Baked Hoisin Tofu with Stir Fried Greens and Toasted Cashews

Big skillet full of stir fried bok choy, asparagus, scallions, and baked hoisin tofu. Topped with toasted cashews.Baked tofu is so simple to make, almost the entire process is hands off and anything that isn’t is put together quickly with little ceremony. You can make it in the morning and then go off to work or back to bed to read and have a nap, or you can let it marinade for 20 minutes while you chop up the vegetables and toast the cashews – it will taste delicious either way. The only thing that I find really essential for baked tofu success is draining it before you slice it up. I do this by placing the block of tofu between 2 plates that are lined with paper towel and weighing the top plate down with a large can of tomatoes or something similarly heavy for about 30 minutes. This is a stir fry that stands on its own so I don’t tend to serve it with noodles or rice, although you definitely could do that if you felt like it. The vegetables don’t have to all be green, this is more of an aesthetic preference than anything else and shouldn’t determine whether or not you try this recipe. The cashews taste slightly smoky after being toasted but retain their buttery texture; feel free to experiment with nuts and seeds as toppings, I’m sure peanuts would be wonderful but as I’m allergic to them I haven’t tried substituting them in. It helps to make this recipe in a really big skillet so that the vegetables will cook quickly without getting too soft, they should remain slightly crunchy in contrast to the chewiness of the tofu.

baked hoisin tofu with stir fried greens and toasted cashews:

1 block of firm or extra from tofu, drained

1/3 cup of hoisin sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 bunches of scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

4 small bok choy, torn into large pieces

1/3 cup cashews, smashed into smaller pieces with a rolling pin or kitchen mallet

Fresh basil or cilantro for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the tofu into 2 cm thick slices, arranging them in a single layer on a glass baking dish.
  2. Whisk together the hoisin and soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and water in a bowl. Pour over the sliced tofu, reserving a small amount for the stir fried vegetables. Flip the tofu pieces so that they are coated in the marinade and allow to sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.
  3. Bake the tofu for 40 minutes, turning over halfway through to ensure even baking. Remove and set aside.
  4. While the tofu is baking add all of the cashews to a large skillet and dry toast the cashew pieces for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring lots and keeping a close eye on them – they can burn in an instant. As soon as they begin to smell wonderful and toasty remove them from the heat and transfer them into a bowl, this will prevent them from continuing to cook from the skillet’s residual heat.
  5. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the grapeseed oil to the same skillet used to toast the cashews. Allow it to heat up before adding the asparagus and scallions. Stir fry the green vegetables for a few minutes before adding the torn bok choy and remaining marinade. Cook for 1 more minute, tossing the skillet contents to coat with the marinade and to wilt the bok choy.
  6. Transfer the vegetables to 2-4 bowls and top with slices of baked tofu, the toasted cashews, and the fresh basil or cilantro. Serve with a really cold beverage, my personal favourite is a lemonade or gingerale shandy – just the perfect amount of icy kick to complement the warmth of the stir fry.

Sunday soundtracks: either over-the-top depressing or please-no-more-anxiety uplifting, this Sunday I’m determined to spring for the second option. My anxiety levels are always through the roof on Sunday afternoons because well, they’re always been like that and it’s now a weirdly comforting part of my weekly routine. So here’s an excerpt from this Sunday’s happy soundtrack: beachy silly lovely boy rock.

The Drums – Days

Simple Asparagus Dinner

Earthenware shallow bowl with roasted asparagus, toasted breadcrumbs, and parsley.

It’s so easy to make a meal out of good, seasonal produce. Ordinary ingredients become Platonic ideals of themselves, every component is placed together in perfect purity of execution. This might seem hyperbolic to some people, but I truly get an immense amount of pleasure from selecting and preparing beautiful vegetables. I was lucky to have found the most delicate bundle of pencil thin asparagus yesterday while I was out shopping for groceries and I’ve spent my entire work day mulling over my various options as far as what to do with them. I trimmed the asparagus stalks and roasted them for 10 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While the asparagus cooked I toasted some panko crumbs, salt, and pepper in some olive oil before tossing with a scant handful of finely chopped parsley in a small bowl. The asparagus was arranged in two shallow bowls and topped with the panko crumb mixture. The only extra addition to my Tuesday night supper was a couple of crispy olive oil fried eggs, spiked with plenty of freshly cracked pepper.

This is How to Make a Cozy Dinner: Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Shallots, and Asparagus

Roast Chicken with Asparagus

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Parboil small red potatoes in water or chicken broth for 10 minutes. Set a rack in the roasting pan and line with parboiled potatoes and 6 whole shallots (tips cut off). Make slits in the skin of a roasting chicken, rub slivers of salted butter under the skin. Cut a lemon into wedges and stuff half of them into the cavity of the bird, scatter the remaining half in with the potatoes and shallots. Drizzle olive oil over the whole shebang and season liberally with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. Put the whole thing into the oven and roast for 50 minutes or until a thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the breast. Remove the woody parts of a bunch of asparagus and steam for 5 minutes, give or take, depending on the size. Toss with potatoes and shallots, check for seasoning. Eat on the couch, preferably in your pajamas while reading an Adam Dalgleish police procedural as written by the late, great P.D. James.

