Friday, July 12, 2013

Marination-Inspired Miso Tofu

One of our very favorite food purveyors in the world is Marination. We've been loyal fans since Big Blue started visiting our neighborhood four years ago and we are even more enthusiastic now that they have a bricks and mortar location with a full bar and a view. In fact, I've got something of a reputation at all Marination locations because I always bring my own Pyrex dish to convey tasty tacos and sliders from point A to point B. For example, a friend of ours went to the Capitol Hill location (without me but with a Pyrex) and the counter person said, "Do you know Laurel?" I am quite proud of this, though I wish that bringing one's own dishes in order to avoid disposable containers were so commonplace that one person wouldn't be known by name for it. Our doula for our second daughter won a huge place in our hearts for walking from the hospital to Marination to get us tacos after my delivery. I don't think any food has ever tasted so good.

My husband's family knows of and supports our Marination obsession, and it is to Evan's aunt that I owe this recipe. She saw in the paper Marination's recipe for their miso chicken tacos and was kind enough to scan it and send it to me. Of course, I immediately adapted it! The biggest change was I added ginger. The tacos at Marination are miso ginger chicken, so not sure why the paper's version doesn't call for it. Other than that, I just reduced the size of the recipe and used it on tofu rather than chicken. I marinated two blocks of tofu for several hours (mainly because of when I had time to make the marinade, but at least a 30-minute soak would be good) and then Evan grilled it. Delicious and loved by all. We are excited to have another great tofu recipe to go into the rotation with Orange Tofu and Tofu with Savory Caramel Sauce. We used this amount of marinade for two blocks of tofu but I don't think I'd bother to halve it for one block; I'd just use the extra for sauce.

Edited January 2017 to increase the miso and rice vinegar and reduce the soy sauce and sugar.

1 or 2 blocks tofu, each cut lengthwise into four slabs and patted dry
2 TBSP brown miso
2 TBSP rice vinegar
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP garlic, minced or put through a press
1 TBSP grated ginger
3 TBSP sugar
3 TBSP soy sauce (we didn't use low sodium soy sauce and it was fine even though our mirin is salty)
1/4 c. mirin

  1. Find a dish large enough to lay all the slabs of tofu flat but very close together. A 9x13 Pyrex dish isn't quite big enough for two blocks of tofu but I made do. Better a slightly too-small dish than a too-large one so tofu is well-coated with marinade
  2. Mix all ingredients except tofu in a small bowl and whisk well to combine and dissolve the sugar
  3. Spread about half of the marinade in the bottom of the dish and nestle the tofu slabs on top
  4. Pour the rest of the marinade over the tofu
  5. Let the tofu marinade for at least 30 minutes, turning once if desired
  6. Grill on medium-high heat on each side until you get nice grill marks. Alternatively, you could pan-fry, broil or bake
  7. Serve with rice and vegetables or make into tacos (which will never be quite as good as the ones at Marination)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lemony Quinoa with Kale and Baked Olives

Here is an example of a time where I bookmarked a recipe and intended to follow it and then ended up just using it as the inspiration for something totally different. If this dish were a TV movie, it wouldn't even be allowed to be "based on" the original. I also put more thought into the design of the dish than I normally do, going as far as to sketch it out on paper and write down amounts and everything. I wanted to have a semi-decent chance of re-creating it if it ended up being tasty (and it was).

The inspiration for the recipe was from The Kitchn Warm Citrusy Millet Salad with Fennel and Kalamata Olives. The first time I made it, the only changes I made were to use an orange rather than clementines and to use an onion instead of fennel, as I don't love fennel and it wasn't yet in season at the farmers' market. I also added some finely ground kale to the millet.

If those changes weren't enough, I modified it further to use quinoa, which my family prefers to millet. I substituted lemon juice and zest for orange, as I am more likely to have that around, and I doubled the olives. I also ditched the original dressing in favor of a hybrid based loosely on Deborah Madidon's baked olives in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I used half of the lemon garlic mixture to coat the still-warm olives and the other half as a basis for a lemon dressing for the quinoa and kale. I've made this twice now and am delighted to say that this will be a regular in our rotation.

