All posts for the month October, 2008

This Sunday was play in the kitchen day.  When I went shopping, the local stores were overflowing with squash and pumpkins and gourds as far as the eye can see.  I really want to eat seasonale, so I knew exactly what I would be cooking.  10 recipes, 2 big pumpkins, 3 sugar pie pumpkins, and 5 butternut squash later and I had a plan.

Part of that plan was to make butternut squash ravioli, but I knew squash by itself would be dry and a little boring.  So I got to thinking about other fall produce and landed on the often humble, always delicious (even when honeycrisp) apple.  I knew that the flavor would be subtle so I decided against a red sauce and went instead with one of my favorites: sage brown butter sauce.  (Which can be vegan if using vegan butter ;))

I made my own dough, but if you do not have the time, buy wonton wrappers from the store.  If it good enough for Giada De Laurentiis, it is good enough for me.

And so I present…

Butternut Squash/Apple Ravioli

For the Pasta:

  • 7 cups of semolina
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Extra All-Purpose flour for use as bench flour

For the Filling

  • 1/2 large butternut squash, cut into 2 inch by 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 1/2 Jonathon apple, finely diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon of ground coriander or nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons of corn starch

For the sauce

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped sage

To make the pasta (this part may be skipped and wonton wrappers used instead):

  1. Pour the flour, the salt, and the garlic powder into a large mixing bowl and stir with a fork to ensure they are mixed.
  2. Make an indention the flour and add the six eggs and water.  Stir with a fork until the dough is crumbly. 
  3. Knead by hand until the dough has the consistency of cookie dough.  If they dough is too wet, add water.  If the dough is too dry, add more flour (AP or semolina, either is fine.)
  4. Let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Once it has rested, cover a rolling mat or a clean table with AP flour.  Divide the dough into four equal parts.
  6. Roll each part until it is 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch thick.
  7. Let the dough dry for up to 30 minutes.

To make the filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.  Roast the squash for 45 minutes.  If time is an issue, cut the squash into small pieces and saute in olive oil.
  2. Add the olive oil and the butter to a skillet over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, add the apples and cook for 3 minutes.
  3. If the butternut squash is not peeled, do so now.  Add the squash and the coriander to the mixture.  Cook until the apples become soft, perhaps another 3-5 minutes.
  4. Mash with a fork.  Set aside to cool.

Stuff and cook the ravioli

  1. Cut the pasta into 2 inch by 2 inch squares with a pizza cutter.
  2. Add the cornstarch to 2 tablespoons of water to make a slurry.
  3. Coat half of the outer edge of each pasta square with slurry.  (I made min the the shape of ] so that I ended up with long rectangles.
  4. Fold the dry pasta so that it lines up and covers the pasta coated in slurry.
  5. Press firmly but gently to close the edge.
  6. (optional) Use the pizza cutter to round the finished ravioli or make it whatever shape is desired.
  7. Boil in salted water until the ravioli float (about 3-4 minutes)

To make the sauce

  • Put a skillet on high heat and wait for about 3 minutes.
  • Add the butter and the sage.
  • Remove the pan from the heat.  The butter will have browned.

Pour the sage butter sauce on the ravioli, sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese and a little raw diced apple, perhaps some creme fraiche to really gild the lilly.  Then grab a fork and go!

And so it comes to an end…

In Part 0 of How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck, we looked at all the things you can do to prep your tofu before cooking.  Part 1 covered baking it, Part 2 deep frying it.  Part 3 examined how to stir fry tofu.  Part 4 was a list of sauces that go well with toful.

And now we are ready for the conclusion.  The grand finale…it’s Ma Po Tofu.

Ma po tofu (which is Chinese for so good you smack your mother POW! Okay, not really, it’s probably named after a Chinese street vendor named Ma who was probably fictious) is a traditional Sichuan dish that is made with tofu, ground pork, and a lot of chilis, including the infamous Sichuan peppercorns.

