rainbow ratatouille

this pretty version of ratatouille is called confit byaldi, made famous by that chef of beautiful masterpieces, thomas keller. here, my version, maybe a bit less impressive but still quite edible! thinly sliced vegetables are layered in a spiral pattern over super-easy oven-roasted tomato sauce, and slowly baked. i finished mine with chopped garlic and fresh thyme, both sprinkled on top before baking.

the result is meltingly delicious, and despite it’s complicated appearance, the only skill needed is to slice the vegetables thinly. i bought my plastic mandoline for $29.99 at my local asian grocery 8 years ago. It’s still razor sharp. you can also use a sharp knife or the slicing attachment on your food processor.

i made this up in a large, straight-sided stainless steel pan. this way, i could bake it up, then put it over a flame to reduce the juices, which I found a little too thin for my liking at the end. i finished it with a little vinaigrette made with some of the sauce mixed with olive oil and vinegar, which added a nice acidic hit.

ratatouille is essentially a peasant dish, so don’t be too finicky about the presentation (unless you want to be). i would also think it would be delicious to finish the plate with a bit of gremolata or a drizzle of pistou sauce.  Next time.
we ate this up with some sage/garlic buttered baguette, loaded with some good mozzarella and broiled until crispy, and ate it on a cloudy sunday. and despite the fact it wasn’t baked in a lovely aga, it was pretty perfect!

rainbow ratatouille

rainbow ratatouille

1 recipe oven roasted tomato sauce
1 large green zucchini
1 large yellow summer squash
1 large eggplant
3 tomatoes (i used a mixture of green, orange, and red from the garden)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

make up the sauce, or pull a jar you’ve already made. heat oven to 450f. using a mandoline, thinly slice the zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and use a sharp knife to thinly slice the tomatoes. spoon sauce into a large, straight sided stovetop and oven-safe pan, and arrange the vegetables in concentric circles, making sure they are tightly fitted, and standing up straight, leaving only about 1/8 inch of each slice exposed. sprinkle chopped garlic and thyme over the vegetables, and drizzle with the 2 tbsp. of olive oil. bake for 20 minutes. reduce oven to 350F, and cover pan. bake 1 hour longer, or until vegetables are tender. uncover and bake for 30 minutes more.transfer pan to stovetop and bring to a boil. reduce liquid until it nicely coats the back of a spoon. remove 2 tbsp of the sauce from the ratatouille and place in a small bowl. whisk in oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. to serve, remove nice stacks of the vegetables and arrange in a pasta bowl. drizzle vinaigrette around plate.

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spicy caesar devilled eggs

spicy caesar devilled eggs

can anyone ever have too many devilled eggs? i think they are probably one of the greatest inventions in the world of two-bite appetizers. they are special enough for a party but easy enough to make for a weekend brunch or nibbly before dinner. they are tasty, and downright adorable, if you ask me.

something i really enjoy with brunch is an ice-cold caesar cocktail, so i thought, what the heck, let’s do a mash-up of devilled eggs and a spicy, savoury caesar.

i was surprised to find that a caesar seems to be virtually unknown outside of canada. tomato-clam juice is swished with vodka, worcestershire, and hot sauce, and shaken into a celery-salt rimmed glass and garnished with a whole celery stalk and lime. the flavours are so fresh and clean, that one can now find caesars garnished with everything from pickles to strips of bacon and skewers of jumbo shrimp. the same goes for the creamy foil of a devilled egg: it pairs perfectly with the flavours of a caesar.

cutting the eggs in half widthwise gives you perfectly round little cups to rim with celery salt and hold the tabasco-laced filling topped with celery leaves.

spicy caesar devilled eggs

spicy caesar devilled eggs

8 large eggs
1 tsp. tabasco sauce (or to taste)
a few drops of worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp. good, thick mayonnaise
freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. celery salt
juice of 1 lemon
leaves from 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
8 grape tomatoes, halved widthwise

bring a medium pot of water to the boil. using a spoon, carefully lower the eggs into the water. bring the water back up to a full boil. cover, remove from heat, and allow to stand until cooled to room temperature.

