Garlic-Orange Tofu and Peanut Cucumbers with Rice

When I glance out the window this morning, it looks like it’s raining. But I look again and it’s still ash. We’ve been raining ash for the last couple days as the air quality went from clear blue skies over Labor Day weekend to a dramatic sweep of heavy smoke on Monday evening as several fast-moving forest fires have been burning in the cascade mountains and now closer near the edge of town to our east. Our hens have been out foraging as usual but I worry about their little lungs. Our teenage kitten, a truly needed and lovely new addition this summer, has been upset at the eery light the last couple of days.

I’ve been back to morning meditation lately first thing before I get out of bed or turn on the light, and this morning’s had me expressing gratitude for our air purifiers, those ‘noise machines’ that I have routinely tsk-tsked since William insisted on them in the last couple years. And also gratitude for a safe home. The alarm of LEVEL 3–GET OUT NOW evacuation alerts going off on my phone throughout yesterday afternoon for the northeast edge of the city, truly a ways off from us but too close for comfort, brought that gratitude home.

Today at least we got a sunrise, smoky as it was. Yesterday was just a dark red Apocalyptic haze, which is becoming the norm in Western Oregon in the last 36 hours.

We can still smell the smoke inside even with a couple good air purifiers so I’ve been adding turmeric to all my meals, taking or eating extra vitamin C and vitamin E-rich foods (hazelnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, leafy greens), and adding tulsi / holy basil, and licorice and marshmallow roots to my tea blend. The first three are taken with the idea of combatting the oxidative stress that comes with particularly toxic wildfire smoke particles. If I had a particularly vitamin-C rich food or herb on hand such as amla fruit powder, camu camu powder, or rose hips, I’d use that instead of just plain supplemental vitamin C. The last two roots of marshmallow and licorice are for soothing irritated internal tissues, such as the lungs and digestive lining. Even though I’m staying inside and out of the terrible air, this stuff is incredibly potent. Turmeric particularly helps my smoke headaches.

—–

While I’ve been meaning to share more about digestive health in this space over the next few days—since this is an area that my previous survey indicated is definitely a need. But first, I think we can all use a really good meal that’s refreshing, comforting, and enjoyable while summer is still here.

I know many individuals avoid tofu because they’re unsure of how to prepare it, or when they’ve tried to in the past the texture is all wrong. I was there for a long time (probably 10 years since I first attempted tofu until I was comfortable cooking / eating it). So I’ve outlined a little more detailed way to prepare it. This is my go-to method and yields the texture we prefer.

Then the tofu is paired with finely chopped cucumbers tossed and marinated in the same dressing as the tofu is marinated and cooked in, and enjoyed with simple brown rice. The result is a simple concept but the taste is truly rich and incredible. Hope you’re staying safe in whatever way where you are, and if you tend to avoid tofu because you’re unsure how to cook it, give this recipe a try.

Garlic-Orange Tofu and Cucumbers with Rice, serves 4
inspired by Anna Jones in the The Modern Cook’s Year

16 oz. / 453 grams firm tofu, drained

dressing:
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 Tbs. reduced-sodium tamari
2 Tbs. brown rice vinegar or raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs. honey or maple syrup
a pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. ground coriander
the zest and juice of 1 unwaxed/organic orange

1 cup / 190 grams brown rice
2 cups / 470 ml water
1 ¼ lb. / 600 grams / ~4 cucumbers
a few pinches of salt
¼ cup /35 grams peanuts, toasted
a small handful of fresh basil, minced

  • Slice the block of tofu in half lengthwise, wrap in paper towels like a birthday gift, and then stack the wrapped tofu between two cutting boards. If you have something heavy in your kitchen, put it on top of your cutting board as a weight. (I use my giant Shakespeare textbook). Leave to press out the liquid for about 30 minutes.
  • While the tofu is pressing, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  • When the 30 minutes is up, unwrap the tofu and slice it into equal size cubes (I get about 48), and combine it with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the dressing in a container with a leak-proof lid. With the lid on, give it a few shakes to immerse in the dressing and then chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to a day. More time will allow for more flavor to develop.
  • Once the tofu has marinated, turn it and its dressing onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for about 40 minutes, flipping it over halfway through.
  • After the tofu goes in the oven, cook the rice in a medium pot on the stovetop. Add 2 cups of water, 1 cup of brown rice (ideally pre-soaked but simply rinsed and drained if not), and bring the pot to a boil. Once it boils, turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook undisturbed for 40 minutes.
  • While the rice and tofu are cooking away, dice the cucumbers into small (~1-cm) pieces. Place the slices in a colander that’s over a sink or another bowl, and sprinkle and toss through a few pinches of salt. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes to release some of their liquid.
  • Then take your (clean) hands or a clean kitchen towel and press the cucumbers to remove any extra liquid that may have been released. Put the cucumber in a bowl and add ¼ to 1/3 cup of the remaining dressing. Add more to taste. Scatter over and stir through the toasted peanuts.
  • Once the tofu and rice timers are done, remove them both from the heat and serve with the marinated cucumbers. Sprinkle atop some fresh minced basil leaves if desired.  

zucchini noodles, crookneck squash, garlic + pesto

zucchini noodles, crookneck squash, garlic + pesto

IMG_0237

 

I finished my second trimester of classes this past weekend and I am sooo happy for a three week break. Every weekend since January save a couple has been taken up with assignments, projects and reading research papers. While I’ve loved the topics I’ve been learning these past few months, they have been more in line with the integrative health and herbal medicine component of the program rather than the nutrition side of things. My knowledge of the multi-facets of health and wellness has vastly improved even as this understanding has helped me personally as well. I’m already relishing this break, finally doing a little much-needed garden maintenance like gleefully wiping out pesky bugs with my bare hands, catching up on some lighthearted reading, and looking forward to delving into the rehab on my grandma’s old china cabinet (so I can finally finish unpacking, maybe?) I am also already thinking about next trimester and very much looking forward to a turn towards what I’ve been told is an extremely difficult class and a little more nutritional science. I think mostly I’m excited for the idea of a challenge–because grad school, working, commuting, and maintaining my running lifestyle hasn’t been challenge enough (insert Rebecca kind of enjoys pushing her limits comment).

