Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Meatless BBQ Dinner

Ok, we're working hard to stick with our Meatless January commitment, but when Michael mentioned BBQ from a specific joint, my mouth started watering and I got stuck: had smokey, spicy-sweet BBQ on the brain.

This meal is the end result. Hey, when you have an itch, ya gotta scratch it. Here you see a mound of BBQ tofu with a jasmine rice-aduki bean chili, oven roasted corn and a cauliflower-cabbage slaw. Let me just say it hit the spot!

And before you start grumbling about how long this will take, I gotta tell you I threw this together on a weeknight before my 3 year old sounded the "I'm hungry!" dinner alarm.

The time saver here: a counter top Fry Daddy, $20 at Wallyworld. Seriously.

A Short Lesson on Frying:
Some folks think of a table-top fryer as a space-consuming gadget, and others bemoan how unhealthy fried foods are. Alton Brown, from the Food Network, had a great show once about the proper way to fry. I wish I could find a link to that show. Frying foods at the proper temperature for the proper length of time ensures a crisp product without all of the absorbed fat. Proper temperature of your cooking oil and your ingredient will prevent the ingredient from absorbing too much fat during the frying process. I can't recall exactly what Alton said, but it reiterated the lesson I learned years ago in culinary school, which is that frying is considered a dry cooking method. The hot oil should sear the ingredient and cook it from the inside, so to speak. If you think fried foods can't be fatty, I invite you to try Japanese tempura the next time you're at a sushi restaurant.

BBQ Tofu
This tofu is fried at 375 degrees until it floats and is golden brown in order to give it a meaty, toothesome texture -- something most carnivores miss when eating vegetarian food.
2 lbs firm tofu, quartered into slabs, then cut each slab in half for 1" thick strips
1 cup BBQ sauce plus a little water for thinning

Fry tofu in 2 batches in 375 degree oil until tofu floats or is firm and golden brown. In a separate pot/pan, heat BBQ sauce plus water if needed to thin it out. Remove tofu from oil, drain briefly on a paper towel and transfer to the sauce pot. Gently stir tofu in the BBQ sauce so as not to break the strips, and let sit over low-warm heat until ready to serve.
Cauliflower-Cabbage Slaw
Instead of a mayonnaise-laden slaw, this crisp, light and tangy-sweet slaw is a perfect BBQ side dish. The gentle pickling that takes place is reminiscent of Asian-styled vegetable salads. It's an interesting way to eat more raw vegetables!
1 cup cauliflower, sliced thin
1 carrot, small dice or julienne cut
1/2 cup cabbage, julienne cut
1 scallion (green onion) sliced (use white and green part)
salt & pepper to taste
1 Tbsp sweet rice wine
1 Tbsp seasoned rice wine (mirin)
2 Tbs white wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a shallow dish and marinate salad for at least 15 minutes. Salad should be crisp, and tangy sweet. Adjust sweet rice wine and white wine vinegar to taste.
Oven Roasted Corn
Roasting corn as opposed to boiling it gives it a deeper flavor and heartier texture. The nutrients in corn also stay in the vegetable as opposed to seeping out into the cooking liquid. Corn is high in fiber and is considered a whole grain.
2 ears corn, shucked (cut in half for kid-sized portions)
2 Tbsp butter

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place corn pieces onto a large sheet of foil with 2 tablespoons of butter and salt (if desired). Wrap the foil around the corn to form a packet. Place on a baking sheet and roast on the center rack in the oven about 15 minutes or until tender. Be careful of hot steam when opening the packets.
Aduki Bean Chili
Aduki beans (also known as adzuki beans or Red Dragon beans) are small red beans with a mild, creamy texture. For this mild, kid-friendly chili you can use any bean such as pintos, black or navy beans. Even black eyed peas will work. Using canned beans saves time, and rinsing the beans eliminates a lot of the sodium and some of that "muddy" flavor that canned beans can bring to a dish. Cumin is a smoky spice that is common in curries and southwestern/Mexican cooking. The group of plants that cumin is derived from is currently being used in cancer treatments due to its anti-tumor properties.
1 can aduki beans, rinsed
1/4 cup prepared salsa
pinch cumin
1/4 cup stock or water

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized pot. Simmer over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until some of the liquid has evaporated and the beans are more tender.

Serve with hot rice.

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