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

Creamy Parsnip Soup with Marinated Eggplant

White bowl of creamy parsnip soup with eggplant as a garnish on a hot pink background.

There’s something to be said for soup after a 5 day period of eating nothing but extremely rich food, especially if its at the beginning of December and the cold weather practically makes it the required light food of choice. This parsnip soup is deceptively creamy, its texture suggests the use of heavy cream when in actuality the blame falls firmly on Greek yogurt. You won’t miss the the fat, and in fact the yogurt is preferable as it lends the soup a soft tanginess that ensures its subtlety isn’t drowned by its own voluptuousness. That being said, the amount of butter and oil called for could easily be reduced by half but I think the fat adds an extra layer to its already silken perfection. Marinated eggplant is a favourite of mine, and if you have a jar of it already then please feel free to use that (I never do because I tend to devour jars in their entirety with a fork, all in one sitting). The eggplant isn’t necessary but it’s definitely a good thing, so make it if you have the time. You could always make the soup and eggplant the day before, blending the soup before you want to heat it up and letting the eggplant mellow in its juices at room temperature an hour before serving. Some parsley or cilantro would be beautiful as well, just snip them with scissors into very small pieces – you’d want just enough to add a dusting of greenery to the final picture.

creamy parsnip soup:

1 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil

1 large bunch of scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cloves of garlic, each cut into 3 pieces

2 lbs. of parsnip, peeled and cut into smallish pieces

4 cups of vegetable stock

1 tsp. curry powder

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Kosher salt, to taste

  1. Melt the butter and oil together over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the scallions, garlic, and parsnip and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a gentle boil. Turn the heat down to encourage a gentle simmer, cook with the pot lid on for 20 minutes or until the parsnip is very soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Using either an immersion blender or a stand up version blitz the soup until silken and very creamy. Pour 3/4s of it back into the soup pot and blend the Greek yogurt and curry powder into the remaining soup, add to the soup pot. At this point it’s a good idea to test for seasoning, the soup will almost definitely need salt and even some extra curry powder if you’re inclined.
  4. Heat the soup over low heat until nice and hot, being careful not to let it boil. Serve in a shallow bowl with the marinated eggplant strewn across the surface.

marinated eggplant garnish:

1 small eggplant, cut into medium sized dice

Olive oil for drizzling

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. red chilli flakes

1 tsp. kosher salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon or 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scatter the eggplant pieces in a single layer over a parchment lined baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the dried oregano, chilli flakes, and kosher salt evenly, tossing to coat.
  2. Roast for 25-35 minutes, stirring periodically. When they look evenly browned and crisped at the edges remove from the oven and transfer to a small bowl. Spritz with lemon juice or add the vinegar, stirring once again to coat.
  3. Use immediately or cover and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, bringing them to room temperature before using as a soup garnish (these are also very good cold as an addition to an antipasto salad plate).

Oh, this is such a pretty one! Hex is an amazing album, just perfect for traipsing alone around the apartment in the depths of intellectual introspection or, more likely, pondering what to make for dinner that night or where your cookbooks should go in your solarium/office. With me it’s the latter, for I wouldn’t be myself if I wasn’t constantly adding lists to my lists of lists.

Bark Psychosis – Absent Friend

Savoury Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Mahon

Bowl of barley risotto with rosemary and Mahon cheese

This barley risotto is deeply savoury, but also woodsy tasting and earthy in its complexity of flavours. The rosemary adds just the right amount of piney substance and the mushrooms lend the perfect amount of umami (which is to say, great amounts of umami). You could certainly use a cheese like aged Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorino Romano if you can’t find Mahon for this recipe. If you can find Mahon then try and get your hands on an aged version (it’s often sold as Mahon Authentique in North America). Mahon is a firm cow’s milk cheese from Spain that is a buttery marigold colour; it smells like a cellar and a fresh cut lawn all at the same time. Its flavour is one of intense grassiness and dark earth – I could wax poetic on the subject forever, what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s an absolutely lovely table cheese to have on hand and a nice alternative to Manchego when you’re having company over for Spanish tapas. If I was making this meal for a dinner party I would serve it with a really bright salad full of shaved fennel and oranges, a plate of marinated olives, some pears that your guests can just help themselves to, and a bottle of something big, red, and spicy.

savoury barley risotto with mushrooms and mahon:

Scant cup of bread crumbs, homemade or panko crumbs work best

1 cup of pearl barley

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 large leek, cut into half moons

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 celery stalk, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

About 1 good sprig of rosemary, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari

2 tsp. lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

About 5 cups of vegetable stock

Thick shavings or gratings of Mahon Authentique cheese

  1. Begin with a large skillet. Over medium heat, toast the breadcrumbs first (this will happen within seconds, so stir constantly and transfer to a plate as soon as they’ve turned a dark golden brown colour).
  2. Next, toast the barley and almonds together while stirring frequently (but not constantly). As soon as they begin to turn golden transfer them to a large bowl.
  3. Heat the oil over medium heat, adding the mushrooms, leek, garlic, and celery. Cook for several minutes until the ingredients begin to soften. Add the rosemary, salt, and pepper and continue cooking for five more minutes.
  4. Add the barley and almonds back to the pan and stir to coat with the oil and vegetables. Pour in the vegetable stock, soy or tamarin sauce, and lemon juice or vinegar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring every few minutes, until the stock has been absorbed by the barley. When it looks like it has the consistency of risotto try the barley to make sure it’s cooked, you want it to be soft but chewy.
  5. To serve the barley risotto ladle it into a shallow bowl and top with a handful of the toasted bread crumbs and a generous amount of shaved Mahon cheese.

Barley Risotto Mis En PlaceI recently added a whole bunch of music to my computer that I a)thought I had lost and b)forgot I even had (out of sight out of mind if stronger than I realize, especially considering I’ve seen The xx twice live and thought both shows were incredible). It was a combination “Oh yeahhhh!” and “Oh yayyy!” moment when I started listening to this album again, like a forgotten treasure I found in the backyard. So here you are, minimalism at its best and sexiest.

The xx  – Heart Skipped a Beat

Eggs in a Vegetable Nest

Skillet with vegetable hash, 2 eggs, salsa, and feta.This quick dinner is neither a true hash nor a true succotash, but combines elements of both depending on the ingredients available to you in the moment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied on this simple equation on nights when I’ve been out all day long and don’t even have the energy to be extroverted enough to call for delivery. The execution is simple: take 2-3 cups of finely diced vegetables, some herbs or other seasoning to give it a flavour foundation, 1 or 2 eggs, and a few of your favourite toppings. Sauté the vegetables in a little bit of olive oil or butter until they begin to soften and are heated through. Crack the egg(s) over the vegetable mixture and put a tight fitting lid over the pan, allowing the eggs to cook until they’re done to your liking. Take off the heat and slide the mixture onto a plate, generously top with anything that looks like it would make your dinner taste wonderful.  As you can see, this recipe is open to wide interpretation which is what makes it so perfectly flexible when your fridge feels empty.

Here are some of my favourite combinations for Eggs in a Vegetable Nest:

Roasted corn, sweet peppers, banana peppers, scallions, cumin, lime juice, salsa, and Macedonian feta (as seen above)

Cubed sweet potatoes or yams, shallots, zucchini, red peppers, dried basil, Greek yogurt, Monterey Jack, and cilantro

Ripe tomatoes, cubed eggplant, shallots, garlic, dried oregano, chili flakes, fresh basil, and crumbled chèvre