 

IMG_0247

 

Since the last six weeks caught up to me with multiple big projects and a couple long weekends out of town all happening together, I’ve basically been eating this meal on repeat this month and last. William really gobbled it down the first couple times until he realized it was one of only a few meals I’d be craving/making all summer. Now he’s a little less than thrilled when I tell him we’re having zucchini noodles and summer squash again.

I have four heavy producing summer squash plants and between the two types, the making of this dish has kept the harvests in check. If you aren’t sure what to do with an abundance of zucchini, I recommend investing in a spiralizer (I have a cheapo $10 one and it works great!) and making noodles.

The day after I completed my classes, I cleared my schedule, took a nap, watched the Olympics women’s marathon, caught up on all the blogs I’ve let queue in my inbox, pottered around the kitchen and generally felt my cooking creativity come back to life. It is safe to say it’s back in force.

 

IMG_0228

 

Zucchini Noodles, Crookneck Squash, Garlic + Pesto, serves 2

This is a nice, quick, simple weeknight meal and if you’ve already got canned or cooked beans and pesto on hand, it comes together quick. I’ve been using my pesto recipe with basil and pumpkin seeds as my greens and seeds of choice. Each serving makes a really big plate but basically you’re eating really tasty summer squash for dinner, so there’s that. 

3-4 medium zucchini

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

3-6 small crookneck squash, medium dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

crushed red pepper flakes, optional

1 cup cooked black eyed peas, chickpeas, or white beans

1/4 cup pesto

extra basil to garnish

  1. Use a spiralizer or a vegetable peeler to turn the zucchini into noodles. Set in a colander over the sink and sprinkle with a good few dashes of salt. The salt will allow some water to escape while the crookneck are cooking.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the crookneck and garlic and allow to cook for several minutes, until it becomes a bit golden and soft. Season with a few dashes salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Turn in the beans, the zucchini noodles and the pesto. Give it all a good stir and heat just until it all comes together, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Plate up and add a little basil on top to serve.

 

 

 

Coconut Basil Zucchini Rolls

Coconut Basil Zucchini Rolls

IMG_4618

 

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

from Wendell Berry’s How To Be a Poet

 

IMG_0173

 

Somehow we’ve found ourselves in mid-summer and I’ve discovered that I can accomplish tasks in the online world while hanging in the backyard on a blanket next to the summer squash. The connection is a little slow and not altogether consistent but that opportunity leads to moments to turn and stare at the cloudless sky and listen for the gaps between the sound of the trees. Today there is more commotion with the street noise and I remember instead a more peaceful mid-summer day years ago, lying on my back in my parents’ yard out in the country, staring up through their ancient, looming trees, just listening.

 

IMG_0156IMG_0161

 

Coconut Basil Zucchini Rolls

This mid-summer recipe is a creation for The Recipe Redux, as we were challenged to use the season’s abundance in interesting shapes. I basically took a bunch of what’s growing in the backyard right now and made it into a quinoa salad of sorts, and then rolled it up in grilled zucchini. The same can be done with eggplant instead of zucchini and the vegetable fillings can be interchanged accordingly. I have a hunch that a tomato and sweet pepper version in the later season will taste even more amazing with the coconut basil sauce. As far as coconut milk goes, you can use what you prefer. The full-fat version will be a little more rich and substantial but the lighter cooking milk is also good. 

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

4 cloves garlic

2 cups packed basil leaves

1 can coconut milk

¼ cup capers, divided

1 tbsp lemon juice and zest

¼ tsp. sea salt and black pepper

coconut oil

2-3 large zucchini, sliced thinly lengthwise

1 small broccoli, cut into small pieces

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas

  • Place quinoa in a saucepan, add the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat immediately and simmer for about 15 minutes, before setting aside.
  • In a food processor or blender, puree the garlic, basil, coconut milk, about half the capers, lemon juice, zest, and salt and pepper.  Then set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Use a pastry brush or a rubber spatula and lightly brush each zucchini slice with a thin layer of oil on both sides. Depending on your grill situation, you can instead brush the grill with a little oil so the zucchini doesn’t stick. On either an indoor or outdoor grill, arrange the zucchini slices so they are not overlapping. Cook until lightly golden and then flip to do the same on the other side. Remove and cook the remaining slices in batches, as needed. This step can also be done in the preheated oven on a flat baking dish.
  • Spread the broccoli and mushroom pieces out on a baking dish lined with parchment, drizzle with a little more oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 5-8 minutes.
  • When the quinoa is slightly cooled and the vegetables are done, stir in about ¾ of the coconut basil sauce, the remaining capers, roasted broccoli, mushrooms, and the peas.
  • Roll the zucchini: Place the zucchini strips, one by one, in front of you. Add a large spoonful of the quinoa mixture at the bottom of it and roll up lengthwise away from you. Place the rolls back in the baking pan with parchment paper. There will be more filling than rolls (unless you make grill up some big zucchini), so inter-space some of the extra filling among the rolls as you go. Drizzle with the remaining basil sauce.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes at 400°F just to heat through.

 

 

Listen to Wendell Berry read the entire poem. It is beautiful.