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

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Greens and Bacon

whole wheat spaghetti kale bacon

This whole wheat spaghetti with greens and bacon is the happy result of an experiment in emptying out my fridge. Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I’ll need a near empty fridge for groceries; I’m hosting a dinner for 12 on Sunday evening and I’m going to be cooking some amazing food (but no turkey, I’m at best indifferent towards turkey.) This recipe that follows is flexible in its use of ingredients: use any kind of pasta you would like, use broccoli/spinach/Swiss chard/arugula and adjust cooking times as necessary, use a different type of cheese and experiment with different textures and flavours, etc., etc. The egg could also be omitted, but I love the creamy texture that follows when a soft boiled egg is cut open over a bowl of pasta. Getting creative when I feel stumped in the kitchen at the end of the day can be very therapeutic. Maybe it’s because the sensation of repetitive movement is comforting to me, but quietly concentrating on chopping up vegetables is an immensely calming experience each night. Each time you allow yourself to be playful in the kitchen you are fostering your culinary instinct so that on those nights when your cupboards look bare you won’t be quite as devastated but rather tentatively excited.

whole wheat spaghetti with greens and bacon:

(this serves 3-4 people)

About 8 oz. of whole wheat pasta

2 strips of bacon, cut into very thin strips

1 tsp. olive oil

3 cups of kale, destemmed and cut into fine ribbons

5 small bok choy, rinsed and cut into thick pieces (separate ribs from leaves as they take longer to cook)

1/2 cup of stock (I used beef stock, chicken or vegetable would also be good)

1/2 cup fresh basil, cut in a chiffonade

One egg for each person, soft boiled*

Shaved Parmesan or Grana Padano

Freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste

1. Cook the whole wheat spaghetti according to package directions while you’re making the rest of the recipe, it will take the same amount of time if your ingredients are prepped ahead of time.

2. Cook the bacon over medium heat in a saucepan with a fitted lid until crisp (leave uncovered while cooking the bacon.) Drain on paper towel.

3. Discard bacon grease from the pot and add olive oil, kale, and bok choy ribs. Stir to coat with the oil before adding the stock. Cover and allow to steam for 5 minutes. Add the bok choy leaves and fresh basil, cook for 1 minutes before taking off the the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Combine the greens with the pasta, tossing to combine. Serve with a warm soft boiled egg  broken over the pasta with shavings of Parmesan cheese.

*To soft boil an egg: bring a pot of water to a rolling simmer. Carefully lower the eggs one at a time into the water and simmer for 5-7 minutes depending on how set you like your eggs. Remove eggs from the hot water and run under cold water for 1 minute. Peel immediately  but be watch your hands as the eggs will still be ver hot.

When I think about it, a lot of the music I like as an adult is a natural extension of the melodic emo I was really into as a teenager. I still love Sunny Day Real Estate and The Appleseed Cast and I think that bias shows when I listen to bands like DIIV, this whole album resonates with my experience of high school seamlessly. Now it’s what I listen to when I’m running through the leaves at 7:30 on dark October nights. There’s something comforting to be said about being in a cocoon of music in the dark, feeling completely invisible as you pass other people.

DIIV – Past Lives

Garlicky Greens with a Fried Egg

I like to make this when I’ll be eating alone because it can be made in one skillet and ingredients are easily tampered with for a different taste each time you prepare these garlicky greens with a fried egg perched on top. Whenever I buy greens I immediately wash and seperate them upon arriving home and then store them in a large reusable takeout container on top of a piece of damp paper towel. I find that this method ensures gorgeous green leaves for at least a week, during which I will usually have made these greens and copious green smoothies. You can use whichever types of greens you like; for this meal I used my 3 favourites which are red swiss chard, kale, and bok choy. Peppery greens like mustard greens and broccoli rabe would also be lovely accompaniements to the garlic and soy dressing. Garlic chili paste is my condiment of choice for this dinner; sriracha, salsa, spicy mustard or even cilantro pesto are all perfect too.

garlicky greens with a fried egg:

About 4 cups of mixed greens, roughly torn into small-ish pieces

2 tsp. mild cooking oil such as grapeseed or canola

4 cloves of garlic, minced finely

1/4 cup of soy sauce

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

1tsp. dried chili flakes (this makes it quite spicy so scale back by at least half if you don’t want that much heat)

1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

1 egg

Your choice of savoury condiment

1. Over medium-high heat cook the greens in the oil, adding some water if needed. Using kitchen tongs toss the greens quickly as they cook, after a minute or two add the minced garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, hot chilis and sesame seeds and continue to cook until the greens are wilted and very bright. Transfer to your plate.

2. Put the skillet back on the burner and fry an egg, there should be enough oil left over that you don’t need to add more but be the judge of that yourself. To me the idea of a runny yolk is romantic when eating eggs but in reality I hate runny yolks and make sure my egg is completely cooked through before I eat it; again, I leave this in your hands.

3. Place the egg on top of your mountain of greens, add condiment of choice and eat rapidly and happily.

My top 3 trying-to-relax-after-work artists are Nick Drake, Chet Baker, and American Analog Set. Therefore it’s not stretch at all to say that I’ll be listening to this band at least 3 nights a week and lately more specifically their album Set Free (I tend to oscillate between Set Free and the very different The Fun of Watching Fireworks.) Their music is always perfectly suited to my mood and to my environment, insistently adaptable to pretty much everything for 10 years of my life.

American Analog Set – Green Green Grass