I'm sure you could save some work and not bake the olives, but I think that baking them adds extra flavor that is worth the minimal effort.

1 c. uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained and toasted if desired
2 c. water
1/2 tsp salt
1 bunch kale, washed and stems removed, then finely ground or chopped
1 c. Kalamata olives, quartered
1/4 c. white or red wine or vermouth
1-2 bay leaves
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stalk and chopped OR 1 tsp dried
Juice of half a lemon (about 2-3 TBSP)
1-2 TBSP olive oil to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Combine olives, wine, and bay leaves in a small dish and cover tightly with foil
  3. Bake for 40-45 minutes until olives are plump and soft
  4. While olives bake, combine lemon zest, garlic and thyme in a small bowl. Reserve half of this mixture
  5. As soon as olives come out of the oven, stir in half of the lemon-garlic paste. This should make the olives very fragrant. This part of the meal can be done well in advance, even a day or more
  6. Stir lemon juice, olive oil and pepper into the reserved lemon-garlic paste. Whisk to combine. Set aside whole quinoa cooks
  7. Bring water to boil in a 2 quart (or similar) saucepan
  8. When water boils, add salt and quinoa
  9. Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed and you see the little curls in the quinoa
  10. Remove from heat and stir in the kale. Mix well. Then stir in the lemon dressing and, finally, fold in the olives.
  11. Serve. Makes a great side for fish or is hearty enough to make a light lunch by itself, perhaps garnished with a few toasted pine nuts

Fruity Muffins

So I found a contender to pit against our go-to recipe for blueberry or huckleberry muffins. I had some cherries that were a little past their prime for eating out of hand, but there weren't enough for cherry clafoutis. It was breakfast-for-dinner Friday and I wanted something just a little sweet to go with our eggs. I thought that a cherry muffin might be nice. A quick Internet search yielded this cherry vanilla muffin recipe that looked promising.

Of course, I wouldn't be the cook I am if I followed the recipe exactly as written! I'm sure it is great that way, but I catered to my own tastes in a few ways. I lessened the vanilla to one teaspoon instead of a tablespoon--I thought it would overpower otherwise. Then I omitted the lemon juice and zest out of laziness and a feeling that it wouldn't be necesary. My friend Stacey subbed orange for lemon. I used crumble topping instead of granola as that's what I had in my freezer. I also quartered rather than halved the cherries to give a higher cherry-per-bite ratio. Finally, I thought that the flavor would be improved by increasing the yogurt and decreasing the oil. This worked beautifully.

I often find that cherry desserts are low on cherry flavor even if they're packed with cherries. Certainly my attempts at cherry smoothies were a flop. Clafoutis is the most successful and these muffins are a distant second for cherry flavor. However, they are at the top of the heap for tenderness. The crumb is so silky soft. I'm sure the cherries contribute to that and the fact that I used full-fat dairy products. But this muffin base is likely to be fantastic with any number of fruits--strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and more.

INGREDIENTS for 1 doz muffins
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. evaporated cane juice sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. vegetable oil though next time I will try melted coconut oil because I bet it would be delicious
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c. fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces if necessary
1/2 c. granola or crumble topping

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a 12-cup muffin tin by lining or spraying with oil
  2. Combine dry ingredients except crumble/granola in a medium bowl or large measuring cup
  3. Combine wet ingredients except fruit in a large bowl, whisking to blend
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just moistened
  5. Fold in fruit then divide batter among 12 muffin cups
  6. Sprinkle crumble/granola equally over the muffins
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden

Different Secret Ingredient GF Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

So it seems that I'm on a grain-free treat kick, but I assure you that I'm no Paleo or Primal devotee. Far from it! But I also see no harm in using legumes in treats as long as the end result is tasty. I'd heard about this chickpea peanut butter thing ages ago but never tried it. After the success of the black bean cupcakes, I was newly inspired to try the cookies.

