Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mahogany Tofu (aka Mock au Vin)

I fell down, down, down in a burning ring of tofu. Not shown: brisket, arugula salad, apples, gf noodle kugel, gf honeycake, gf bread. Raise your hand if you've got a brand-new celiac diagnosis in the house! [raises hand]
Happy New Year, oh beloved ones. Not that I am very capital-J Jewish myself. More Jew-ish, as people say, raised as I was by a religion-hating Jew and an atheist disavowed Catholic. But I do love food and festivity, and I like to pick and choose my celebrations. Rosh Hashanah is a favorite, because brisket, which I am crazily good at making.

Okay, they weren't dressed up like mafia hitmen for the holiday. We went to a memorial over the weekend. My late, great friend Ali's brother Jeremy, who is my oldest living friend, lost his beautiful wife to ovarian cancer. Are you following along? The horror. We are heartbroken (despite some of us looking like we're about to tie a cinder block to somebody's foot).
Even though I have zero patience anywhere else in my life—I am the person who breaks a new picture frame trying to tear the plastic off of it, who sighs sharply because it’s taking you longer than I think is strictly necessary to explain what you need me to do, who yells “Aaaaaaagh!” and waits for someone to run in and help me unjam the printer cartridge, which I’ve incorrectly wedged into the printer in some kind of fit—I have the patience to cook tough meat for a long time. A loooooong tiiiiime. I will post the brisket recipe sometime, but honestly? It’s basically my stewrecipe, adapted for a ginormous single piece of meat. You have to cook it for 5 or 6 hours. And you have to make it the day before, because otherwise forget about slicing it.

Also not related to the holiday. Have I mentioned my kids' book? Oh, I have? Sorry! Are these not the most wonderful pictures? Please send me yours! Please review the book on amazon and goodreads! And hey, if you can get it into the hands of someone at IKEA, will you please? Or reach out to me about it. (Reach out to me! Who even am I?)
But, there were vegetarians in the house! Even beyond the usual Birdy. So I made our famous fancy tofu, which Michael and I have always festively called “Mock au Vin,” because it’s seasoned a lot like that chicken dish, minus the bacon. And minus the chicken. And plus orange, because why not? I kind of can’t believe I’ve never posted this recipe here. I think it is my favorite tofu recipe, which is saying a lot, because I have a number of near-favorites, like this. And this. And this. Ooh, and this one, that I stole from Jenny.

I doubled the recipe, naturally. Honestly, even for just four of us, I have to double the recipe.
But it is really, really good: dark and tangy and salty, inoffensively winey and citrusy, a little buttery-rich and oniony, and with a lovely tender-firm bite when you, er, bite it. It’s also just fantastic cold or at room temperature. If you’ve ever made the . . . oh my god, I was looking it up for linking, and it’s not here! The Double-Soy Ginger Tofu. What? Oh, okay, it’s here. But I need to move it over too. Anyhoo, if you’ve ever made that, you’ll recognize the method. And the method is: give all that good flavor nowhere to go but into the tofu.

Shanah Tovah, my Jewish, Jew-ish, not-at-all-Jewish darlings. May the season and year ahead bring you every blessing. And may you call your senators and ask them to please, compassionately, oppose the new and terrifying Graham-Cassidy "healthcare" bill. xo

The blinding white pieces were not quite as blindingly like that in real life, but it's true I could have done a better job with even marinade distribution. Plus, I have a tilty oven rack.
Mahogany Tofu (aka Mock au Vin)
This is the tofu we make "for company," like the weird suburban ex-hippies that we are. To double the recipe, put it all in a giant roasting pan, as shown here, or simply use two lasagna-sized pans.

1 (14-ounce) block of extra-firm tofu
Juice and grated zest of half an orange
1 shallot (or part of an onion), chopped
Black pepper
½ cup red wine (chianti is a good choice)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon each sugar and kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 generous tablespoon butter

Drain the tofu, wrap it in a clean dish towel, and put something heavy on it. For me, this is a small cutting board that I then put the tea kettle or a can of tomatoes on; press the tofu for at least five minutes, but longer is better—up to an hour. You’re getting all the water out of it so that it will get really thirsty, and then it will greedily suck up all that delicious wine and juice and butter.

Heat the oven to 400 and grease a lasagna-sized baking dish.

Cut the tofu crosswise into twelve slices (this is easiest to do evenly if you cut it into quarters and then cut each quarter into thirds) and lay the slices in the pan, where they will just barely fit. Grate the orange zest over it, then sprinkle on the onion and give it a good grinding of black pepper.

Stir together the orange juice, wine, soy sauce, sherry vinegar, sugar, salt, and thyme, then pour this over the tofu and tilt the pan so that the liquid makes contact with all of the cut surfaces of the tofu. Dot the tofu with butter.

Bake until the liquid has completely evaporated and the tofu is a deep brown (the pan may start to look a bit burnt around the edges—don't worry), about 45 minutes. Allow to sit for fifteen minutes or so (it's firmer and tastier once it cools a bit) then eat. 

