Creamy Acorn Squash Soup

Creamy Acorn Squash Soup | Kate from Scratch_

It’s cold and exceptionally windy and obviously pouring rain once again today.  So, with all that in mind, I’ve decided to share my most favorite of all the fall soups that I adore while also sparking up the first fire of the season.

It’s sweet and creamy and it will definitely warm you up regardless of the cold chill in the air.  It’s seasonal and absolutely comfort in a bowl, which I could use right about now.

You see,  the power went out for a bit earlier today (also a good reason to light a fire), so I am making this post a quick one.  You know, if –just in case– something decides to go awry once again in the next fifteen minutes or so.  Hopefully it won’t.

But, if it does, at least I’ll have done my part to share this with you while I eat soup.

Try to stay warm and dry out there, everyone!   It’s a mess!

Creamy Acorn Squash Soup

Serves 4

Soup

  • 1 quart of vegetable broth
  • 1 Roasted Acorn Squash
  • herb sachet (below)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Herb Sachet

  • 1 square of cheesecloth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 pink peppercorns
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 3-4 sage leaves
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary
  • butcher’s string

Make Soup:

  1. In a large saucepan or dutch oven with handles, over medium-high heat, pour in the entire quart of broth.  Scoop out the flesh of the roasted acorn squash and drop with the broth.
  2.  Bring to a boil.   Meanwhile, make herb sachet (directions below) and set aside.   Reduce heat to very low until gently simmering.  Using an immersion blender, blend soup until completely smooth.  Add cream and stir, keeping the heat very low.
  3.  Tie one end of the herb sachet to the handle of the saucepan or dutch oven and drop the other end (the sachet) into the soup.
  4. Cover and allow the herbs to steep in the soup for about fifteen minutes.
  5. Serve warm.

Make Herb Sachet:

  1.  Lay cheesecloth on a flat surface and place all ingredients except the string into the center of the square of cloth.
  2.   Grasp the four corners and edges of the square of cloth and twist together to make a neck.
  3. Tie the butchers string around the grasped neck of the cloth  –like a small pouch or purse– to secure it tightly.
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Easy Six Ingredient Apple Turnovers

IMG_0067

 

This recipe requires only six ingredients and fills the air with home-baked apple cinnamon goodness in no more than thirty minutes.

It’s classic and simple and uncomplicated.   You’re more than welcome to use your own homemade puff pastry dough if you prefer, but that is usually very time-consuming and would require a lot more ingredients.

You can add a hit of citrus zest and nutmeg to the apples, or maybe a brush of butter or a drizzle of vanilla glaze after baking.   But, that’s definitely not required to make these delicious.

Make these for the morning or serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.

Easy Six Ingredient Apple Turnovers

Makes 8 turnovers

  • 2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 5 1/3 cups chopped apples (you want small, bite-sized pieces)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar (vary to taste) + more for sprinkling over the top
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (just a pinch)
  • egg-wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon of water, beaten together)

Optional Additions

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoons citrus zest
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a sided baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface until nearly doubled in size.  Cut each sheet into four squares for a total of eight square pieces of dough.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl combine all remaining ingredients except for egg wash.  Mix until the apples are uniformly coated in cinnamon, sugar and salt.
  4. Place 2/3 cup of apples into the center of each piece of dough.
  5. Brush edges of the square dough pieces with egg wash using a pastry brush.
  6. Fold one half of dough over  the other half to make a triangle  with the apples in the center.   pinch edges of each turnover to seal.  Brush the tops with egg wash using the pastry brush and sprinkle with additional sugar if desired.
  7. Place each turnover gently onto prepared baking pan.  Cut a small (1/3 inch) slit in the top of each turnover to vent.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for about 17-22 minutes, or until golden brown.
  9. Allow to cool slightly  – about five to ten minutes.
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Sweet Sage Brown Butter Roasted Acorn Squash




Brown Butter and Sage | Roasted Acorn Squash |  Kate from Scratch

This recipe is a fall staple that’s required for a number of dishes, from various takes on mac n’ cheese or lasagna to traditional autumnal soups and stews or stuffings and dressings.  You’ll find roasted acorn squash in a variety of dishes from now until early December and it’s time for me to share this recipe since it’s the first step to all of those delicious dishes.

