Sesame Tofu

Sesame Tofu I’m always thinking of new ways to prepare tofu.  It’s far more versatile than most people realize, which is one reason I just love it!  Sliced and sprinkled with fresh ginger, green onions and a drizzle of soy sauce, baked with herbs, sprinkled with nutritional yeast, or pan-fried in a number of ways, tofu is one of my favorite foods.  Roasted sesame seeds are another favorite food of mine, and combined with tofu, they can be transformed into the perfect meal.

Pressed and sliced extra firm tofuExtra firm tofu, water pressed out (I love my TofuXpress) is most important for this recipe.  Served with brown rice and a crunchy chopped salad, tofu skeptics will be thoroughly surprised at how  satisfying this meal can be.  Try it! If you do not have a TofuXpress, drain your tofu between a clean, lint free kitchen towel or a thick layer of paper towels. Place a cutting board over the top with a few canned goods, a book or a heavy skillet for about 1/2 hour.

Soy sauce, sesame oil garlic and ginger marinadeA quick dip in the marinade, then pan-fried until the sesame seeds are super fragrant and crunchy, this is a quick, savory and simple dish.  It keeps well for a few days and is a tasty home lunch.

Sesame Tofu

Sesame Tofu

Serves 2 as a main dish

Ingredients

1 14 ounce package extra firm tofu, drained and water pressed out (Wildwood SprouTofu, extra firm is recommended)

4 tablespoons lite soy sauce (Kikkoman recommended)

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil (Kadoya recommended)

2 -3 teaspoons finely minced garlic

2 – 3 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger root

1/3 cup roasted sesame seeds, white and black mixed

1 tablespoon corn starch

Preparation

Slice pressed tofu into seven even slabs, or just under 3/4 inches thick.  Slice each piece in half, lengthwise. Place on a paper towel while you make the marinade.

Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger in a 9 x 9 inch baking dish.  Place tofu slices in dish, in a single layer.  Turn to coat all sides of tofu.  This may take just a few minutes.

Transfer the tofu slices to a plate and cut each piece in half, crosswise, to make shorter sticks.

Mix 1/3 cup sesame seeds with corn starch in a shallow bowl or plate.  Place a few pieces of tofu in the sesame seed mixture and press gently to coat both the top and bottom.  Remove to a plate and continue to coat all of the tofu.

Heat a tablespoon of canola oil over medium high heat in a skillet large enough to hold all tofu pieces in a single layer.  Once the oil is hot, gently place tofu in the skillet.  Turn heat down to medium and cook the tofu until nicely browned, about 6 – 8 minutes.  Check a piece to make sure the sesame seeds and garlic are not burning.  Turn the tofu pieces over to brown the other side for another 4 – 5 minutes or so. I find it best to use a thin spatula to turn the pieces.  Just be careful when doing so as the sesame seeds have a tendency to fall off.  I quickly browned the two sides that are not coated with sesame seeds, by turning the pieces on their side for just  a minute.

Serve warm with brown rice and a chopped salad.  If you have leftovers, the tofu keeps well for at least 3 days.

 

 

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Maui Sweet Corn Chowder

Maui Sweet Corn ChowderThe climate in Hawaii couldn’t be better these days.  “Best weather on the planet” as Hawaiian weatherman Guy Hagi puts it!  The blazing summer heat is gone, at least for several more months.  Everyone I know, looks forward to this time of year.  Believe it or not, you may even have to dig out that sweater tucked away in the closet.  So, what better time of the year than now to make a big pot of corn chowder?

Sylvester's Sweet Maui CornHawaiian Moons grocery store has the best fresh, sweet corn.  I bought some the other day and noticed the label on the package: Maui Grown – Legendary Sylvester’s Sweet Corn.  I don’t know who Sylvester is, but I can tell you that his corn is fabulous.

Yukon Potato Cubes, Diced Ham, Maui Corn Yukon Golds are my favorite potatoes to use in corn chowder.  Their firm but creamy texture holds up well in this recipe.  If I have leftover baked ham from a special occasion dinner, I freeze thick slices and use it in corn chowder.  Most of the time, I ask the deli to cut a 1/2 inch thick slice of ham (Safeway’s Ham Off The Bone or Black Forest Ham).  You can use bacon instead of ham if you prefer.

Maui Sweet Corn Chowder

Maui Sweet Corn Chowder

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients

1 1/2 tablespoons butter (I use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)

1 cup diced onion

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 14.5 ounce can chicken broth

2 cups (about 1 pound) peeled, cubed potatoes 1/2 inch thick (Yukon Gold)

2 cups whole milk (I use lactose free milk)

1 14.75 ounce can creamed corn

4 ears fresh corn (about 3 cups corn kernels removed from cobs with sharp knife)

1 3/4 cups diced ham (about 10 ounces)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

fresh chives (optional)

 Preparation

Heat butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onions, and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add flour and stir continuously for 1 minute.  Pour in chicken broth, stirring well.  Add diced potatoes making sure they are submerged beneath the broth mixture.  Adjust heat to medium low, cover pot and simmer potatoes in broth for about 12 – 15 minutes. Give them a stir now and then.  Check for doneness at 12 minutes.  Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your potato cubes. If your cubes are on the small side, check for doneness after 10 minutes. Potatoes should be barely tender.  They will continue to cook further once other ingredients are added to the pot.

