Friday, March 1, 2013

Vegetarian Week #2

Well that was fast! Darn that February for being such a short month. This month's vegetarian week crept right up on me and when I was making my grocery list last Sunday morning I almost forgot. Whoops! To top it all off, I vowed that February would be the month of this:

Tofu. Ew. Prior to this week I had eaten tofu a handful of times and never really found it to be appetizing. When I laid out my cooking goals for 2013, however, I vowed to give it another chance.

First, let me go over my lunch. I loved the farro salad I made for January's week so I knew I wanted to do another version. I consulted Martha's vegetarian tome, Meatless, and decided on a farro salad with zucchini, yellow peppers, and toasted almonds.

Yum! Here's how I made it:

1 package of Trader Joe's quick cooking farro (about 3 cups cooked)
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp of olive oil
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp chopped, fresh thyme (I used 1/2 tsp dried)
1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 large celery stalk, diced
1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds
1/4 salt
1 lime

1. Cook the farro according to package directions.
2. Heat 2 Tbs of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, garlic, scallions, and red pepper flakes, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes.
3. Combine the farro and zucchini mixture in a large bowl. Stir in celery, almonds, and remaining 2 tsp of olive oil. Season with salt and add a squeeze of lime juice before serving.

This is delicious. I think thyme is my favorite herb so there's no doubt that I will love anything I add it to. I didn't find this salad to be as filling as last month's, though. I think the addition of chick peas or another bean would help a lot so I'll file that tid bit away for next month.

And now the tofu.

To paraphrase Sally Field, I liked it! I really liked it!

I get a daily recipe e-mail from and this recipe for tofu stakes with shiitakes and veggies came through a few weeks ago. Perfect, I thought. It looks damn good in the photo, right? Good job, food stylist. Here's the breakdown:

1 14 (Trader Joe's was 15) oz. package of extra firm tofu, drained
3 Tbs sesame oil
3 Tbs low sodium soy sauce
1 cup julienned red bell pepper
1 cup match stick cut carrots
1/8 tsp salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
5 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbs honey
2 tsp sherry vinegar (I had none so I used rice wine vinegar.)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (This is pretty spicy for me! Adjust down to 1/4 or an 1/8 of you don't like heat.)
Cooking spray

1. Cut the tofu into four equal portions. I cut mine in half through the middle lengthwise and then crosswise. I hope that makes sense. Pierce the tofu with a fork and place it in a shallow dish. Combine 1 Tbs of sesame oil and 1 Tbs of soy sauce in a bowl and then pour it over the tofu and let it sit for at least 15 minutes.
2. Heat 1 Tbs of sesame oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, carrots, and salt and saute for about 3 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set them aside. Add the last Tbs of sesame oil to the same pan and toss in the mushrooms and the garlic. Saute for about 4 minutes. Add 2 Tbs of soy sauce, vegetable broth, honey, vinegar, and red pepper flakes and simmer for about 3 minutes until the sauce thickens.
3. Coat a grill pan with cooking spray and heat it on high heat. Grill the tofu for three minutes on each side, basting it with the leftover marinade. This makes 4 servings, so plate your tofu and divide the vegetable mixture evenly between them.

I got new cutting boards!!
I think you're crazy if you don't love mushrooms.
Looks harmless, right?
This is really, really delicious. I remember hearing on a cooking show that the key to liking tofu is to add as much flavor as possible because it doesn't really have a flavor of it's own. I think that's where it was lacking in the past for me. The sesame and the soy sauce add a ton of flavor to the tofu and the veggies in the sauce are crisp and tasty.

Grill marks are appetizing no matter what they're on.
I made some broccoli with it because it's my go-to veg and put some Mrs. Dash on said broccoli because I like the 90s. This could have/should have been served with brown rice, but I try to stay away from carbs after lunch. As delicious as this was, my one complaint is that I didn't find it to be very filling. Maybe I need a bigger portion of tofu or some rice or another grain. Filed away for next time! My post-dinner hunger was nothing a piece of toast with peanut butter (Carbs. Damn.) couldn't fix though. I consider anything with peanut butter to be dessert.

And that's my tofu experience. I am no longer afraid of it. I feel like Kevin McAllister when he goes down to yell at the furnace in Home Alone. I feel happy of myself!

I noticed some tempeh at TJ's when I was buying my tofu. That is definitely on the vegetarian agenda, but I think I'll take a month off from alternative proteins. I've got to spread them out!

Share you feelings on tofu - gross or not gross?


  1. People have such misconceptions about tofu, but it really just takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in! I've always found it to be really tasty in stir fries, but probably my favorite way of preparing it is to add it to Pad Thai. Yum!