Good morning eaters and readers! Hope you all had a nice long weekend. I leaned into the cold here in New York, only leaving the house to test out my new Hokas (I’m a lifelong Asics girl), split a cacio e pepe pizza with Andy at our favorite weekend lunch spot, and, of course, shop for dinner. I also caught up on a few podcasts, and for obvious reasons, loved last week’s episode of Lunch Therapy featuring Adam Roberts and David Lebovitz discussing food writers embracing Substack. (Preaching to the converted over here!) In any event, here are your weekly Three Things, which does not include that soup you are looking at above because it is not so much a recipe as it is an assembly-only kind of thing: cooked onions/carrots + a carton of broth + pre-made rice. It did the job in spades though.
1. Crispy Tofu Crumbles
I know everyone is currently excited about the basic baked tofu recipe from The Weekday Vegetarians — especially since Melissa Clark wrote about it a week or two ago in her Times column (warning: potential paywall). But I wanted to just remind you of yet another technique from the book that I think we’re all kinda sleeping on: The Crispy Tofu Crumbles you see above. The method is so easy it’s almost embarrassing: Using your hands, you just crumble your tofu directly into a hot pan of oil and let them crisp up undisturbed before stirring in your aromatics and spices. Does it not look exactly like ground meat? My friend Bonnie told me that she makes a batch every week, stores it in the fridge, then adds the crumbles to salads and bowls all week long for lunch or dinner. How smart is Bonnie? You can of course also use them right away for a quick family dinner — like for instance, maybe serve over rice with avocado, scallions, queso fresco and cilantro tonight? Or add to greens with chopped fresh tomatoes, shredded cheddar, minced red onion and some kind of limey-sour cream dressing? Here’s the technique:
Choose-Your-Own Adventure Spicy Tofu Crumbles
From The Weekday Vegetarians (page 60)
1 14- to 15-ounce block extra firm tofu
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Using your hands, squeeze the tofu like a sponge to expel as much liquid as possible, breaking it into crumbles as you do this. Place the pieces on a paper towel-lined-plate as it breaks, then pat them dry with another paper towel. (The more liquid you expel, the easier it will be to crisp up the tofu.)
Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu then season with salt and pepper and cook undisturbed until brown, about 3-4 minutes. Toss, scraping up anything sticking to the pan, and continue to cook until the crumbles are golden brown and crisp. Push the tofu to the side of the pan and add the garlic and onion, cooking until the onion starts to soften, another few minutes.
Decrease the heat to medium. Stir everything together, then add the chili powder and oregano and cook until the spices get deep in color, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and a tablespoon or two of water. Cook until the tomato paste is distributed and warmed through, about 2 minutes.
2. The Most Thoughtful Gift
For a holiday gift this year, our friend Avideh gave us ingredients to create one of her most favorite dishes from childhood: Ash Reshteh, an herby Persian stew, packed with noodles and beans. The gift felt so right for this moment, when we’re all squirreling away again by ourselves, unsure of how to proceed with dinner guests or nights out. Even though Avideh wasn’t with us, we felt connected to her, and that’s the name of the game these days, right?
You will obviously have your own special meal and special ingredients in mind if you decide to steal this idea, but I for one am glad that Avideh chose Ash Reshteh because we’d never made it before, and that kind of thing passes for fun on a Saturday night in this house. The dish is traditionally a spring Norouz/New Year dish, but Avideh described it as winter vegetarian comfort food (“like winter chili is to Americans”) which, as you know, is my holy grail these days. “My love for this dish originates from my grandmother’s kitchen,” Avideh texted. When her family left Iran she’d ask her mom to make it but it never happened, and it wasn’t until Avideh was married that she tackled cooking it herself. (She said it took several tries to get it right before landing on a modified version from this cookbook.) Here’s the thing, though: The meal itself, topped with crispy onions, and drizzled with mint oil and a yogurt-y kashk sauce, was only a small part of the happiness — Avideh’s gift also forced us to venture out on an otherwise boring winter Saturday to track down a missing ingredient (that kashk, a salty, sour Middle Eastern whey), which led us to discover an amazing Persian market that is only five miles from the town we’ve lived in for 18 years, and that we never knew existed!! (Of course, even if we didn’t have access to that, we could’ve ordered everything online.) We used Samin Nosrat’s recipe in the Times (paywall) but Avideh says this recipe is very close to hers.
In summation: When you’re struggling to think of a gift idea for someone, or even just a way to say “I’m thinking of you,” food is usually the exactly right answer.
3. A Tip From The Pros
Here’s a trick that I picked up during cookbook photo shoots that I thought you might appreciate: Tape your recipes to a cabinet door so they are at eye level and don’t get in the way of the chopping and prepping on the counter. This is especially helpful when you’re experimenting with a new, many-ingredient recipe (that’s Andy referring to Samin’s Ash Reshteh), or when you are cooking multiple recipes at the same time, like on a big holiday….
…You could also, of course, paint the recipes inside a cabinet door, but that might be a little more involved.
If you’re not a subscriber, you’re missing out on bonus content including meal plans (with shopping lists) and deeper-dive personal essays, including My Formula for a Meaningful Day and Noodles with Friends. The primary goal I have for bonus content is to “surprise and delight,” as they say, which is why, in the near future, I’m thinking about rounding up all the girls’ birthday cakes and treats through the years. (Shown here: A chocolate-espresso cake with coffee buttercream for my coffee addict in 2018; one of the THIRTY SIX cakes/pies/treats we enjoyed when they weren’t away for college on their birthdays. OK, gonna sign off to weep now.)
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Have a great week!