Friday, October 12, 2012

A simple dinner: tofu & broccoli rabe

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affordable, (relatively) healthy & delicious

This week has been crazy. I am totally wiped out, yet have a music festival to shoot all weekend long. Tonight won't be a night of rest, but work. But that's OK! All of this is just to illustrate that my time has been at a premium, and I finally had to let go of some of my desire to make elaborate dinners every night. I made a really simple meal, which I may make again tonight, for dinner on Tuesday ... and it featured two of my favorite things: tofu and broccoli.

I've been trying to perfect pan-fried tofu for years. This week? I've actually done it, twice. I guess I haven't "perfected" it because life is about the journey, and I will hopefully continue to make better & better tofu as I get older ... but I've perfected it for the time being, and I'm excited to share how I did that with you.

The first trick is this: the tofu needs to be really, really dry. Like, a lot drier than I thought it did. The first time this worked for me was an accident: I was cooking two meals at once on Monday night (one for dinner, and one for lunches the next day), and the tofu was part of the second dish. I wrapped it in a towel and pressed it for maybe 40 minutes compared to my usual 20, then left it sitting out on the counter unwrapped for at least half an hour. I sliced the block in half, then lost track of time again for at least another half hour, and up to an hour. By then, the tofu was drier than I'd ever had it before.

Second: don't use olive oil. Olive oil breaks down when heated too high, and your pan oil needs to be heated pretty damn high for this (medium-high to high). Don't burn your olive oil. It tastes gross, and it gets rid of all the health benefits, too. Plus, olive oil is notorious for browning food badly (due to not really being amenable to high heat). Instead? I used Spectrum Organics Asian Stir-Fry Oil, which isn't the best thing in the world to be eating, but I figure eating it once in a while isn't the worst thing in the world, either. I make sure its very hot in that frying pan, then I take my (now cut into rectangle-shaped pieces) tofu into the pan, inevitably burning myself several times from splattering oil in the process (I don't recommend that part). Oh, you will need a splatter screen if possible to shield you and your stove from flying oil.

Lastly, don't get impatient! Let the tofu sit for a few minutes before turning each piece (individually ... yeah) and making sure each side is browned before removing it from the pan and placing it on a paper towel to drain the oil. Make sure you don't overcook them, so leaving the room isn't recommended! I added a few splashes of soy sauce to the pan last time and the tofu came out decadently salty, something else I love a lot. After it drains for a few minutes, it's ready to eat!

As for the broccoli rabe, that was even easier: I heated up a few tablespoons of olive oil to medium heat, dropped in 5-6 roughly chopped cloves of garlic, then added the broccoli, which I had sliced a few times so that no stalk would be very thick. I added salt & pepper, then put a lid on the pan & let it fry & steam itself. I kept lifting the lid and stirring so that nothing would burn, and turned down the heat a bit when it began to turn that lovely bright shade of green, but that's about it. When it was done, it was done.

This meal was so satisfying and tasty, I want to make it again tonight. Yay for simple meals! I love packing as many vegetables as I can into a given dinner, but sometimes that's not the most attainable goal. Let me know if you try my tofu techniques or have any tips of your own to offer me on my journey of tofu excellence! Oh, and HAPPY FRIDAY ...I'm so excited to see the weekend finally here! 

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