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on second chances (and a giveaway)

May 10th, 2012 | 16 Comments »

There are plenty of food items, when given a second chance (ok, and sometimes a third or fourth) will reveal much more to your palate than they did on the initial try. Every time I hear of someone disliking a specific food, I ask them how many times they’ve eaten it, how it was prepared or where they had it or any number of questions to determine what they don’t like about it. I always want to know the whys and hows and whats of someone’s intense aversion to a certain food.

When I first met Mike, he told me he did not like salmon. Not one bit. When pressed for more information, he revealed that when he’d eaten it, it was tough in texture (definitely overcooked) and tasted fishy (definitely not very fresh) and so I made him a salmon dinner one night of a terrific piece of fresh salmon that was perfectly cooked. I hooked him for life, pun intended. A poorly prepared food item can be a real turn off. For the longest time as a kid, I absolutely hated pork due to it being overcooked and tough as nails. Once I tasted the beauty of perfectly cooked pork, tender and succulent, I was reformed.

A lot of times, if it isn’t the way it’s cooked then it’s the texture. This was true of my tastes for a very long time. And almost all of the foods that I once disliked as a child, and even in to adulthood have now made themselves a permanent space in my life. Foods such as tomato, onion, squash of all kinds, eggplant, mushrooms…. this list is all about texture. And my initial introduction to Buckwheat groats, also known as Kasha, turned me off due to the texture as well. But the second glance, with a better cooking method in hand and some quick innovation in the kitchen, I turned this healthy grain into a mind-blowing salad that I can’t wait to make again.

As a singular food item, I’m still not enthralled with kasha, but I think that alone, this grain is pretty uninspiring. That all changes when mixed together with others, kind of like that quiet and unassuming person who comes alive in the right crowd. Kasha grains are tiny, heart-shaped and solid, similar to barley grains, with a sweet, nutty flavor and a nice chewy texture. Buckwheat groats are a potent nutritional item, with no cholesterol, sodium or saturated fat. It’s high in fiber and magnesium, with a low glycemic index.  Mixed with shredded kale, dressed lightly in a simple oil & vinegar dressing and dusted with sea salt and cracked pepper, the grains added a perfect complement to kale’s crunchy personality. Chunks of tofu, seared crisp after a curry bath marinade, made for eye-catching color and a protein boost.

I was a little concerned that this salad would be a bit light, lacking the substance needed to fuel a body’s needs through the day, or evening, but after consuming a small plate of it, I was surprisingly full, and that satiation lasted until bedtime, and beyond. A small portion for lunch the next day easily carried me through the remainder of work too.

And speaking of second chances……

This delightful 4-cup Bodum Assam Teapot needs a new home. Do you love tea? I drink a lot of tea, and have a somewhat shocking collection of it in a cupboard. I also have a smaller Bodum Teapot that doesn’t get used as much as I would like. So this one could be yours, all for the sake of a comment. Tell me what kind of tea you like to drink, hot or cold or whatever, and you’ll  have a chance. I will pick one name on Sunday May 13th.

And now, how about that recipe??

Kasha with Kale and Curried Tofu

1 pkg extra firm tofu, drained and cut in to cubes
2 T. curry powder
1/4 c. olive oil
1 c. raw buckwheat groats (available at co-ops)
2 c. water
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 pkg Cut N Clean Greens Rainbow Kale Salad (with or without the dressing- which can be used in lieu of a vinaigrette)
About a half cup of your favorite vinaigrette recipe, or similar bottled version
Crushed peanuts, optional (but a delicious and crunchy addition)

In a small skillet, begin toasting the buckwheat groats over medium-low heat. Have the water ready in a separate lidded pan. As the buckwheat begins to heat up and you start to smell a nice nutty scent, start the water heating. Continue toasting the buckwheat, shaking the pan to avoid scorching, while the water heats up. When the water begins boiling, carefully start shaking the toasted groats in to the water. They will sizzle and the water will steam up as you add the groats, so don’t dump them all at once, just a small amount at a time. Once they are all in the boiling water, reduce the heat to a bare simmer, cover the pan and cook the groats for about 15 minutes. The water should be completely absorbed and the top of the groats will look dry. Shut off the heat and allow the pan to sit for 10 minutes, then fluff the grain carefully.