Once the potatoes are just tender, add the milk, creamed corn, fresh corn kernels and ham.Turn the heat up to medium, and simmer until potatoes are fully cooked and the chowder has thickened and reduced a bit, about 10 – 15 minutes.  Add salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a few pinches of cayenne.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

Sprinkle minced chives over chowder before serving.

*The chowder freezes well.  Gently reheating on the stove is suggested, rather than using the microwave (stove top  heating produces a rich, creamy texture where as the microwave will give you watery chowder).

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Shredded Beef Tacos

Shredded Beef TacosAnyone familiar with this blog is aware that I love Mexican dishes, all of them: tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tamales….  I always have Sopa de Arroz and Cuban style black beans stashed in the freezer.  They are staple side dishes that go with every Mexican meal.  In fact, I am happy just to eat a big bowl of beans and rice with some fresh cilantro scattered over the top.

Chiles and Bay Leaves

Boneless Beef Short RibsCook’s Illustrated, with their tried and true recipes, once again caught my eye with this recipe; shredded beef tacos.  The idea of tender, shredded beef on warm corn tortillas was just too inviting.  I called Times Supermarket and asked the butcher if he could prepare 3 pounds of boneless short ribs cut into 2-inch cubes for me.  No problem!  Knowing that short ribs are quite “rich” I was a bit nervous when I picked up my order. The short ribs were beautiful.  Just slightly marbled, but overall well-trimmed and lean.

Boneless Beef Short RibsI was skeptical about the procedure to brown the meat called for by the recipe.  I shouldn’t have had any doubts.  The meat was browned to perfection.  Never doubt Cook’s Illustrated.

Shredded Beef for TacosDecadent and rich, the short ribs turned out great.  We warmed corn tortillas on the comal and served them with a cabbage-carrot slaw.

Cabbage-Carrot Slaw

Shredded Beef Tacos with Sopa de Arroz & Cuban Style Black Beans

Shredded Beef Tacos

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups beer (I used Sierra Nevada)

1/2 cup cider vinegar

2 ounces (4 – 6) dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons tomato paste

6 garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled

3 bay leaves

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

Salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 large onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds

3 pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes

Preparation

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine beer, vinegar, anchos, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cloves, and cinnamon in Dutch oven.  Arrange onion rounds in a single layer on the bottom of pot.  Place beef on top of onion rounds in a single layer.  Cover and cook until meat is well browned and tender, 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a large bowl, cover loosely with foil, and set aside.  Strain liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup (do not wash pot).  Discard onion rounds and bay leaves.  Transfer remaining solids to the blender.  Let strained liquid settle for 5 minutes, then skim any fat off the surface.  Pour 1 cup liquid into blender with reserved solids and blend until smooth, about 40 – 60 seconds.  Transfer sauce to now-empty pot.

Using two forks, shred beef into bite-size pieces.  Bring sauce to a simmer over medium heat.  Add shredded beef and stir to coat.  Season with salt to taste.  (Beef can be refrigerated for up to 2 days; gently reheat before serving).

Spoon small amount of beef into each warm tortilla and serve with cabbage slaw, queso fresco (I used feta), sour cream and lime wedges.

 

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Lactose Free Pumpkin Pie & Best Ever Pie Crust

Lactose Free Pumpkin PieThe best pumpkin pie recipes typically utilize sweetened condensed milk or some combination of whole milk and heavy cream.  As I am lactose intolerant, when I bake a pumpkin pie, I always use lactose free whole milk.  Recently I discovered Organic Valley lactose free half and half in my local market. So this time, I used the half and half in my recipe and the pie that emerged from my oven was unexpectedly rich and beautiful.

Lactose Free Pumpkin Pie SliceI like to chill my baked pumpkin pie thoroughly.  It helps to firm up the filling.  For the crust, my favorite recipe is Best-Ever Pie Crust from Epicurious.  I use Earth Balance buttery sticks (in place of butter), and Earth Balance shortening.  I also substitute 2 tablespoons of the water with vodka for a double pie crust recipe.

Lactose Free Pumpkin Pie

Lactose Free Pumpkin Pie & Best Ever Pie Crust

Pie Crust

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) chilled Earth Balance Buttery Sticks cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) frozen Earth Balance shortening (or other non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening) cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon vodka

Preparation

Blend flour, sugar, salt in food processor.  Add buttery sticks and shortening.  Using pulse on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Transfer mixture to medium bowl, add water and vodka, and mix with fork until dough begins to clump together, adding more water by teaspoons if dry.  Gather dough together, flatten into a disk, and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out dough (I use lightly floured parchment paper) for 9-inch pie plate.  Line dough with parchment paper or foil and weight down with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until pie crust is very light/golden-colored.

