Makes 4 servings
Although a high-protein flavor chameleon, tofu is typically a hard sell with the meat set. I'd be lying if I told you it tastes like chicken, and its squishy marshmallow-like texture takes some time getting used to. But a meatless cookbook without tofu? That just didn't seem right.
As a culinary writing fellow at the Writer's Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I dreamed up this dish with the tofu-reticent in mind. The magic flavor element is a pumpkin-seed pesto seasoned with garlic and cilantro, an irresistible combo that delivers both herby tang and nutty richness. As for the texture kinks, the tofu is sliced into thin "cutlets," which facilitate a toothy crust when baked in the oven. The result: the "most chickeny" tofu that did ever pass my lips.
Do try it with the Dino-Mash, my take on colcannon, the classic Irish mashed potato and cabbage dish, updated with Lacinato (a.k.a. Dinosaur) kale.
Kitchen Notes: The first thing you should do is roast the garlic for the Dino-Mash, as it will take 50 minutes.
Here's What You Do:
Drain the tofu: Remove from the package and place on a dinner plate. Place a second plate on top of the tofu and weigh it down with a something heavy, such as a can of food. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes. (While the tofu drains, you can make the pesto.)
In the bowl of a food processor or wide-mouthed blender, place the pepitas. Pulverize, using the "pulse" button. Do not puree into a paste; you're looking for texture.
Add the garlic, cilantro, salt, and chile pepper, and continue to process, using the "pulse" function.
Taste and smile. This stuff is really good, and if you're not careful, you could end up eating it all and forget about the tofu. Transfer to a shallow mixing bowl.
With a sharp (serrated is even better) knife, cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cutlet-like slabs. (You should get eight to ten pieces.) Transfer to a dish deep and wide enough to accommodate all the slabs in a single layer.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Pour the soy sauce and sesame oil, if using, over the tofu and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes, making sure you turn the tofu once to ensure even coverage of the marinade.
Place about 1/4 cup of cornstarch in a small, wide bowl. Dredge a tofu cutlet in the cornstarch. Dust off any excess.
With a silicone or pastry brush, apply oil to both sides of the cutlet. Place in the pepita mixture, and with your hands, press on both sides of tofu. The pepita mixture will adhere and look a bit like a mosaic.
Transfer to a baking dish large enough to hold all the tofu in a single layer, being careful of the pepita crust. Repeat these steps for the remaining tofu cutlets.
Bake for 30 minutes, carefully turning onto the second side with a spatula or tongs after the first 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prep the Dino-Mash. Remove from the oven and serve hot or at room temperature.
This page created December 2010
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