This can also be served as written, simply scooped into a bowl of steaming vegetable broth; or perhaps with the addition of some northern white beans (cannelini beans) or tossed with wild mushrooms and/or melted or caramelized onions.

The simplicity of this allows the possibilities to not only be various but also plentiful.  The cold rain of today has me making half of this into creamy roasted acorn squash soup for lunch.  The other half will be tossed with my favorite wild rice recipe, topped with sweet and tangy dried cranberries as a side dish for tonight’s dinner.

No matter how you decide to serve it, it is a fall must-have dish.

Sweet Sage Brown Butter Roasted Acorn Squash

  • 1 medium acorn squash (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, (either packed brown or white if preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahreneheit.  Using a large, sharp kitchen knife, slice acorn squash in half.  Scoop out and discard any strings and seeds.  Place squash halves on baking pan cut side up, like a bowl (lined with parchment paper if you don’t want to do dishes).

Mix together the butter, sugar and sage in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Allow butter to bubble and foam up.  Pour half the sage brown butter in to each half of the prepared squash

Place in preheated oven for one hour, or until fork tender.

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Baked Rotini with Broccoli Rabe


Baked Rotini with Broccoli RabeThis is a one-dish pasta dinner that takes about a half an hour from start to finish.  It requires little planning since most people have nearly all of the ingredients in their pantry already.   The addition of broccoli rabe adds an element of earth that’s balanced out by the sweetness of the white wine and acidity of the tomatoes.   All of it is married together with herbs and cheeses.

For the picky eaters out there: Some people may not know they like broccoli rabe and claim that they can’t stand the bitterness of it.  Personally, I like that flavor.  But, it wouldn’t be the first time I’m not the normal opinion of the group.  If you or your family aren’t totally convinced that it’s delicious, I added a bit of blanching to the recipe which reduces the bitter quality within these dark and leafy nutritious greens to make them soft and perfect for adding to this pasta dinner.

This dish is finished with grated parmesan and mozzarella and baked to golden perfection.  It is rich and warm and hearty without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.  It’s perfect for this chilly October Monday.

 

Baked Rotini with Broccoli Rabe

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 large bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup uncooked rotini pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves + 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb mix, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 4 scallions sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
  1. Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover the broccoli rabe, sprinkle in some salt, and bring the salted water to a boil. Stir in the broccoli rabe, and cook until bright green and just starting to become tender, about 2 minutes; drain the rabe, and cool in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain well, and pat dry with paper towels.

  2.  Fill a pot with salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the rotini, and return to a boil.  Cook the pasta uncovered one minute shy of al dente, according to the package instructions.  Drain well in a colander set in the sink.

  3.  While the pasta is cooking, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat the olive oil in an oven safe saucepan over medium heat, add 4 garlic cloves until they start to turn translucent, about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and black pepper, and stir in rosemary sprig, dried Italian herb mix, and crushed red pepper flakes.

  4.  Stir in the blanched broccoli rabe, white wine, and tomatoes.  Remove rosemary sprig if added, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Mix in the cooked pasta, green onions, and 1 minced clove of garlic.

  5.  Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese and place in preheated oven until golden and bubbling, or about seven to ten minutes.

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Parmesan Thyme Stuffed Potatoes





Parmesan Thyme Stuffed Potatoes | Kate from Scratch

Pair this side dish with some grilled portobello steaks and a green salad and call it a night.   These potatoes are a great way to enjoy the last days of the grilling season in our neck of the woods.  It’s not too hot to turn on the oven, but it’s not so cold that the grill is off limits.  These can be kept warm while covered in a low (250 degree F) temperature oven while you do some quick weeknight grilling.

