Saturday, August 8, 2009

Creamy Mustard Tofu

Despite the obsession with butter and how essentially non-vegan French cooking is in every conceivable way, I do share this passion and sense of adventure in the kitchen that is suddenly revived by the reawakening of Julia Child's contributions to not only the culinary world but the serventless kitchen. Inspired by others' talents, encouraged by gastronomic successes and mistakes alike, determined to make sense of fresh ingredients brought together by the season at hand, I absolutely love to cook. And I love to cook, because I love to eat. I love to eat, because...who cares why, but isn't it wonderful?

Why vegan? My meatless, dairy-less, eggless life began by wanting to eat more healthily which eventually came to mean ditching these things because of their connections to common diseases running in my family. I guess my love for life and drive to live it well sparked the curiosity into what causes or contributes to: diabetes, heart disease, obesity, breast cancer, etc... This if course morphed into a myriad of motivations to: hmmm, save the earth, support local and sustainable communities, remove myself from the environmental and public health consequences brought about by commercial animal (and plant) agriculture and, oh well, by commercial anything. Of course the transformation was catalyzed by thoughts and experiences of people who give also give a damn. Thank you Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver.

At first, I enjoyed and thrived on the challenge and mystical science of making plant based edibles mimic their animal-based counterparts. Now, I love becoming not only more acquainted but also more intimate with real food. Food that grows and belongs to a particular season. Food that is grown in my neighborhood by my neighbors.

That's not to say I think it's entirely realistic to only cook up concoctions based on what my zip code can provide; I buy tofu, tempeh and frozen peas fully aware that they were shipped from somewhere and carry the associated environmental costs, though maybe someday I'll buy those enzymes to culture my own tempeh. But location and season have become vital sources of inspiration and culinary integrity in my life and I have a continuously growing sense of awareness and appreciation for all things local.

Local, vegan, sounds like hippy talk. My goal is not to shame this concept into others by regurgitating dreadful statistics and/or instilling fear with banter about some kind of apocalypse caused by big mac-eating, moon pie-munching maniacs. I will, however, win the hearts and stomachs of individuals that once upon a time refused to blink at beets or savor the soybean. If you test it, taste it, and trust it - you'll eat anything regardless of former convictions. So for all the veggie skeptics I say- Tofu to you too!

On to the food...

Here is one comforting tofu dish in a gravy-like sauce that I enjoyed with a side of steamed vegetables and a quinoa pilaf with tomatoes and green onions. You can whip it up in 20 minutes tops - including prep time.

Creamy Mustard Tofu

1 T. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 T. soy sauce
1 T. Red wine vinegar
1 T. Marjoram, dried
4-5 Cloves garlic, minced (2 T)
½ T. Agave nectar, sugar or your preferred sweetener
1/2 c. Soy yogurt, plain
3/4 c Water or broth

1 Pkg Extra firm tofu, pressed or patted dry
1-2 T. Cooking oil
1 tsp cornstarch
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in medium bowl and mix well (making sure yogurt and water are well incorporated). Add pepper to taste.
2. Cut tofu into cubes and toss in marinade. Let sit at least 10 minutes.
3. Drain tofu, reserving marinade. Heat oil in wok or pan and add tofu. Cook for 5-7 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside, keeping heat on.
4. Add marinade to hot pan and bring to a boil for 30 seconds-1 minute. Whisk in cornstarch and heat until sauce is thick – another 30 seconds to 1 minute.
5. Pour sauce over tofu. Season with salt and pepper.

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