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

Acorn Squash Salad with Brown Rice, Roasted Leeks, and Hemp Hearts

Pink platter with acorn squash and brown rice salad

This vegan beauty of a salad came into my head the other day when I went for walk with my mom down to the beach. The rain is really getting into full swing here in Vancouver and the kaleidoscope explosion of leaves are all over the sidewalk, I felt totally inspired by the colours that overlapped all over the sidewalk and street. I tend to use acorn squash because it’s smaller and easier to carry home from the grocery store when I’m also trying to get three other bags home at the same time. It’s also slightly easier to cut into than say, a butternut squash, and I think acorn squashes are considerably sweeter. I used cold brown rice because I had some leftover from making a stir fry the day before, but you could easily use quinoa, barley, or bulgur. I would actually suggest making the acorn squash, leek, and brown rice the day before to make sure they’re all properly chilled; this also ensures that the salad making process is only about ten minutes long, including time spent making the dressing. The hemp hearts and black sesame seeds give texture and an extra nutritional boost, plus they just look pretty. I’d like to try this salad again with finely chopped dried apricots instead of dried cranberries or cherries, they’re slightly chewier and would be a nice contrast to the softness of the roasted vegetables. Whatever you end up using, serve this salad at room temperature to ensure all the flavours really have a chance to shine.

acorn squash salad with brown rice, roasted leeks, and hemp hearts:

1 small acorn squash, split in half lengthwise with the seeds removed

1 large leeks, split lengthwise and rinsed well to get rid of any lingering dirt

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. maple syrup

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

1 cup of brown rice, cooked and then allowed to completely cool

1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries

About 4 sprigs worth of fresh thyme

1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley, torn

2 Tbsp. hemp hearts

1 Tbsp. black sesame seeds

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the acorn squash halves with 2 teaspoons each of the olive oil and then a teaspoon each of the maple syrup (you can slice a small piece of the squash off on the one side so they’ll stand up straight). Arrange them on a baking sheet with parchment paper alongside the leeks, drizzling them with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and then roast for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of your squash. The leeks should be curling and browned when done. Set aside to cool.
  2. Chop the cooled acorn squash and leek into small pieces for the salad and place in a large salad bowl.
  3. Add the brown rice, dried cranberries or cherries, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, hemp hearts, and black sesame seeds. Toss gently to combine.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss once more to make sure all of the ingredients have been evenly coated. Allow to sit for at least half an hour before serving at room temperature.

dressing:

1 Tbsp. maple syrup

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. red chilli flakes

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake until emulsified.

My high school self would be thrilled with my current musical leanings, fifteen years later and I’m rediscovering Tricky for the third or fourth time. I remember reading in a Spin magazine article that he wore his asthma puffer around his neck on a string due to his near constant pot smoking habit, I felt a sort of asthmatic-to-asthmatic kinship with Tricky at that moment (although I wasn’t smoking any pot at that point in my life).

Tricky featuring Alison Goldfrapp – Pumpkin

Creamy Sweet Bell Pepper Soup

Bowl of sweet bell pepper soup in blue bowl with grilled cheese sticks

And just like that summer has become a distant memory, forever tucked into the backs of our minds throughout winter as a time full of golden light and perpetual warmth. The rain is back in Vancouver, very much needed but selfishly difficult to accept as routine again. The sunny days we have now seem muted and pale but remain beautiful nonetheless. I’ve been resisting warmer clothing, which occurs naturally as someone who runs hot all of the time; t-shirt weather extends into October for me. When I went to the grocery store I found a massive bin full of sweet bell peppers of all colours and sizes, from the mellowest of greens to waxy midnight purple. Having bought far more than I could eat before they began their slow decline in my fridge, I decided to make a simple pureed soup that would showcase their wonderful sweetness without masking it with excess seasoning. The balsamic vinegar added towards the end of the recipe gives the soup subtle oomph, it makes all the difference without being easily recognizable. I think the best way to serve this soup is alongside grilled cheese sandwiches that have been cut into toast soldiers that are crisp and easily dunkable. However, if you’re in a more virtuous frame of mind (and this soup is already virtuous in its own right as its richness stems from arborio rice rather than heavy cream) I would suggest finding the last of the good seasonal tomatoes and putting them to use in a crisp ice berg lettuce salad with shallots and chopped celery.

creamy sweet bell pepper soup:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

4-5 sweet peppers of various shapes and colours, roughly chopped

1 medium sized onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. arborio rice

2 1/2-3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, depending on how big the original peppers were

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar or other sweet vinegar

1 cup of whole milk

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

1. In a large soup pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped sweet peppers, onion, and garlic. Cook until soft, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the arborio rice and cook for another 2 minutes coating the rice in olive oil as you stir. Pour in the stock and bring to a gentle simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

3. Transfer the soup to a blender and blitz until smooth. Heat over medium-low heat, adding the balsamic vinegar before whisking in the milk, don’t allow the soup to boil. Adjust for seasoning and serve piping hot with a side of grilled cheese or a green salad.

Autumn has always meant repeated Glenn Gould listening; while I’m making dinner, while I’m writing, while I’m walking, and while I’m reading. I love his confident, calculated flightiness and soft humming as he plays. I adore how entrenched Glenn Gould is in Canadian cultural history, his part in afternoons spent watching National Film Board of Canada movies in my darkened elementary school library (those being the school memories I can recall easily, mainly the smell of the carpeting, yellowed books, and Ms. Caldwell’s dry but kind voice). This reminds me of hibernation and of the comfort that can be found as the summer slips away for the year, it makes the transition seem gentle and less looming.

Glenn Gould – Goldberg Variations