Okay friends, I know, many of you are afraid of tofu ( its nicer than saying your a hater!!!) I was to, but after having lived in Ithaca ( yes its where the moosewood is) and having wonderful tofu loving kitchen staff to work with, I became a convert.
I know that you only put it in your bird feeder. Well if you spent a couple years living in western Mali you would love it as much as I do. Now I find it to be the easiest, healthiest, quickest protein rich whole grain I can make morning (who needs oatmeal), noon (yes take a break and eat a meal sitting down), and night ( make a double portion and save for morning)...
Here in northern England we are getting what i think is babyish collards that saute up real quick and are great as a healthy side that lets us all get our meals well balanced and on the table in less than an hour, with leftovers and time for a glass of wine!!!
ROAST FENNEL CRUST TOFU, HERBED MILLET, AND WILTED SPRING GREENS
OVEN AT 350 F ( 175 C)
1 pound tofu( extra firm), cut into 1/2 inch deep slices and then pressed in a dish cloth to remove moisture. Yes you can press it overnight at well, but i have a very small fridge and it likes to keep space for legs of lamb and such, not pressed blocks of tofu ( sorry...its true!!!)
2 T fennel seeds ( toasted then crushed in coffee grinder, mortor and pestle, or ziploc bagged and hammered!!!)
2T tomato paste ( or harissa, or ketchup in a pinch...or turn it more to the east with some hoisin)
4 T sugar ( we are trying to get a glaze...so anything sweet...sugar, honey, maple if you want that feel)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh ginger ( 1 inch piece) , minced
2 cups millet
3 cups water, boiling
Fresh herbs, fine dice
1 head of greens, washed, and then cut super thin ( roll up the leaves together, real tight like a cigar and then cut across the grain into super thin, shreddy strips...this is a nice way to cut up basil as well)
1 onion , peel, halve and then cut in super thin slices ( as usual...red onion, white onion, lots of shallots, leeks, you choose)
4 garlic cloves, smash and chop
2 tomatoes, halved, seeded ( if you must), and large dice ( 1/2 inch)
1 cup white wine ( or veg stock, or water laced with some spices...paprika, s,p, for example)
WHAT TO DO
Firstly as we will be cooking three items at once, i will give instructions in the order they all should be done to maximize time, as opposed to each item separately. Obviously as you get faster, I would always suggest chopping vegetables as your starch is cooking ( Millet can simmer as onions are being chopped for example and a baked potato always will take longer then all the slicing and dicing you need to do). As we want to make this dish in under an hour and we want slow roast tofu... we will be searing it on the stove top and then tossing it in the oven and letting it slowly cook down ( if you have more time...lower the oven temp and cook for longer depending on how dense you want it)
Liberally sprinkle both sides of tofu slices with s,p, and powdered fennel.
Boil 3 cups water.
Place 1 sauce pan on stove top over medium heat with millet in pan...let grains toast slightly as you are waiting for water to boil. When boiled, pour over the millet, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cover and let cook.
Place a saute pan on stove top over high heat, and when good and hot...add 1 T veg oil( GOLDEN RULE...HOT PAN THEN COLD OIL...WHY...you want to cook your food with oil, not cook the oil for its own smoky sake..), make sure it coats the pan evenly...and then gently add the tofu to the pan making sure you set each piece in the pan AWAY FROM YOU, not toward you for maximum hot oil splatter effect. Make sure they all have space and are not crowded. One layer only as we want to get a good golden sear, not a mushy steaming tofu mush. When after a couple minutes they are nicely browned, then flip em...
Repeat cooking till tofu is browned and then turn down burner to medium and add tomato paste, ginger, garlic, sugar, and a few spoonfuls of water if necessary...gently shake pan and make sure as sugar is melting that tofu is getting an even coating ( you can move east again by adding hoisin and soy sauce instead of tomato paste and water/white wine)...
Once your have golden tofu and a syrupy sauce...place either the pan ( if oven proof) in the oven, or transfer to a baking sheet and let roast in oven. After twenty minutes flip tofu and spoon ever thickening sauce glaze over the top.
Back on the stove
Check your millet and heat up another saute pan on medium high heat. (Has the millet soaked up all the water, is it starting to dry out a bit and stick to the pan...turn off the millet, recover and let steam while you wait for the tofu to cook)
Now for the spring greens...in the hot pan, add 1 T oil, spread around pan and then add garlic and onions and cook till golden and slightly wilted ( about 2 minutes).
Add tomatoes to pan and let cook down for another minute and then deglaze pan with white wine and let this reduce by at least half...
Now add the whole of the spring greens, and toss around a bit to coat with the oil and wine. While you are at it, i would give it a good pinch of salt.
Keep stirring as the greeens begin to cook down. Turn down heat a touch, adding a bit of water as necessary to prevent sticking ( yes, water is your friend in the kitchen...speaking of that...its tiring cooking...drink a glass!!!).
Okay...so now we have our greens wilting, our tofu roasting, and our millet steaming...whats next...
Millet: fluff with a fork, taste em, toss in some fresh herbs, a grind of pepper, a shake of salt and i like a drizzle of EVOO...taste...DONE
TOFU: take from oven, scoop up any extra glaze and spoon over tofu...DONE
GREENS: taste, add salt, pepper, and EVOO and taste again...
FINISHED and I think it takes longer to write this blog then cook this healthy meal.
so please try it this week as you search for good midweek meals to sustain you...
...and if that's not enough to do...
MORE DISHES TO WASH
Okay, so for breakfast I say use some of your leftover, unseasoned millet and simmer it in milk to make a porridge. I like to have this with in-season berries and sunflower seeds , a quick saute of local apples with walnuts, or caramelized bananas and pecans for a real treat.
Leftover millet. Hmmm, lets think Fried rice but use millet for a healthier option. I say saute up some veggies: carrots, onion, leftover spring greens, zucchini, whatever you got, add some ginger and garlic...then the millet...finish with a bit of soy and garlic-chili paste...give it a wok fried egg...and that should help empty out the fridge.
And lastly, why not cube up your leftover tofu really small, and toss with a simple vinaigrette (I will deal with this next blog...and then we can all stop buying powdered dressing packets, corn syrupy salad dressings, and absolutely gooey and over priced bottled vinaigrette's!!!), some fresh lettuce, a bit of your leftover millet, and any chopped fresh veg that's around...that's lunch!!!
I hope you enjoy the food and take all my recipes as they are meant to be...guides to help you enjoy your food as opposed to hard fast rules to live by. I say you should read these recipes, like I read cookbooks...like novels that have great ideas that i keep with me, but not ever in need of memorization or quoting. We need food to live, we should enjoy it and allow it to be a source of relaxation, enjoyment and good fun...dont take it too seriously. This is cooking, not rocket science. Let cooking, eating and relaxing with the finished product be fun, and put it in the perspective that it should be...its not the end of the world if you burn your tofu or set off the smoke alarm, but it would be a truly sad day if you cant laugh at it, move on, and not enjoy the now HERB SMOKED TOFU!!!