Monday, July 7, 2008

Do You Tofu?

I'm not a big fan of meat substitutes. I figure that if I'm going to eat flegan, I should focus on vegetables and dishes that are easily built around them, rather than on manufacturing feeble substitutes for animal foods.

But, Travis found a great deal on a good grill (our last one took a flying leap off the south deck in a major windstorm), and I've discovered that an awful lot of vegan grilling recipes center around tofu. So I bought a package.

Now, I am a tofu virgin. We've kissed -- I like silken tofu in berry smoothies for a filling snack or dessert -- but extra firm, marinated and grilled? Never before.

I chose a Cooking Light recipe, "Grilled Lemon-Basil Tofu Burgers" to test the great white hunk-o-gunk.

I sliced and marinated.

I grilled...a process which took about five times longer than the recipe claimed it would. Did you know that charred asparagus marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, and red onion makes the most delicious vegetarian "fries?"

Here's the result, on a bun.

To be honest, I think my tofu burger would have been just as tasty without the tofu. I delighted in the dijon and the first basil of season. The yogurt-kalamata dressing was worth mopping up with strips of grilled zucchini. The fresh tomato and garden lettuce were crisp and flavorful.

But the tofu? It was a bit bland. Reasonably filling, I'll grant you, but bland. And squishy.

I've plopped the leftovers on a bed of wild rice blend dressed with leftover marinade for tomorrow's lunch. I hope it's not too squishy.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Housekeeping Hound

Being the family chef means that holiday meals fall to me, which is nice because I'm just a tiny bit of a control freak when it comes to my kitchen. The downside is that company means housekeeping.

Now, I'm not a complete slob -- in fact, I can't bear clutter -- but I do ascribe to the wise saying that "a clean house is a sign of a misspent life."

Fortunately, I have a capable cleaning assistant. Yesterday, she helped me dispose of the extra roll of toilet paper I left out.

This also encouraged me to sweep, thereby accomplishing one of my least favorite chores. Which I'm sure was precisely her intent.

Thanks, Wyrsa.

Stuffed Date and Apricot Skewers

I've settled on a Mediterranean menu for our Independence Day feast. We'll have spiced lamb skewers (now there's the flex in flegan!), grilled rosemary flatbreads, grilled vegetables with feta, melon kebabs with honey-lime drizzle and mint, and these stuffed fruit skewers.

I doubt there's anything genuinely Mediterranean about this rich, but not overly sweet, dessert. However, it offers a bit more nutrition than your average slice of devil's food, despite its use of cream cheese. (I don't believe in that 3-a-day nonsense. A little research reveals that dairy is decidedly unhealthful.) Anyway, the skewers will suit the general theme of the meal.

I used almonds in the apricots and walnuts in the dates, but you could speed preparation by mixing the all nuts into the cream cheese before stuffing the fruit. I'll use toothpicks as miniature skewers to combine one stuffed date and one stuffed apricot for each serving... Well, okay, I made enough for three mini-skewers per person. So sue me.

Stuffed Date and Apricot Skewers

18 whole, dried apricots
18 whole, dried dates
3 oz cream cheese
1 Tbs fresh orange zest
1/8 cup chopped almonds, raw and unsalted
1/8 cup chopped walnuts, raw and unsalted

Carefully split dried fruits so they can be stuffed, but are not completely halved; set aside. Soften cream cheese in microwave for 30 seconds. Add orange zest and stir to combine. Stuff each fruit with a pinch of chopped nuts and approximately 1/2 teaspoon cream cheese mixture. Skewer two fruits on each of 18 toothpicks. Chill before serving. Makes 18 mini-skewers.