Sunday, February 15, 2004

Tofu French Fries

(Originally posted on Sunday, February 15, 2004 by Tim)

I was hoping to have a tofu french fries recipe for you today. Cat and I went out to Zao Noodle for Valentines Day (Thanks Mom and Dad). A franchise just went up in Seattle. When Cat and I were dating, we used to go out to the one in Palo Alto. It was there that we learned of the marvel called wasabi peas "A Happy Present from the Earth". These can be purchased en masse at most asian grocery stores. We get strange looks from the cashier when we walk up to the check out counter with 2 bunches of baby bok choy, a pound of tofu, and 20 bags of wasabi peas. I've tried pointing to the text on the bags and exclaiming, "A Happy Present from the Earth!", but this seems to frighten cashiers for some reason. Perhaps a bad childhood experience with legumes?

What does all this have to do with tofu french fries? Well, when Cat and I went to Zao Noodle, they had Tofu French Fries on the menu. I had never seen them before and had to try them. It was a tough decision to pass on the "Happy Present from the Earth", but we do have 15 bags in the pantry at home. The tofu french fries were served in a martini glass with vinegar, peanut, and chili dipping sauces. The were grey in color and about twice the width and height of regular french fries. It was a very interesting appetizer with one main drawback, tofu doesn't taste like much of anything on it's own. Zao Noodle hadn't done anything to spice up the tofu fries. They provided the sauces as the source of flavor. It seemed to me that the fries could be much improved by a marinade. I was on a mission.

We stopped off at the grocery store on the way home for dinner and picked up a couple pounds of tofu for experiments. When we got home, I assembled the marinade we use for Kung Pao Tofu (haven't written that one up yet) and cut one pound of tofu into slabs. I marinaded the slabs overnight and woke up the next morning raring to go. Cat came downstairs to find me filling the deep fryer with oil at 10 am. After some negotiations, she convinced me that I should wait until dinner to try out the fries (I wasn't planning on eating them for breakfast, I just wanted to make them).

We spent a good portion of our day trying to find an acceptable place to stash a geocache we have put together. One of the rules for placing a cache is that you do not want to be within 0.1 miles of another cache. Before yesterday, I thought we had alot of parks in our area. Now I think we have too few. We spent about four hours looking for a spot 0.1 miles from another cache which was not too traveled and not close to railroad tracks. We found one that works just before sunset and then raced home to try out the tofu fries.

I'm afraid that the end is going to be a bit anti-climactic. I pressed the marinaded tofu between a bowl and a strainer to remove excess water and then dropped it into hot oil. My result was very different from Zao Noodle's in that I managed to blacken the tofu fries on the outside while leaving a soft white middle. Zao's fries were coooked almost all the way through. My fries were tasty, but not superior to baking tofu with this marinade. My thought is that I need to remove more water from the tofu before deep frying. I'm not quite sure how to do this yet, but I will keep thinking about it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Five Alarm Curry Blend

(Originally posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2004 by Tim)

This curry mix is a key ingredient to two delicious recipes that we have made lately. The first is a Spicy Ginger Carrot Soup and the second is a Thai Tofu Satay. I've been thrilled with this mix because it tastes as good, if not better, than curry I've had when I go out to eat. Previously, the closest I had come to making a curry mix from scratch was in graduate school. I remember that recipe costing $15.75 in spices, smelling just like good restaurant curry, and tasting like lightly spiced cardboard.

Five Alarm Curry Blend
1/3 cup coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup ground cumin
3 tbs dry mustard
3 tbs curry powder
1.5 tbs ground cardamom
1.5 tbs ground coriander
1 tbs ground mace
1 tbs freshly grated nutmeg (thanks Mom, Dad, and Jenn)
1 tbs ground cinnamon
1 tbs ground cloves
1.5 tbs cayenne

Woof! This recipe cleans out the spice rack but it is definately worth it. Cat and I generally grind the black pepper in a coffee grinder we have set aside for spices. It's pretty hard to estimate how many peppercorns you need to make 1/3 a cup of ground pepper. Our usual method is to make too much and then leave the freshly ground pepper in a bowl on the counter for a week or so. When we throw it out depends on when we decide to make another recipe that requires fresh ground black pepper. If when we decide to make a recipe that takes alot of pepper, it's pretty much guaranteed that we emptied the pepper bowl into the trash the previous morning.

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Sesame Marinated Tofu with Baby Bok Choy

(Originally posted on Tuesday, February 3, 2004 by Tim)

I've been really stressed out this week and it has resulted in my continuing to fall behind on recipes. It's a good thing that I've been keeping up with my heart medicine. Tonight, I ate a whole can of canned crab that I picked up at Trader Joes. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, how can you go wrong with a product that claims "Guaranteed 15% leg meat". Ok, ok, it wasn't that good, but it wasn't anything that four tablespoons of butter couldn't fix. Besides, crab is like fish and fish is brain food. Cathy and I were playing a game of Kahuna while I was eating and she resigned several turns before the end. This pretty much proves that canned crab is brain food in my book. In any case, several hours later we made the title recipe of this entry.

Sesame Marinated Tofu with Baby Bok Choy
4 baby bok choys (washed and stalks separated)
6 oz firm tofu (sliced into thin slabs)
3 tbs soy sauce
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1/2 tsp chilli sauce
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tbs regular sesame oil

Mix soy sauce, garlic, dark sesame oil, chilli sauce, and vinegar in a flat container for marinading. Add tofu slabs and allow to sit for one hour at room temperature. I like to cover the container and turn it over several times over the hour.

Meanwhile, go do something else. If it takes you an hour to wash 4 baby bok choys, you've been taking too much heart medicine.

Heat regular sesame oil in dutch oven at 300 F. Add bok choy and saute until the stems are just tender. Add tofu slabs with marinade and continue saute until hot.

Serves 2 with no lunch leftovers. If you want lunch leftovers, add some rice on the side.