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Neon Pickled Squash / Bean Feast redux / Books

I am running a new recipe below, for Neon Pickled Squash, even though what I really want to do is run the recipe for Bean Feast again. Because I’ve run it before, I know, but I cannot overemphasize the staple-ness of this recipe at my house. We have it at least every other week, if not weekly. And it’s almost always pinto beans, but sometimes I mix it up with black beans, because we’re crazy like that. If you are too lazy to click over to the link, the idea is that you cook up a perfect pot of plain beans, in your pressure cooker, with plenty of salt. I start with 2 or 3 cups of dried beans, a handful of salt, and water to generously cover; bring it to a boil, shut off the heat, leave for an our; cook at high pressure for 8 minutes (6 for black beans), then let the steam release on its own. 

A perfectly doctored bowl. I sliced the squash pickles into planks.
A pressure cooker yields beans that are perfectly tender and creamy inside, while remaining unmushy. You can bite them, and the skins are intact, but they middles are soft. I can’t even explain how wonderful they are; you simply can’t achieve this level of bean perfection with regular boiling, and believe me, I tried for years. (If you have a newfangled Magic Pot, please let me know what you think.)

The classic Bean Feast. Photo credit Ben Newman.
Then you serve everyone a glorious dishful of steaming beans (with or without rice, as you prefer) and put out an assortment yummy and attractive DIY toppings such as:

·      Escabeche and/or pickled jalapenos
·      Pickled radishes and/or squash (below)
·      Crumbled feta or shredded cheddar or Jack
·      A little cruet (!) of tasty olive oil
·      Coarse salt
·      Lime wedges
·      Hot sauce, including something smoky
·      Diced avocado
·      Slivered cabbage or romaine lettuce
·      Cilantro leaves
·      Chopped white or red onions
·      Sour cream

You are going for maximum flavor, color, texture, nutrition, so assort the toppings accordingly.

From the New Yorker. . . amiright 
But if you’re really here just for the pickled squash, and a bean feast isn’t even in your future, you’re still in luck. Because these are wonderful pickles—sweet-and-sour and good on a sandwich or burger, in a quesadilla, with cheese and crackers, or right out of the jar—and they’re easy to make. Plus, you’re not canning them, so you don’t even need to lie awake listening for pings and fretting about botulism and imagining gravestones that say "Thanks for the pickles." Just stick them in the fridge, like a normal person.

Beauty x 4 
Meanwhile, thank you to everyone—all of you parents and readers and teachers and librarians—who already bought One Mixed-Up Night, blogged about it, ordered it for your school or library, read it to your kids, reviewed it on Amazon or Goodreads, requested it at your local bookstore, wrote to me about it, and recommended it. Those things all help books sales SO MUCH! Also, there is a movement afoot to leave copies of the book in IKEA stores as a form of guerrilla book publicity. Please stay tuned for more on that, or go rogue, and sneak a copy into your local IKEA and enjoy my eternal gratitude. Also, if you send me photos, I will post them here!

For you grown-ups out there, I just finished this book, which I loved, and am reading this book now, which I am loving. Oh, reading. It really is a haven in a heartless world. Stay safe, beloved readers and resisters and dreamers and Floridians. Love to you all. xo

Trombetta, c/o Renees Garden seed company
Neon Pickled Squash
This is adapted from the recipe for Zucchini Pickles in the wonderful book preserving book Put ‘Em Up. The pickles are crazily yellow and perfectly seasoned—bread-and-butterish, but spicier and less sweet. Also, the ice treatment keeps them nice and crunchy. I make these every September because my friend Meredith grows these enormous crookneck Trombetta squash that are so enormous and so crooknecked they look like green pythons that have swallowed swans. They are very firm and lovely, though, and they make wonderful pickles. You use, like, half of one to get two pounds of slices. Seriously. Then you keep the other half in the fridge and saw away at it intermittently, like it's a gigantic and bland vegetarian salami.

2 pounds summer squash (crookneck, zucchini, or the ginormous trombetta), sliced into ¼-inch rounds
1 onion, sliced into half moons
1 tray of ice cubes
½ cup kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 small red chili or 1 teaspoon pepper flakes (if you like spicy pickles)

In a large bowl, toss the zucchini and onions with the salt, then crack the ice over it and add just enough cold water to cover. Leave it for two hours, then drain it, fish out any unmelted ice, and use your clean hands to pack the veggies into a large, very clean 2-quart jar (or several smaller jars). (The original recipe has you rinse the squash, but I find the salt amount to be more perfect if it’s unrinsed. Up to you!)

Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil, then pour over the squash in the jar(s). Use a canning funnel if you have one. And if you don’t have one, buy a canning funnel, for god’s sake. You will use it everyday to fill lunchbox thermoses, and you will wonder what you were thinking, not having one.

Once the pickles are cool, store them in the fridge, where they will keep indefinitely.