Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Make Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu like a CHAMP

Hold the chips. I'll have this, please:

SO WHAT if I snack on crispy, pillowy little tofu cubes. So freaking what if I'm obsessed with the crunchy outside, and soft, silky inside. (Especially when dunked in sweet thai chili sauce, or with a few drops of my new favorite gluten free soy sauce. Hubba Hubba.)

To be fair, these little guys also make their way into vegetable stir fry quite often. (Exhibit A, of many Exhibits.)

My tofu-searing was pretty hit-or-miss for a while, until I read this article on The Kitchn that recommended coating the tofu with cornstarch. AAHH of course there's a secret! And let me tell you, it's pretty foolproof. As long as your pan is hot and you've got a little oil action going on, there will. be. crust. 

Only thing is, I'd kinda rather not flip 24 individual tofu cubes in a screaming hot pan. Instead, I cut the whole block in half, pan-fry each half of the tofu block (which is just TWO pieces to flip - go math), then slice it into cubes. No, all 8 sides of each tofu cube are not crispy. But I never miss it. Besides, I'm usually inhaling them too fast for my mouth to notice.

Really hoping you give this method a shot. If you don't already enjoy tofu, maybe it will even make you a convert? Hey, I'm not trying to sell miracles here. Just some crispaaaaay tofu nuggets. You oughta know.

Recipe: Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu Cubes 
(with Scallions and Sesame Seeds)

- Instead of cutting the tofu into cubes, you can leave each slab whole and serve it as a main protein. Or, try slicing each slab into strips (like tofu fries)!
- The crispy cubes can be eaten alone (I think they'd make a great appetizer with a cool dipping sauce), or tossed into stir fries, salads, etc. 
- I think a really sharp, serrated knife is important for slicing the crispy tofu without damaging the crust. (I've been using this one for years and it's still SO sharp. Also works magic on tomatoes!)

1 16-oz. block firm tofu
Canola oil 
Sliced scallions (optional)
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Gluten free dipping sauce, like S&F Sweet Thai Chili Sauce (optional)

Slice open tofu container and drain out all of the liquid. Pat the block of tofu dry with a paper towel.

Rest the tofu on one of the shorter sides, and slice down the middle with a serrated knife to cut it into two equal slabs. (Slabs? Sure, we'll run with that. See pictures for reference.)

To press some of the liquid out of the tofu, stack three folded-in-half paper towels on a cutting board. Place the two tofu slabs on top, and cover the tofu with three more folded-in-half paper towels. Place a heavy skillet (cast iron, if you have it) and a few cans/jars on top of everything to weigh it down. Leave the tofu to drain for at least 5 minutes. 

Discard the paper towels (which should have soaked up a good amount of liquid). Dust the two largest surfaces of each tofu slab with cornstarch, spreading it out and pressing it in with your fingers. You can optionally coat the sides as well if you want to crisp those too.

Place a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add enough canola oil to lightly coat the bottom. (I used about 1.5 teaspoons.) Once the oil is really hot, place the two pieces of tofu in the pan, cut side down. 

Cook for 7 minutes (or until the bottom is very golden and has formed a crust). Flip the tofu, and cook for an additional 7 minutes. (You may need to add another splash of oil after you flip.)

At this point, if you cornstarch-ed the sides of the tofu, you can use tongs to sear all 4 of the sides for 1-2 minutes each. (Sometimes I skip this step.) 

Move the tofu to a cutting board and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to slice each slab of tofu into 12 cubes - cutting lengthwise into thirds, then crosswise into fourths (see photos). You'll want to use a really sharp knife, and be gentle so that the crust doesn't tear off.

Now your crispy tofu cubes are ready to be added to stir fries, salads, or eaten alone! If eating them alone, I top them with a handful of sliced scallions and a few big pinches of toasted sesame seeds. They're extra delicious dunked in a sauce like this one.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Recipe: Blackened Tilapia Tacos

‘So good you’ll want to snort it.’

Or at least that’s the tagline I told my roommate Vic she should use when she bottles this shit and sells it and makes SO MUCH CASH MONEY that I will never have to pay rent ever.

Maybe don’t snort it though. Because there’s cayenne. And I think that would pretty much be game over for your nostrils. <----- very serious disclaimer pls don't sue me.

So this spice rub: it’s wildly amazing and completely transforms tilapia, which can sometimes be a bit... meh. It's a little spicy and a little sweet (you can definitely taste the brown sugar), and it forms this nice crust that keeps the fish incredibly moist. To the point where if you microwave the leftovers the next day, the tilapia is still perfectly flaky and not the least bit dry. Dry fish = no bueno. 