peel eggs, and with a sharp knife, cut a small sliver off both ends of each eggs. slice each in half widthwise, and pop the yolks out into a bowl. arrange the empty egg whites on a plate and chill. mash the yolks with the mayonnaise and tabasco until smooth, season with the pepper, and chill.

place the celery salt on a small saucer, and the lemon juice in a small bowl or ramekin. dip the cut side of each egg white into the lemon juice, shaking off excess, and then dip into the celery salt to lightly coat. load the chilled yolk mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe into the egg white holes. top each egg with a grape tomato half, skin side down, and sprinkle with the celery leaves. chill completely. makes 16.

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chocolate ginger sparkle cake

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

i really do have a thing for cake. i should probably start posting some different desserts. more pies and tarts, or maybe a torte or crumble or a custard or even a fool. i’ll put that on my to-do list. today though, it’s all about this rich and decadent chocolate ginger sparkle cake.

i don’t remember where this recipe came from, but i have it written in a recipe notebook i started in 1991, when i really started getting into food. it’s written in point form, which leads me to think i was watching a cooking show and frantically wrote it down. i’ve made this so many times since, for special occasions and catering jobs, and it’s always a hit. the ginger was an addition i made later, because i think ginger and chocolate get along famously and that it makes this cake even more special.

pay attention to the times for beating the eggs, and don’t skimp. this cake contains no chemical leaveners, so it relies on incorporating air into the eggs for volume. fold very carefully too, so you don’t deflate your egg whites. is a dense cake, but it shouldn’t be stodgy. the plus side is that it’s easy to handle the layers, and it comes out very straight.

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

chocolate ginger sparkle cake

12 ounces grated semi-sweet chocolate (the best you can wangle)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
pinch salt
8 eggs, separated
3/4 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lb + 2 tbsp. very soft butter
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

for the icing:

1/2 lb softened butter
3/4 cup good cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup half and half cream or milk
4 cups sifted icing sugar

butter 2 8-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper, then butter the parchment, and set aside. preheat oven to 350F. place the egg whites and the 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. using the wire whip attachment, whip on high speed until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. scrape into a bowl and set aside. switch to the paddle attachment. place the yolks in the mixer bowl with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. beat at medium-high speed until very light, about 4 minutes. add the butter to the egg yolks, a little at a time, until incorporated. reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until just blended. remove bowl from mixer, and using a rubber spatula, gently fold in half the egg whites until still a bit streaky. add the remaining egg whites and gently fold until incorporated. it may take several passes, as the batter is very dense. gently fold in the grated chocolate and the ginger. divide into the two pans, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean of any raw batter (there will be melted chocolate on it)

cool on rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto the rack, remove parchment, and cool completely.

meanwhile, prepare the icing by placing all ingredients in a food processor and blitzing until smooth, scraping the sides down once or twice. scrape into a bowl, cover, and chill for 1/2 hour.

to assemble, split each cake round in half lengthwise. spread each layer with about 1/2 cup icing, then coat the whole cake with a very thin layer (this is the crumb coat, which seals the cake for further frosting) chill for 15 minutes. at this point you can either slather on the rest or add another smooth layer and pipe the edges.

makes 1 serving. (ok, 12-16)

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good stuff #6: finds from the road to key west

Avocado Toast at the Collins Quarter

happy sunday friends!

returned from vacation and happy to back at ebta. guelph –> nyc –> key west –> savannah was such a wonderful break. we met some lovely people and for some reason, a disproportionate number of lovely dogs!

the combination of 33 degree celsius weather and a bunch of margueritas got me all philosophical. when i travel i do so as frugally as possible, driving, bringing food for the road, and staying with friends. but i’m really grateful for these little getaways, and for my lot in life in general.

working with food you realize that, like moments in a southern getaway, by its very nature its pleasure is fleeting. once it’s made and consumed, it’s gone, and never to be seen again. documenting it on a blog doesn’t count! remembering all the food i’ve had the pleasure to enjoy, i wonder if i have the right to things that are so good, so good for me, filled with warm colours and spice and soul. my wish for today is that everyone, everywhere, gets to taste even a fraction of the bounty i enjoy daily.

a few discoveries from the road

  1. the wednesday market a the pier in st. augustine, florida. i’ve been to the saturday market at the ampitheatre but this one was a surprise we found after a cat-nap on the beach. after driving all night we used the outdoor shower at the beach and wandered down to find fresh strawberries, bluegrass musicians, and the best shrimp and grits for breakfast. i’m a bad blogger for not getting the name of the chef at this booth but i will!

