Recipe Wednesday: tofu and greens

Sometimes you get home late and you’re hungry and tired at the same time. You want something satisfying but not too heavy, so you can go to bed soon after you eat. That’s when we tend to just saute some tofu and serve it with a side of greens. These days the greens are usually kale, because that’s pretty much the only greens besides spinach that you can find in the grocery stores here. I don’t know if it’s just Scotland or the whole island or what, but the grocery store has no collard greens, no swiss chard, no broccoli rabe, not even beet greens (and there are lots of beets which makes me wonder what becomes of the greens). Matthew’s foods has kai-lam (chinese broccoli), and  several other interesting-looking leaves I have yet to try. The kai-lam does in a pinch, but it does not come close to the huge freshly-picked bunches of kai-lam we used to get from the chinese farmers at the saturday morning market in Union Square. If there is one thing I miss most about Boston it might be that. Although I don’t miss the big green broccoli worms that came with it, which were a little disconcerting (but not enough to stop eating it).

I digress. We make do with kale, but you can sub in whatever green you like best. Broccoli is good too.

Ingredients

  • vegetable oil
  • 1 block of tofu, cut into big cubes/strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 thumb of ginger, minced
  • a splash of soy sauce
  • red pepper flakes
  • lots of kale, rinsed, tough stems removed
  • 1 lemon

Directions

  • heat the oil in a large skillet and add the tofu*
  • reduce the heat to medium and saute for 15 minutes, stirring regularly to keep from sticking
  • Once the tofu has browned, add garlic, ginger and pepper flakes and saute for another minute or two
  • Add the soy sauce and saute for another minute or two, until mostly evaporated
  • Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside. Add the rinsed kale to the pan and saute until bright green but still a bit toothy.
  • Add the juice of half a lemon and some salt.
  • Serve with wedges of lemon.

* you could also brush the tofu with oil and soy sauce and put it under the broiler until brown.


The February/March Report

I’m still amazed at how easy the winters are in Scotland. Sure it’s cold and wet, but it’s not a patch on a miserable Canadian maritime winter. It doesn’t have the big snowfalls of New Brunswick or the stinging -15 wind chill of Ontario. February 2011 in Aberdeen has been quite amenable and testament to this is the number of times one can climb outside. Here’s a keen couple of climbers taking advantage of calm seas and February sun!

This season began as early as January with some bouldering down in the Lake District but our first climb on the sea cliffs was on January 27 at the Red Wall. It was a glorious sunny day. Crisp temps of course, but still, this was the start of the 2011 season. Since then we’ve been to the Red Wall four more times. One has to get on this cliff before April brings the nesting sea birds. The last time we visiting there was a noticeable increase in the level of bird … activity. It was really starting to stink. Here’s our friend Mark on belay. Doesn’t look too good does it? I think this venue is closed until next year.

We’ve been a bit lucky with the weather this year. There’s been less snow and more sunny days. Here, our stylish friend Matthew shows us how it’s done in the winter sun – climbing in a tank top. As you can see, the cliff was much cleaner the month previous.

One day our friend Dan called me up with the challenge of finding a multi-pitch VS. There was really only one venue I could think of. Earnsheugh. A dreary place that faces north; is covered in lichen; is rotten in places and is the tallest sea cliff around. From a distance it looks like it’s about to fall into the sea! It’s hard to believe that it has some of the best climbing on the coast. Here’s Dan treading carefully on our climb.

Ok, back to sunshine and clean rock! Amelia and I have visited the always pleasant Deceptive Wall a couple of times. It’s just down the road from our house and is home to some of the better quality easy routes around. Did I say easy? My mistake. This wall has tricky gear and some steep climbing. It’s the perfect venue to improve those trad skills. Our friends Joe and Anna took advantage of the nice weather by walking the coastal trail from Cove to Aberdeen. Here’s a shot they took of Amelia on their way by. Looks good eh?!

We’ve made a few visits here as I’ve mentioned. Once with a visiting PhD from Switzerland who now also climbs regularly with us in the climbing gym. Below, Sandrina belays Amelia on an unknown (at the time) climb in the same area. Meme is honing her skills nicely. By the time summer rolls around we’ll be swapping leads on mountain routes. Can’t wait!

It hasn’t all been sunny skies and fun adventures. There were a couple of weeks of soaking rain and gloom and cold but we don’t take pictures of that. We mostly just focus on getting as much work done as we can so that when the sun comes out again, we can take advantage. So far so good! Here’s a parting shot that isn’t someone climbing on rock.

More pictures below in the gallery.

Recipe Wednesday: thai red curry

Thai curry is so perplexing. Over the years we’ve tried to get close to yummy restaurant curries, but it’s never even close. Maybe it’s the fish sauce. While what we make may not taste authentic, it’s delicious anyway.

Ingredients

For the paste

  • 1 thumb of galangal and/or ginger root, chopped
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, outer leaves stripped and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 lime leaves
  • a few hot peppers, to taste
  • a splash of soy sauce
  • a splash of lime juice
  • a little sugar
  • coriander and cumin, toasted and ground
  • a few tablespoons of coconut milk

For the curry

  • vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • coconut milk
  • Half a head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • A handful of green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • cilantro, chopped
  • basil, chopped
  • lime juice
  • lime leaves
  • jasmine rice

Directions

Saute the onion in oil for a few minutes with a bit of salt, then add the potato. While they cook, blend all the curry paste ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth(ish!). It helps to pull the stems out of the lime leaves.

Add the paste to the potatoes and onions and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Then add coconut milk and water. How much coconut milk and water to add depends on how thick and/or watery you like it, but I usually use a half can of coconut milk* and about as much water. This makes something quite a bit thicker than most restaurant curries but still pretty soupy. If you put the rest of the can in a sealed jar or small tupperware in the fridge it can keep for a week. Or freeze it. It doesn’t seem to hurt it.

