Saturday, January 26, 2013

Spiced Citrus Tofu Veggie Scramble

I'm at it again—in defense of tofu.

I woke up on this lazy Saturday morning, in deep rumination over what kind of omelette to make for breakfast; conducting a complete mental inventory of all available veggies and cheeses. I open the fridge, and:

No eggs. I blink. No. Really? Really, confirms the refrigerator. It's 17°F degrees outside, Accuweather informs me. Feels like: 11°F. Inside, I'm already wearing a blanket and wool socks. So my corner bodega run is out of the question.

And then I see, partially obscured in the crowded kitchen cabinet, a box of silken tofu. It is staring at me. (It IS.) I challenge you, it smirks silently. OK, I think, challenge accepted! Let's do this. I've been reading a lot of rave reviews over tofu breakfast scrambles; egg-lovers swear they are converts to the soy substitute based solely on this dish.

My recipe hails from Kathy at Lunch Box Bunch, a reputable vegan who names the breakfast tofu scramble a "hearty, savory veg-classic." This Spiced Citrus Tofu Veggie Scramble recipe was test-kitchen approved by her non-vegan boyfriend. I have to admit, I definitely had my doubts going in: orange juice, soysauce and tumeric in the morning?! Hmm...I thought I'd be back to eggs first thing Sunday morning. But once again, the tofu won me over, fair and square.

This recipe is fantastic. The silken tofu was so light and airy, producing a crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth effect. The orange juice, apple cider vinegar and soy sauce yielded a very tempered acidity, and the light spice provided flavor without overpowering in the least. Put it this way: even though the scramble has hints of tumeric and cumin, this is NOT an Indian curry dish. It is 100% breakfast appropriate. A bountiful assortment of veggies add a wonderful flavor and nutrient boost to the piquant protein, plus a lovely crunch thanks to the kale and carrots. All wrapped up in a whole-wheat tortilla, this scramble is the perfect way to start your day. I enjoyed the tofu veggie scramble wrap plain, but you could definitely serve with a side of salsa.

Another nice things about tofu breakfast scrambles is their versatility; seasonal/favorite vegetables are welcomed based on your preference—Kathy recommends mixing it up to keep the recipe fresh—and spices are flexible. Tumeric is often used because it's yellow color is reminiscent of eggs, but if you're not feeling the spices, consider mixing your scramble with chopped parsley or basil. Cheese (vegan or real) is also a great addition; I chose feta, which complemented the leafy greens.

As I had already decided I was not leaving my kitchen, I made a few edits to the recipe based on my ingredients at hand.

Spiced Citrus Tofu Veggie Scramble (derived from Lunch Box Bunch)
Serves 3-4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large carrot, shredded (or 1 cup matchstick carrots)
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp tumeric
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 small orange, juiced (about 1/4 - 1/3 cup juice) +1 tsp orange zest OR 2 Tbsp orange juice concentrate
15 ounces extra firm tofu, cubed or Silken tofu, well-chopped
1 cup frozen or fresh spinach

1 cup kale, thinly sliced, ribs removed
Optional veggies: shredded zucchini, swiss chard, bell pepper, mushrooms, tomato
Optional cheese: feta, mozzarella, cheddar, vegan cheese
Whole-Wheat tortillas


1. Prepare tofu, squeezing out as much excess tofu liquid as possible. (This can be achieved by wrapping tofu in a paper towel and microwaving for 1-2 minutes).
2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, and about half the amounts of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, tumeric, cumin and a dash of pepper. Saute until the onions have translucent edges and the carrots have softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add in the remaining amounts of the seasonings, along with the tofu, orange juice and orange zest (or orange juice concentrate). Saute for 4-5 minutes over medium heat, cover off so the excess liquid evaporates.

4. Taste-test the mixture and modify the spices as needed.
5. When tofu is just about cooked and all the excess liquid has been absorbed or steamed off, add in spinach and kale. Saute until veggies wilt.
6. Remove pan from heat. Fold in cheese, if desired. Transfer scramble to a large bowl.
7. In the same pan, heat a light coating of olive oil from a spritzer (or cooking spray). Add tortillas, one at a time, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until tortilla browns. Flip and cook for same amount on the other side. Spoon scramble into warm tortillas, and serve with salsa if desired. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Rye Crostini

In winter, I find that I'm prone to two distinct types of soup cravings. The first is for hearty chunky soups, like a loaded minestrone, and the second demands a thick pureed soup, like a smooth-as-silk squash. Possessed of the latter, I found the prettiest acorn squash at the Farmers Market last week (I have to brag, it was gorgeous!), and set out to make this Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Rye Crostini.