  2. kitchens on the square in savannah, georgia. the cutest little kitchen boutique ever. hard-to-find and vintage kitchen stuff, all in beautiful colours and quirky patterns. picked up some great props and the prettiest tablecloth ever.

  3. speaking of savannah, we had breakfast outside at the collins quarter and it was perfect. breaking news: avocado toast is not dead. again with the shrimp and grits for my special brit friend, but when you’re in the south it’s what you do. awesome food and service all around.

  4. fishs eddy in NYC. i’ve browsed this shop online but for all my time in NYC i’d never been until now. purveyors of every fantastic dish, glass, and platter you can imagine. stocked to the gills with new and old, including old hotel and food service dishes. cutlery from an old prison, anyone?

  5. key west. if you’ve never done the one-lane drive over the ocean from the top of the keys to the bottom, do it! i was driving, so no photos, but at the end of the year we’re heading back and sailing to cuba and the camera is coming. this is where the car’s thermostat hit 33c in march. oh yes.

  6. the paris market in savannah. there’s a cafe, but then attached to it is a collection of new and old, french-inspired bric-a-brac, jewelry, soaps, french market bags, silk shawls, and treasures from the sea. one section sells loops of silk velvet ribbons for $2.75 a yard and bags of vintage costume jewelry for $7.00. my brit friend scored a sweet pair of mis-matched enamel-inlay cufflinks for a few bucks. so much more online too.

  7. and finally, the housing works in NYC. this organization champions for those affected by hiv/aids and homelessness through its many programs and services, including the operation of 13 upscale thrift shops across the city. i love to get behind social justice champions, and they truly have really great stuff. a woman i was chatting with picked up two french country chairs upholstered in pink for $20, and  a few pieces of mismatched rose-patterned noritake china are going to be making some appearances under some of my food very soon.

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orzo verde

orzo verde

when the beginnings of spring tease at your psyche, there’s an instinctive longing to forego the heavy, stew-y dishes of winter and make something light and fresh and green. orzo verde is teeny, elongated egg-shaped pasta (israeli couscous is also an option) toasted until golden then all tossed up with lovely green things, olive oil, and lemon. perfect on it’s own, or maybe you’re feeling adventuresome and have ventured out to the barbecue grill. in that case, it makes a lovely side dish for something grilled. i like to make tofu skewers on the grill, or serve this with a nice vegetarian burger.

orzo verde

orzo verde

2 cups orzo pasta
3 tbsp. olive oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
juice and zest of 2 lemons
4 cups arugula packed arugula leaves, finely chopped (you’ll end up with about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups packed baby spinach, finely chopped (you’ll end up with about 3/4 cup)
2 cups fresh or frozen green peas
2 tbsp. capers, coarsely chopped
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley

in a large frying pan with a lid, heat the 3 tbsp. olive oil over high heat. add the orzo and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the grains are a light golden brown and some are turning a deeper golden, about 4 minutes. add the onion and garlic and cook for 1 minute. pour in the stock, and add the salt, pepper, and lemon zest and juice. bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cover. cook for 15 minutes, stirring very frequently (orzo is sticky stuff) until orzo are nearly tender and the liquid has been nearly absorbed. stir in arugula, spinach, peas, and capers. if mixture seems too thick, add a 1/4 more water to loosen it up. stir over low heat for 2 minutes, or until peas are hot. stir in 3/4 of the feta. serve hot, and top with a light drizzle of olive oil, the remaining feta, pine nuts, and parsley.

