Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Evan's Marinade for Fish

We have access to great wild salmon at our weekly farmers' market. Given that I am the only person in the PNW who doesn't like salmon (at least it feels that way sometimes), Evan is our salmon chef. This summer, he came up with a new marinade, which works equally well on halibut (my salmon night alternative along with tofu).

You can use any kind of vinegar, but as I mentioned in the Drunken Sauce recipe, black vinegar was a particular hit.

After marinating the fish, we like to bring the sauce to a boil in a pan and then use it as a sauce for our usual sides of quinoa and veggies.

Taste the marinade before pouring over your fish and adjust the sweet, salty, tangy and savory flavors to please your own palate.

INGREDIENTS
1/4 c. neutral oil
1/4 c. soy sauce (make sure to use GF soy sauce if needed)
1/4 c. black vinegar (or try rice vinegar for a cleaner, milder flavor, or sherry vinegar)
1/4 c. maple syrup (if you don't like things too sweet, you might want to use a touch less syrup)
1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder
A few grinds black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust flavors. Pour over fish and let marinate no more than 30 minutes or so. Cook fish as desired (we grill it). Boil remaining marinade and use as a flavorful sauce for your side dishes (I did a quick food safety search and as long as you boil it, this should be perfectly safe).

Updated Zucchini Bread

I read with great interest a recent Cook's Illustrated article on "reinventing" zucchini bread. I was intrigued by their idea of dramatically increasing the amount of zucchini in the recipe. Unfortunately, I didn't actually love the result and I determined to adapt my own favorite recipe using some of their ideas. Accordingly, I took my traditional zucchini bread recipe (origin forgotten) and decreased the oil and sugar and increased the zucchini. I made it into muffins rather than loaves for inclusion in lunchboxes or on-the-go snacks. No one missed the extra oil and sugar and this is my new go-to recipe.

INGREDIENTS
3 eggs
1/4 c. oil
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 to 2 lb (24-32 oz) zucchini
3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 c. chopped walnuts toasted if desired (optional)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and prepare one 12- and one 6-cup muffin tins by greasing or muffin liners (or one greased loaf pan)
  2. Wash and grate the zucchini (I use the grating attachment of my food processor) and then wring it out very well in a tea towel. You want the zucchini to be quite dry
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and then add the oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix well
  4. Stir in the zucchini
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, leaveners and cinnamon
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir gently
  7. Fold in nuts, if using
  8. Portion into the muffin cups (or pour into the loaf pan)
  9. For muffins, set timer for 30 minutes and then test for doneness. They might need a few more minutes. For a loaf, expect it to take about an hour
  10. These muffins freeze quite well and are very nice toasted

Spiced Plum Sauce

There is nothing complicated or even that special about this simple sauce, but my kids go nuts for it on their steel cut oats and would happily eat a bowl of it for dessert. I am not the kind of parent who goes in for making food art, but one small thing I am willing to do is to use this sauce to fashion a very abstract heart shape on their oatmeal; it always makes them smile. True to form, one child stirs the sauce in to flavor the whole bowl, while the other dives right into the heart and gets the biggest spoonful of it she possibly can.

As with my pear-clove sauce, there is no added sweetener here. The spices are so warm and tasty that sugar would be superfluous. I made up a big batch and will freeze it in cube-sized portions or half-pint mason jars so we can enjoy through the winter.

A word to the wise, if you choose to scale up the recipe because you have truly an insane amount of plums (as I am lucky enough to have thanks to the bounty of my friend Melanie's tree), do not scale up the spice at the same rate or you will end up with a way-too-strong sauce on your hands. I would only double the spice if quadrupling the recipe, for example.

Finally, if you've got an Instant Pot you can throw the washed and halved fruit, 1/2 cup water or so  for a double or triple quantity of fruit and the spice into your Instant Pot and use the steam setting on LOW pressure for 10 minutes and come out with a delicious end product ready to be puréed. But don't make my mistake and do a quick release of the pressure. That led to sticky plum steam getting absolutely everywhere. Instead let the pressure come down on its own and only then release the lid.

One particularly great use of this sauce is as a replacement for the applesauce in the Applesauce Oat Pancakes with Raisins recipe. I do this quite often and we all really enjoy it. Any recipe that uses applesauce should be fine to swap with this plum sauce.

INGREDIENTS
6-10 purple-skinned plums or pluots (I used prune plums and Black Friar plums)
1/2 cinnamon stick
1-3 whole allspice berries
Seeds from 1 green cardamom pod
Splash of water

DIRECTIONS
  1. Wash and slice plums into uniform pieces
  2. Place plums and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan. The splash of water is just to keep the plums from burning before they start giving up their juices
  3. Cook over medium-low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring somewhat frequently at the beginning so that the fruit doesn't stick to the pan. I cover the pan but that's optional
  4. Once the sauce smells delicious and the plums have basically disintegrated, remove from heat and let cool. If fruit flies are a problem in your kitchen, be sure to cover the pan
  5. Discard the cinnamon stick and any of the allspice berries you can find--the cardamom seeds can stay
  6. Whiz up in a blender or food processor or use an immersion blender to make a smooth sauce
  7. Serve over ice cream, pancakes or waffles or stir into hot cereal or yogurt. Would also be delightful with some toasted crumble topping stirred into it

Drunken Sauce

Here is the sauce I mentioned in the Crispy Baked Tofu post. I made very few modification to Andrea Nguyen's recipe from the excellent Banh Mi Handbook. The first time I made it, the sauce didn't thicken as much as I like, so I increased the cornstarch by a teaspoon. I also reduced the ginger as my older daughter felt it was too pronounced and I, being similarly sensitive to ginger in savory food, totally saw her point and was happy to dial it down a bit.