I can't say enough about what an exquisite medium acorn squash is for a soup. It perfectly complements the flavors of so many soup-friendly ingredients. Apple, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves enhance the squash's natural sweetness, while autumn-rich notes like sage, ginger and onion tip the scale towards savory, balancing out the sweet. Beta-carotene rich carrots gives the soup a substantive texture boost while illuminating it's signature orange hue. The result: a melt-in-your-mouth maze of flavors, every bite as smooth as it is scrumptious—and nutrient packed too! In fact, this soup is so rich in taste that a generous dollop of Greek yogurt is recommended to mellow it out a bit pre-serving, adding even further creaminess along with a healthy protein boost.

Equipped with a a flattened, round loaf of Nordic Bread's Finnish Ruis bread—a dense, hoppy-tasting whole-grain rye from the Union Square Greenmarket —I set out to make croutons, but the bread proved too flat. Instead, I came up with something even better: crostini mini-spoons!  I toasted thin, slivers of bread, which crisped perfectly in the toaster oven thanks to a quick spritz of olive oil.  The crostini mini-spoons acted as the perfect vessel to sop up the pureed soup. Cut along a thin diagonal, the crostini slivers can also be made easily with a whole-grain baguette.

Upon serving, the dish was really beautiful: a vibrant tangerine-hued soup, laced with thin swirls of creamy white yogurt, accented with the floating crostini crisps on top. Add a thyme sprig for a final aesthetic touch, and this one-pot-wonder—a must-have starter for cold-weather dinner parties— will certainly turn heads. Warning: requests for second helpings will keep your ladle busy!
Time Saving Tip: The squash can be roasted up to a day in advance, and then refrigerated until you're ready to start the soup. Also, after removing the squash seeds, feel free to salt & roast them along with the squash, removing from heat after 30 minutes. They make a nice crunchy snack while waiting for the soup!

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Rye Crostini (derived from A Sweet Pea Chef)
Yield: serves 4 as main dishes; 6 as a side


2 acorn squash, sliced in half and seeds removed
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 large gala, macintosh or jonah gold apple, cored and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 tsp. ground allspice (or even parts cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove)
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
salt & pepper to taste
balsamic or red wine vinegar
optional garnishs: rye crostini, Greek yogurt (non-fat or low-fat), thyme sprig

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place squash, skin-side-down, onto baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper.  Roast in oven for 45-50 minutes, or until flesh is tender and skin is starting to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cool, remove flesh from skin by using a spoon and scooping out the flesh. Discard skin and set flesh aside.
3. In a large, deep pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add carrots, apple, and onions and saute until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Once tender, add ginger, sage, cayenne, allspice, squash and vegetable or chicken stock. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and puree mixture, either with an immersion blender (my fav!), a blender (in batches) or a food processor.
4. Once pureed, add salt & pepper, adjusting seasoning to taste. Mix in a generous splash of vinegar. Garnish with rye crostini*, dollop of Greek yogurt, and thyme spring, if desired.

*To make rye crostini, cut bread or baguette very thinly on the diagonal. Line a shallow baking dish with tin foil and arrange slices in a single player, mist with a generous spritz of olive oil. Bake in oven or toaster oven until brown and crispy.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fennel & Garlic Shrimp with Yellow Rice

Happy New Year! Did you make a New Year's resolution? Forbes identified #1 most common New Years resolution as going on a diet...and also as the most difficult to keep. More practical, they say, is to make small changes to your eating habits. Instead of just generically trying to "eat healthier," maybe identify tangible goals—eliminating butter, consuming less red meat, eating 5 servings of vegetables a day. Whichever goal you pick, you've come to the right place to achieve it!