If you like to plan ahead, you can do the baking of the potatoes the night before.  I do that often.  If you’re a last minute, fly by the seat of your pants sort of cook, you can alternately use the microwave to cook the potatoes through before stuffing and baking.  Just be sure to let them cool before handling.

These are a delicious pairing to any easy weeknight grilling menu.

About the optional breadcrumb recipe at the bottom: Last week I had a few buttermilk biscuits leftover so I cut them up and tossed them into the food processor with some thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper.  I keep those breadcrumbs in an air tight container in the freezer and they add a really nice buttery tangy flavor to many things, including these potatoes.  If you’re using a less rich breadcrumb mix, you might want to add a pat of butter on top of each potato before baking just to add a little more golden brown color.

Parmesan Thyme Stuffed Potatoes

Serves 6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

For Potatoes

  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

For Breadcrumb Topping

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (recipe below)
  • small pats of butter (optional)

Directions:

  1.  Bake potatoes – Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Pierce potatoes through the center three times with a fork or knife.  Wrap potatoes individually in aluminum foil with a sprinkle of salt.  Bake in preheated oven for one hour, or until fork easily slips through them.

NOTE: Alternately, you can place all potatoes in a microwave safe dish, covered with plastic wrap and heat on high until tender, or about fifteen minutes – tossing halfway through cooking, making sure they’re being heated evenly.

  1.  Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them in half and scoop out the center.  Drop what you scooped from the potato into a mixing bowl.   Add cream, parmesan cheese, the leaves from one thyme sprig and salt and pepper, to taste.  Mix.

  2.  Spoon potato mixture back into the potato skins.

  3.  Combine breadcrumb topping ingredients (breadcrumbs and parmesan).  Sprinkle evenly over each stuffed potato.  Top each potato with a small pat of butter, if desired.

  4.  Bake in preheated oven until golden, or about fifteen minutes

 

For Buttermilk Biscuit Breadcrumbs (optional)

Ingredients:

  • about 5 buttermilk biscuits, cut in quarters
  • leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme
  • small pinch of salt
  • a few turns of the pepper mill – filled freshly ground pink, green and black peppercorns, mixed

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse until crumbs are formed and ingredients are combined.  Store in freezer in air tight container for up to four weeks.

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Fast Deep Dish Spinach Tomato Pie




spinach-tomato-deep-dish-pizza | Kate from Scratch

It’s officially fall and in honor of my declaration of comfort food season, I have made this Fast Deep Dish Spinach Tomato Pie which is rich and delicious, yet also easy and can be adapted to your liking.

The use of frozen bread dough saves some time, which is often needed by many of us. If you prefer to use your own dough, I’m sure that would work fine too.  It’s flexible for the seasons and what you have on hand.  You could easily make a white pizza by adding ricotta and a dash of freshly grated nutmeg in place of the tomatoes.  Or if you’re a fan of sautéed mushrooms  and you have some leftover that you want to use, they could easily replace the tomatoes.

If you’re looking to lighten things up a little, replace some of the cheese with seasoned vegetables.   The only thing you can’t do is add a bunch of vegetables that will release water into the pie as it bakes.  That would be disastrous, so make sure whatever you’re adding is already cooked and/or drained of all excess water to avoid major issues (because oil and water don’t mix without an emulsifier).

It’s a fairly easy one dish meal that will please most if not all family members.

Deep Dish Spinach Tomato Pie

Makes one 12 inch deep dish pizza

Tools: one 12 inch deep dish pizza pan

Ingredients:

  • 2 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, drained
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • Cornmeal
  • 1 pound (1 loaf) frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella (about 4 cups)
  • 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

preparation:

Preheat oven to 425°F. Chop tomatoes into bite sized pieces and sprinkle with a small amount of salt and pepper, if desired (to taste).  Place in strainer and drain well. Combine tomatoes with garlic, parsley, oregano and basil in bowl. Brush 12-inch-diameter deep-dish pizza pan with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle pan with cornmeal.