I recommend getting your taco fixings all sorted out before you start cooking the fish, because it cooks FAST. Like, 5-minutes-total, fast. Faster than ordering Seamless, fast.

As with any taco, feel free to go wild with whatever toppings you'd like, but I think the shredded cabbage is pretty vital. Sounds boring, I know, but you need that crunch. Oh also, make extra avocado crema because some will likely get eaten before it makes it to its final taco destination. Speaking from experience(s). 

Recipe: Blackened Tilapia Tacos
[original recipe from A Tbsp of Therapy]

Taco Fixings
Corn tortillas (for pliable tortillas, warm a stack in the microwave with a damp paper towel over the top; for crispy tortillas, bake them at 350 degrees for 5 minutes on each side; for charred tortillas, use tongs to hold one tortilla at a time over an open flame on the stove)
Avocado crema (in a food processor, blend 2 ripe avocados, salt to taste, lime juice, and 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt; adjust seasoning as needed)
Fresh salsa (I like Trader Joe's fresh salsa)
Lime wedges 
Shredded green cabbage (I use the pre-shredded bag from Trader Joe's)

Blackened Taco Ingredients (note: these spice measurements will coat four 6 to 7 ounce filets. I highly recommend at least doubling the recipe so you have some to spare!)
1 tb paprika
1 tb brown sugar
2 tsp oregano 
1.5 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
.5 tsp cayenne (red pepper)
Four 6 to 7 ounce tilapia filets 
Cooking spray

Pat the tilapia filets dry on both sides with paper towels. Spray one side of each of the filets with cooking spray, and liberally sprinkle on the blackening spice mix. Pat it into the fish with your hands. Flip the filets over, and repeat so that both sides are well coated with the spice mix. 

Heat 2 large skillets over medium-high heat. Spray pans with cooking spray, or coat with a little canola/vegetable oil. Place 2 filets in each pan. Cook for 3 minutes, then carefully flip. Cook for 2 minutes on the second side, until fish is cooked through and easily flakes apart. Transfer to a serving dish. (If you're only using 1 pan, cook in batches.)

To make a taco with the fixings listed above, start with 1 corn tortilla. Layer the green cabbage first, then about 1/2 of a tilapia filet, a spoonful of salsa, and a dollop of avocado crema. Top with a squeeze of lime. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Recipe: Baked 3-Ingredient Lemon Pepper Wings

New working blog name: Food My Mom Makes and So I Make It Too.

Ugh it's too long for a Twitter handle. Back to Gluten Free Blondie. 

As you can guess, this is another one of my mom's WORLD FAMOUS recipes. (I say 'world' because I'm positive if the whole entire world knew about these wings they'd be making them too.)

Just like the rosemary marcona almonds, these are another appetizer where if you serve them, people will be all 'Wtf is on these give me the recipe immediately'. And you will give them the recipe, which is a total of three ingredients, and they will be like 'No dude, I'm serious. Give me it.'

But that's really it. Chicken, lemon pepper, and a can of canola oil to make it stick. Something incredibly magical happens when you crust some little wings and drumsticks with lemon pepper seasoning. The chicken meat stays so moist (like fall off their teeny tiny bones moist), and the skin. Oh dear god the skin. It's crispy and crackly and spicy and lemony and everything chicken wing skin should be. 

You can make these for the Super Bowl in a few weekends, and they'll be the first thing to go. Or you can make them for dinner tomorrow night and eat them all yourself. (I plan on doing both!)

PS. This post was almost, almost just a link to the chicken wang song. Bless the soul who created a video that is a seamless 10 hours of pure joy.

Recipe: Baked 3-Ingredient Lemon Pepper Wings

-If your chicken isn't separated into wings and drumsticks already, you can separate them yourself! The image above shows where to cut the chicken. Use a large, sharp knife and push it down right in between the joints. (Ew, I know. Worth it, though.)

Chicken wings (combo of wings and drumsticks)
Cooking spray
Lemon pepper 
Fresh parsley, cilantro or basil, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Line a baking sheet with foil.  Coat lightly with cooking spray. Arrange the chicken on the baking sheet, skin side up. Coat all of the chicken pieces with cooking spray, then sprinkle liberally with the lemon pepper. (You can't really use too much, so don't be shy.)

Use tongs to flip each piece of chicken. Coat this side with cooking spray, then sprinkle liberally with lemon pepper.

Place the baking sheet in the oven, and cook for 20 minutes. Use tongs to flip each piece of chicken so they are now skin side up. If you notice that some of the lemon pepper stuck to the foil, sprinkle on some more. Cook for an additional 25 minutes, until the skin is really crisp and nicely browned. 

Serve hot, warm or room temp, and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh parsley (optional). 
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