Remove pie crust to a cooling rack.

Pie Filling 

Ingredients

3 large eggs – room temperature

1 can (15 ounce) Libby’s pumpkin purée

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

pinch of ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon corn starch

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cups lactose free half and half or whole milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl until a bit foamy, about 30 seconds.  Whisk in remaining ingredients except half and half.  Mix until smooth, then whisk in half and half or milk.  Pour into prepared crust.  Bake 15 minutes then turn the heat down to 350 degrees.  Continue to bake for another 35 – 40 minutes or until filling has set.

Remove pie to a cooling rack.   Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

*If the edges of the crust start to brown too much, this is the perfect way to avoid burning the crust!

 

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Pickled Young Ginger

Young Pickled GingerGinger.  Spicy, aromatic and pungent.  It’s presence in a dish adds an unmistakable zestiness.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh ginger, is to finely grate it over tofu, with a sprinkle of green onions and a drizzle of soy sauce.  If you are fond of sushi, you no doubt, have had  pickled ginger served with your dinner.  It is so refreshing.  While commercially made pickled ginger is widely available, they don’t compare to this simple homemade recipe.

Assorted Fresh GingerThe ginger on the bottom left of the photo is what you will typically find at the market.  It’s perfect for any dish that calls for crushed, grated, or chopped ginger.  Young ginger, pictured to the right, is a must for pickled ginger.  It does not have the fibrous texture of mature ginger, which means you can slice it into paper-thin pieces.  You wouldn’t be able to do this with mature ginger.

Sliced Young Ginger

Pickled GingerMy friend Tamoe gave me a little container of powdered food coloring for this ginger, that she bought in Japan.  I added a few pinches to the sauce and thought it wasn’t quite enough. So I added more. I guess I should have been patient!  My ginger turned out “wildly pink” however it was delicious.

Pickled Ginger Plate Lunch

Pickled Ginger

Ingredients

1 lb. young ginger

Hawaiian salt

1 1/2 cups rice vinegar (not seasoned)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Preparation

Peel the thin layer of skin off ginger.  Using a mandoline, slice ginger into very thin pieces. Place sliced ginger in a glass bowl.  Sprinkle generously with Hawaiian salt.  You may use kosher salt if Hawaiian salt is not available.  Toss ginger with salt, cover and soak over night.

Rinse ginger and drain on paper towels.  Mix vinegar and sugar until well combined.  Pour over ginger.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.  If you prefer a sweeter flavor, add more sugar.  Transfer ginger and sauce to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for about 2 weeks, adding more vinegar or sugar according to your taste.  Ginger will keep well for many months, stored in the refrigerator.  It’s delicious served with a steaming bowl of hot rice and grilled bulgogi, teriyaki chicken or sesame tofu.

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Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread

Cheddar Jalapeno CornbreadThere are so many cornbread recipes and most are generally quite good, but finding one that stands out from the rest is daunting.  So you have to go with your gut feeling and test a few to find the texture and flavor that appeals to you most.  Fluffy, extra sweet cornbread with a cake like crumb is not for me.  My mom’s cornbread recipe is simple, full proof, and hearty.  I continue to bake her cornbread but I was intrigued about this one from Lucinda Scala Quinn that included jalapeños.  We have a cupboard full of pickled nacho rings we canned this summer.

Fresh Corn

Bob's Hearty CornmealBob’s Red Mill products are superb.  It’s good to know we have a wide selection at Mana Foods and Whole Foods on Maui.  Cornmeal pancakes?  I’ll try it!

Tillamook CheddarJalapeño cornbread often incorporates some type of cheese, such as extra sharp cheddar.  Tillamook, found at most supermarkets, is my favorite extra sharp cheddar cheese.  Though I am lactose intolerant, there are a handful of dairy products that don’t bother me.  Natural aging breaks down lactose so many aged cheeses such as cheddar, contain zero grams of lactose.  Thank goodness, one of them is extra sharp cheddar cheese.  It’s so delicious.

Cheddar Jalapeno CornbreadWarm cornbread right out of the oven is divine.  But my favorite way to eat cornbread is to split each piece and toast it in my toaster oven until all of the edges are browned and crispy. Delicious.

Toasted Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread

Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread

Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

1 1/2 cups milk (I use lactose free milk)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons melted butter (I use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)

2 cups grated cheddar cheese (not packed)

1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (I microwaved the corn cob for 1 minute then sliced off the kernels)

1 tablespoon finely chopped pickled jalapeños

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cayenne. Blend in the milk, eggs, and butter.  Fold in the cheese, corn, and jalapeños.

Pour into a buttered 8-inch square baking pan and smooth over the top.  Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Oven temperatures vary, so test at 30 minutes. If it needs more time, set the timer for 2 minutes and test again.

Set pan on wire rack to cool for 15 minutes or so before cutting into squares.  Cornbread freezes well.

*Our pickled jalapeños are hot!  If yours are mild or if you want extra spicy cornbread, add another tablespoon.

 

 

 

 

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