I had a meatless entree all lined up to post this morning when I saw, to my simultaneous pleasure and dismay, that Mark Bittman completely scooped me in the New York Times food section. Fortunately, his article on reducing our consumption of meat was terrific.
Terrific because a lot of people want to eat less meat, and terrific, too, for completely -- and openly -- sidestepping any discussion of the myriad reasons why. By taking the politics (or religion or health or animal rights) out of the equation, he allowed the meat-eating reader to relax and actually hear what he had to say.
A year and a half ago I attended a conference at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. Mollie Katzen (of Moosewood fame) spoke about re-thinking the composition of our dinner plates. She showed photos of the typical American dinner with a huge hunk meat dead center, and a few grains or veggies scattered slipshod alongside. She then showed photos of a re-designed composition, with the meat hunk about half its original size and pushed off to the side, and several large scoops of colorful vegetables, nuts, and grains center-stage. Audible gasps could be heard around the room as we all acknowledged just how much more appetizing the second photos appeared.
This was Bittman's point as well, and I couldn't agree more.
Along with today's article, Bittman offers several recipes, all of which include meat. I understand why; after all, his point was that we don't have to give up meat entirely in order to eat less of it. But I think his point would have been stronger had he offered at least one meat-free option.
I've done it instead.
A few weeks ago, my friend Alex asked me for a grill-friendly vegetarian entree. He suggested something with seitan, but I couldn't quite take the plunge.
Tofu and I are on much better terms.
Recipe for Grilled Tofu with Peanut-Coconut Sauce
This sauce would go well with almost anything, but it really turns tofu from bland to fabulous. Make sure you buy extra firm (sometimes called super firm) tofu for the grill, otherwise it will fall apart. You may also want to double the quantity of zucchini or add some chunked red bell peppers to the mix. If you go this route, I suggest you double the marinade.
Makes 2 normal sized (adult) portions and 2 smaller sized (kid) portions
1 pound extra firm (or super firm) tofu
2 small zucchini, cut in 1/2" rounds
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce, divided
1 teaspoon garlic oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2-1/2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar, divided
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup peanut butter, preferably natural style
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 scant teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons grated ginger (from a jar would be fine)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Cooked brown rice, optional
Preheat the grill to medium-high.
Lay the tofu flat on a cutting board and, with your knife parallel to the board, carefully slice into equal thirds. (You're essentially creating three thinner rectangles of tofu, each roughly 3/4" thick.) Pat well with paper towels and place in a large zip-top bag along with the zucchini.
In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, garlic oil, sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon of the rice vinegar. Pour into the bag. Shmoosh the marinade around the tofu and zucchini and lay flat on the counter while you make the sauce. Flip once or twice if you think about it.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, the remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons of rice vinegar, and the coconut milk, peanut butter, brown sugar, lime juice, ginger, and garlic. Whisk over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. (Overcooking may cause it to separate.) Remove from heat and set aside.
Turn the grill heat down to low. Lay the tofu and vegetables on well-oiled grates and grill, flipping 2-3 times, for about 6 minutes for the tofu and 10 minutes for the zucchini. Serve with the sauce and some steamed brown rice, if desired.