Thursday, July 5, 2012
This is a dish I concocted for myself on my girls night in last night and at the risk of sounding over-dramatic (but why break the habit of a lifetime?) it was so spectacular, the best thing I've made for ages and ages. I fall back on the old favourites quite a bit, and some recent experiments (with the exception of vegemite spaghetti) have gone very, very wrong indeed.
This magical plate of tofu and greens, on the other hand, was superb. It is so nice to have a cooking success to bolster your spirits after one too many lumpy gravies, burnt crumpets and a rather terrible (possibly gin induced) salad of beetroot with mint jelly. I think I deserve investigation by a mental health team for that one. Even writing the words together is making me shudder!
Regular readers will know how much I love girls nights in; an opportunity to lounge around, make something utterly indulgent or purely whimsical for dinner at an ungodly hour, watch girly movies my husband hates, do yoga, put on face masques....not that I can't do any of this when Tom is around, of course. It's just nice having only your own timetable and whims to satisfy. And being able to look like The Joker without an audience. Which of course I will now negate by publishing this photograph of myself on the Internet:
I'm wearing the masque I made at the Montagne Jeunesse SPArty in London last Thursday. I kept it in the fridge and it felt so cool and refreshing on the face! Colin recommended washing the masque off while it was still a little moist. If you allow the masque to completely dry, the oil and grease the masque has absorbed from your skin will kind of sit there and dry, and probably soak back in!
A gin and tonic is an essential part of any girls (or boys) night in, I'm sure you'll agree.
I also did yoga (prior to the face masque!) and watched a favourite film:
"So many sexy people!" as my friend Kenz put it :) If you've never seen it, I do recommend it. I discovered it one evening - on another girls night in - and it's been a favourite summer film ever since. I am yet to make it to Barcelona and I don't know much about "Catalan identity" (if you've seen the film, you'll get my little joke!). But there are scenes in the film which remind me a lot of my own summer spent in North America five years ago, where I met so many interesting people often purely by chance, and I do own a Spanish guitar CD, which is exquisite. And the acting and storytelling in this film is really fantastic, I think it's one of Woody Allen's best.
And finally, the tofu. Oh my. If you like tofu, you'll love this. And if you think you don't like tofu, maybe trust me and give it a try. Imagine Singaporean black pepper crab, but for veggies.
I do sometimes have to smile at how my idea of "spoiling myself" has changed over the years. I never expected tofu to be on that list!
Chilli, garlic and black sesame tofu with greens
Serves 2 generously
1 x 396g block firm tofu
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1-2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dried crushed chilli (reduce to 1 teaspoon if you don't want it too hot)
4 teaspoons black sesame seeds (from Japanese food stores)
You can use any greens you like, a combination of lightly cooked and raw is great. I used:
Green pepper (capsicum)
Sesame oil, to dress the greens
Lemon juice, to dress the greens
Fresh coriander, to serve
Hot chilli sauce, to serve
First of all, remove your tofu from the package, wrap in a clean tea towel and press with a heavy object to remove excess liquid. Here is an excellent tutorial on how to do this.
Cut the tofu into 6-8 thick slices. Lay out on a large piece of cooking foil. Bring the sides up so that the marinade ingredients don't go everywhere :)
You can combine the ingredients in a jug and pour over the tofu slices, or just distribute them evenly one by one over the slices and turn the package to coat. The idea is to get a bit of a crust with the paprika, chilli and black sesame seeds on the top of the slices, so I like to just add the marinade ingredients one by one to the foil package.
Fold up the sides and seal the foil package. Leave to marinate in the fridge for as long as possible - about 4-5 hours is ideal. At a push I reckon you could leave it for 30 minutes and it would still be delicious!
Retrieve the foil package from the fridge, turn the slices to get them evenly coated. Preheat the oven to 200 C. When ready, place the foil package on a baking tray and open it to ensure the slices will get nice and crispy. Place in the oven for about 45 minutes, turning the tofu once. I like the outside of the tofu to be crispy so I find I need to bake it for this long. You could check it after 30 minutes and may find it's done to your liking.
In the meantime, prepare your greens. Cook any that need cooking, but only lightly. Cook spinach until just wilted, beans or broccoli until they are tender but still have some crunch. Chop all raw ingredients. Mix everything together with a splash of lemon juice and a drop or two of sesame oil. Divide among bowls.
Once the tofu is cooked allow to cool slightly and then chop the slices into chunks and scatter over the greens. Include the whole cloves of roasted garlic - they will be delicious! Dress with roughly chopped fresh coriander, a drizzle of hot chilli sauce if you want more heat (!) and then serve.
You could serve the tofu and greens with rice or noodles too if you wanted some more fill factor, or stretch it to feed more people, but as I only wanted something light the tofu and greens were more than enough for me.
I do not have the words for how delicious this was. You will not be fighting tofu*, you will be picking up your fork gladly! Enjoy!
* The title of this post, "fighting tofu", comes from the title of a chapter in one of my most favourite books in the world, Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Essential reading for any writer and highly recommended.