Sunday, May 29, 2011

Grilled Tofu with a Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce - Smokin' sweet

Tofu is the go-to protein option for vegans and vegetarians. Of course, vegetarians do have paneer, which gets more and more popular each day. Being a lacto-vegetarian, I indulge in this fat laden hunk of cheese quite often. A smal two by two inch piece can have as many as three hundred calories, most of them saturated fat. Think of that the next time you enjoy your paneer dishes.

Getting back to the point, tofu is healthy soy protein and tastes great - it mostly takes on the taste of any marinade or sauce you dump it in. I made a barbeque sauce a few weeks ago exactly following the Neelys' recipe from food network, and it was pretty mean. I decided to give it a slight twist, adding smoky chipotle peppers, and using honey as the main sweetener. I marinated the tofu in spices similar to what went into the barbecue sauce, and set it aside while I made my potatoes and the sauce. The recipe itself is pretty simple and you can add some variations as needed, or adjust the spice level to your taste. You can use dry chipotle peppers, canned ones in adobo sauce, or just a spice mix. I used Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle spice mix. I like these spices because they are sodium free, and I can add as much spice as I want, and still add salt to my taste.

I served the grilled tofu with mashed potatoes. I would have liked to add some broccoli or green beans, but I was out of them that day. The recipe follows -

Ingredients -

1 - 2 boxes extra firm tofu

2-3 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp onion powder

1 Tbsp Mrs. Dash chipotle blend

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp cayenne pepper or tabasco/pepper sauce

1 tsp honey

For the Sauce -

Half cup ketchup

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp onion powder

1 tsp dry celery

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

salt and pepper

1-2 Tbsp Mrs.Dash Chipotle blend (powdered dry chipotle or chipotles in adobo optional)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup natural honey

1 tsp cornstarch if needed to thicken

Method -

1) Wa

sh and drain the tofu. You can take one or two boxes depending on the number of people, or to make extra batches for later. This tofu will refrigerate or freeze well, and will be great chopped up in a sandwich or wrap.

2) Combine all the spice ingredients in a wide bowl and mix well. Add some water to make a thick paste.

3) Cut the tofu in triangles or steaks of about half inch thickness. This will ensure that the flavors of the marinade seep in.

4) Place the tofu slices in the bowl and gently spoon the whole mixture over the tofu so that all the pieces are drenched in the spicy marinade. Cover and set aside.

5) Heat a dab of butter or 1/2 tsp oil in a sauce pan and gently saute the chopped garlic cloves until they change color. Mix all other sauce ingredients and add them to this sauce pan.

6) Stir occasionally and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the sauce thickens and develops a glaze. Use corn flour or cornstarch to thicken the sauce to your liking.

7) Heat a non stick pan and brush with oil or spray. Place the tofu slices on the pan and brown from all sides on medium heat.

8) To serve - Place a scoop or two of mashed potatoes on your plate. Place 2-3 grilled tofu slices on the potatoes and drizzle with sauce. The sauce is pretty spicy and pungent, so you need to go slow with it.

9) The honey chipotle flavored sauce has a lot of flavors - spice from the onion and garlic, sweetness of the ketchup and honey, smoky flavor and the heat from however much chipotle spice you added.

This is a healthy and filling sumptuous meal when served with some green veggies, and falls right in with my other favourite comfort foods. I hope you try this simple dish that does not need a lot of effort.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cavatappi Pasta in a Saffron Tomato sauce

Saffron – just the name brings something exotic to mind. This is one of the most expensive spices and is popularly used in several desserts in Indian cuisine. Being very expensive, it is generally reserved for special occasions. Using this in a pasta sauce was a completely novel idea for me.

As I searched the web, I found that there really were several recipes of this kind of sauce. Rachael Ray used saffron with lotsa butter and parsley and mint and orange, but I was short on those ingredients. All I had was some tomato sauce and then the search for tomato+saffron yielded one even by the great Emeril himself. Bam!

To begin at the beginning, this whole thing started because I was presented with a bottle of rich saffron syrup. This was so heady and intoxicating that I immediately wanted to make something of it, something savory and other than the obvious desserts that came to mind. Pasta was the obvious vehicle, since I was craving pasta. Although all the recipes use pinches of saffron fronds, I decided to be bold and make the sauce using syrup.

Most recipes had certain elements – the usual onion, garlic, basil/spice, wine, cream, tomatoes and saffron. I made so many substitutions to this concept, that I fear I may have ended up with something totally different. I also made a much lighter version using whole milk instead of cream, and saved the cheese just for the garnish.
I used mushrooms and olives as the vegetables, and everything worked together well to give a unique flavor where you can’t really taste one particular thing.

Cavatappi is a long screw shaped pasta. You can use any ‘rigate’ or ridged pasta for this sauce. Something like penne or rigatoni will go really well with this sauce. The recipe is as follows –

Ingredients –

Half pound penne/cavatappi
One small onion chopped
1 Tbsp garlic chopped
1 Tbsp EVOO or extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried spices such as basil/thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup vodka
1 cup whole milk
1 cup tomato puree/sauce
2 Tbsp saffron syrup such as Mapro
Or 1 big pinch or 1 tsp saffron fronds
1 packet mushrooms chopped
2 Tbsp olives sliced/chopped
Parmesan or cheese of choice to garnish
EVOO to drizzle

Method –
1) For the sauce – In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the EVOO and add the chopped garlic. Add onions and sauté until softened a bit. Take care not to burn either.
2) Add mushrooms and fry until all the water from the mushrooms evaporates
3) Add vodka, or wine if you wish and sauté a bit until absorbed
4) Add tomato puree or sauce and the milk/cream
5) Add the salt/pepper and dried herbs and simmer this sauce
6) Add the saffron syrup. If using fronds, steep them first in some hot milk and then add to the sauce
7) Simmer the sauce until all the milk/cream is absorbed and sauce thickens. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon.
8) Meanwhile, boil the pasta for about 8-10 minutes, a bit less than al dente
9) Drain the pasta and immediately add to the sauce. Stir well to combine, cover with lid on a very low flame and let the pasta steam in the sauce for 3-4 minutes. This time can be adjusted based on the actual pasta and your liking of chewy versus well cooked pasta.
10) The pasta will absorb most of the sauce and flavors pretty soon. Switch off heat and keep covered
11) While serving, spoon on plate and drizzle some olive oil and some grated parmesan or any other cheese.
This is a very rich tasting pasta with big flavor, that will make a great impromptu meal served with some salad and good bread.

I hope you enjoy this unusual sauce laden with the goodness of saffron.