In a small measuring cup, whisk the curry powder and olive oil together. Pour over cubed tofu and toss to coat. The tofu will soak up all the marinade. Allow to soak for about a half hour. (this is a good time to cook those groats) Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Sear the tofu to your desired browning. Place on paper towels to absorb any excess oil, and set aside.

Place rainbow kale in a large bowl and drizzle some of the vinaigrette over it. How much depends on your taste. I like a lightly dressed salad, but you may like a bit more. Add in the groats, about a cup at a time as you may not want all of it in the salad. Toss, taste, season and add more groats until you have a nice balance of kale and grain. Taste, add more vinaigrette or salt and pepper if needed, then gently add in the tofu and crushed peanuts, if using.

The salad can be eaten at room temperature, and the flavor deepens overnight in the fridge. Taste the next day to see if it needs more vinaigrette, salt or pepper. The kale and grains will absorb that overnight.

warming winter soup

December 1st, 2010 | 30 Comments »

It’s time, everyone. Time to roll back my sleeves, part the curtain and say ‘Ta-Da!!’ to the recipe created for the Marx Foods and Foodie Blogroll Iron Foodie Competition.

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me:
MarxFoods.com -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

It’s something wholly appropriate for winter, for soothing the soul and senses and for nourishing the body and boosting one’s resolve to face the chill of the day, the brisk wind at your back and whipping through your hair.

Within the bowl of steaming soup, of soothing soft noodles to slurp and crunchy sprouts, there’s a sense of calm that begins to spread over you with the very first mouthful. Outside lays the endless expanse of snow, as far as you can see and the memory of dragging a cartful of groceries through the parking lot, turning your back to the wind that cut through you with the precision of a laser…. it sticks in you like a bad dream almost. My coat gets stiff in the cold, and even though I may be warm inside, the crackle I hear when I move my arm sounds like the material could shatter at the slightest touch.

Winter just means soup, and this soup was a perfect tonic for that trip to the grocers, and really, for any nagging sense of imbalance that might cross your day.

The Iron Foodie Challenge was to utilize at least three ingredients from the Mystery Box sent to the contestants from Marx Foods. Everyone’s box contained Fennel Pollen, Smoked Sea Salt, Tellicherry Black Peppercorns, Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Maple Sugar, Dried Aji Panca Peppers, Dulse Seaweed, and Dried Wild Porcini Mushrooms. Our products were sample sizes only, so basically we had a pretty small window to work with. I knew I had to really think over my recipe before taking it to the kitchen because I couldn’t screw up. I had no back-ups.

Right away, I knew it would be a noodle soup. With the seaweed and porcini mushrooms, a big steaming bowl of noodle soup was a given. I love having one set down in front of me in a restaurant, the scent of rich broth reaching my nose, golden noodles, green herbs and lots of wonderful vegetables. I contemplated adding chicken to mine, but settled on tofu to use up a container in my refrigerator. The result was wonderful, and Mike and I sat down next to each other, forks in hand and happily slurped from the bowl, exclaiming over the subtle bursts of flavor.

Warming Winter Soup

From my kitchen:
One block extra firm tofu
4-oz soba noodles
1/2 c. fresh bean sprouts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

From Marx Foods:
Fennel Pollen
Dried Porcini Mushrooms
Dried Aji Panca Chilies
Dulse Seaweed
Smoked Sea Salt

Take the block of extra-firm tofu and slice through it the wide way into three equal portions. Place on several layers of paper towel and cover with several more paper towels. Place something heavy over the three portions and weigh it down to press the liquid out.

In a small bowl, measure 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of fennel pollen and 1/2 teaspoon of smoked sea salt. Whisk to incorporate and set aside to blend the flavors. Whisk occasionally to combine.

