Tofu ‘n’ Greens: How to Spice Up that Favourite Estrogen Enhancer

Sometimes, after I’ve had one too many servings of pad thai, my gut starts crying out “tofu and greens! Tofu and greens!” I’m not exactly sure why this is – perhaps it’s a throwback to my high school vegan adventures, or maybe it’s the fact that my mother raised her chilluns on a strict diet of hippy food. Anyway, when the urge hits, I turn to one of my favourite tofu recipes. It’s so simple that it’s almost an exaggeration to call it a recipe. Let’s just say it’s a way to make tofu taste like delicious ambrosia – not estrogen.

Ingredients:

  • Garlic cloves to taste (if you’re like me, 10 should do it. If you’re like T-bone, stick to half a clove)
  • Red Chillies to taste (I like to add 2 small ones to this recipe)
  • Sesame oil
  • Soy sauce or oyster sauce
  • White vinegar
  • Ginger root to taste
  • black pepper
  • extra-firm tofu
  • leafy green vegetables (I used a rapini/broccoli Thai hybrid, but you could use anything from broccoli to bok choy to kale)
  • cooking oil (I used soybean cuz that’s what our convenience store sells)

I deliberately did not give exact quantities for this recipe, because the proportions really depend on the amount of tofu and greens you wish to cook, and your personal spice preferences.

1. Press the tofu

In my efforts to become more fully acquainted with these pasty blocks of jiggling delight, I’ve learned that tofu absorbs marinade more easily if it first has the water squeezed out of it. This is easy to do, but takes some time. Put the tofu on a plate, place another plate on top of the tofu, put weights on top of that plate, and leave it to sit – the longer, the better. I often get impatient, and let it sit for less than an hour, which still tastes fine, but you will get better results if you let it drain for a few hours.

Oops. In spite of my healthy recipe, I still drink coke zero. Hopefully they cancel each other out?

2. While you wait for the tofu to drain, make the marinade.

I like to make this in a tupperware-style container – that way I can shake the mix to make sure that all the pieces are coated. Grate/grind/press/chop the ginger, garlic, pepper, and chillies into the container.

Using my mini grater because my TESCO brand garlic press was a complete bust.*

Add the soy or oyster sauce, sesame oil, and vinegar. Normally, I start with a few sloshes of sesame oil and a few sloshes of soy/oyster sauce, and then add enough vinegar so that the mixture will at least partially cover the tofu. A taste test at this point would not be amiss.

Garlic soup – my dream come true.

3. Dice the tofu

When the tofu has finished draining, discard the juice that it oozed (mmm. how’s that for a descriptor?), and cut the tofu into bite sized pieces.

And a dark shadow passed over the plate…

4. Marinate the tofu

Dump the tofu into the marinade, and give it a good shake to coat all the pieces. The longer you let the tofu marinate, the stronger/better the flavour in the end. An hour would be great. Shake the tofu occasionally to ensure that all the pieces get coated.

5. Get yer greens

While the tofu is marinating, chop your green vegetable.

6. Fry the tofu

Heat a little oil in your frying pan. I would use soybean, canola, or another mild-tasting oil. Don’t use sesame, as it begins to smoke at high heat. Use a slotted spoon or your fingers to take the tofu out of the marinade – don’t discard the marinade! – and dump it into the pan. An important step to ensuring tasty results is to make sure that you brown the tofu on every side (or if you’re impatient, on at least a couple of sides). The goal is the make it crispy.

I’m salivating all over again.

7. Add greens and stir-fry

Once the tofu is adequately crisped, dump the greens on top of the mixture, and give it a good stir. At this point, add the leftover marinade to the mix. Stir-fry until the greens are crisp-tender.

Apologies for Todd’s foot – not the most appetizing sight.

8. Dive in for a hippy fest of estro-enhanced deliciousness.

Becoming more feminine by the bite.

9. Ignore your husband’s complaints that you used too much garlic. There is no such thing.

Happy Eating!

*This is not another estrogen joke.

Foodie Fridays: How to Make Cheese in an Elfin Kitchen!