Quick Green Pea and Asparagus Soup with Lemony Avocado and Arugula

Green Pea Soup

This soup is quickly becoming a permanent fixture in my repertoire of dinners that can be prepared and put on the table in less than 20 minutes. The original idea for this recipe is based on a green pea soup with cheese that I found in a Nigella Lawson cookbook quite a long time ago which I have tampered with out of necessity several times (most often due to the fact that I am somehow, against all odds, out of cheese at the particular moment I would like to make the soup.) Due to the seasonable nature of asparagus you can very easily go without, there’s just something about the grassiness of asparagus that brings out the mild sweetness of the peas and the deep licorice essence of fresh basil. You can serve this quick green pea and asparagus soup with leftover quiche, spinach and ricotta quesadillas, or on its own out of a large mug if you don’t want to go to the trouble of preparing the lemony avocado and arugula salad.

fastest ever green pea and asparagus soup:

3 cups of frozen green peas

1 bunch of asparagus (about 500 g), ends trimmed and any tough woody bits peeled away

2 cups of vegetable stock

1 bunch of fresh basil, roughly torn with a few set aside whole for a garnish

Kosher or Maldon salt to taste

A good buttery olive oil

Bring the stock to boil in a large pot and cook the peas and asparagus until they are both just cooked, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and salt. Being very careful not to burn yourself blend the soup with a hand blender right in the pot or in small batches in a regular blender. Serve garnished with a fresh basil leaf and a drizzle of olive oil.

lemony avocado and arugula:

4-5 cups of baby arugula, washed and spun completely dry

1 avocado, diced

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 Tbsp. olive or avocado oil

Fresh torn basil or flat parsley

Coarsely cracked fresh black pepper

Kosher salt (Maldon is lovely, too)

Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl and toss gently to coat, serve immediately.

As a solution to Christmas insanity in the cheese selling world and a form of self-preservation I have found myself listening exclusively to electronic downtempo music outside of work, whether it be while cooking, running, walking around doing errands, etc., etc. Most of the music off of The Avalanche’s Since I Left You is like a sunny Caribbean vacation, lush and loud and kinetically energetic. Etoh is a nice distance from that type of songwriting energy, thickly sound layered and introverted music for times when that sort of escapism is welcomed with open arms.

The Avalanches – Etoh

Sesame Soy Tofu

Transitioning to a full-time work schedule after spending months daydreaming about said schedule when one is unemployed is difficult at best and absolutely exhausting at its worst. It’s not the content of my days but rather the adjustment of getting up at 7:00 in the morning and trying not to stay up past 10:00 at night. Needless to say, my weekday approach to cooking has moved from complicated to utilitarian and quick recipes such as this one provide a springboard for something memorable but very simple both in terms of preparation and ingredient selection. The tofu is simmered briefly in hot water and then kept warm until ready to serve; this might sound contrary to any other way you might have prepared tofu but as of right now it is my new favourite way to prepare it. I used asparagus the last time I made this for dinner (out of season but on sale), but you could use any vegetable or combination of that you like. Lastly, I would highly recommend you use low-sodium soy sauce in this recipe as I found the sauce too salty when I used a regular soy sauce.

sesame soy tofu

1 package of medium-soft tofu, drained and cubed

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted*

5 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

1 bunch of scallions, snipped finely with scissors halfway up the dark green part of the plant

1 tsp. of chili flakes (I like to add more if I’m the only one eating)

5 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 lb. of asparagus, ends snapped off and cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal

2 tsp. canola oil (I think that peanut oil would be a good choice here because of its high smoke point, but I’m allergic to peanuts so this is all based on speculation)

1 cup of jasmine rice, cooked according to package directions

1. Place the tofu in a pot with just enough water to cover and bring to a simmer; turn the heat down to low and allow to sit for as long as you need while you prepare the sauce and asparagus.

2. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small mixing bowl and let rest while you cook the asparagus.

3. Heat the oil over high heat and stir fry the asparagus until bright green but still crunchy.

4. Mound the rice, tofu, and asparagus on a plate and generously drizzle with the sauce. Do not let the fact that this sauce is uncooked deter you because once you’ve made it you’ll want to put it on everything.

*To toast the sesame seeds spread them evenly across a frying pan over medium-high heat and watch carefully shaking every 30 seconds or so to prevent burning. The seeds will be done after a few minutes when they begin to emit an intense sesame scent and turn golden brown.

The Psychedelic Furs are so good to play really loudly while you’re cooking and trying to reimmerse yourself back into your own brain after a long period of sustained extroversion. I think this band has a really interesting stylistic evolution: post-punk, new wave, art rock, etc., etc. – listening to music that always sounds different is an invigorating antidote to an over-abundance of sameness. Besides, I like Richard Butler’s sunglasses in this video.

The Psychedelic Furs – Until She Comes