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culinating :: tops in tofu

poor tofu. it's gotten a bad wrap because people believe it's just hippie filler pretending to be meat. in fact, soy bean curd is quite lovely and is no more bland or forgettable than the water-chilled chicken breasts served up at many restaurants. the thing about tofu is, you want to combine it with other flavours, so that it can provide a solid base, but not have to play the starring role.

personally, i'm a little picky about tofu. for whatever reason, i really dislike the texture when crumbled, but i love it when it's properly cubed and sautéed with vegetables and noodles or rice in a stir fry. i honestly can't remember ever baking it before, but this past weekend, i was invited to a potluck supper and you can't very well stir fry at one of those. when you're going to someone else's house bearing a tray of food, the most you can hope is that someone will be able to stick your offering in a warm oven for ten minutes before it's dinner time.

since vegetarian options seemed a little thin on the sign-up list, i thought of making a tofu dish. i had an idea from something i'd found on pinterest a few days before that sounded manageable and since i had heard that there would be vegetarians present, i figured that they'd likely be forced to eat what i had on offer anyway. [as it turns out, someone made really delicious felafel as well, which just goes to show that it's much easier to feed vegetarians and vegans than you might have thought.]

one of the nice things about working with tofu- also one of the reasons why i suspect a lot of people like working with chicken breasts- is that it can take on the taste of whatever you put it with. it helps if you marinate it for a little while, but you don't need anything like the time it takes to marinate meat. half an hour should be fine to allow the flavours to permeate the soy tissue. plus, because there aren't any salmonella concerns with tofu [unless you're doing things very wrong], you can toss it, marinate it and bake it in the same liquid without fear for your safety.

this dish is a sort of "kitchen sink special". the recipe i used can be found here, but there are a few little points that i think add to the end product:

  • the tofu should marinate for about half an hour. five minutes doesn't let the flavours be absorbed. 
  • i used more ketchup than the recipe calls for- roughly equivalent to the amount of soy sauce. i found that this made the dish more tangy and less salty. if you like your saltiness, feel free to disregard this advice. 
  • i used more maple syrup as well- probably double the quantity called for. i didn't find this made it overly sweet and it helped to bring out the delicate maple flavour. if you find it gets too sweet for your taste, by all means add soy sauce. 
  • i used fresh minced garlic instead of garlic powder. the choice is yours. i think that using chili-garlic sauce would be a great way to add heat as well. 
  • be extremely careful with the liquid smoke. it's a miraculous product that really does add a smoky flavour to dishes, but it's really easy to overdo it, which results in your dish tasting like it fell onto live barbeque coals. i recommend adding this in small increments, blending well and tasting the sauce to see if it needs more. 
  • although it doesn't specify doing so in the recipe, pour all the sauce into the pan with the tofu. the sauce will sort of caramelize in the oven while at the same time keeping the tofu from drying out. it's miraculous. 

the best part is that even meat eaters seem to enjoy this, at least if the "after" photo taken above is any indication. that's pretty remarkable, given that this isn't a case where you're disguising the true "tofu-ness". you're just allowing it to be itself. but itself on a first date, when it really wants to make a good impression.

served at home, i think it would go really well with either basmati/ jasmine rice or steamed vegetables. there's a lot of flavours going on, so i wouldn't necessarily recommend pairing it with anything that will compete, but it is also a great, simple option if you're invited to bring food along to a party. or if you just want to bring some as a surprise.


as long as you're here, why not read more?

making faces :: soft touch

ah winter, how my lips hate you. it's too bad, really, because the rest of me likes winter, down to about -12 or so. but there's no arguing that i get dried out. nuxe rêve de miel is my super best friend at this time of year, even more so than otherwise. [i gave bite's agave lip mask a try only to find out i'm allergic to something in it.] but our [still] new apartment is somewhat drier than the old one [electric vs hot water heating], which meant that, for a long stretch, virtually every kind of lipstick was uncomfortable. the horror. [i wrote a post a while back about the formulas that are friendliest to chapped lips.]

faced with this dilemma, i decided to try something not exactly new, but [for me], out of the ordinary: being a gloss girl. now, i don't mind glosses. i buy them from time to time, and i used to buy more until i discovered that i just wasn't using them near enough to justify the continued purchases. my issues with glosses are that they feather…


i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:

am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…