Bring a kettle of water to a rolling boil. Place dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Place dried peppers in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set both aside to soften.

In a medium saucepan, bring 1-1/2 quarts of good chicken stock to a boil. Add in 4 oz. of soba noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving the broth, and rinse noodles to stop cooking. Set aside. Place broth back in pan over a low flame. Place a length of paper towel or cheesecloth in a wire strainer and place over a measuring cup. Drain the porcini mushrooms through the paper lined strainer to remove and dirt or grit, reserving the mushroom broth in the cup. Add the mushrooms to the simmering broth. Check the mushroom stock for clarity, and add to pan with mushrooms.

When the chilies are soft and pliable, snip them with a scissors into the bowl of a food processor, and add several tablespoons of their soaking liquid. Process the peppers until they are well chopped, adding more soaking liquid if necessary. Strain the pepper mixture through a wire strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much chili puree as you can. Whisk 1-2 tablespoons of olive or sesame oil into the pepper puree.

Remove the tofu from the paper towels and brush with the fennel pollen/oil mixture, then heat a saute pan to nearly smoking. Carefully place tofu steaks in pan and sear for about 5-7 minutes or until nicely browned, then carefully turn over steaks and sear the other side for about 5 minutes. Place on fresh paper towel to drain and cool enough to cut into bite size pieces.

Place dulse seaweed in bottom of a deep soup bowl. Ladle the hot broth with mushrooms over the seaweed. Add the cooked soba noodles, cubed tofu, bean sprouts, cilantro and basil. Drizzle the soup with the chili puree and serve immediately. Season with more smoked sea salt, and pepper if desired.


September 28th, 2007 | 17 Comments »


Admittedly, if I fell into a bowl of chocolate pudding and drowned, I would die a very happy woman. I just love the stuff. Let me tell you though, if I am ever around a bowl of chocolate pudding that is large enough for an adult to fall into and drown, that in itself would be amazing. I would hope to get pictures before my death.

When I came across this new recipe for chocolate pudding, I was immediately intrigued because the main ingredient is silken firm tofu. Yep. Tofu. I know, I know….I scratched my head a bit too, it’s OK. But then I decided ‘What the heck!’ and made it. I’m always willing to learn something new.

People, I may never go back to my full fat, super ultra rich and thick chocolate pudding recipe that I love to death. Never.

Wait. Did I really say that??

Yes. I did. This stuff will blow your mind. You can send me packing if I am wrong, but the texture is so smooth and creamy, the taste so amazingly rich; my god, you would think it was made with the finest cream on earth. It will cure your most agonizing chocolate craving in one tempting lick of your finger; it will pursue and make a hasty retreat to any rotten day you’ve had and likely will make you wish to dance across your kitchen in the sheer spectacular-ness of it. Should you desire to eat it with fresh strawberries, I guarantee sweet dreams, for sure. Make sure no one is lurking nearby with a hidden camera or they may catch your brazen dive, face first, into it’s dark delicious-ness and some day use it against you.

Do you LOVE chocolate?? I mean, totally, incredibly, crave-it-til-you-can’t-see-straight absolutely LURRRRRRVE chocolate?? Then go…..NOW….and buy what you need and do yourself a huge favor. Make. This. Recipe.

Oh yeah. If you have kids, and they love chocolate too, send them to the neighbors first, or perhaps to a sleepover. For a weekend. You will not want to share. But if you do, have them taste it first before you tell them it has tofu in it if they aren’t so used to that sort of thing, because, really….they won’t know. Or care. Better yet, if you really wish to eat it all yourself and no neighbors or sleepovers are imminent, tell them it has tofu FIRST, and watch them recoil in horror. Then smile and say, with an all-knowing sigh

“You have no idea what you’re missing!”

Griffin did eat it, even after I told him it had tofu in it. He took another bite, looked at the pudding, then at me and said “What’s tofu again?? Is it chocolate?”

(recipe after the jump)

Come in to my kitchen…