Roll bread dough out to 13-inch round on lightly floured surface. Note: allow bread dough to come to room temperature before rolling out.

Transfer dough to pan, extending 1 inch up pan sides. Spread dough with 1 1/2 cups tomato mixture. Sprinkle half of mozzarella over. Top with half of spinach and remaining tomato mixture. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Distribute remaining spinach atop mozzarella. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Drizzle with remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil. Bake in top third of preheated oven until cheese bubbles and begins to brown and crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Tip: squeeze excess moisture from tomatoes and spinach before adding to the pie.

Source

 

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Muffins





chocolate peanutbutter muffins | Kate from Scratch

I had an event in New York City that I wore non-yoga pants for, which is totally unlike me.  And, because every bridge and tunnel journey should begin with peanut butter chocolate chunk muffins, that’s exactly what I had for breakfast before heading out.

These are what you’d expect from such aptly named muffins.  Flavorful, peanut buttery, semisweet chocolate-chunk-adorned muffins reminiscent of one of my most favorite candies.  The oats and applesauce make them just light enough to have for breakfast, but also make for a perfect four o’clock sweet treat, as well.

And, if you heat them up slightly, the chocolate chunks turn melted and delicious as they sink into the peanut butter speckled canvas.

chocolate peanutbutter muffins | Kate from Scratch-3

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Makes about a dozen muffins

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg(s)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 3/4 cup Peanut Butter Chips
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks or semisweet chocolate pieces (you may use dark chocolate if preferred
  • powdered sugar (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups.
  2. Stir together peanut butter, applesauce and oats in small bowl; set aside. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Add applesauce mixture; blend well. Stir together flour, baking soda and cinnamon, if desired. Add to butter/sugar mixture, blending well. Stir in peanut butter chips. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full with batter.  Divide chocolate chunks evenly among the tops of batter-filled muffin cups.
  3. Bake 22 to 26 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool slightly in pan on wire rack. Sprinkle muffin tops with powdered sugar, if desired. Serve warm. Makes about 12 muffins.

Tip:  (Using the back-end of a wooden spoon) When you believe the muffins are almost ready, push in on the inflated top, gently.  If the muffin sinks, it needs a minute or two more.

If muffins spring back once gently pressed, they’re ready.  Remove from heat.

 

Adapted from Source

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Buttermilk Biscuits




Buttermilk Biscuits | Kate from Scratch

I wanted a recipe that was just as easy as a refrigerator can of dough, or at least worth the extra work it would take to make biscuits from scratch.  And, since I lack all notions of demure southern charm, I will do what any good “northern belle” (Is that even a thing?  It’s a thing I just made up.) does to make up for such a loss.

I will use my colossal research skills!

Yeah, I said research skills.   Take that!

Note to self:  work on trash-talking proficiency.

Anyway, after making several recipes throughout the years, I finally had it narrowed down to about five recipes that I liked. They are all recipes that I generally enjoy and are uncomplicated and delicious enough to make more than once. But, now it was time to test these recipes side by side.

perfect biscuits | Kate from Scratch-7
The winners of the biscuit throwdown (thunderdome style).

These are the winners.  These biscuits are easy, light, tender and came out perfectly in both taste and texture.

And now what’s next?  Well, things are starting to cool down, slow down and I’m sensing that fall is in the air, which (quite frankly) is just dandy with me since it’s my favorite season.  I love it all: The cool breezes, my favorite fluffy socks, hot cocoa, football games, the smell of wood burning in the air and especially the crunch of the beautiful vibrant leaves as I walk through them.  And let us not forget the taste of a perfectly chilled apple at its peak right after plucking from the tree.

In my autumnal bliss, I will officially declare it comfort food season.  Stay tuned!

