Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weeknight comfort food + tofu ricotta

I have not abandoned this poor blog, and did eat real food for most of last week, but it's been wild here at the Airy Way outside the kitchen, leaving little time for culinary innovation, so I mainly stuck with tried and true (and revitalized leftovers). In the interest of posting something, and because these recipes really are worth repeating, here are some recent meals, which I think all took less than 20 minutes to put together but were bright spots in a week that didn't otherwise have many of them. Goodbye, bad week, hello Christmas holidays!

First up, the last of the pierogi (from the freezer), with fried onions and cabbage, topped with Gooda cheeze and shichimi togarashi (which goes great with pierogi, by the way).

Then the Rebar mushroom pecan burgers, re-made into a meatloaf, which was delicious though still crumbly, with okara gnocchi in tomato sauce and Brussels sprouts.

Then the Sichuan kung pao tofu from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine, with homemade tortillas and stir fried pea shoots.

Pea shoots taste lovely, like snow peas, only they're all leaves and stems. Unfortunately, the stems can be quite tough. I ended up with a big bag of them, and yesterday boiled it all up along with some gai lan and yui choy leaves, chopped everything fine, and made it into the filling for the Ligurian herb-stuffed pasta triangles from Bryanna's Nonna's Italian Kitchen. This recipe isn't online [On edit: this is close enough], but basically what it is is a mixture of cooked chopped greens, herbs (the recipe calls for basil or other herbs of choice—I used dill and tarragon), nutmeg, and tofu ricotta. Instead of making pasta triangles, I used it as a filling for rolled crepes, poured on a little tomato sauce, and took it to my parents' for a family supper. From the outside, it looked exactly like the manicotti of recent memory, though I left off the cheese topping. My brother Douglas pronounced it "the best vegan thing you've ever made." Thanks, Douglas! There were no leftovers! It was great and I'd recommend it.

The tofu ricotta was a pleasant surprise. It has that tofu taste until the cashews are thoroughly incorporated, and then it magically becomes a creamy, slightly sour product that, after it's been chilled, has the texture and pretty close to the taste of cream cheese. I didn't fuss with the coffee grinder or adding the extra tofu at the end, but just used the same food processor to do the initial processing on the cashews and added all the tofu at once and processed for probably about five minutes in total to get everything as smooth as could be. The recipe is online here but I reproduce it for you:

Bryanna's ricotta di soya (tofu ricotta)
makes 3 1/2 cups

[Bryanna writes] This mixture is very similar to the creamy full-fat ricotta used in Italy, which bears little resemblance to the watery, grainy ricotta available to most North Americans. It's so creamy that you can use it as a spread on bread, or a filling for crespelle (crepes), or even in desserts.

2 (12.3 oz) boxes extra-firm silken tofu, crumbled [I used fresh tofu, well-squeezed in a twist of sturdy clean dishtowel]
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp raw cashew pieces, ground very fine in a coffee/spice mill or mini-chopper
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt

In a food processor, mix about 3 cups of the crumbled tofu, the ground cashews, the lemon juice and salt until they are VERY smooth. Then crumble in the remaining tofu and process again. The resulting mixture should be mostly smooth, but with a little graininess—it doesn't have to be like cream cheese.

Scoop the "ricotta" into a plastic container and refrigerate. It firms up when chilled.

1 comment:

  1. You've been doing some serious cooking! It all looks great. I'm especially tempted by the pierogies, which are going on my list to make very soon.

    I'm dying to try some shichimi togarashi too.