Sunday, June 13, 2010

vegan is the new black

I can't remember where I saw that, but I figured it made a better title than Kale is the new Green, which is what I really wanted to say.  It is my current "favorite" food.  We all know by now that by next week I could have a new favorite, but I have realized over the past couple of dinners just how much I love kale.  It's so much sturdier than other greens; it makes cooked spinach taste wimpy and belittles the crunch of bok choy.  Let me begin with the weekly menu, though, so I'm not being anachronistic or repetitive in the wrong places...

1. Zesty Za'atar Pizza from the May/June edition of VegNews magazine.  The picture was entirely too enticing to resist, even though it turns out that za'atar is the new harissa - I have looked all over my corner of Philadelphia and the closest I got was one Middle Eastern grocery/convenience/corner store that had one of the spices that will become za'atar when I combine it with the herbs I already possess (as well as a recipe).

2. Seitan Noodle Casserole, a hybrid of nostalgia and my own twisted mind.  I'll let you wait for the story until I've made it and posted the details.

3. Mandarin Tofu with Peppers and Broccoli

4. Bulghur and Red Lentil Pilaf with Kale and Olives from The Complete Vegan Cookbook.  There are two amazing flavor/texture combinations going on here: bulghur + red lentils = creamy, buttery, yet chewy base; and kale + kalamata olives = eye-popping flavor and hearty, mindful chewing.  More in a minute (hint, hint).

5. Curried Bulghur Casserole with Garbanzo Beans also from The Complete Vegan Cookbook.  This sounds similar to another curried bulghur dish I used to make all the time when Mister and I first became vegetarians, but I kind of retired it when I "learned how to cook."  That's a really polite way of saying I beat it to death and had to wait a year or two before I could make anything involving curried bulghur again.

6. Tofu Rancheros, which drew some inspiration from the cookbook mentioned above, but the finished results are quite disparate from one another.  When I was looking through the cookbook, I came to a version of Tempeh Rancheros, and as I continued scanning the book my mind took me back to our recent mini-vacation in Arizona and how excited Mister was to get a breakfast burrito, so I wanted to try to recreate that for him here.

So for dinner last night I made Bulghur and Red Lentil Pilaf with Kale and Olives and it was every bit as delicious as I had remembered.

You may or may not find that as attractive as I do, but if you don't, it's probably because you didn't get to eat it.  We ate it all up, so I'm afraid there are no leftovers to share, but just take my word for it - this is amazing!  I have made it before, and not all too long ago, but this is such a great (and easy) dish that I can see it easily becoming a "regular" in whatever semblance of a rotation we have.  Although I wouldn't call kale a bitter green, there is something strong in it that is perfectly accented by the winey notes in the olives.  If you'd like to read my love letter to the ingredients, feel free to follow that link.

Tonight, I made Mister's Tofu Rancheros and they were definitely a hit!  I was impressed with how well everything worked together.  I've used most of the ingredients together multiple times, so I was pretty sure I knew how it would come together in my mind - the one thing I wasn't sure about was how the tamari-marinated tofu would work in a dish that had primarily South-of-the-Border flavors.  Everything came together pretty quickly, so this will definitely work out as a weeknight dinner someday and sometimes it's fun to leave the silverware in the drawer and take full advantage of the napkins...

Tofu Rancheros
yields about 6 servings

14 oz firm tofu
3 Tbsp tamari/soy sauce
cooking spray
2 Tbsp oil
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, pressed
14 oz can of petite diced tomatoes, drained, with liquid reserved
1 cup chopped kale
generous 1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
sea salt, to taste
6 whole wheat tortillas*

Coat a square skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high heat.  Slice tofu in half length-wise, and then into eighths cross-wise (for 16 square slices).  Lay tofu slices on skillet and sprinkle tamari over tofu and the skillet.  Flip the tofu slices with a spatula so the tamari and oil coat both sides.  Lower heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, until browned and a little crisp.  Remove from heat and roughly chop with the edge of the spatula.

While tofu is cooking, heat the oil in a saute pan or deep skillet.  Saute red pepper and garlic 3-5 minutes.  Add drained tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and salt and saute for 5 more minutes, adding reserved tomato juice by Tbsps if the mixture seems too dry.  Add kale and stir to wilt, then add tofu and mix well, breaking up the tofu a little with the spoon.  Cook for 1-2 more minutes, then remove from heat.

Divide mixture among 6 warmed tortillas, roll like a burrito and enjoy!

* I used whole wheat tortillas from Whole Foods.  They also have red chile tortillas (both of these are under their 365 store brand), which I think would work just as well, if not better, since they would add a little bit of zing.

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