10 July 2010

Stovetop Summertime Fare

When I think "summer food," things like faux-meat grillers and roasted corn immediately come to mind.  Although my family grills outdoors practically year-round, the aforementioned items are typically restricted to those few very warm (if not downright hot) months in the middle of the year when grill-appropriate proteins of all kinds are constantly on sale and summer produce are at their peak.  At the moment, we seem to be a little obsessed with white corn, stocking up and grilling it outdoors over coals and indoors in a hot grill pan over the stove.  The smoky sweetness of the ever-so-slightly-charred cobs is particularly delicious.

But as much as we all love being outdoors and having an excuse to light a fire, we never do it more than once a week.  So on those mid-week days when I want to partake in some summery, barbecue-esque fare without heating up the coals, I take the task indoors.  One of my go-to lazy summer day lunches involves one frozen vegan Boca burger (which are just so convenient), an ear of corn, spinach or some other leafy greens, sriracha, and shoyu.  I cut or simply break apart the burger by hand and toss it into a hot, lightly oiled nonstick skillet with a good squeeze of sriracha and a few dashes of shoyu, then stir it around until the pieces are somewhat crisp.  There is usually leftover grilled corn in my fridge during the summer, so after cutting the kernels from the cob, I toss them into a hot skillet as well to let them heat up and caramelize further.  If I happen to have leftover blanched spinach, great; if not, I rinse a few handfuls of fresh spinach (or chard or kale), steam or blanch the greens, squeeze out the excess liquid, and dress them in more sriracha and shoyu.  In as little as 10 minutes, I have summertime in a bowl.
Another fast, grill-worthy food I've been munching on lately is tofu dengaku.  It is a traditional Japanese way of preparing tofu by skewering and broiling pieces of it over an open flame, spreading them with a sweet miso topping, then broiling it again.  The Book of Tofu (Shurtleff and Aoyagi, 1975) has a lovely description of the origin and method of dengaku that inspired me to give it a shot.  Again, rather than go through the hassle of setting up the grill outside, I made use of the gas range in my kitchen.  I cut up a couple chunks of super-firm tofu, patted them dry, slid them onto a skewer, and broiled them directly over an open flame on the stove.  It's not the most elegant of cooking methods, but it works.  Taking a cue from The Book of Tofu's various simmered miso recipes, I went the lazy route when making the miso topping by eyeballing the ingredients for a slightly altered version of White Nerimiso (Sweet Simmered Miso)--I omitted the egg yolk--and skipping the simmering process altogether.  The broiling and rebroiling processes take very little time, and the results are fantastic; the tofu is firm and toasty, with the lightly speckled miso topping adding a deliciously sweet and savory touch.
I won't deprive my summer of its outdoor grilling time, but when there is an issue of time constraints or just pure laziness, cooking "summer food" indoors can certainly fulfill a craving for seasonal fare.


  1. Thanks for sharing this method of cooking tofu. I've roasted whole eggplants over my gas stove flame, but I've never cooked tofu that way. I'm definitely going to try it — and maybe take another look at my decrepit copy of The Book of Tofu!

  2. Now I wish I hadn't lent my copy of The Book of Tofu to my stepson. Your tofu looks great!


  3. I am so glad I found a copy of The Book of Tofu. The historical bits are particularly interesting and the recipes are pretty good, too. :)

  4. I love your tofu on a stick! What a good idea :)

  5. I love your tofu on a stick! What a good idea :)


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