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breakfast labneh

labneh with apricots and breakfast crackers

good morning, and happy tuesday to you.

it seems i’m getting into a habit of making tuesdays’ posts about breakfast. which is good, since it will hopefully give you some ideas of what to feed yourself and your tribe as you all head out into the world this week. the day has to be good when you’ve started it off with a lovely and civilized breakfast together!

yogurt is a breakfast natural, and this recipe really shakes it up. labneh is a middle-eastern dish, and is essentially yogurt that has been allowed to drain. it’s most often served in a savoury fashion, scattered with spices and a drizzle of olive oil, but it cries out to be eaten with fruit and cheese for breakfast! when choosing yogurt to make the labneh, make sure you choose natural, plain, full-fat yogurt, free of gelatin and starchy stabilizers. anything from 3% milk fat all the way up to 10% works fine.

it’s a fairly well-known that balsamic vinegar pairs really beautifully with fruit. something else i discovered a long time ago is that if you reduce white balsamic vinegar, it becomes a luscious, amber-coloured nectar, with a perfectly balanced sweet and tangy flavour. that’s how we made the apricots for this. trust me people, you’re going to love this!

to tie is all together, i’ve made some breakfast crackers, full of almonds, flaxseeds, and cranberries. this recipe makes a lot, so you’ll have some left over for snacks. they’re not too sweet, and perfect for scooping up the labneh and those succulent apricots. they are made by baking a batter into a loaf, cooling and slicing it thin, then baking the slices a second time to make them crisp. if you happen to have a little terrine pan or a pullman pan, it’s perfect for this. if not, use a regular loaf pan, but cut each slice into 2 pieces before baking a second time, so they’re not too big. if you happen to have access to a meat slicer, perfect! but a bread knife works just fine to make the thin slices.

this recipe is meant to be made ahead of time, so you have all the components ready to go in the morning. with a breakfast like this to start the day, only good things can happen. xx

breakfast crackers

labneh with star anise apricots + breakfast crackers

1 750g container of plain, full-fat natural yogurt
1 500ml bottle white balsamic vinegar
1 cup dried apricots, sliced in half (or fresh, if they are in season)
4 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

for the breakfast crackers:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking soda
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries

line a non-reactive strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and place over a bowl. dump in the yogurt, put the whole thing in the fridge, and allow it to drain for 6-8 hours or overnight. transfer the drained yogurt to a bowl, discarding the liquid, and stir the labneh to make it smooth.

gather your ingredients for the breakfast crackers. preheat oven to 375f and grease and line a terrine pan or loaf pan with parchment. mix together all the dry ingredients in a big bowl. make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermik. give the mixture a few good stirs to combine, but don’t overmix. scrape into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. cool completely on a rack.

when cool, use a serrated knife to slice as thinly as you can. lay the slices on a rack and bake in a 350f oven for 10 minutes, or until they are almost crisp (they will crisp more as they cool). cool completely and store in a covered container in a dry place.

empty the white balsamic vinegar into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. add the anise and cinnamon stick and boil down until reduced by half. add the apricots, reduce heat to medium, and cook until juices are syrupy. cool in the syrup, and keep in the fridge. remove anise and cinnamon before serving.

serve the labneh with a spoonful of the apricots and the breakfast crackers on the side. serves 4, with a generous amount of crisps left over for snacking.

**the crackers, (and also the apricots) would enjoy a frolic with some soft, brie-like cheese, or any type of blue cheese on a cheese plate, too.

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happy monday all!

kicking off #bakingmonday with this easy raw cookie recipe i call almondos, and a bit of a backstory.

at one point i had nine laying hens who provided more eggs than we needed, and a friend of mine knew someone who was looking for fresh, organic and uncaged hen eggs. i happy happy to share our surplus, so every week or so, liz would stop by and pick up a dozen fresh eggs, and every time she came she would bring something lovely in return! one day she brought these wonderful little cookies. at that time, raw cookies were not something i had really given a fair try, but they were an instant hit. i’ve adapted it a bit, and now this recipe has become a standby around here. this is one of things i love about food, how it naturally bridges gaps and builds community and fosters friendships and sharing.

these super-crunchy, gluten-free, vegan and egg free (!) cookies are the perfect protein-packed snack on the go and i always keep one or two in my bag. they are best kept well-chilled.

sometimes i make them a bit bigger to have with some fruit for breakfast. feel free to change up the nuts and nut butter to your liking.



