Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tofu Parmigiana

I can see those looks on your faces from here.  Wipe them off!  You will be absolutely amazed how good this tastes; think firm ricotta with tomato sauce and mozzarella.  Everyone who’s tried this has liked it; in my opinion, it’s the best thing you can do with a package of tofu. 

420 grams firm tofu, sliced into six slices and dried between paper towels
1 egg
½ c (approx) seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
1 c or more of your favourite tomato sauce (homemade or otherwise)
227 g mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in 1 T butter (optional)
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
½ c grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400F; line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Spray foil with vegetable oil.

Break the egg into a shallow bowl and mix until combined; put the breadcrumbs into a pie plate.  One by one, dip the slices of tofu into the egg, then into the breadcrumbs.  Turn well to coat.  Put the tofu slices onto the baking sheet, leaving space in between each piece.  Spray the tops of the tofu slices with additional vegetable oil. 

Bake for 30 minutes, turning pieces at half time, and rotating the baking sheet.

Reduce heat to 350F.  Put the pieces into an 8 X 8 pan, top with tomato sauce, mushrooms (if using), Parmesan and mozzarella. 
Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted and golden brown.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sausage Orzotto

I don’t know why we don’t hear of this northeastern Italian dish more often.  Everyone knows about risotto, but its cousin, orzotto, doesn’t seem to be as well known in North America.  I prefer it over risotto; it’s less finicky, better for you (a much higher source of fibre than short-grained starchy rice), and the texture is pleasingly chewy. 

When I plan on eating this on it’s own, I add the spinach; if I’m serving a vegetable side with it, I omit it.  Incidentally, beets are a great accompaniment.
2 c chicken stock mixed with 2 c water
200 g mild or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t chopped fresh rosemary
¼ c white wine
¾ c pearl barley
1 bunch baby spinach (optional)
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Chopped parsley to garnish (optional)

Combine the chicken stock and water, and heat until hot but not boiling.  Cover and put aside.

In large dry saucepan over medium heat, brown whole sausages.  Brown on all sides, then transfer to cutting board and chop finely.  Return to saucepan, add the onion, and continue cooking until the onion is translucent, about five minutes.  Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for another minute. 

Add the barley, stirring through well until it’s well coated with the oil.  Add the wine and cook until absorbed.  Add all the stock/water mixture, bring to a good simmer, and continue cooking, uncovered, stirring often (no less than every five minutes) for 45 minutes.  By this time the barley should be tender, but the mixture should still be quite moist.

If using, add the baby spinach and stir through until wilted.

Remove from heat, add the Parmesan, black pepper, and the olive oil.  Stir through well, and serve, garnished with parsley if using.

Makes 3 servings.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fresh Fennel Salad

I love this salad with most Italian entrees; it’s well-balanced, crunchy, and easy to throw together.

1 fennel bulb, celery-like top removed, cut in half lengthwise & shaved on a mandolin (medium thickness)
1 t sugar
Sprinkle of salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ c minced parsley

Combine and toss; cover and refrigerate.  Make at least one hour before serving; toss again immediately beforehand.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Beauty in the Kitchen

Every once in a while, I'll spot something in the kitchen that strikes me as particularly beautiful. It may be the ruby brilliance of a lusciously ripe tomato,  the symmetrical perfection of a bumpy bell pepper, or the lacy design of milk solids left from slowly melting butter.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Tip: Soften Butter Quickly

Suddenly realize you need room-temperature butter, but don't have the time to let it soften on it's own?  Just shred the desired amount on a box grater, spread the strands out (using a fork) in a fine layer on a cutting board or sheet of parchment paper, and let sit for about 10 minutes. You'll end up with soft butter that can easily be spread or creamed.

Oven-Braised Shanghai Bok Choy

I prefer Shanghai bok choy cooked using this method over stir-frying.  The stalks are completely tender without being mushy, and the greens, instead of withering up to nothingness, remain plump and tender.  The greens also have a different taste compared to stir-frying; somehow they taste more 'vegetabley' done this way.  

1 lb Shanghai bok choy
¼ c water or chicken stock
2 T oyster sauce
2 t cornstarch
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger

Cut the bok choy in half lengthwise, and rinse in cold running water.  Drain well and shake off excess water.

Put bok choy halves cut side up in a 9 X 13 pan, nesting them in an alternating manner (the stalk of one beside the greens of the next).

Sliver the garlic cloves and sprinkle evenly over all; preheat oven to 400o.

Combine the water/chicken stock, oyster sauce, cornstarch and ginger in a small jar.  Shake well to blend.  Distribute evenly over the bok choy.

Cover the pan tightly with foil, and bake for half an hour.  Remove to plate, spooning the residual juices over all.

Serves 2 generously