The Gastronomist Manifesto

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Archive for the tag “low-fat”

It Can Only Be… Stir Fraud!!!

I haven’t really thought about this blog in a while. Cooking creativity was slumping, broken camera issues and a lacklustre pantry due to this Capitalist Crisis we’re in were the main reasons. But tonight, I made a spur of the moment decision to try something new: tofu stir-fry that has no oil whatsoever! Now some recipes I’ve tried before call for swapping oil for water (and nothing else different) and my opinion is that they all suck. It tastes steamed and bland, keeping health food stereotypes obese with justification. Mine is way better!

no-oil stir fry

No list of measurements/time.  😦 My apologizes, but I wasn’t thinking I’d post about this until I was eating it.

Pre-prep: Making rice, chopping veggies and setting your oven to something around 275-300 F.

1. Take a non-stick pan over a medium-high heat. Take tofu (always extra-firm!) and place them in thick slices onto the pan (no oil!) You could cube them now, but if you leave them lengthwise for now it’s easier to sear them. Wiggle gently and turn when just a little brown onto another side. Keep doing this until all sides are done. Carefully remove and cube your tofu to desired morselness.

2. Lower the heat a bit and begin to assemble the sauce of your choosing. If do this in an empty pan the better, as you can adjust it easier. Soy sauce, broth, minced garlic, five-spice powder and pepper was all I can remember adding to mine. You can borrow from any recipe you like with this rule: no prepared sauces or thickening agents! This is a braise, meaning liquid. Those GM Party Banned items will just turn to gel, not seep into the tofu and probably burn all over your pan.

3. When you’ve got your sauce tofu/protein goes in, veg goes in and for a nice braise you do not want things completely covered 60% is a rough basis. Too little and dry out could happen (BAD!); too much and heat just wont transfer quickly (NOT GOOD.) Then into the oven for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your vegetables. Turn food over once or twice to give everything a dunk and check the liquid (evaporation will only be a problem if you had a pithy puddle to start with.)

4. When you feel confident in your braise’s done-ness remove (CAREFULLY) and place back on the stove top. Now you need a slurry, which is not in this case a way to describe weather in my homestates of MI and OR, but a mix of cornstarch and water. Make it in a bowl, about a tablespoon should be plenty and enough cold water till you can whisk it to solution. Never add the cornstarch directly to hot liquid because that just makes corn lumps.

5. Put the heat fairly high on the stove and wait for a boil to begin. Keep stirring and add the slurry in doses (you can always add more but never take out.) The slurry will start to thicken the sauce. When it’s to your liking, you’re finished! Serve over rice, noodles, nachos, whatever and consume. (Note: you can make slurries with other thickeners like flour or arrowroot, but only cornstarch has that oily mouthfeel to it.)

no oil stir fry 2

Though I’m not on a “diet” by any means, I’ve been working out a lot more and naturally eating well is crucial. I’m estimating that rather huge dish was about 700 calories. And use the fork for comparison, it’s an especially large plate. 700 calories in a main meal isn’t a lot for an active person’s diet. My daily needs are about five times that. But the good thing is while this had more calories than a Big Mac, it had 1.5x the protein and half the fat.


Broccoli Romanesco Con Besciamella Arancio

No idea if I got the Italian even remotely right there, nor is this an Italian dish in any sense. But mmmmmmmm… did I enjoy this. This maybe the best broccoli of my life. And as I said in my last post, features the unique and mathematically beautiful features of broccoli romanesco–more or less just your average broccoli with only a slight passing for cauliflower too. And as promised, I made it totally vegan.

First thing you need to do is steam the broccoli. That’s just a matter of a pot of  boiling water with a steaming basket. Ask you can see, I quartered a carrot too, mostly for color but why not, right?

That sauce you see on the broccoli and the plate is just a standard bechamel sauce with the addition of the juice of a blood orange. Bechamel and its base of a roux I feel can sound intimidating, I imagine, being so French-y but conceptually it’s very simple. First you need a fat, butter is the standard, but I was going vegan so I used about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan on medium heat (and aim your medium towards low, depending on your stove, burning is the greatest danger here.) When the oil heated I tossed in a heaping tablespoon of regular flour (plus maybe another small half, this wasn’t a good measuring day.) Just as the flour goes in you whisk–with a whisk or a fork–the ever-loving crap out of it. Do this until the oil and flour are mixed into a single substance and you notice some *slight* browning. Then start adding soy milk (or regular milk, either way) a bit at a time, still whisking your ass off, until it coats the back of a spoon nicely.

Comrades! What does it mean “coats the back of a spoon?” This is a common trick for getting sauces to a nice, velvety consistency. As you go you can take an ordinary spoon and run it through your sauce, then pull it up, turning the “bowl” of the spoon upside down. If the spoon is evenly coated–no glaring lumps–good start. Then draw your finger across the spoon, if the sauce holds form, doesn’t run into the gap created where you parted it like the Red Sea. You’re good. Also, as always, just use good instinct and add more milk or keep cooking to reduce liquid content if it seems too dry or too wet. A low heat and lots of stirring will save you.

Finally, at the end, take an orange (I used blood oranges because they’re in season and I love the color, but navel, tangerines, mineolas, etc. are all most exceptable) and juice it it. Add the juice to the sauce, mix to incorporate and serve on your broccoli or other steamed vegetable right away.

