Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday of a 3 day weekend = lots of cooking

First, the weekend's market purchases!

Some standard fare (though still always exciting): 2 bags of basil, and a lovely batch of green onions. The basil is from a wonderful nice man who only sells two or three kinds of lettuce and basil. He just sets up a little table with cardboard boxes and puts one head of lettuce on top of each, and then a box for the basil. And the green onions come from an older, very Southern couple that I think is adorable. The wife likes to talk to folks, and the husband likes to make change. As well as a delectable cinnamon bun! This man sells herbs and cinnamon buns out of the back of his pickup. Yum.

And a very exciting, semi-splurge from the market today: a patio tomato plant!

It's blooming now and tomatoes should grow in 70 days. Look out, mid-June! I've never grown tomatoes (or any veggie) before, but the fellow selling them gave me some (hopefully) helpful hints. And check out my basil plant from a few weeks ago! Already repotted and doing just dandy.

For lunch, I wanted to use one of the hunks of tofu I've had in the fridge for a few weeks. This recipe I picked out a while ago and hadn't gotten around to making it. It's described as tasting "just like fried chicken" which I found hard to believe.

"Fried Chicken" Tofu and Gravy from Cookin' Southern Vegetarian Style

Enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your skillet
2 to 3 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 pound tofu, sliced
1/2 cup good-tasting nutritional yeast flakes
2 Tbsp tamari

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the sesame seeds.

While these are heating, dredge each slice of tofu in the nutritional yeast until both sides are generously coated.

When the seeds start to sizzle, arrange the tofu in the skillet. Drizzle the tamari over the top.

Turn the slices and fry on both sides until crispy and brown. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on how you like it.

In my delight to try this dish and my separate focus on sauteeing some spinach and corn and one of today's green onions as a side dish, I completely forgot to make the gravy. Ooops. No wonder there was a ton of sesame seed-oil mixture left in my pan at the end of frying the tofu.

Nonetheless, this fried chicken tofu is seriously good. I mean, it's good in the way that tofu that is fried in oil for several long minutes is always pretty good, but it also has a sharp, southern tang to it that really does resemble fried chicken. I'm impressed. I'll make it again with the gravy, for sure.

I had a craving to do a baking project today (sorry, I know I'm a Jew sinning during Passover, but it had to be done) and had two sweet potatoes on sale from the co-op. Sweet potato muffins it is! I had two recipes to choose from, a Deborah Madison recipe that used molasses (no thanks) and this one, from a cookbook I rarely use though I've had it longer than most of my others.

Sweet Potato Muffins from the 12 Best Foods Cookbook (one of which, no surprise, is sweet potatoes)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil or light olive oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup low-fat yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup mashed roasted sweet potato
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds (I left these out)

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Place paper liners in the cups of a 6 cup muffin pan. (I buttered by pan and it worked out fine.)

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In another bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and egg. mix in the yogurt and vanilla. Stir in the carrot and sweet potato. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of the dry ingredients, and mix just until blended. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them to the top. Sprinkle 1 tsp sesame seeds and a few pumpkin seeds over the top of each muffin. (I wasn't sure if I'd like the sesame seeds, so I did some with and some without.)

3. Make 22 to 27 minutes, until the muffins are lightly colored and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then unmold and cool completely on a wire rack.

Um. Yum.

The description of the muffins says they are "almost creamy in the middle" and that is sure true. They are dense but have some give, not too sweet, and feel relatively hearty given all the veggies. Nice!

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