[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days. For this fifth edition, I’m focusing on cilantro. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the second entry on cilantro.]
What woman doesn’t remember her first love? Me, I remember my first cookbook.**
Now, don’t get me wrong–of course I remember my first love, too. I met Spaghetti Ears (not his real name***) the summer before I embarked on my Master’s degree, when I was about twenty two. Yes, I was a late bloomer. Okay, I was a really late bloomer. I was a ridiculously late bloomer. A “So-glad-You-Finally-Made-it-We’ve Already-Finished Dinner-and-the-Dishes-Are-in-the-Dishwasher,” “Sorry-You’ve-Missed-Your-Appointment-the-Doctor-is-Leaving-Now-and-I’ll-Have-to-Reschedule-You,” “Honey-I’m-Three-Weeks-Overdue-Would-You-Run-to-the-Drugstore-and-buy-a-First-Response-Kit “ kind of late bloomer.
Nevertheless, it was worth the wait. Spaghetti Ears was, truly, an ideal first boyfriend. Smart and funny, sweet and kind, loving and gentle, he was the type of guy who’d draw sappy birthday cards by hand, fill shoe boxes with rose petals to strew across the bed for your anniversary, tell you he loved you at least once a day or buy you opal earrings that, while beautiful, were beyond his budget, just because they were your birthstone and they would look lovely resting on your earlobes. (Hmmm. . . wait a second. . . you mean I broke up with this guy? Was I nuts, or what?)
And now, all these years later, I never even have to wonder what’s become of him, since we’re still friends. We email each other on birthdays and get together for an annual celebratory lunch. He tells me about his work and regales me with proud Papa stories, while I recount stories about The Girls’ antics and other events at the DDD household. (Oh, and sorry, ladies, he’s happily married). Apart from a few more laugh lines and gray hairs, Spaghetti Ears is pretty much the same guy today as he was when we dated.
My first cookbook, on the other hand, is in much worse shape than when we first met. (It’s my fault entirely. I just couldn’t keep my hands off it).
I acquired my first “real” cookbook well into my twenties (told you I was a late bloomer!). When I rented my first apartment on my own, my initial impulse was to think about how I’d furnish it. Oh, no, not with furniture, silly (though of course I’d get some of that, too). I wanted to furnish it with cookbooks, the kitchen being the core and most important room in the place.
Having almost no disposable income at the time, I opted for the Doubleday Book Club, where you could order 9 books for $1.00 (then, you needed only purchase 4 more books at regular Doubleday prices–plus shipping and handling–over the next two years!). I ticked off names based on titles I’d heard or was only vaguely familiar with, such as The Joy of Cooking (I was lucky enough to get mine before the travesty of a second version hit the stands); Maida Heatter’s Great American Desserts (she remains an idol of mine); or the original Moosewood Cookbook, in all its handwritten glory, words and illustrations by the multi-talented Mollie Katzen.
How I loved my Moosewood book! In those first days of breathless infatuation, I tried as many recipes as I could, and always turned to my Moosewood before any other. I made Katzen’s Carrot Loaf (really more like a casserole) more times than I can remember. The cookbook also supplied my introduction to hummus, gazpacho, tabbouleh, plus a host of other wonderful recipes. My love for anything Moosewood was ignited with that seminal tome and never waned. In fact, my dream of dining at the original Moosewood Restaurant was finally realized a few years ago when the HH and I dropped in several times during a stop in Ithaca on our way to Boston.
Fast forward to my first encounter with the ACD ten years ago, when I was desperately seeking recipes that were both tasty and complied with my dietary restrictions. Well, I turned to my beloved once again. This Lemony Baked Tofu from The Moosewood Restaurant New Classics fit the bill perfectly, and it was the first tofu dish I truly adored. Made with fresh, simple ingredients, the offbeat combination of cilantro, lemon, and jalapeno is transformative here. The acidity of the lemon is tempered during baking so that the final result isn’t the least bit sour; the cilantro also loses a bit of its perfumed quality in the oven, creating a heady mix that’s intensely flavored with spice and just enough camarelization to confer a touch of sweetness.
While it’s incredibly simple to make (I just whizz everything in the food processor) and there are certainly more elaborate or trendy interpretations of tofu around these days (tofu omelets? tofu scallops? tofu ricotta?), I still love this tofu hot as a main course, cold in sandwiches or wraps, or on its own as an afternoon snack (a few slices have also served as breakfast on occasi0n, alongside home fries). Even when the HH went through his “NO-fu” stage and refused to eat most of my standard tofu-based dishes, he would still enjoy slabs of this baked tofu paired with veggies or pasta.
I’ve tried literally dozens of other tofu recipes since then, but this has remained a steadfast favorite. In a way, you might even say that this tofu is yet another one of my first loves. Unlike the human variety, however (and even after ten years together), this recipe remains consistently lovable, has never let me down and can always make me happy, every time I take a bite.
***That was his actual pet name. Mine was Melon Head. Ah, the quirky charm of young love!
Lemony Baked Tofu (adapted from New Moosewood Classics)
suitable for ACD all stages
Remarkably versatile, this dish can be eaten plain, in sandwiches or pasta, or any other way you fancy. If you’re not a fan of cilantro, try it with parsley, basil, or even dill–though I’d cut the amount of jalapeno in those cases.
1 cake firm or extra firm tofu (about 1 pound/500 g)
1/2-1 fresh jalapeno pepper, to your taste (remove seeds for less heat)
1/3 cup (80 ml) chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and small stems)
1/2 small onion, roughly chopped, or 1 scallion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp (30 ml) tamari or soy sauce (for ACD Stage 1, use Bragg’s liquid aminos)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) agave nectar or organic sugar
1/4 tsp (1 ml) freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Spray a nonreactive pan (glass or ceramic) with nonstick spray.
Cut the block of tofu into 10-12 small slabs or 4 thin “steaks.” Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the jalapeno, cilantro, onion, lemon juice, tamari, olive oil, agave and pepper until smooth. Add the water and process briefly to combine.
Pour about half the marinade in the bottom of the prepared pan and spread to coat the pan. Place the tofu slabs evenly on top of the marinade (try to keep them in a single layer) and pour the rest of the marinade evenly over them. It’s okay if one or two slabs must be doubled up; just pour a little marinade between them as well.
Bake for 45-60 minutes, turning the tofu over once about halfway through. The baked tofu should be browned and bubbling, and there should be almost no liquid left in the pan. Remove to a platter and serve. Makes 4 servings. Will keep, covered in the refrigerator, up to 5 days (as with many tofu dishes, this is actually better the second day).
ACD variation: omit tamari and use Bragg’s aminos instead; omit agave and use 2 drops stevia or equivalent stevia powder.
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Other posts in this series:
- Lucky Comestible 5(1): Spicy Cilantro Sauce
- Lucky Comestible 5(3): Confetti Quinoa and Wild Rice Salad
- Lucky Comestible 5(4): Grain-Free Hazelnut-Cilantro Crackers
- Lucky Comestible 5(5): “Ground” Tempeh in a Cilantro-Curry Sauce
Other Lucky Comestibles:
- Lucky Comestible 1: Sweet Potato
- Lucky Comestible 2: Quinoa
- Lucky Comestible 3: Avocado
- Lucky Comestible 4: Coconut
© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs
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