I like my work here because the citrus really adds the perfect flavor to the sort of sulphurous and semi-bitter flavor of brassica vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, but without the fat and over-powering taste of cheese. A bechamel sauce also lets you skip on the dairy completely while keeping the texture and much of the taste of a creamy sauce. I give this one an A.

The Rant and the Recipe: A Twist on Macaroni and Cheese

Recently NPR’s “All Things Considered” did a feature on a series of billboards in NY trying to scare Americans into thinking cheese is a prime cause of obesity in America and working towards banning it (“no more cheese! except in our taste for billboards!”) The perpetrators of this horrendous propaganda are the PCRM–one of the most illegitimate and scam-fueled crack-pot organizations on the food scene today. Dig yourself into the bounty of their scam charade.

Granted, foods topped with cheese are often bad on a nutritional level, but the campaign reaches the lowest dregs of logic and reason. A lack of general nutritional sensibility in America is not going to turn 180 by a ban. But research-based information is not for the PCRM and their financiers’ (PETA) strong suit. Scare tactics are. Good, legit, pragmatic diet tips from experts (the PCRM is none of those things) say the same thing: Moderation.

Moderation is not “cleanses” that do absolutely nothing but psych you out. It’s not the “Diet Plan of the Season.” It’s not “lose 20 pounds in a week with this simple trick.” It’s not PETA acting under and funding false “physician” groups to promote vegan diets. Lose weight? Cut calories. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. Above all, a good, moderate health plan means not expecting results in unreasonable time spans. I myself am trying to lose weight, and I’ve dropped 13 pounds in several months, and no special diet plans were involved, just the same common-sense and scientific advice that’s been preached for decades now. And you know what else? I get to keep my cheese! As in this recipe…

Mac ‘n Cheese… With Chorizo, Roasted Peppers and Baked in Acorn Squash

This was a tinge of inspiration. I’ve seen plenty of recipes calling for baking items in hollowed out squash; and I know of baking mac ‘n cheese. This was just a touch of inspiration and more-so, this is a middle-finger to the PCRM, who say we should banish cheese. Here is my counter strike. This dish is *not*, I should say, low in fat or calories, but it does take a very common comfort dish and does diminish the calories, adds hella flavor and is really fun to prepare. And it’s pretty easy, despite the number of steps involved.

To start, you need to heat an oven to 400 degrees. Let it heat and take a baking pan/dish and line it with foil (this makes for 1 second clean-up later.) Take an acorn squash and split it in two.  Advice, comrade!: Acorn, butternut and many squash varieties are hard to cut even with a sharp chef’s knife or cleaver; thankfully, my friend Jess passed along this amazing bit of advice for cutting squash: put it in the microwave for one minute at a time, repeating and testing the process until that squash yields to your knife. I don’t know how I’d prep squash without her advice. It works like magic.

When your oven is heated, throw your squash in, on the foiled sheet, for about 40 minutes. I would advise using the top rack as it’ll crisp up and brown the top of the squash more, but this is not really important. Meanwhile, or within that cooking time….

Take approximately 1/2 a link of Mexican chorizo and draw a knife across it so you can split its casing. It’s important here to note that there is a major difference between Mexican and Spanish chorizo. Normally, I prefer Spanish, but Mexican chorizo is raw, soft and essential here. Add it, whole, to a small pan with a light coating of oil on a med-low heat (and when I say “med-low” I don’t mean “medium!”) Stir and try to break it apart gently with a spatula or spoon. More advice from Party Command: I rarely cook with chorizo, and even though I bought fresh-made, spatulas and forks could not break it down to a “crumble.” If this just happens to you too, just pass it too a cutting board and use a knife.

So when the chorizo was getting brown, had released some juiciness; I tossed in one minced garlic clove and about one half of a roasted red pepper (store-bought, you can find them in the deli section of a Whole Foods.) With a dash of paprika, salt and pepper; I lowered the heat to low and just let them sit.

Back-tracking a bit, just a bit before you start that mix of sausage and peppers, put a sauce pot of water to boil for the macaroni noodles. For the mac ‘n cheese part of this dish I went all out… Whole Foods boxed, but you can use the old Kraft if you want too. Although boxed mac ‘n cheese is not as good as the “real thing,” this recipe is not about “the real thing.” This is about simplicity and comfort food. So take your box, cook it as the directions say, and wait for MY further instructions…

Watch your pan of sausage/peppers/garlic and when the garlic starts getting a slight tan and your chorizo is cooked through, stop cooking. Add this to your mac ‘n cheese from a box when that’s done too, and stir. After 40 minutes in the oven the acorn squash should be tender–you can test with a fork–remove and when it’s cool enough to handle scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Reduce your oven temperature to 300. Spoon out a seedles bowl in the squash and add the mac ‘n cheese to where it’s just overflowing. Here you can sprinkle bread crumbs over top or hit a drizzle of olive oil if you like–but this is optional.

My gorgeous girlfriend, displaying the final result of the mac ‘n cheese.

Place the squash-mac back into the oven and let it cook until it gets to your level of done-ness. Here I do not think opening the oven to check is going to harm anything. If you want it lightly browned or crispy–use judgement and remove. Allow the bowls to cool. When ready serve on a plate. Best of all, this is easily tweakable. Vegetarian? Omit the chorizo, use tempeh or a diced veggie. Unsure about, or can’t find chorizo? Swap chorizo for Italian sausage or Andouille sausage.

This is comfort food at it’s best.

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