butter over medium flame in a saucepan. Stir in flour, pour in chicken broth and reserve pan drippings. Add white wine, stir in turmeric, and reduce heat to a simmer.
6. Add mushrooms to sauce and simmer for 15 minutes.
7. Add lemon juice. Remove a small amount of sauce and blend with egg yolks. Return to sauce and stir thoroughly until heated through---but do not boil since the yolks will curdle (and you don't want that).
8. Pour sauce over cod fillets and serve.
    Yield: 4 servings.


  






Saturday, December 31, 2016

Greek Omelet

I will scarf up anything with eggs in it. I love the suckers: boiled, par-boiled, fried, scrambled, sunny-side up, you name it. One of the favorite is a Greek omelet. Actually, it's more of a souffled omelet (or omelette). In this case, filled with spinach. So in another universe it could be it could be called "Omelet Florentine."

This recipe can be a  breakfast, lunch, or, dinner entrée. I discovered long ago that eggs are not solely for the morning. Now, let's talk about the elephant in the room: cholesterol. Recent studies have questioned the whole cholesterol bit. Supposedly, it's all in the egg yolks. But egg whites really don't afford the same taste and texture. In this recipe I use both egg whites and yolks. Through trial and error I found that separating the whites from the yolks, beating them separately and then adding them to the omelet makes an airy, fluffy dish. Even if you're worried about the cholesterol thing, having eggs once in a while is not going to kill you. As with all things. moderation is the key.

This dish goes great with crusty bread, french fries, or (my favorite), served over rice

GREEK OMELET

3 tablespoon olive oil
1 bag (about 8 ounces) spinach, washed and patted dry
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2-3 ounces crumbled feta cheese
4 large whole eggs plus 2 egg whites
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Chopped fresh dill

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the spinach, salt, pepper, and oregano, and  cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted. Sprinkle with the feta cheese. Set aside and keep warm.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks with a pinch of salt, pepper, and the lemon zest. Whisk until the mixture is fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the yolks and stir until they are mixed.
4. Heat the remaining olive oil in the skillet, pour in the egg mixture, and gently spread it out evenly. Place the skillet in the middle shelf in the oven and bake until it's almost cooked, about 3 minutes. If your skillet is not cast-iron or does not have an oven safe handle, cover the handle with foil wrap while baking.
5. Remove omelet from the oven. Spoon the spinach mixture over half of the omelet. Using a spatula, fold the other half of the omelet over to cover the filling. Return the omelet to the oven and bake another 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the dill, cut into serving pieces and serve immediately.
    Yield: 4 servings.  

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Circassian Chicken

I'm into Middle eastern Cuisine. The flavors, the ingredients all fascinate me. In some cases it's as far from Caribbean cooking as one can find. So I'm always on the lookout for something unique within a Middle eastern venue. And that explains the recipe given today. It's called "Circassian Chicken." A little history here. The Circasssians are an ethnic group that hails from the Northwest Caucasus. They were incorporated into the Czarist Russian Empire during the 19th century. But most Circassians are Sunni Muslims, and their cooking, I'm told, is very popular throughout the Middle East. They have a very old tradition in which nuts, ground fine, are used to enrich and thicken a sauce that is very prevalent in their cooking, as you will note with this dish.

Ground nuts in cooking? you say. Haven't done that lately. Well, just try the dish. You'll be surprised how good it is. Impress your crowd tonight. Tell 'em they'll be dining on a dish worthy of a Sultan or Caliph.

CIRCASSIAN CHICKEN

1 large roasting chicken, about 4 pounds, cut into serving pieces
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup shelled nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, or a mixture)
1 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons paprika
Cooked rice (enough for 4 servings)

1. Wash chicken pieces under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Place in a large pot or pan, cover with water, add the onions, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about an hour or until the chicken is  tender.
3. Drain the chicken, but reserve the stock, keeping the chicken warm.
4. Grind the nuts in a food processor or blender. Place 2 cups reserved chicken stock into a clean pan. Stir in the nuts and bread crumbs. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the mixture has thickened. Add more stock if it becomes too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. In a cup or saucer,  mix the paprika with the oil until it becomes bright red. Add this to the nut/bread mixture and stir to combine.
6. Arrange the rice on a serving platter, top with the chicken and pour the nut sauce over both the chicken and rice.
    Yield: 4 or more servings.