Tag Archives: rice

sesame garlic tofu + rice bowl with pickled ginger

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Mejadra with Swiss Chard + Tahini

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I go on stints where I cook almost exclusively from one cookbook or blog. Actually, I take recipes, apply their concept, and change almost everything. I’ve been cooking from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem lately.

I also share recipes on Food52 sometimes and I received the kindest comment on my beet and lentils with flatbread there. It made my whole week and reaffirmed why this blog remains mainly about food. The comment made me think, too, about the decisions I’ve made that were true turning points. One of those was during my senior year in high school when I decided to go to university rather than culinary school, and then after university, deciding to find a job rather than going back to Ireland for a course at Ballymaloe.

Sometimes I feel as if I was born to cook and feed people. I’ve loved everything about cooking for as long as I can remember. I love the creativity of selecting ingredients and flavor combinations. I love both its meditative aspects and the more fast-paced balance of doing multiple tasks simulanteously. I love sitting down to a special meal with William and sometimes friends or family, turning off the phone, computer, TV, pause and say grace, and then invite in the experience of enjoying a meal.

I remember bringing a beef and mushroom stew over to a friend’s one time in college, and how her then-boyfriend took two bites and then paused, looked at me, and said, Bec, I can tell this was made with love, before proceeding. And it was.

I know a lot of my friends and family do not get the food I make. I’ve long felt sensitive about it, as I’ve been cooking creatively since the beginning. When William and I first began dating, it was summer and I was in town for a week. There was very little to eat in my college house as my roommates and I were largely absent for the summer. I invited him over for lunch, knowing there were approximately five ingredients to make a meal—and I knew they could combine to provide a pretty spectacular combination. William survived college up to then on his grandma’s spaghetti sauce, made by his family and frozen in huge quantities, tuna sandwiches, plain spaghetti, pizza, and kraft mac + cheese. Anything outside of that lineup was super adventurous, and he didn’t exactly appreciate what I thought was a fabulous summer lunch—with ingredients largely from my self-watering garden. For months after, he approached every dinner I’d make with trepidation, knowing it was going to be awful, and a breach from his standard American diet. But he’d try it anyway. Nine times out of ten, he’d end the meal telling me he was pleasantly surprised, again. The weird things I made actually tasted good. All he had to do was try.

When left to my own devices, I tend to veer strongly in the direction of cooking with middle eastern influences. I don’t know exactly when I picked this up as I didn’t try the cuisine until mid-college at least. I like the combination of savory and sweet grains and spices, the vegetable-heavy emphasis of the traditional recipes, and the infinite possibilities as even the simplest of ingredients can taste rich and flavorful and nourishing.

 

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As I reflect on the statement above, I feel as if I was born to feed people, I realize I still haven’t found exactly what this means for me. I know my place is not actually feeding people in the standard chef/culinary sense. I know it is not in producing food, as I also once contemplated. Perhaps it is in sharing recipes here or elsewhere, but more likely, it might be in feeding people something other than actual food, in the form of kindness, hope, understanding, or inspiration. Ultimately, I know for me to be able to do that with authenticity, I have to be able to provide it to myself first.

William has been working late these days, and I’ve often been feeding only me. So I’ve been cooking with more mindfulness, taking recipes and adapting them intuitively to what I need, trying to eat meals a little more slowly with less distractions. I’ve been focusing on allowing the process to fill me up in ways that stretch far beyond the meal itself, to let light shine into the dark internal corners I’m afraid of, and let self-compassion and love in, when for so long I’ve projected it only outward, onto others.

I’m at a real turning point just now, and it feels like a good one. I’m finally coming to know and appreciate me. I’ve been learning (and still often failing) how to feed myself the essential nutrients that come from genuine self-care, rather than merely “nutritious food.” This is one of the meals I’ve been enjoying lately through the process.