However, for me, this dish will always be special because it was the first Chinese meal I ate after becoming vegetarian.  It was so good and yet it didn’t have any meat…

So, I pretty much decided I had to learn how to cook it.  Instead of pork, I decided to go with seitan which has lead to this…

Ma Po Tofu

  • 1 block of extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
  • 4 Sichuan chilies
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger, minced
  • 4 spring onions, whites sliced and the greens cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 package of seitan, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of broth
  • 1 tablespoon of Sichuan hot bean paste
  • 2 tablespoons of corn starch

Okay, let’s start with a couple of notes.  First, yes the recipe is correct.  Use extra firm tofu.  Traditionally it is made with soft tofu, but I think by now you know what I think of soft tofu.

Secondly, substitutions.  If you do not have Sichuan peppercorns (available at Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods, but not at my local Asian market (?!)), omit.  Regular peppercorns are not the same.  Secondly, if you do not have Sichuan bean paste…go to the Asian market.  It is pretty much the key to this dish tasting right.

Okay, back to the recipe:

Press the tofu, cut it into 1/2 inch cubes, and prepare using your favorite method.  If you are in a hurry, you do not even need to press it, but of course, it makes the tofu taste better.

In a wok, roast the peppercorns until they become fragrant (about 1 minute) and remove from the wok.  Grind.  Dry roast the chilies until they turn brown and remove.  Smash in a food processor.

Add the peanut oil to the wok and let it get very hot.  Add the sliced spring onion whites, garlic and ginger to the wok.  Stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the seitan and stir fry for another 2 minutes.

Add the soy sauce, broth, Sichuan hot bean paste, androasted chilies, and bring to a boil.  Add the tofu into the wok and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the corn starch with the corn starch to create a slurry.   Add that to the wok and stir until the sauce becomes thick.

Garnish with spring onion greens and Sichuan peppercorns.


And this concludes my five (really six part series) on how to make tofu not suck.  I am going to be taking these posts, adding some pictures, and adding a few more recipes.   Who knows, I might even proofread.  Then I’ll turn all that into a PDF and put on the site for print and download.  More on that later!  Until then, start making tofu that doesn’t suck!

Back on track being relative… *sigh*

Anyway, this is part four of my groundbreaking series on desuckifying tofu.  As a fan of tofu, I firmly admit that it takes some finessing (or some deep frying) to bring out what makes it truly good.  Which is why in Part 0 of How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck, we looked at all the things you can do to prep your tofu before cooking.  Part 1 covered baking it, Part 2 deep frying it.  Part 3 examined how to stir fry tofu.  Now, we’ll look at it sauces that go well with tofu and then finish up with my recipe for ma po tofu made with nice, firm tofu.

Tofu is an interesting ingredient.  When I first started cooking it, I thought that because it was made from soy beans, it would taste good with soy sauce.  FAIL.  Tofu needs much more flavor than just soy sauce.  This lead me to thinking about other sauces for it.

My favorite dipping sauce for tofu (or really anything is):

  • 1 part sriracha or hot chili oil
  • 2 parts soy sauce
  • 1 part Oriental yellow mustard

It’s salty, it spicy, and it’s just a bit o’ sweet.  Deep fry the tofu and dip.

For baked tofu, I strongly recommend mixing:

After you have baked the tofu for an hour, mix the tofu in the sauce and baked until the sauce is warm.

For stir frying:

  • 1 tablespoon of tahini
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
  • 4 broth, chicken or vegetable

Mix in a bowl and add after the tofu and vegetables are cooked.  Bring to a boil and add a mixture of one tablespoon of corn starch/one tablespoon of water to thicken.

Other ideas:

  • 1 part ketchup and 1 part of soy sauce
  • Sichuan bean paste, broth, soy sauce, red chili flake
  • Minced garlic, olive oil, tomato paste

Those are my ideas.  What are yours?

Phew!  It’s been a bit of a ride, but I am finally back on track.

In Part 0 of How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck, we looked at all the things you can do to prep your tofu before cooking.  Part 1 covered baking it, Part 2 deep frying it.  Today we’re going to be looking at how to stir fry tofu.  Next, we’ll look at it sauces that go well with tofu and then finish up with my recipe for ma po tofu made with nice, firm tofu.

