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.  

Cooling Kitchari + End of Summer Notes

Cooling Kitchari + End of Summer Notes

IMG_1904

 

After sharing about my experience with eating at the relay, I got a request to share the kitchari that I made and ate during the race. As I’ve told more than a few people, it is a variation on dozens of “beans and rice” meals that I regularly make and consume. One thing that is different, however, is that I’ve been paying a little more attention to the energetics of food these past few months, how certain things make me feel, physically and emotionally, and really asking myself, What do I need today? to feel my best. Part of this is perhaps just where I’m at in life, with my relationship to food and my body, and the other part is that I find when it comes to healing complex health concerns, which I’ve struggled with for a number of years, I believe we each individually have the internal knowledge of what is best for us, if only we tune in and acknowledge it.

I’ll share a little more about what I have adapted, and suggestions for how you can do the same in the recipe notes below, but first a few good articles, a video, and a podcast episode that I particularly enjoyed these past few weeks.

 

IMG_1867

 

Nutrition + Food:
Superfood or Super-Hype?: ‘My advice is to think twice before you succumb to the next cure-du-jour and run out to buy this week’s superfood. It might cure what ails you (though probably not). Better to take a thorough look at your lifestyle, habits, and diet. Choose from the widely available healthy foods and go for a long walk!’

The Antioxidant Effects of Acai versus Apples

A Vegan Dietitian Reviews “What the Health”: There has been A LOT of discussion and controversy over this new documentary, but I think Virginia Messina does the best job detailing the problematic nature with how the information was presented.

Microbiome: Increase Your Diversity: ‘However good your diet and gut health, it is not nearly as good as our ancestors’. Everyone should make the effort to improve their gut health by re-wilding their diet and lifestyle. Being more adventurous in your normal cuisine plus reconnecting with nature and its associated microbial life, may be what we all need.’

This Is Your Brain on Cheese: When I first learned I was reacting negatively to gluten and dairy and eliminated them from my diet, I found dairy was much more difficult to remove, and I went through weeks of anger and frustration at the sudden lack. After that ‘detox’ period was over, I have never craved cheese or other dairy again. Some of the evidence in this article explains why.

Are Endurance Athletes More Susceptible to Getting Diabetes? ‘If you’re eating like a Tour de France rider, just make sure you’re training like one too.’

A Cook’s Remedy: I absolutely loved Aran’s video showcasing her Spanish Roots and relationship to food and body, and her journey over the years. It is episode Three, parts one and two.

And Lastly, a podcast episode to really get you thinking about your relationship to food and buying in to diet culture–I know it certainly has been the start of a paradigm shift for me: Isabel Foxen Duke on Sanity around Food, Surrender, Diet Culture, Fat Phobia as a Social Justice Concept + So Much More

 

IMG_1882

 

Self-Care + Mindfulness:
The Mindfulness of Pure Experience

Turning Softly Towards Your Pain Rather Than Avoiding It: ‘I began to alter my relationship to negative selective memories and go towards them and soften them rather than avoid them. I would notice how they made me feel, where I felt them, breathing deeply, anchoring myself around the thought or memory in order to reduce the impact it had on me.’

The Tomorrow List: ‘Instead of listing what I was grateful for that day, which despite my inability to articulate was still aplenty, I made a list of what I would be grateful to have realised tomorrow. If all went according to my desire’s and the sake of my safety, how I would feel at the end of my day.’

I’ll shoot you straight: ‘If you are resentful and do nothing to change either your exterior or interior, you have not met yourself. If you go back to the same coping mechanisms over and over again with the same results over and over again, you have not met yourself. If you keep opening the same doors over and over and OVER again, there’s a whole untouched hallway ahead of you – and you have not met yourself.’ 

