When Olive Oil & Salt Aren’t the Answer

 

“Just sauté in olive oil, season with salt and enjoy!” I say this a lot. Sometimes it’s true but sometimes it’s really not what’s needed. Tonight I had a large turnip, 1 leek and some yellowing stalks of celery. Luckily I also had a little knob of fresh ginger and some garlic and a few tangerines and my pantry always has sesame oil and soy sauce. And I had a block of tofu! And pretty much every time I’m at the store I buy a bunch of scallions and cilantro so there was that. It’s a habit that makes many meals so much better and why you see this usual greenery as I’ve come to call it in so many of my recipes. The mint in my garden has withstood the freezing temps and is still thriving so I also tossed in some mint. So I made up a sort of teriyaki tofu with turnips, leeks and celery and served that over rice. It was great. My kid who “hates” turnips ate all the vegetables and I enjoyed it much more than I would have a pan of sautéed vegetables with nothing but salt and olive oil.

 

It’s really not that most people don’t like vegetables. It’s just that preparation matters. It’s fun to prepare vegetables in ways that makes the most of the situation–the ingredients and the proclivities of the eater! No, we don’t always or even often have the bandwidth for any of this but sometimes the soy sauce, sesame oil, plenty of ginger and the usual greenery-formula is just what we need!

 

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Teriyaki-ish Tofu with Random Vegetables

 

1 block (usually about 8 ounces) firm tofu, briefly pressed between plates to remove some of the liquid, then cut into cubes

2 tablespoons oil

1 large turnip or 3 cups of whatever vegetables you have (carrots, peas, green beans broccoli, cauliflower, etc), finely chopped

1 leek or 1/2 onion, sliced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced (optional)

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sesame seeds toasted for about 2 minutes in a dry skillet (optional)

Rice for serving

Marinade

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon or more, favorite chili sauce like Sriracha

1 tablespoon ginger, grated on a microplane or very finely chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced or grated on microplane

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/3 cup orange juice

 

Cook rice.

 

Mix together all ingredients for the marinade. Put the tofu cubes in a baking dish and gently toss with half the marinade, making sure they’re in one layer.

 

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over high heat and add tofu and cook for 5-7 minutes or until browning in spots. Remove tofu from pan and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon oil and saute turnip, celery and leek or whatever vegetables you’re using, stirring often for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are just softening. Add the remainder of the marinade to the vegetables and mix well and cook for another minute or two. Serve vegetables and tofu over rice and garnish with herbs and scallions and toasted sesame seeds, if you’d like.

 

Chewy Granola Bars (that don’t fall apart)

 

It’s cold here in the Pacific Northwest and just today it really started to get me down. Creating something in the kitchen (unlike budget planning and sales/marketing work) always lifts my spirits. These bars will give you a serious boost and keep you going while you chase down tax documents or write marketing plans or get frustrated with your children or just need a snack or breakfast or dessert. They might also help you use up bits and pieces–I finally used up some golden raisins leftover from holiday baking last year in this batch.

 

Type of seeds, nuts, spices, nut/seed butters are all up to you. These are not very sweet and only a little crunchy around the edges though if you made them thinner and baked them a little longer they would be more so. I really like the chew and that they actually stick together . . . no trail of oats and bits following you around with these.

 

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Enjoy!

 

Chewy Granola Bars

You could add ground cinnamon or ginger or instant espresso powder.

 

2 cups rolled oats

½ cup seeds (I used pumpkin and sunflower)

1 cup nuts, roughly chopped (I used mostly almonds)

½ cup finely shredded, unsweetened coconut

1 ½ cups dried fruit, chopped up a bit (I used mostly golden raisins, some dates and a handful of dried mulberries)

2 tablespoons fruit juice (I used 1/2 a grapefruit’s worth)

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon almond butter (tahini, etc.)

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon honey (a little more if you like a sweeter bar)

2 tablespoons cocoa powder (optional)

½ teaspoon salt

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9 x 13″ pan with parchment paper.

 

Since my dried fruit was really dry I squeezed half a grapefruit over it and let that sit while I toasted the oats, etc. I liked the little added tartness it added but if your dried fruit is not so dry you can probably skip this.

 

Spread oats, nuts and seeds on a sheet pan and bake for 6-8 minutes until toasty smelling and the oats are a bit golden. Dump into a bowl to cool.

 

Turn oven down to 350.

 

Warm nut/seed butter and honey in a small saucepan until it’s nice and runny.

 

Put (somewhat) cooled oat mixture in food processor with coconut, dried fruit + juice, cocoa and salt and pulse a few times. Add almond butter honey mixture and pulse again until well mixed but still has plenty of texture. Spread evenly in pan and press down evenly with a lightly oiled hand and bake ate 350 for 18-20 minutes. Partially cool then cut and store.