Add the cauliflower and lime leaves and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Taste and add more spice/salt as needed. Then add the green beans and simmer for another 5 or 6 minutes, then the red peppers and lime juice and saute for another 5 or 6. Just before serving, stir in fresh basil and cilantro. Serve with jasmine rice and slices of lime.

* “light” coconut milk seems to just be coconut milk with water already added. Don’t buy it!

 

Recipe Wednesday: leek and mushroom frittata

I suppose I could start calling this “recipe thursday”, but if I did that I’d probably start posting it on friday. So let’s pretend we all live in Hawai’i and it’s still wednesday. My excuse is that we usually go to the climbing wall on wednesdays and don’t get home until late.

The musroom/leek/gruyere/thyme theme is a common one for us. They just taste really good together and are a versatile combination.

Ingredients

  • a few dried porcini mushrooms
  • 8-9 white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 leek, sliced thinly and then washed
  • dried thyme
  • gruyere cheese, about a half cup grated
  • 4 eggs
  • fresh thyme

Directions

  • Preheat the oven at a medium temperature.
  • Soak the porcini mushrooms in 1/3 cup of warm water.
  • While they soak, sear the mushrooms in olive oil with a bit of salt until they start to brown. Add half the garlic to the pan and saute for a minute or two.
  • Deglaze the pan with the some of the porcini soaking liquid – remove the porcinis first and just pour in the top half (the bottom can be a bit sandy).
  • When most of the liquid has evaporated, remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
  • Finely chop the porcinis and add them to the pan along with the washed leek and dried thyme. Cover and cook on low heat for 5-6 minutes, or until the leeks are nice and tender.
  • Whisk the eggs in a bowl.
  • Mix together the eggs, mushrooms, and leeks and pour into a baking pan.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the egg is cooked through. Top with gruyere and bake for another minute or two, until it is melted.
  • Serve garnished with fresh thyme.
  • We usually serve this with a side of pasta tossed with butter and poppy seeds.

Recipe Wednesday: Broccoli fettucini

This is as quick and easy as it gets if you use pre-roasted peppers and pre-fabricated pasta. But if you have a bit more time and want to do it all from scratch, it’s even better.

Ingredients

  • fettucini*
  • olive oil
  • 1 head of broccoli, top separated into florets, stem peeled and sliced
  • 1 or 2 roasted red peppers, cut into short strips**
  • 3 cloves of diced garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 10-12 olives (kalamata or similar), pitted and coarsely chopped
  • chopped parsley
  • grated parmesan

Directions

  • Bring a big pot of water to the boil and add the fettucini. Set your timer to go off 1 minute before they will be done.
  • In the meantime, saute the garlic with the roasted red peppers and broccoli stems for a minute or two and reduce the heat to minimum.
  • Save two slices of lemon for garnish and squeeze the rest into the pan with the garlic. Add the olives.
  • When your pasta is one minute from being done, add the broccoli florets to the boiling pasta water. Cook the broccoli and pasta together for another minute, and then strain – but save a half-cup of the water out.
  • Toss the pasta/broccoli with the red pepper mixture from the pan. Add the reserved water (otherwise it’s a bit dry).
  • Serve with parsley and parmesan.

* fresh pasta is much better than dried for this because it absorbs so much more water and flavor. The fresh pasta in the refrigerator case at the grocery store works great. We often make our own fresh pasta, which is easier than it sounds.

** we often buy jars of roasted red peppers because roasting and skinning peppers is kind of a pain. But they are nicer if you roast them yourself. To do that, cut the peppers in half and brush them with oil and put them cut-side down on a baking sheet. Then roast them under the broiler in the oven on high heat until the skin is blackened (10-15 minutes). Quickly put them in a tupperware container with a tight lid, or a zip-lock bag. The steam will lift the skin and make it easier to remove. After 5 minutes or so remove the peppers one at a time and pull off the skin. It helps to dip your fingers in cold water.

This photo has nothing to do with broccoli fettucini.

Recipe Wednesday: Pad thai

I love thai food, but most of it tastes better in the restaurant than at home. This is an exception — just as good at home, with very little effort. Delicious, full of protein, and super fast.

Ingredients

  • Broad egg or rice noodles
  • plenty of vegetable oil
  • a block of firm tofu
  • diced garlic
  • a handful of chopped peanuts
  • diced hot pepper
  • bean sprouts
  • 1-2 eggs
  • rice wine vinegar
  • paprika
  • juice of 1 lime
  • brown sugar
  • cilantro (AKA coriander)

Directions

  • Put water on to boil and cook the noodles. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly in cold water as soon as they are done cooking, lest they get gummy – especially if they are rice noodles.
  • In the meantime, fry the tofu in oil until it starts to brown. This can take 10-15 minutes. If you’ve got a good nonstick pan/wok this is an easy step but if you’re using uncoated stainless steel or cast iron, as we do, you’ll need lots of oil, the right temperature, and attentive stirring to keep the tofu from sticking and breaking apart.  Alternatively, you can buy pre-fried tofu in most asian stores, in which case you can skip this step.
  • When it’s done, remove the tofu from the pan. You may want to put it on a paper towel to soak up some of the excess oil.
  • Slice off two slices of lime for garnish. Squeeze the rest of the lime into a small bowl. Add an equal amount of rice vinegar, a sprinkle of paprika, and a pinch or two of sugar.
  • Break the eggs into the pan and stir-fry on high heat, adding the garlic, hot peppers, and peanuts. When the eggs are done, add the bean sprouts and tofu.
  • Add the noodles and lime juice mixture to the pan, stir for a few moments to re-heat the noodles, and serve garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.