Happy Labor Day weekend/unofficial end of summer! Thankfully, hints of autumn---cooler temperatures, pumpkins, Halloween gear among them--are creeping up ever so slyly, but not without at least one last weekend of summertime grilling weather. While my family has been firing up the coals for another one of their non-vegan feasts, I've been content to keep my own food-related ventures indoors and animal-free. Here's just a quick look at two items I threw together sometime during the last few days.
Fresh Fig-Walnut Spread
Fresh figs have been cropping up in groceries and farmers' markets quite a bit lately, and having taken a recent interest in them, I decided to purchase a pound of the California mission variety. I enjoy their fresh, mildly sweet taste and soft texture, so I usually just give them a good rinse, remove the rigid stem, and eat them plain. Because the fruits are highly perishable once picked, I immediately began to think of other ways I could eat them. I may try the remaining few in a smoothie tonight or tomorrow morning, but in the meantime, I already whipped up a batch of Fresh-Fig Walnut Spread to use a small portion of my bounty. I adapted this recipe, replacing the honey with raw agave nectar. I also used less of the agave so that it wouldn't overwhelm the natural sweetness and flavor of the fresh figs. The fruity and nutty flavors fit very well. This quick, simple spread is tasty on toast--it contrasted the briny flavor of olive bread quite nicely--or dip for fresh apple slices, and I'm sure its versatility can be tested with various other snack items, with good results.
When I last visited my sister in the Bay, we ate at a little cafe one afternoon that served some tasty vegetarian and vegan sandwiches. My sister ordered one that included marinated eggplant, while mine had marinated tofu. I don't think either the eggplant or tofu were actually cooked, but both were flavorful and very tasty. Eating our sandwiches turned out to be a bit of a messy affair, as the juices from whatever our food was marinated in would periodically drip all over our fingers, leaving little, slightly oily puddles. When I recently recalled that outing, I tried with some trouble to think of what might have gone into the marinade that made our food taste so good. Eventually, I decided just to combine a few ingredients and hope that whether the flavor mimicked the tofu I ate in Oakland, that at least it might taste good.
My results weren't spot-on, but the flavor is at the very least familiar, and tasty, in any case. I didn't include oil in my marinade, because I figured that the water content of even pressed tofu would make the use of oil a bit pointless, and I didn't want to eat greasy tofu if I just ended up eating it cold. I did, indeed, enjoy some of the tofu right out of the marinade. I like it alone as a snack, but I imagine it would be delicious as part of a cold sandwich or incorporated into a salad.
Simple Marinated Tofu (printable recipe)
Yields 4 servings
19 oz firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and drained
1 jalapeno, split in half lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1 c or more water
Place tofu in a single layer in a shallow container. In a small, nonstick skillet, dry-toast the jalapeno, garlic, paprika, and chili powder over medium-low heat, just until fragrant (no more than one minute), being careful not to burn the mixture. Transfer it to a small bowl, then add everything else but the tofu, mixing to combine. Pour the marinade over the tofu. Add more water if the level of the liquid doesn't at least reach the top of the tofu. Cover and let marinade at least one hour. Drain excess liquid from tofu before eating as-is or cooking.
I also tried a bit of the marinaded tofu cooked. After gently squeezing some of the excess marinade from a piece of tofu, I cut it in half and browned it in a lightly oiled pan. I made a sandwich by resting the tofu pieces inside a split whole wheat pan de sal roll, along with blanched spinach that was mixed with a bit of sriracha and shoyu. Due to its diminutive size, it seemed appropriate to consider my miniature meal something more like a marinaded tofu slider than a full-sized sandwich. I wasn't too hungry at the time of assembly, so this slider turned out to be the perfect size. And the tofu still retained the flavor of the marinade, as well as some interior softness, to which the slightly crisped outer surfaces were a nice textural contrast.
So nothing too fancy appeared on my plate during the last few days, but the simple results were satisfying nonetheless. I'm perfectly fine with the occasional low-key kitchen environment, anyway. I hope everyone enjoys the waning moments of precious weekend...