2 1/4 cups raw unblanched almonds
1 cup almond butter
1/4 cup raw, organic coconut flakes
3 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup hemp hearts

set aside 24 almonds, and place the rest on the bowl of a food processor. pulse to chop very coarsely. add almond butter, coconut flakes, honey, and almond extract, and pulse until the mixture comes together, but the almonds are still nicely chunky.

scoop out 2 tbsp portions and roll into a ball, then form into a small disc, and roll the edges in the hemp hearts. press a whole almond and 3-4 chocolate chips into the top of each cookie. chill until firm. makes 24.

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giant lima beans with crispy crumbs

giant lima bean ragout

gigantes, or giant lima beans, are very different beans from their little green cousins. i actually love all lima beans, but if you are one of those who declares they hate limas, may i gently suggest you give these a try? gigantes are fat and meaty, with an almost creamy texture and pair up with a flavourful sauce like nobody’s business. cooked up in this zingy ragout, they turn rich and satisfying.

this is a fast and delicious vegan meal which is on heavy rotation around here, a) because it’s really good and b) it only takes 30 minutes to make. it starts with humble ingredients (corn and beans) which are elevated by a few sophisticated ingredient additions. fennel seeds add a lovely licorice note to the saucy tomato broth, and the simple breadcrumb topping gets extra flavour and crunch from using panko crumbs and a few toasted pine nuts. i’ve thrown in some moroccan olives at the end for a smoky, salty kick. the ragout gets even better after a day or so and makes a great next-day lunch. we love it paired with some simple crusty bread and a side of wilted rapini or a kale salad.

giant lima bean ragout

giant lima ragout with crispy pine nut crumbs

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 19-oz cans giant lima beans, undrained
4 cups cooked dried limas +1 1/2 cups reserved cooking liquid
3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. whole fennel seed
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
pinch red chili flakes
1 cup passata (tomato puree)
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup moroccan oil-cured olives, pitted and roughly chopped

4 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. pine nuts, roughly chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup panko crumbs
1/4 tsp. salt
grated zest of 1 lemon

in a large pan, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil to medium. add the onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes, stirring here and there, until softened and fragrant. increase heat to high. add lima beans and reserved liquid, corn, basil, marjoram, fennel seed, pepper, chili flakes, passata, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a healthy simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until sauce is just thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. taste and add salt if needed, which you may not if you used canned beans. stir in olives.

meanwhile, in a small frying pan, heat the 4 tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. add the pine nuts and green onion, then the panko and the salt. reduce heat to medium, and toss the mixture until the crumbs are light golden brown. remove from heat, dump into a small heat-proof bowl, and stir in the lemon zest.

serve ragout in a shallow bowl, and top with a generous sprinkling of the crispy crumbs.

serves 4-6

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butter-poached beet salad with winter citrus

butter roasted beet salad with winter citrus

beets poached in butter! it’s sounds a bit decadent, doesn’t it? beets have an affinity with butter. they like spending time together. they are friends. when you poach beets ever-so-slowly as we have here, they become tender and rich. an excellent counterpoint to some peppery greens, mustard, and bright citrus.

this is a bit of a special salad, and makes for a lovely first course at a dinner party. though it’s a comforting early-spring meal too, (especially if you add a poached egg on top.)

this salad is best served with the beets still ever so slightly warm and the dressing at room temperature.

butter roasted beet salad with winter citrus

butter-poached beet salad

1 1/2 lbs smallish beets
4 oz butter, cubed
4 oranges +2 for juicing
small bunch fresh thyme sprigs
1 tsp. grainy mustard
1 small shallot, finely minced
1 tsp. honey
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8 cups mixed mild and peppery greens (such as arugula)
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
5-6 kumquats, sliced and seeds removed
1 cup sunflower sprouts
a bit of feta or other salty cheese, if you like

preheat oven to 400f.