Also, very shortly, I’ll have all of this information packed up into one, nice, easy-to-digest PDF for you to download.  But more on that as we go.

For now…stir frying your tofu.

As a cooking technique, stir frying offers you a number of distinct advantages, most notably that if you are short on time, you can stir fry your tofu without pressing it.  The results will always be better if you can press your tofu first, but in a pinch, this is the way to go.

Cutting Your Tofu For Stir Frying

The trick to perfect stir fried tofu is all in how you cut it.  Stir frying is the ultimate application of a lot of heat, a little fat, and a whole lot of stuff moving around.  This means you are going to have to cut you tofu into small blocks.

If you have no time for prep, when I mean small, I am talking about one-eighth inch thick slices.  Take the entire block of tofu, cut it in half lengthwise, and then make cuts every eighth of an inch.

If you have time for prepping the tofu, I would still not cut it any thicker than one-quarter of an inch.

The Stir Fry

A lot of stir fry recipes have you cook the meat first, then remove it, then cook some veggies, and remove them and so on.  When you are stir frying tofu, what I recommend doing is getting the oil nice and hot and then throwing the tofu into the wok.  Let it stir fry by itself for 3-4 minutes or until it is starting to go from golden brown to just brown brown.

Then remove it if you must.  Better yet, start adding in the other ingredients and let the tofu continue to cook.  The longer that tofu cooks without burning, the better it is going to taste in the end.

Stir Frying as Secondary Cooking

If you have the inclination, what a lot of restaurants like to do is deep fry their tofu first.  What I would recommend doing is cutting the tofu into one inch by two inch by one-half inch pieces, coating them in cornstarch and deep frying then until golden brown.  Once they have drained, they can be added towards the end of the stir fry process (give them at least 2 minutes to cook) and make sure they get coated in whatever sauce you make as they should soak up of that liquid and taste that much better.

Okay, what are you waiting for?  Next time we are talking tofu sauces.

Before my descent into veganism, I used to love to make short ribs and pork and roast in the slow cooker.  As someone does not eat meat, I can still savor the memory of pork so tender it had to be scooped up because it would fall apart when pricked by a fork or delicious beef ribs done low and slow.

But alas…I am vegan.  Which means Time to Get Creative.

So I’ve been thinking about how to make vegan slow cooker recipes for a while now.  Up until now, my go-to veg ingredient for slow cooking has always been potatoes.  Really waxy potatoes I can slowly break down over a couple of hours.  Still, that’s largely just applying a technique, it is not really doing any good to the potatoes which eventually break down and become a mush and I just wanted more.  Which led me to my old standby: seitan.

I figured I would start with one of my favorites: “beef” short ribs.  This is a dish that does really well slow cooked, not so much because the protein needs the flavor, but the sauce needs time to meld together.  Oh, and don’t be afraid.  There are a lot of ingredients, but it’s really an easy recipe.

Braised Chinese “Beef” Ribs

For the seitan:

  • 1 1/2 cup of vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of oregano
  • 1 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of oil

For the flavorful cooking liquid:

  • 1 cup of low sodium tamari
  • 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of sambal olek (sriracha hot sauce can be substituted)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 green onion whites, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of sliced lemon grass
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered ginger


  • Green onion tops sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut oil

To make the seitan, preheat the oven to 300.  Add the dry ingredients into a Kitchenaid mixer.  Stir with a fork.  Then add the wet ingredients and stir to incorporate the tomato paste.  Mix for 5 minutes.

Remove from the bowl and knead by hand for another 60 seconds.

Cut into strips and put onto a buttered baking sheet.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Yes, they will be dry and yes they will be hard, but that is the point.

All of this can be done the day before.  If doing so, let the seitan cool befoe putting into a container so that it does not steam up the bag.  Store in the refrigerator several days.

When ready to make the braising liquid, all the ingredients except the garnish go into the slow cooker with the seitan.  Cook for 4 hours.

Before serving, sprinkle with greens and drizzle a bit of peanut oil over the “ribs.”

See, I told you it was easy!