Buttermilk Biscuits

makes 1 dozen biscuits
prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 20 minutes 
 
  • 2 cups flour, plus more for dusting and rolling
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 3/4 cup + 4 tablespoons buttermilk, chilled
  1. Tip: Cut up butter and shortening into pea sized pieces the night before making and place in freezer.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
  3. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs.
  4. Make a well in the center and pour in the 3/4 cup of chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together.
  5. Add the remaining buttermilk a splash at a time until it becomes lightly sticky.
  6. Turn dough onto well-floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself about six times to create flaky layers.
  7. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2 1/2-inch cutter (or 2 inch or three inch is fine too), be sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch.
  8. Reform scrap dough, if desired and working it as little as possible and continue cutting.
Note: Biscuits from the second pass will not be as light and tender as the first, so cut dough into squares instead if you’d like to save yourself from scrap dough.

Adapted from Alton Brown’s “Southern Biscuits” Recipe

 

 

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Black Bean Taco Salad (Vegetarian)

black-bean-taco-salad Kate from Scratch

There are only two days left of summer vacation before the beginning of third grade for Trey (including today).  So, I will be making this post very brief, since I have about a week’s worth of promises to pack into two days.

Go me!

Well, fortunately, I’m good with deadlines.

And, Unfortunately, I’m terrible with legitimate segues, so let’s just talk about taco salads.  Yeah, that sounds like a great idea.

This is a bit sweet, a bit spicy, a little light, yet still hearty.  It’s savory and simple yet different from what I might normally make on an average weeknight, which is always exciting.  This vegetarian version of the traditional beef taco salad is perfect for this time of year and (in my opinion) far better than the taco salads of your past.

You can pair it with corn on the cob or saffron rice or just serve it on its own.

Black Bean Taco Salad (vegetarian)

Black Beans (serves 6)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 large jalapeño chili, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon (generous) roasted ground cumin (regular cumin is fine too)
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can vegetable broth
  • The juice of one lime
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley if you hate cilantro)
  • salt and pepper, to taste (Note: I added about 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1 teaspoon smoked chili pepper to suit my tastes, but I’m not on a salt restrictive diet and I like things spicy.  So, vary to your needs and tastes!)

DIRECTIONS: Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili and cumin and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add beans and broth and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Coarsely mash beans with potato masher. Continue boiling until thick, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with lime juice, zest and salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro if desired.

Note: this can be served as a side dish as well, or follow directions for black bean taco salads, below.

Black Bean Taco Salads

makes 6

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-6 cups corn tortilla chips of your choice (a “family size” bag should be more than sufficient)
  • prepared black beans (recipe above)
  • 4-6 cups chopped baby romaine or other lettuce of your choice
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1/3 cup taco sauce or fresh salsa, or both if preferred
  • fresh avocado and sliced tomatoes (unless you hate avocado or tomatoes, then don’t use them)
  • (optional) squeeze of lime, sprig of cilantro or flourish of parsley, sour cream for garnish

DIRECTIONS: Divide chips evenly among plates (or wide bowls).  Ladle the black beans over the chips to your liking.  Top with one overflowing handful of chopped lettuce.  Sprinkle with cheese and top with taco sauce, salsa, avocado and tomatoes as you see fit.

Garnish with a lime wedge (for them to squeeze over the salad at the table) and add cilantro and sour cream to the top, if desired.

 

Enjoy.

 

 

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Seared Tofu with Green Beans

seared tofu sweet soy glaze-2

This is one of those weeknight dishes that can be presented as opulent and swanky but is actually as simple and humble as a Tuesday “chicken night”.  It’s extra firm tofu, rid of excess moisture, then quickly marinated with a sweet soy glaze, fresh garlic and ginger, and just a splash of lime and pineapple juice for a bit of acidy and sweetness.  Then to balance that tangy sweetness, we added a bit of heat via cayenne pepper, though a dash of sriracha would work just as well.   Then it’s just seared in a pan with a little oil and served over a bed of sautéed greenbeans.