 

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Mejadra with Swiss Chard + Tahini

The inspiration for these two recipes are drawn from Jerusalem. Mejadra is an ancient dish in the Arab world, considered a meal for the poor but fit for kings. At its simplest, it is rice and lentils cooked together with caramelized onions. Crazily enough, those simple ingredients can taste heavenly. I’ve incorporated a few wonderful spices in keeping with Ottolenghi’s version, and for William, I’ve added raisins. He loves raisins. He added another handful for good measure as he gobbled it up.  The Swiss chard and tahini-cream will make for a nice side. I’m loving Swiss chard lately, when for so long I discarded it completely. The trick, I think, is a quick sauté. 

For the Mejadra:

1 very large onion (1 1/2 lb.), sliced thinly into rounds

2 Tbs. olive oil, divided

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1 1/2 tsp. allspice

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. pomegranate molasses

1/2 tsp. salt

pepper to taste

1 cup long-grain brown rice, soaked and rinsed

1 cup lentils

1/2 cup raisins, optional

3 1/2 cups water

  • Begin by soaking the brown rice for at least 8 hours in a large bowl of water with a little apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. This breaks down some of the phytic acids which can bind the zinc, magnesium, calcium, and other important minerals. Prior to cooking, rinse and drain the rice.
  • In a large sauté pan, add 1 Tbs. olive oil and heat to medium-high. Then, add in the sliced onions, cook and stir for 3-5 minutes, and then turn down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and caramelize, about 25-30 minutes.
  • While the onions are cooking, add the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil, spices, rinsed rice and lentils, pomegranate molasses, raisins, and water to a medium pot, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down to low, cover, and allow to cook for 40-45 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.

For the Swiss Chard:

1 tsp. olive oil

1 large clove garlic, smashed and minced

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems chopped, leaves sliced

salt and pepper to taste

  • In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high. Add garlic and chard stems and allow to cook until beginning to soften. Add a little water as necessary to help the chard stems soften up.
  • Then add in the sliced leaves and heat just until they begin to wilt. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

For the Tahini-Cream:

2 Tbs. tahini

1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice

1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced

2-4 Tbs. water, as needed

salt and pepper, to taste

  • Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl, thinning as necessary with water.
  • Spoon the tahini-cream atop the Swiss chard as a side to the mejadra.

 

 

 


Winter Roast Roots, Black Rice + Figs

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That evening I lay down, propped

across his chest,

tears.

A comforting thing

his cool expanse of breath. With each

release

hope transferred, at-home

my soul.

Solid centering root,

sea uncertainty,

life dance.

 

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Winter Roast Roots, Black Rice + Figs, serves 6 or so, as a side

Some weeks feel inextricably more difficult than they need to. This dish is the sort of winter tonic to show the negative energies I’ve a bit of sassafras yet. Moody, dramatic, a touch sweet, earthy. Roast up any combination of winter vegetables. Parsnips and celeriac are January favorites. Kohlrabi are clever, if elusive. They’re best found in a winter garden round these parts. Ask a farmer. Or your eccentric neighbor with a fondness for funky purple vegetables. Mushrooms make a lovely addition. Don’t forget the figs. They add just the right touch. 

 

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2-3 parsnips, roughly chopped

2-3 carrots, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 celeriac, peeled and roughly chopped

3 kohlrabi, stems removed, peeled and roughly chopped

4-5 stems thyme, or 1/4 tsp. dried

1 tsp. salt, plus additional salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil

1 cup black rice, rinsed

2 1/4 cups water

1 small bunch kale, destemmed and chopped

1/2 cup dried figs, diced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prep the roots and toss them with the salt, a dash of black pepper, and olive oil. Roast until tender, 45 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, combine the black rice and water and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Turn down to low, cover and cook for 40 minutes.

While rice and roots are cooking, dice figs, and prepare the kale. A couple minutes before the vegetables come from the oven, toss in the kale and allow to wilt. Then, remove the vegetables from the oven, toss with the rice, figs, and season to taste with salt and black pepper.


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