22 August 2010

Party Time

Happy weekend, all. Today marked the end of a long process of planning and preparing for my sister-in-law's baby shower, which doubled as a massive family gathering. After a long afternoon filled with family time and brimming with excitement for the upcoming arrival of the little one, I am thoroughly exhausted, but ultimately happy and relieved with the event's apparent success. The turnout was massive--we welcomed the guest of honor's friends, coworkers, and extensive family--but everyone seemed to enjoy the party. Due to the sheer size and scope of my sister-in-law's side of the family, it's difficult to get most of them in the same place at any given time. I'm glad that as co-hostesses, my mom and I were able to make this celebration happen for my brother and sister-in-law, because it was very important to them that they be able to share their joy with the people who matter most to them.

The unconventional baby shower still featured a few traditional shower games and baby-themed decor (most of it pink, in this case), but as a coed barbecue, also included food, and plenty of it.  My Filipino in-laws are undisputed omnivores and none of the non-family guests were even vegetarian (certainly not vegan), so of course, animal-laden fare dominated the gustatory element of the celebration.  Even with last-minute decor, favor assembling, general set up, and other co-hostess duties, I still managed to crank out a few vegan food options from the kitchen.

Dulce de Leche Brownies
I adapted these from a David Lebovitz recipe in order to make them vegan-friendly.  Vegan substitutions merely involved replacing dairy butter with vegan butter, eggs with flax "eggs" (milled flax mixed with warm water until viscous), and dulce de leche with a homemade nondairy version.  I also used a half-and-half mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flours, used semisweet chocolate, reduced the amount of sugar, and added almond extract.  I doubled the recipe with no problems, and it was a good thing I did, because these incredibly rich morsels of chocolate and caramel delight disappeared quickly.

Kiyuri Namasu
I made my usual version of this pickled cucumber salad, increasing the amount of ginger to a full teaspoon.  A sharp V-Slicer made quick work of reducing two large, seedless cucumbers to a pile of paper-thin slices.

Pasta salad
Barbecues never seem quite complete without a big salad.  I took the lazy and reliable route to crowd-pleasing pasta salad by doctoring prepared fat-free Italian dressing with lemon zest and juice, as well as fresh, chopped parsley.  A colorful variety of vegetables, olives, and chickpeas added hearty, tasty crunch.

Spicy Coconut Lime Tofu
This was a surprising hit.  Being that the guest list was comprised of meat-loving individuals, I didn't expect to have any sort of vegan protein available unless I provided it myself.  Finding myself with a bit of leisure time before the party, I hastily whipped up a small batch of this Chinese- and Thai-inspired tofu dish, deciding that I wanted to be able to enjoy more than just salad and melon.  It turned out that several guests scooped up a few pieces of the tofu as I was tending to party matters away from the main food area where the dish was kept, and enjoyed it so much that only a single piece remained by the time I was able to assemble a plate.  Had I foreseen the dish's apparent popularity, I certainly would have prepared a larger batch.  (Fortunately, one of my in-laws also brought some food, including a Chinese-style fried tofu and vegetable dish that was very tasty.)  Some of the guests' inquiries about how to cook the dish encouraged me to share the process here.  What is particularly nice about this formula is that it requires so little effort while still producing satisfying results.  I hope you enjoy it!

Spicy Coconut Lime Tofu (printable recipe)
Yields 4 servings.

19 oz firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/4 brown rice vinegar
3 T black bean garlic sauce
2 T sambal oelek (Asian hot chili sauce)
1 1/4 c light coconut milk
1 T agave nectar
1 tsp fresh ginger, slightly crushed
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Oil for pan-frying

Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces and place in a shallow dish.  For the marinade/sauce, combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl, until well-mixed.  Pour marinade over the tofu and allow to marinate, covered, for at least 1 hour.

Heat a lightly-oiled medium skillet over medium flame.  Gently drain the tofu, reserving the marinade.  Lay the tofu pieces in a single layer in the hot skillet, reduce to medium-low heat, and cook until golden brown.  Flip and continue to cook until the other side is golden brown, then remove from heat.  In a small saucepan, cook reserved marinade over low heat, until it just begins to simmer.  Pour sauce over tofu and serve hot.
I'm heading back up to the Bay area for the week, so I may or may not be able to cook as much as I normally can at home.  In any case, it will be nice to spend some time with my sister and a few friends.  Should I find myself cooking after all, I'll be sure to share my experience here.


  1. I'm not surprised your tofu was such a hit, it looks great, and I'm sure it was delicious. Anything with grill marks is irresistible in the opinion of most! My omni family, too, readily eats tofu, which still sort of surprises me for some reason...

  2. the tofu and the brownies both look amazing! i didn't know it was possible to make a vegan dulce de leche -- i'll definitely be making some soon!

  3. YUM, YUM, YUM! What a great veg baby shower!!!
    I love dulce de leche, and the tofu marinade looks great. Thanks for sharing!

  4. YUM, YUM, YUM! What a great veg baby shower!!!
    I love dulce de leche, and the tofu marinade looks great. Thanks for sharing!


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