(Whoops! Sorry once again for the late Foodie Friday post! I spent the last few days in Cambodia with a group from my church (not visa related!), and due to the hours of bus travel/brutally long passport control lines/crazy outreach in Siem Reap, blogging got a little delayed).

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I like to rant about my apartment in general, and my kitchen more specifically (see this post or this post). Basically, it was designed by/for elves. Everything is miniature, from the single hot plate, to the shelf that is perfectly positioned to smack your forehead when you stand up. The sink is so low that Todd washes dishes sitting down, and the fridge holds approximately one jug of milk and 3 eggs. Because of this, for the first few months that we lived here, we ate out most of the time. However, as time goes on, we have been craving a little home cooked (ie: not drenched in sugar and msg) goodness. This craving, coupled with the paucity of cheap dairy products in Bangkok, led me to experiment with cheese making. Unfortunately, rennet (necessary for harder cheeses) is not readily available in Bangkok, but the ingredients for ricotta/cottage cheese are easy to find. This is a great recipe for my fellow Bangkokians who have limited kitchen resources, or for anyone who wants to become reacquainted with the pioneering spirit.

Ricotta for an Elfin Kitchen

Time frame: 45min plus 1-5 hours of draining time

(recipe taken from this site)

1. Find a kitchen. Hopefully the elves haven’t hidden it.

Oops! There’s one hiding on the side of my toaster. Classy.

2. Gather your ingredients and equipment. You will need:

– A strainer/colander

– cheesecloth

– half a cup of white vinegar

– 2 litres of milk (any fat percentage will work, but remember that more fat = tastier).

– a saucepan with a lid

Tip: to make your own “cheesecloth,” you can use a tea towel, or, in this case, an old shirt. Simply find your husband or another random dude, steal his ugliest shirt, and cut it up. Wash it first if you don’t fancy man-flavoured cheese.

3. Begin by heating the milk in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. You want to heat it until it is 120F, or, if you don’t have a thermometer, until it feels warm but not hot.

Sterilize your finger with boiling water first if you’re nervous about germs.

4. When the milk has reached “warm” status, turn off the heat. Pour the vinegar into the milk, and gently stir the mixture until the ingredients are combined.

We haven’t splurged on measuring cups yet.

It will soon start to separate.

5. Cover the pot, and let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes. When you remove the cover after 30 minutes, the mixture should look something like this:

Curds and whey.

6. Line your strainer (in this case, part of my salad spinner) with the cheesecloth.

7. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the lined strainer.

Like I said, the shelf is the correct height for forehead whacking.

8. Allow it to drain for a few minutes, then gather the corners of the cloth together, and gently squeeze the mixture to release additional moisture.

Drain that sucker.

9. The next step is an optional one. Once most of the moisture has been drained from your bundle, you can rinse the bundle (still wrapped up) under the tap to get rid of the vinegar flavour, and gently massage it to break up the curd. I once forgot to follow this step, and my cheese still turned out fine.

I wasn’t able to take a photo of this step, because my photographer disappeared and I don’t have a third arm.

10. Once your cheese is rinsed (or not), hang the bundle on a protruding object to allow it to drain further. I like to use my kitchen tap. The longer you leave it, the firmer it will be. I let mine hang for 1-5 hours, depending on my mood and my schedule. If you’re unsure, open the bundle and take a peek to determine the firmness of the cheese.

11. After the cheese has hung out for a sufficient amount of time, open the bundle.

Sour milk is so tasty.

11. Scrape your fresh cheese into a container. I like to mix in some salt when I make it. You really could add any number of seasonings – pepper, garlic, chillies, jam, etc. I also like to refrigerate mine for a bit before eating, but you could also just tear into it like a ravening wolf.

It’s also great on pancakes, and I’m sure it would be charming in a lasagne, but since I don’t have an oven, I really can’t verify this.

12. Serve to your favourite elves, (now shirtless) husbands, and Intrepid Italian houseguests.

“Sorry” for cutting up your ugly shirt, T-bone.

The Italian approves.

Yum.