‘I sit here knowing my body will go through so many incarnations and I’m going to treat it like it’s royalty no matter what. I smile because I have not only a yoga practice on the mat but off the mat as well (life, yo) that strives to be authentic, layer-peeling, free of addiction and crutches and sameness, and I feel as if I am gliding down the hallway, door by door. And I realize I am free, I am whole, I am love. And I am not afraid.’

And to end on a slightly lighter note, I love Sophie’s suggestions on 12 Ways to Make Your Kitchen a Hippie Haven, combining both food, nutrition, and mindfulness topics.

 

IMG_1913


Cooling Kitchari
, serves 4
Adapted from What to Eat for How You Feel

Kitchari is a creamy porridge-like blend of beans and rice that has been a staple of Ayurvedic cuisine for many centuries. It is often consumed during times of healing or for detox, as simple frugal fare, and as a comfort meal. There are countless variations on it, and I adapted my own, choosing to cook the beans and rice separate for a less porridge-like texture in lieu of a more soupy curry served over brown rice. I’ve made it with both split yellow mung dal and red lentils. Both are lovely but the red lentils will break down more into that porridge consistency, and the split mung beans will retain a little more texture. The spices used here are more in favor of consuming this during the summer heatwave we are once again experiencing, with cooling and digestion-friendly fennel, and smaller amounts of the heating and pungent ginger and turmeric spices. Additionally, use whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand. I chose to use more grounding vegetables from my garden like golden beets, yellow summer squash, carrots, and white ‘salad’ turnips and their greens. My garden is bursting with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant too, and though I really do enjoy those foods, I’m noticing that they’re not leaving me feeling my best so I left them out. If you choose to make this, I invite you to adapt it as needed, adding in one or two minced chili peppers if you’re feeling a little stuck or sluggish, or taking out the black pepper if you’ve been overheated.

1 cup yellow split mung dal or red lentils
3 cups water or vegetable broth
2 cups diced seasonal vegetables
1-2 cups dark leafy greens
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in a spice/coffee grinder
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, if desired
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup long grain or basmati brown rice
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, basil, or parsley
lime wedges, to serve

  • Soak the mung dal or red lentils for at least 30 minutes, then drain, wash well, and and drain again. Do the same in a separate dish with the brown rice.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the rice and water to a boil, cover, turn down to a simmer, and cook for about 40 minutes or until all the liquid is completely absorbed and the rice is plump.
  • Combine the mung dal or red lentils and broth or water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Stir occassionally and skim off the froth that comes to the surface.
  • Add the vegetables and fennel, bay leaves, ginger and turmeric, leaving out the greens for now, and mix well. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the beans are soft and fully cooked. Stir occasionally as needed so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  • Then stir in the greens, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook just a little longer until the greens soften.
  • To serve, spoon the kitchari over a bowl of rice and top with minced cilantro or other cooling fresh herbs and a few squeezes of lime juice.

sesame garlic tofu + rice bowl with pickled ginger

sesame garlic tofu + rice bowl with pickled ginger

img_1204

William and I met up with a friend for dinner a few weeks back in the middle of our travels home after Christmas. He and I have been together for seven plus years now and that dinner happened to be the first (and so far only) time we’ve ever ordered exactly the same thing at a meal out.

I just about hyperventilated as he ordered the exact same sesame garlic tofu bowl with pickled ginger and seasonal vegetables. To make a quick summary of what I’ve been learning from observing William’s eating patterns throughout the years, behavior and food preferences change. For most of us, it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. This meal is an example of that. When we met, there was no way William was going to pick a tofu and vegetable bowl off an ample and varied menu, but he would have picked something with Asian flavors.

img_1173

This recipe is my contribution to The Recipe Redux theme for this month, to create and share a budget-friendly meal. I’ve spoken about my experiences with creating meals out of resourcefulness in the past and so I won’t go into specifics again here. I tend to think I eat budget meals most days but that is also a matter of perspective, since the majority of our at-home food spending goes to fruit, and during the winter season, vegetables from local farms. I also have access to several co-ops/natural food stores where I can source nearly all my ingredients save produce in bulk–including the sesame oil, tamari, rice, and vinegar featured here. I know this is not an option for many, but if there are two tips I can share, purchase from the bulk bins when you can and be resourceful; think of recipes as a template and be courageous enough to make substitutions depending on what’s on hand.