This Fennel & Garlic Shrimp with Yellow Rice dish is inspired by my holiday vacation to Puerto Rico. While unfortunately I cannot conjure up the island's delightful warm sun back here in New York City, I can continue to eat fresh, light, and delicious seafood into the New Year. (Maybe it wasn't caught 2 hours ago in the same ocean I watch the sun setting over above my menu, beautiful hues of pink orange and yellow reflecting off the gently lapping waves...but you get the gist. And that mojito can be easily replicated for dinner here, too.)
In this recipe, the shrimp is paired with fennel—a lovely (and seriously underused, I must say) member of the parsley family, native to the Mediterranean. Armed with phytonutrients plus vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium and folate, the versatile vegetables provides a great crunch and anise-like bite when eaten raw, but I prefer it cooked: emitting a tender, fragrant liquorish-esque flavor, the liquorish hues soften and becomes sweet; complementing the mild shrimp wonderfully, and staying within a Mediterranean theme. (Fennel pairs well with any flaky white fish, too.) Constantly looking for recipes that display a vegetable's full array of tastes and textures, I love when the same vegetable can be used more than one way in a dish, as is the case here: while the sturdy bulb is chopped and cooked through, the delicate feathery fonds at the tip—resembling fresh dill—lend themselves perfectly to a pre-serving garnish.

This recipe hails from Ina Garten's new cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. While the title promises straightforward directions and easily accessible ingredients for an un-mess-up able dish, I did make a few changes to the original recipe.  Ina serves these shrimp as an appetizer, suggesting chunky bread slices for sopping up the fragrant, garlicky broth, but I was perplexed when my dish came out with no more than a tablespoon of this very tasty (but seriously scant!) broth. [Insert pouty face here.] This might have been a result of halving the olive oil, but nonetheless, there are a few ways to increase the liquid while keeping the oil minimum: double the fennel (the natural water from the vegetable will seep out when cooked), or add 2-3 tablespoons cooking/white wine along with the garlic and red pepper.  I prepared mine as a main dish, and topped the succulent shrimp over yellow rice, which became delightfully thick and saturated as the juices seeped down into the bowl.

Depending on the culture of your cuisine, the "yellow" in yellow rice may originate from different spices: in Spain, saffron; Caribbean, annatto; or Indian, tumeric. As the first is expensive and the second obscure, I made mine with the accessible and super healthy tumeric.

Dr. Andrew Weil, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, writes that "the therapeutic advantages of turmeric and curcumin [its main active ingredient] are almost too numerous to list." To sum it up, curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties make the ginger-relative a leader in disease prevention, exhibiting antioxidant, antiviral, and anticancer properties to help protect against diabetes, allergies, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease. "Looking for a simple New Year's resolution for health?" asks Dr. Weil. "Add turmeric to your diet." Done!

Fennel & Garlic Shrimp (from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof)
Yield: 2-3 servings

6 3 tablespoons good olive oil 
1 cup chopped fennel bulb, fronds reserved (can double)
3 2 tablespoons minced garlic (9  3 cloves) (I promise this is more than enough!)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound (16- to 20-count) shrimp, peeled with tails on
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon Pernod (optional) Can use 2-3 tbsp cooking or white wine instead
1 teaspoon fleur de salt (fancy salt. Can use regular)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and saute for 5 minutes, until tender but not browned. Turn the head to medium-low, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook at a very low sizzle for 2 to 3 minutes, until the garlic just begins to color. If using cooking or white wine, add here.
2. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, add them to the pan, and toss together with the fennel and olive oil. Spread the shrimp in one layer and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes on one side. Turn the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes on the other side until they're pink and just cooked through.
3. Off the heat, sprinkle with parsley, 1 tablespoon of chopped fennel fronds, the Pernod (if using), the fleur de sel, and black pepper. Serve with bread or yellow rice to soak up all the pan juices.

Yellow Rice
1 cup whole-grain, brown rice
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (can substitute water)
1 cup water
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
pinch of tumeric (1/2-3/4 tsp)

Bring onion, rice, chicken broth and water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 40-50 minutes. Let stand (still covered) for 5 minutes, then fluff with fork. Add tumeric, and mix throughly. Spoon into bowl, and top with shrimp, ladling generous amounts of broth into serving bowl too.


Garten, Ina. "Fennel & Garlic Shrimp." Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof. London: Bantam, 2012. 92-93. Print.
Rose Shulman, Martha. "Fragrant Fronds, Pungent Bulbs: Cooking With Fennel." Recipes for Health. New York Times, 7 June 2010. Web. 3 Jan. 2013.
Weil, Andrew, Dr. "Turmeric Health Benefits: Have a Happy New Year With Turmeric." The Huffington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2013. <>.