My local Vietnamese grocery store didn't have Chinkiang vinegar (which I have used and loved in the past) but instead of using Nguyen's recommended substitute of equal parts balsamic vinegar and cider vinegar, I got some Koon Chun brand black vinegar. This worked very well and is a new house favorite. My husband used it in his fish marinade and he and the kids preferred it to the same marinade made with rice vinegar.

This sauce obviously goes great on the crispy tofu but would also be good anywhere you might enjoy a sauce that, to me, is a cousin of good homemade teriyaki sauce.

INGREDIENTS
2 TBSP soy sauce
1 1/2 TBSP rice wine such as Shaoxing (or sake or dry sherry)
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 inch section unpeeled ginger, smashed with the flat side of a knife (or to taste)
3 TBSP sugar
3 TBSP Chinkiang or black vinegar (or half balsamic, half cider vinegar)
6 TBSP water
1 TBSP cornstarch dissolved in 2 TBSP water

DIRECTIONS
  1. Combine all ingredients except cornstarch mixture in a small saucepan
  2. Taste and adjust to your desired blend of sweet, tangy and savory
  3. Bring to simmer over medium heat and let simmer very gently 1-2 minutes until you start to smell the ginger and garlic (and you start to think, mmmm, I'm hungry)
  4. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and increase the heat a little bit
  5. Bring to a boil and as soon as the mixture is very thick (though in my experience even with 1 TBSP cornstarch it wasn't as thick as I expected), remove from heat
  6. Let cool in the pan 5 minutes then strain and discard solids
  7. Either pour over and stir into your tofu or just pass the sauce around the table and let everyone drizzle (or pour) it on

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Crispy Baked Tofu

While I love our standard go-to tofu recipes Orange Tofu and Miso Tofu and the new Lemon-Garlic Tofu, I'm always on the look-out for something new. I had noticed The Kitchn's post on crispy tofu but not paid much attention because I can't be bothered with pan frying. Then, a few weeks ago, I read the comments and realized that it might be possible to skip the pressing and to bake the tofu in the oven. Instead of pressing, the tofu is briefly immersed in hot salted water. As for the baking, the magic is to coat the tofu in potato starch and then bake at 400 degrees. The potato starch puffs up and creates what our family now calls tofu marshmallows. Even though the crispness diminishes with time, we love the chewy, puffy texture in leftovers as well as the first day.

One of the biggest revelations in Andrea Nguyen's Banh Mi Handbook, a super awesome cookbook that I may need to own, was a recipe for Crispy Drunken Chicken Banh Mi. Of course, not only was I not intending to put the results in a sandwich, I also had no plans to deep fry chicken. Instead, I thought the drunken sauce would be fabulous on my tofu marshmallows, as indeed it is. Recipe for the drunken sauce at http://eatseats.blogspot.com/2014/10/drunken-sauce.html.

Other than the drunken sauce, this tofu would be delicious topped with almost any sauce you can think of.

You can either just coat the tofu in some potato starch or you can make a slurry of potato starch, rice wine and soy sauce. I tried both methods and the tofu puffed equally. I have now found that I prefer to use Eden mirin instead of rice wine for the slurry, as it gives a more balanced flavor to the tofu. I still use rice wine in the drunken sauce, however.

INGREDIENTS
2 14-16 oz blocks of extra firm or super firm tofu
3 TBSP potato starch
1 tsp soy sauce (if using a wet slurry)
2 TBSP rice wine such as Shaoxing or mirin (if using a wet slurry)
1 TBSP oil (if using a wet slurry)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare 2 baking trays with Silpat or parchment
  2. Cut the tofu into approximately 1 inch cubes
  3. If using the slurry method, mix the potato starch, soy sauce, rice wine and oil in a bowl big enough to fit all of the tofu cubes
  4. Fill a medium saucepan 2/3 of the way full with water (about 2 quarts) and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add 2 tsp salt
  5. Slide the tofu cubes into the hot salted water and let sit 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon into a large bowl
  6. If using just potato starch, pat dry the tofu cubes and then, using a sieve, sift the 3 TBSP of potato starch over the tofu and stir to coat evenly
  7. If using slurry, pour the tofu cubes into the bowl of slurry mixture and gently stir to coat--the hot water bath will help the tofu not to disintegrate too much
  8. Put the tofu cubes on the two baking trays and bake for 20-25 minutes. I don't bother to flip the tofu at all
  9. Tofu is done when it is well puffed and golden brown. Serve with drunken sauce or the sauce of your choice