cut the end off the oranges, and with a flat side down, use a sharp knife to cut the peel and white pith from the orange. remove the sections from the membranes and set aside. squeeze the juice from the empty membranes, and reserve. juice remaining 2 oranges. you should have about 1/2 cup.

use a sharp vegetable peeler to peel the beets and then cut in half. place in a small glass baking dish. scatter with the cubed butter and thyme sprigs. pour over juice. cover tightly with foil and place in oven for 15 minutes. reduce heat to 350f and poach the beets for another hour and 45 minutes, until tender. remove the foil and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, spooning the juices over the beets a few times.  remove from oven. using a slotted spoon scoop the beets out of the remaining butter/juice mixture and into a bowl.

for the dressing, whisk together mustard, shallot, honey, vinegar and olive oil. season with salt and pepper. place in a glass jar with a lid for easy shaking. leave at room temperature.

on a large serving platter, arrange the greens. slice the beets in half. scatter the beets and reserved orange sections over the greens. shake the dressing well and spoon over the salad, then top with the hazelnuts, kumquat slices, and sunflower sprouts.

can also be plated individually as shown in the photo.

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tofu with spicy salt

tofu with spicy salt

i remember first time i ate tofu with spicy salt, in a little dumpling house close to my old office in toronto, maybe 4 years ago. the dish was so simple, just cubes of tofu dusted in some crazy spice blend, deep fried, then cooked again with peppers and onions. the very nice people who ran the restaurant always threw a little container of dark soy and vinegar blend, and some chili paste in my take out bag and i’d douse the whole lot with it before consuming like a madwoman. the slick of oil at the bottom of the styrofoam take-away box this was a good indication i should not be eating this once a week, but heavens to betsy, it was a thing of deliciousness!

on the days i decided to pop in for some, i thought about it all day. seriously, i could barely work. my meat-eating friends could not imagine how something made of soybean curd could have me in such a tizzy, until they tried it. right? that look on their face said it all. vindication! they are all vegetarians now! (no they’re not.)

when i moved jobs, i left the dumpling house behind. but like poe’s beating telltale heart, it haunted me regularly. i knew if i didn’t have some, and soon, i was going to snap like a desiccated twig.

i also knew if i managed to nail this recipe, i would want to eat it all the time, so it needed to be healthier. not even i will sacrifice my favourite jeans for a bowl of tofu.

so here we are, and this version is lightly pan-fried vs. deep-fried. the bonus? it cooks up in like, 15 minutes, and makes a great lunch, or pair with brown rice and a big bowl of stir-fried vegetables and cashews for a larger meal.

for the spice factor, i’ve used shichimi, which you can buy at most asian stores. you can also check back here on sunday for a feature on spice blends and how to make your own shichimi.

tofu with spicy salt

tofu with spicy salt

1 250g brick of firm tofu
1 egg white muddled with 1 tbsp water
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp shichimi
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
1 tsp. white sesame seeds
2 tbsp peanut or canola oil
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp tamari
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sambal oelek or other chili paste

slice the brick of tofu in half horizontally. place the cut sides down on a double thickness of paper towel and allow to drain for 10 minutes. cut each half into 1″ cubes. in a small bowl, stir together the tamari, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sambal oelek. set aside.

in a lidded container or a plastic bag, mix up the cornstarch, shichimi, salt, pepper, and sesame seeds. in a medium bowl toss the tofu cubes with the egg white mixture, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the cornstarch mixture. shake to coat. in a large-ish ceramic non-stick pan, heat the 2 tbsp. oil until almost smoking. shake the excess cornstarch from the tofu and add to the pan. shake and stir the pan to lightly brown the tofu cubes on all sides, about 5 minutes. add the peppers and onions, reduce heat to medium, and cook until the onions are wilted and the pepper is slightly softened but still a bit crisp, about 4 minutes. add the tamari mixture, and give the pan a few shakes to coat the tofu. serve immediately.

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