Leseditionsdu57.com All about cooking basics and recipe resources.






Kitchen basics

Cooking Guides


Chefs tell - natural food cooking tips - Recipe

A top natural foods culinary teacher answers your cooking questions

Q How can I add flavor to tofu when I want a quick but tasty meal?

A Tofu is naturally bland in character--that's the good news and the bad news. It's good because it can lend itself to a variety of preparations and easily take on flavors ranging from savory to spicy to sweet. But by itself, it's less than exciting. The usual method for perking up the taste of tofu is to marinate it, but this takes time. A shortcut is to simmer firm tofu in a seasoned broth for several minutes--a mixture of tamari, mirin (Japanese rice wine), lemon, ginger and garlic is always nice--then lightly coat it in cornmeal seasoned with spices, such as salt, black pepper, a pinch of cayenne and a little thyme. Pan-fry the tofu in a little vegetable oil and serve it with a lemon wedge and a sprig of parsley.

One of my favorite fast meals is tofu salad made in the same way as tuna or egg salad. Crumble drained tofu into a bowl and add a soy-based mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and chopped celery, carrot, scallion and pickle. Recently I made this tofu salad sandwich for lunch. I didn't have time to make anything else for dinner but wanted some variety, so I added chopped tomatoes and ripe olives to the mixture and served it over a bed of steamed greens dressed with umeboshi vinegar, dark sesame oil and toasted pine nuts. This took just 20 minutes, and it didn't taste like a rerun of lunch.

Another simple way to serve tofu is to scramble it. I'm usually disappointed with this dish in restaurants because it's often dry and not very tasty, but that needn't be the case. To make curried scrambled tofu, saute some chopped onions, garlic, red bell pepper and mushrooms in olive oil and season with turmeric, cumin, coriander and curry powder. Add drained, crumbled tofu and mix well. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of water into the tofu mixture to soften it. The dish is ready when the vegetables are tender and the tofu is thoroughly heated.

Q When I reheat brown rice it gets mushy. How can I avoid that?

A The best way to warm cooked brown rice is in a steamer basket set over simmering water. Brown rice that has been refrigerated will sometimes form clumps, so gently break those up before steaming. Also, don't put too much rice in the steamer at one time; brown rice becomes sticky when densely packed, both in the initial cooking and in reheating. Of course, it's important to start with rice that wasn't mushy in the first place. Here are some tips to help you avoid that.

* In selecting brown rice, remember that medium- or long-grain will produce a lighter rice than short-grain.

* Choose a pot with a sufficiently large surface area. (My favorite is a rondeaux, a wide and shallow stainless steel pot.)

* Use 2 cups water or vegetable broth to 1 cup brown rice.

* Bring water to a boil over high heat before adding salt (a pinch per cup of water) and rice.

* Time rice when it comes to a boil.

* Cover the pot. Don't peek or stir.

* Check rice in 30 minutes; it's done when the water has been absorbed and steam holes appear.

* Don't remove from pot immediately; keep covered five to 10 minutes, then fluff the grains with a fork.

Q I prefer eating mostly green salads in summer, but worry about getting enough protein. Do you have any suggestions?

A I used to avoid anything that came in a can, but now there are some really good canned organic beans that are a great base for a protein-rich dressing. Drain a can of navy beans and reserve the liquid. Place beans in a blender with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and dried basil and oregano--or fresh herbs if you have them on hand. Blend the dressing and add the reserved bean liquid as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Soft tofu also makes a wonderful base for a dressing. Start with olive oil and salt and add your favorite seasonings.

You can also toss chickpeas, chopped avocado, cubed smoked or seasoned tofu or tempeh croutons into salads. And don't forget nuts like walnuts or pecans, which are high in protein and vitamin E (but also high in fat, so don't go overboard).

RICHARD PIERCE, a regular contributor to Vegetarian Times, is an instructor at The Natural Gourmet Institute of Food and Health and a former chef at Angelica Kitchen in New York City. In 1990 he launched the Whole Foods Project to provide nutritional services for people living with life-challenging illnesses. He has appeared on national TV and radio.

Something puzzling you about a recipe, an ingredient or a cooking technique? Please send your questions to Kitchen Cabinet, Vegetarian Times, 9 Riverbend Drive, S., Stamford, CT 06907. All submissions become the property of Vegetarian Times and will not be returned. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we regret we will not be able to answer all inquiries.

© Copyright leseditionsdu57.com All rights reserved.
Unauthorized duplication in part or whole strictly prohibited by international copyright law.