Basically, if you are making chicken for five people and there’s one or two vegetarians that need some love, this an ideal alternative.  I will often pair this with a side of cold noodle salad or a even a simple leafy salad.

For fall, once the breeze starts to kick up and the leaves begin to tumble and the evening air brings a decided chill worthy of an oversized soft and luxurious sweater, I will add a potato dish.  –Perhaps scalloped potatoes or a baked sweet potato with chive butter.

Oh!  And, I’ve included many tips at the bottom of the recipe to help those that may not be familiar with all of the ingredients.

Seared Tofu with Green Beans

Sweet and spicy marinated tofu with garlic, ginger, pineapple and lime over a bed of green beans .  This can be dressed up to appear entirely more fancy than its humble nature.

  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne (This addition makes the dish HOT AND SPICY so add less or more to suit your tastes)
  • 2 tablespoons naturally sweetened pineapple juice
  • the juice from one lime
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 package extra firm tofu, drained of all excess water
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola oil (or another high smoke point oil that your prefer )
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 pound trimmed fresh green beans (that’s about 4 cups for those wondering)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
  • toasted sesame oil (optional, yes, but recommended) for serving
  • three tablespoons sliced scallions (whites and greens mixed) for garnish
  • Serves: 4
  • Preparation time: about 30 minutes (mostly just to marinate, so it’s hands-free downtime)
  • Cook time: ten minutes
  • You will need: Large plastic zipper bag and a nonstick pan.
  1. In a large plastic zipper bag, combine brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, cayenne, pineapple juice and lime juice and zest.   Slice the prepared tofu and add to the bag.  Remove air from the bag and massage the marinade into the tofu until evenly coated.
  2. Leave marinating tofu alone for fifteen minutes to an hour, at room temperature.
  3. In a nonstick pan over high heat, drizzle  a tablespoon of oil and add the green beans.  Toss for five minutes or until tender, yet still crisp.  Remove from pan and place on serving dish (like a bed for the tofu slices to lay on).
  4. Drizzle one tablespoon oil in same pan over high heat and sear tofu until golden brown, or about a minute on each side.  Place tofu over the bed of green beans.
  5. Last, add the marinade from the bag directly to the hot pan.  While whisking, pour in the cornstarch and water mixture.
  6. Bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce until it’s reduced to about 3/4 cup, or about 6 minutes.
  7. Pour sauce over the tofu and the  green beans.  Top with scallions and drizzle two teaspoons toasted sesame oil over the entire thing. Serve with a side of sriracha for those that can’t get enough spice.

Tip 1 : Keep your ginger root in the freezer.  It makes it super easy to chop and will stay fresh for up to two months.

Tip 2: Think of tofu like a sponge.  If you freeze and thaw your tofu, it gives it a more firm (more chewy “meaty”) texture that I personally prefer.  I don’t like not chewing my food and I don’t like tofu that’s gelatinous.  I like it to have some oomph.  If you’re pressed for time and/or paper towels (for pressing the excess water out from the tofu), you can evaporate the water within the tofu by placing it in the microwave.  Over the years I’ve found that the microwave is the fastest and easiest method for removing the excess water.  I put the brick of tofu in a microwave safe colander over a regular dinner plate and pop it in for three minutes on high.  You can see all the steam being cooked out as it goes. If opposed to using the microwave, you may place the drained tofu between two plates with kitchen or paper towels on either side of the tofu. Repeat with dry towels until spongelike.  Remember the more water you remove from the tofu, the more marinade (flavor) it can absorb in its place.  The marinade is what makes it delicious.

Tip 3:  Wash your lime before you zest the peel.  Also, you only want to “zest” the green part of the peel.  The white part is bitter and will not make anything delicious.

Tip 4:  Cornstarch and water is called a slurry which is the easy and fun-loving cousin of a roux, (because it thickens up sauces without a lot of effort).  HOWEVER, you must bring the sauce to a full boil after you’ve added the cornstarch, otherwise it will not thicken.  It’s important.

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