img_1170

Since we’re talking budget meals, below are a handful of recipes I’ve created over the years that are also friendly for frugal eating in this winter season:

Beans + Rice with Turmeric Special Sauce
Mejadra with Swiss Chard + Tahini
Polenta with Lemon-Garlic Raab + Chickpeas
All-the-Greens Interchangeable Pesto
Black Bean + Corn Chilaquiles
Black Bean + Vegetable Grain Bowl

img_1180

Sesame Garlic Tofu + Rice Bowl with Pickled Ginger and Gomasio, serves 4
You’ll notice this is a meal of many components. I said it’s budget-friendly but I didn’t say it is super quick! :)  You can purchase the pickled ginger and gomasio rather than make them, or even leave them out, to simplify and speed things up. If you do choose to make them, the pickled ginger will need to be made ahead so it can “pickle” for a couple days. Both it and the gomasio make big batches for many future uses. Also, definitely use any vegetables of choice. I went out to harvest the last of my carrots (the vibrant purple ones!) and found a couple little salad turnips remaining so I tossed those in the mix as well. 

Sesame Garlic Tofu
1 16-oz. package firm tofu
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 Tbs. apple cider or brown rice vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs. reduced sodium tamari

  • Begin by cutting the tofu in half through it’s width, so you have two rectangles. Then wrap in paper towel and press between two cutting boards for at least 30 minutes. Remove the towels, and cut into pieces.
  • Stir together the remaining ingredients in a large container with a lid and add the pressed tofu. Stir or close the lid and shake briefly. Then, allow the tofu to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or longer.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  • When the tofu is ready to be baked, remove it from its container onto the parchment. Reserve the marinade because you’ll use it for the vegetables.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges are beginning to get nice and crispy, turning halfway through.

Pickled Ginger, makes 1 small jar
1 large hand fresh ginger
2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup apple cider or rice vinegar
1/2 cup water

  • Peel the ginger and thinly slice with a sharp knife or on a mandolin.
  • Then combine the ginger and salt in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Add the ginger to a small jar and pack it tightly.
  • Make the pickling brine by combining the vinegar and water and then pour it over the ginger, filling the jar to within 1/2 inch of the top.
  • Gently tap the jar against the counter a few times to remove all the air bubbles, then seal it tightly.
  • Let the jar cool to room temperature and then store the pickles in the refrigerator; they will improve their flavor as they age — try to wait at least 48 hours before cracking them open.
  • They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Gomasio
1 cup sesame seeds
2 tsp. sea salt

  • Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Set aside to cool and toss with 1 teaspoon of the salt.
  • Put 1/3 cup of the seeds into a food processor and process until broken down into a powder. Remove and put into a jar or other container, add the remaining whole seeds and remaining salt and mix together.
  • Use by the spoonful to top finished dishes and store the extra in the fridge. It will keep for many weeks!

Other bowl components
4 cups cooked long-grain or basmati brown rice
4-6 cups seasonal vegetables of choice, diced (I chose carrots, broccoli, and turnips)

To bring the bowl together:

  • When the tofu and rice are nearly done, add the diced vegetables to a steamer basket in a large pan filled with water. Steam until they’re nearly soft but still have a little bit of a bite.
  • Then, remove the steamer basket, drain the water from the pan, and add in the reserved tofu marinade, along with a little extra sesame oil, if needed. Turn the pan up to medium-high and sear-sauté the vegetables in the marinade until just done.
  • For each bowl, arrange cooked rice, tofu, vegetables along with the pickled ginger, and top with the gomasio.

recipe-redux-linky-logo