As the holidays and their dining indulgences steadily fade into into pleasant memories, here's hoping they haven't left physical reminders - like a few extra pounds.
Starting off 2013 with a healthy attitude and approach, how about including an affordable, fat-free protein in some of your meals? Often maligned and misunderstood, the humble healthy bean curd, aka tofu, can be utilised in a plethora of delicious ways. Some of Vibes Cuisine's vegetarian friends enjoy it raw; simply blended with fresh fruits and honey into a luscious, silky pudding. Little vegans often enjoy a mango or banana version of this as one of their first breakfasts. It's great crushed and seasoned up into a sandwich spread with a texture that resembles egg salad. However, beware. Not all tofu are created equal. Luckily, there's Deanery Road's Country Farmhouse soya products which only use certified non-genetically modified soybeans and are available in most supermarkets as well as their own outlet.
Once you have your spongy, off-white block of tofu, it's best to remember that it absorbs whatever flavours you bring to it, so marinating ahead of time is one way of maximising flavour. Working with this economical protein (about $200 per pound), can have amazing results.
Low in calories, it is extremely heart-healthy. You may need a try or two to get the best results preparing it. Remember to wipe the moisture from the tofu and if frying to use medium heat. Wait until it's golden before flipping to the other side - this should eliminate crumbling. However, for those watching their consumption of fats - dry-frying cubes or strips (press first to remove liquid) is very effective and the tofu then sops up whatever sauce you are serving with it but remains brown and crisp. Tofu lends itself well to substituting for other proteins in dishes like brown stew or sweet and sour. You can even handle slices like a premium steak - season, herb crusted and seared.
Two of our favourite chefs specialising in vegetarian cuisine have generously passed along some recipes today. Bull Bay's Ishack Wilmot is the chef-in-residence at his family's surf camp compound and music venue. He has the prestige of a George Brown culinary diploma to his credit as well as being a member of Jamaica's surfing dynasty. Ishack is sharing his yummy, stir-fried tofu which includes bites of ripe plantain in the mix along with a vegan potato salad as brawta.
Chef/permaculturalist Robert Thunder cooked for us at Newcastle's EITS Café during a blissful mountain escape at the nearby Tree Tops villa. The getaway was rustically sublime with Doctor Birds so satiated with nectar from the Chinese hat plants they actually posed for incredible photos. Thunder's plates were shoot-ready too, utilising fresh, organic veggies and herbs from the restaurant's own Food Basket organic farm.
Don't be shy - try tofu and reap its multiple benefits.
Shack's stir-fried tofu
1/2 pack firm tofu, cut into strips
1 medium carrot, cut into strips
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 medium ripe plantain, cut into strips
1 stalk celery, cut on the bias
1/4lb string beans, tips cut off
1/4lb red cabbage, shredded
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium sweet pepper, sliced
3/4 cup soy sauce
2tbs cilantro, chopped
1 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1. Season tofu lightly with salt, black pepper, a sprinkling of garlic and 1/4 cup of soy sauce.
2. Heat oil in wok, sear tofu until golden.
3. Add plantains and remaining garlic; let cook for three minutes.
4. Add carrots and string beans when tender crisp, add onion, celery and sweet pepper followed by cabbage and cilantro.
5. Add remaining soy sauce, salt and black pepper to taste.
6. Stir and let sit for five minutes on low heat.
7. Remove from heat and enjoy!
Ishack's tip: Marinate tofu with seasonings for 1/2 hour for added flavour
Vegan potato salad
1 medium Irish potato, cubed
1 medium sweet potato, cubed
1/2 pack firm tofu, cubed
1/2 medium ripe plantain, cubed
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
2tbs parsley, chopped
1tbs fennel, chopped
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1. Season tofu with lime juice, salt, pepper and half of the parsley. Let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Boil potatoes until just cooked. Let cool.
3. Add potatoes to the seasoned tofu and toss.
4. Add remaining lime juice and olive oil.
5. Top with fennel and parsley.
Robert Thunder's EITS grilled tofu with vegetable bruschetta and tomato basil sauce
4 slices wholewheat bread
1/2 cup olive oil
12 slices tofu
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 small Food Basket eggplant, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 small Food Basket zucchini, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1/4 cup chopped Food Basket parsley
1 cup tomato sauce
1. Mix two-thirds of the garlic with the olive oil and use a pastry brush to paint the tofu followed by the bread.
2. In a frying pan, heat the remaining olive oil and sauté the onions and eggplant for two minutes, followed by the remaining vegetables and cook for about five minutes until just soft.
3. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper.
4. Heat a cast iron griddle pan and toast the bread till crisp on both sides. Set aside. Rinse out the pan and grill the tofu on a high heat, turning once on each side to get a criss-cross effect. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Arrange the bread on the plates, top with the vegetables and neatly lean the tofu slices on the side. Spoon the sauce around the tofu and serve.
Tomato and basil sauce
2 tbs oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
10 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbs sugar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups vegetable stock
Small bunch of Food Basket basil
1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and sauté for two minutes.
2. Add the sugar and the vinegar, let cook for one more minute more then add the tomatoes and stock.
3. Simmer gently for 20-30 minutes.
4. Transfer to a blender; add the basil and process until smooth, season with salt, Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce to your taste.
5. If you like a thicker sauce, return to the pan and simmer gently to reduce.
Robert's Tip: This will keep in the fridge for up to one week.
Vibes Cuisine, which has partnered with The Gleaner's Food to present the best offering in popular food and lifestyle, airs on CVM-TV at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays and at 8:35 a.m. on Wednesdays. Encore presentations air Sundays at 8 p.m. on Flow 100. Like our recipes? Then 'like' Vibes Cuisine TV on Facebook.