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.

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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.  

Spanish Salad with Hazelnut + Paprika Dressing

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In the last couple weeks, I’ve had a strong inclination to be more mindful when shopping for food and to put more emphasis on supporting local growers, producers, and processors. Part of this, I think, stems from the recent fires here in the west, and several conversations about a warming climate and how we will have to adapt some of our food and/or growing conditions now and on into the future. I count myself very fortunate to live in an area of the world that is rich in agricultural and ecological diversity, and one in where a strong local food scene is thriving, but I also know the many hands that go into supporting the kind of community I want to live in, and how much consistent work it takes to advocate for a local food system–as well as the flip side of how we rely so much on the status quo with generally no thought to what will happen if… natural disaster, climate change, soil degradation and nutrient depletion, loss of community due to choosing mass-market businesses, etc.

 

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On this topic I’m inspired lately by Andrea’s plan for a locally grown September, and her invitation for others to share in a similar challenge, which I’m structuring in my own way. If you’ve been reading long, or read back into the archives, you’ll know that for me, developing a connection to what is produced locally and in relationship with the producers in my community kick-started and supported me out of my disordered relationship to eating many years ago, and it’s this connection to place and community through food that always assists me when I begin to fall even a little back into old habits.

This salad came about because of my refocus on mindful consuming, using what I have grown and what’s produced nearby, while at the same time taking inspiration from Sara Forte’s Spanish chopped salad in her Bowl + Spoon cookbook.

Before I get there though, this article shares some of the conversations in California (and likely elsewhere) about long-term crop planning and climate change.

And this article, in which I’m interviewed, speaks a little to the impact of our dietary choices on our environment.

Enjoy, or just enjoy this salad. It’s a good one!

 

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Hazelnut + Paprika Spanish Salad
1 small bunch kale, chopped
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
3-4 cups arugula, torn into small pieces
2-3 green onions, finely diced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 small, diced apple
1-2 medium cucumbers, diced
1/2 cup cooked lentils
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2-4 Tbs. parsley, minced

Hazelnut + Paprika Vinaigrette
1 clove garlic
3 Tbs. sherry or wine vinegar
3 Tbs. toasted hazelnuts
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. honey
2 Tbs. parsley, minced
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbs. water, to reach desired consistency

  • Blend the vinaigrette ingredients until smooth in a food processor or blender. Add a little water at the end to thin, as necessary.
  • Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle atop 2/3 to 3/4 of the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Add a little more until you’ve reached your desired dressing level.
  • Serve immediately, while nice and fresh!

Grapefruit, Parsley & Cucumber Salad

Lately, some of the most amazing salads have been shaping up in the kitchen.  A couple weeks back, Power Foods, a new cookbook (that I’ve had my eyes on) randomly showed up in the mail, with no note and no invoice!  Praising the powers that be for this mysterious gift, I’ve set to work building salads.

This Grapefruit, Parsley & Cucumber salad was thrown together out of what ingredients happened to be around one evening; the dressing, however, was inspired from my the cookbook. This has quickly become a favorite!

 
 
Grapefruit, Parsley, Cucumber Salad  (serves 2)
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled & sectioned, pith and membranes removed
  • 1 or 2 large white mushrooms
  • about 1/4 of a cucumber
  • a large handful parsley, chopped
    For dressing:
  • 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. plain yogurt
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ~ 1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
 Slice grapefruit sections into small pieces and squeeze out extra juice from membranes.  Slice cucumbers, mushrooms, and chop parsley.  Toss in medium salad bowl with extra juices from grapefruit.  
In small bowl, whisk together vinegar, honey, yogurt, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Gently toss into salad and serve!
 Dressing from Power Foods