Monday, March 5, 2007

Tonight's Dinner: Cornmeal Crusted Tofu Over Whole Wheat Pasta and Veggies With Ginger Tomato Sauce

Tonight's dinner is sort of an homage to a dish served at Off the Wall in Buffalo. It's been a while since I've eaten there, so I'm pretty sure this doesn't taste quite the same, but it's a favourite nonetheless.

For the tofu:

• 1 block extra-firm tofu
• 1/2 lemon (or equivalent amount lemon juice)
• salt

Press the tofu under a weighted plate for at least 15 minutes. Drain off the liquid and cut the tofu into little cutlet-sized pieces; I third the block width-wise and quarter it depth-wise. Squirt a little lemon juice on a plate and begin stacking the tofu slices, squirting lemon juice and sprinkling a little salt in between layers. Let stand for at least fifteen minutes, preferably closer to an hour.

For the sauce:

• 1 1/2 c canned tomatoes, diced or crushed (I use diced because I like it chunky)
• 1 small clove garlic, minced
• 2 garlic clove-sized pieces of ginger, peeled
• 1 tbsp soy sauce, approximately

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes and garlic. Over the bowl, press the ginger in a garlic press -- you won't get much ginger, but you'll get a lot of "juice" from it, which is what you want anyway. Alternately, you can finely grate the ginger into the bowl. Add soy sauce, a teaspoon at a time, to taste. Set aside.

About now is when you can start boiling the water for the pasta.

For the cornmeal crust:

• 1 c cornmeal
• 1/4 c white flour
• 1 tsp salt
• 1/4 tsp onion powder
• 1/4 tsp garlic powder
• 1/2 c plain soy milk, or 1/2 c water mixed with about 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• vegetable oil for frying

Heat about 1/4" of oil in a small stainless steel pan on medium heat. In a shallow bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Pour the soy milk or water/cornstarch mix in a separate bowl. Dredge the tofu slices first in the cornmeal mixture (the lemon juice should give it enough to stick to), then quickly dip one side in the soymilk or water, then dredge that side in the cornmeal mixture, then dip and dredge the other side. By now the oil should be heated, so fry the crusted tofu slices until crispy (it won't take long -- they'll become a slightly lighter shade of yellow when they're done). Drain on a cooling rack over a couple of paper towels and dab off excess oil.

For the veggies:

• 1 large portabella cap, coarsely chopped
• 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
• any other veggies you want (snow peas, bean sprouts, red pepper, etc.)

Stir-fry the veggies in a bit of olive oil until crisp-tender.

Now that all that's ready, heat the sauce (I just did it in the microwave), portion the cooked pasta onto plates, top with veggies, heated sauce, and tofu.

This is obviously a bit involved, but it's not hard at all. We don't have this too often on account of the tofu being basically deep fried, but we sure do enjoy it when we do.

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