I took the recipe from Texanerin's grain-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough bites and made only the most minor of changes to accommodate my desire to use a full can of chickpeas and to eliminate the need to scoop pb three times (as you need to do if using measuring cups sine the original recipe calls for 1/2 c. plus 2 TBSP peanut butter). I chose the maple syrup sweetener option as I'm not all that fond of honey. To make them taste even more like traditional peanut butter cookies, I subbed out 1 TSBP maple syrup in favor of 1 TBSP packed brown sugar. Delicious!

Elspeth's friend wasn't totally sold on these but everyone in our family happily went back for more, whether they were warm or room temp. As my dear friend Melanie said, with these cookies you wouldn't mind if that's all your kids ate for lunch because they'd be getting some great fat and protein. I image that, though gooey from travel, they'd be a great hiking snack.

The fact that these come together so easily is just one more bonus!

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed well, drained and patted dry
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c. natural peanut butter, at room temp (my food processor balked when I used straight from fridge)
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips; I like to use mini chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Place drained chickpeas in food processor and blend until very fine. I find if I don't process the chickpeas first, I end up with chickpea chunks because the food processor craps out after adding the pb. 
  3. Add remaining ingredients except chocolate chips and blend for 2 minutes or as long as your processor will let you, stopping twice to scrape down bowl. Batter should be very smooth
  4. Transfer cookie dough to a medium bowl and stir in chocolate chips to distribute evenly or, if you're feeling lazy, add to food processor and pulse to combine. This will work better with mini chocolate chips
  5. Scoop walnut-sized balls of dough and place on a baking tray. Whether you use hands or a scoop (as I do), you might need to wet in between cookies. Cookies will not spread much so you can put them close together
  6. Flatten cookies slightly with your hands or a fork, if desired
  7. Bake about ten minutes or until they look done. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Eat warm or at room temperature. These freeze well

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Secret Ingredient GF Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Frosting

When I saw  Lia Huber's Fudgy Black Bean Brownies recipe, it sounded too odd not to try. Undaunted, I even chose to make them for my daughter's kindergarten class non-birthday party (she's an August baby so will never have a birthday during school). As she likes frosting, we agreed to use ganache, which even her frosting-hating mother likes. I figured anything covered in ganache couldn't be too bad. And I was right! You would really never know that these are gluten-free or that they contain black beans. They were a bit chalky, but that's typical in a brownie using only cocoa powder. In my next iteration, I simple used the rest of the bag of chocolate chips I'd opened to make the ganache. That definitely solved the problem and got rave reviews, especially from my June baby, who celebrated her first birthday with a mini one of these. The coconut oil is a brilliant addition, adding a distinct and pleasing flavor.

A double batch is great and is what I show here because it makes 1 doz regular sized cupcakes and 2 doz minis, which I frosted and popped in the freezer for those days when we just need a small sweet treat.

Normally I use dried beans for everything but it seemed silly to go to the effort when they were just going to be puréed anyway, so I used canned. Eden Organic brand uses BPA-free cans.

1 recipe Chocolate Ganache
2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed well and drained
4 large eggs
1/3 c. (70g) Coconut oil (does not need to be melted)
1 1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1-2 c. Semi-sweet chocolate chips (just use what's left after making ganache, if using)

  1. If you haven't already made the ganache, do so and let it set while you make the cupcakes
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare one full-size and one 24-count mini cupcake tins by spraying with oil or filling with liners
  3. Put all remaining ingredients except for chocolate chips into the bowl of a food processor
  4. Process for approximately two minutes until ingredients are fully blended. Scrape down bowl once in the 2 minutes
  5. Add chocolate chips and pulse to blend
  6. Fill cupcake/muffin tins 3/4 of the way full with the batter
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean-- use your judgment, though, because you might just have hit a molten chocolate chip. Larger cupcakes might need to bake 5-10 minutes longer
  8. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting with ganache