The Gastronomist Manifesto

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Archive for the month “January, 2015”

Sesame-Glazed Tofu and Roasted Napa Cabbage

Tonight I revisted more Asian themes. This time moving in a slightly more Chinese direction. Mostly I was just hungry and wanted to play around. I had some napa cabbage in the fridge that needed to be used up and my pantry is still pretty light except for things like soy sauce and sesame oil. Picked up some tofu from the store, plus a carrot and some sesame seeds and was able to come up with this…

sesame tofu and roast cabbage

Not exactly the prettiest thing with it’s dull orange, green and brown tones. Almost monochomatic. But pretty happy nonetheless with the taste.

Started with the cabbage. Preheated oven to 375. Meanwhile split the cabbage I had lengthwise. Made a quick dressing of oil, a dash of sesame oil, minced clove of garlic and salt. This went onto the cabbage, making sure to get the garlic into those leaves. When the oven got hot, the cabbage went in (45 minutes in my dish, but it maybe could’ve gone for an hour.) Came out as such

roast bok choy

As for the tofu. I had this idea that I thought was genius. The trick everyone knows for frying tofu is that you have to get the water out of it, otherwise it’s just steamed in oil, not crusty and golden. The popular method is to press it with a weight, sandwiched between towels, which works fine I suppose. But I thought I could do better using a common household item: a space heater. I made a rig out of a wire rack and the empty tofu container (to trap water.)

tofu and space heater

Overall, I was happy with the results! After first doing a quick press with some towels to get the bulk of the moisture out, it went onto my rig. An occasional turn here and there to keep the drying even. After maybe half an hour it felt right. So into a hot (med-hot) pan with some oil. Didn’t take long to start browning, which I could see along the edges of the tofu near the pan. One flip and then the other side.

tofu fried

DONE!

The “glaze” as I’m calling it was pretty simple. If you’re wondering why there isn’t any ginger, because I think once in a while it would nice for sesame and ginger to have some time apart. They’re co-dependent and they need to focus on their individuality now and then. Though, admittedly, ginger would’ve been good.

2 teaspoons of ketchup

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

1 teaspoon of sesame oil

a good pinch of sesame seeds

Stir and spread over hot tofu.

New Kitchen! Old Blog!

I let this site fall away. The glamour faded of being another “food blogger” in a virtual market where there are six blogs for every one reader (based on a statistic I just made up.) :Life got in the way, and this site has never been anything but a fun diversion shared by myself, a few friends and the occasional stumbler–welcome!

But a few things have changed:

1.) Moved to a new house with a much, much nicer kitchen!

2.) I now earn an honest living as a cook. So not only am I sharing food I’ve made; I’m dispensing real PROFESSIONAL advice here!

3.) I’m more actively pursuing a “near-vegetarian” diet. What is that? Basically, I’m trying to adjust to a diet that doesn’t assume meat as the normative, central focus of meals. That Americans in particular should for ecological, social and ethical reasons drastically cut back on meat, but that absolute vegetarianism, if it seems to harsh for many to even attempt, needn’t be 100% to have an effect. And I cook meat for my job, which includes a lot of free meals so…

Tonight is my first attempt at making something that wasn’t just “throwing something together.” This is what I was craving and this is what I made

IMG_20150107_165150~2

RICE BOWL W/ PEANUTS, PEARS AND RAW VEG W/ A JAPANESE-INSPIRED DRESSING

Okay, the name of it is longer than most sentences in this blog. Does it sound alluring?! Cold rice and raw vegetables? Pears in that shit? Why?! But this is one of the tastiest things I’ve made in a long time. Plus, aside from the condiments, which I figured I’d need to splurge on soon enough, it’s damn cheap.

STEP ONE: Cook up some rice. I made about 500 mL because the measuring cup in my kitchen–when held in the right hand, which I am–shows metric. That’s about two cups cooked if you prefer the Imperial system. Start this first. Chill when done.

STEP TWO: Prepare vegetables. Ideally about as much vegetation as rice. What kind? This is a good recipe for using what’s on hand, and since this is a cold dish, what can be cut fine/thin and raw. I used:

– Half a handful of broccoli florets.

– Half a small zucchini. Cut into very tiny ‘matchsticks.’

– Two stalks of green onion. (Halve that if you don’t like onion. I love onion!)

– One bosc pear, sliced.*

– Peanuts… like a handful-ish.

STEP THREE: Make the dressing. It’s super easy.

Take a small knob of ginger. Slice off the skin on all sides, plus cut away any exposed part not covered with skin (ginger dries out and gets woody and inedible real fast where it’s been cut.) I came up with a piece about the size of the last digit on my pointer finger. Put in on a cutting board or firm surface, and SMASH IT LIKE THE CHAINS OF CAPITALISM. When it comes to both ginger and garlic, I am a firm believer that they should almost always be crushed first. You want their delicious oils and plant phenols or whatever their flavor-substances are that are trapped in their cell walls. Smashing/crushing will make your ginger more ginger-y.

In a bowl mix with the ginger about two tablespoons of soy sauce and rice vinegar, a quick splash of toasted sesame oil, half a tablespoon to a tablespoon of miso (sub in sriracha for heat, curry paste for zing, or even peanut butter if you don’t have miso.)

Take a fork and start stirring your dressing vigorously with one hand while slowly and I mean SLOWLY drizzling in a light vegetable or canola oil in. Now a classic vinaigratte will tell you to use add at least twice as much oil as the sour base, but this is not a dressing for greens; oil makes dressings “sticky” but this is going onto sticky rice so why add a lot of calories? Aim for a 1:1 ratio and just eye-ball it.

STEP FOUR: ASSEMBLE!

Mix everything together. This dish shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to make if you’ve got decent knife skills and cook white rice first. It’s not complicated, neither should the serving of it. Dump it in a bowl, or on a plate, or in an inverted fedora. It’s got a nice balance with the nutty, earthy sesame oil and the bright punch of the ginger; using raw vegetables/peanuts contrasts crunch with the rice. Other cliche sounding words used by food critics… this is simple, vegan, tasty and budget friendly.

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