Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Roasted Tofu in Zimino

“In zimino”  is a  type of sauce preparation that uses tomatoes and Swiss chard or spinach. It is typically found in Tuscany, but I have also seen it in neighboring Liguria.  Different types of fish, like baccala’, or cephalopods like cuttlefish, and squid, can be made “in zimino”. In fact, I recently prepared baby squid "in zimino" for a dinner party which was so incredibly delicious, that before I had a chance to take a picture for my blog, it was all gone. So I thought I had to make this dish again and share this tasty recipe. Unfortunately, the availability of tender baby squid at the Japanese supermarket where I typically shop was short-lived. So I had to come up with a plan B. I had some tofu in the fridge, and thought, why not try a vegan alternative? And voila’, I came up with this equally tantalizing nutritious and delicious option.

Also, differently from the original version, my sauce has a hint of ginger, which confers an additional layer of flavor. Ginger can be optional, but I highly recommend it.


A bag of power greens from either Trader Joe’s or Simple Truth Brand (A mix of baby chard,      baby kales, baby spinach) or Trader Joe’s Kaleidoscope Chard
1 carrot
1 onion
1/2 celery stalk
a few sprigs of parsley
about 1 cup of of grape tomatoes (finely chopped), or a ladle-full of pureed tomatoes
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger (can also be finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press)-for grating, a long cheese grater works great.
½ red chili pepper (peperoncino)-fresh or dry- or a whole chile pepper, for extra pungency
olive oil- enough to coat the bottom of a medium size pan, plus about 1 tablespoon to drizzle the tofu
good quality tofu (½ block)


Preheat oven to 350F.

Remove the tofu from the package and pat dry with paper towels. Line a plate with a paper towel and place the tofu on top. Then set  a plate on top of the tofu and weigh it down with something heavy, like a can of vegetables that you may have in your cupboard.  Allow the liquid to train into the paper towel for about 15-30 minutes. Remove the weight,  and drain off the excess liquid. Slice the pressed tofu into cubes or thin slices.
Drizzle the olive oil on a baking sheet,  add the cut tofu and gently toss it around the  baking sheet so that all sides are coated.  Bake tofu until the outside of the tofu is golden and the pieces look slightly puffed, about 30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the tofu. If baking slices, the baking time should be reduced.  Toss  occasionally so the pieces bake evenly.

While the tofu is baking, finely chop the carrot, onion, celery and parsley  on a cutting board, or pulse  in a food processor until fine. This is what we refer to in Italian as “battuto di odori”

Blanch the greens for a couple of  minutes in salted boiling water, strain in a colander and  allow to cool.  Once cooled, squeeze as much water out as possible either with your hands, or by pressing a small bowl against the greens that are still resting inside the colander .

Once the greens are no longer dripping water, place them  on a cutting board and chop them coarsely. Set aside.

In a medium size pan, heat the olive oil, add the chopped “odori” and cook until softened (about 10 minutes), being careful not to burn them. Add the garlic,  the chopped greens,  and cook down for a few minutes. Remove the garlic, unless you don’t mind garlic pieces in your sauce. Add the tomatoes(or puree) and the ginger, and cook down for another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with  peperoncino, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the roasted tofu cubes directly to the sauce or,  if  roasting thin slices, make bite-size sandwiches as I did.

Alternatively,  you can use fried tofu or polenta. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Food Saving and Repurposing Ideas

I don’t fancy being wasteful, so I am always compelled to make use of what I have in my kitchen before it goes bad. Although I must admit, as my husband points out, to avoid pitching $2 worth of ingredients, I will end up spending a lot more in time,  and additional ingredients, just  to save the one item that is about to expire. But that is beside the point...although he makes a good point.  Well, this weekend I was in this food saving mood, as that carton of buttermilk that was still sitting unopened in my refrigerator was begging to get utilized. So I decided to make homemade buttermilk pancakes, which the kids enjoyed with Nutella and/or real maple syrup. I made enough that they also had some for breakfast on Monday.  Pancake breakfast on a school morning is always a special treat.  

And while I was on this baking kick, I thought, why not use the remaining buttermilk to make fresh biscuits? And so everyone enjoyed one (or two..) for brunch with smoked salmon, avocados, grape tomatoes, baby greens, eggs (boiled or poached).

 But I wasn’t done yet!  You may have seen me post various assortments of cereal treats on my Facebook page "Kitchening with Francesca", and the reason being is that there is always leftover cereal at my house that nobody wants to consume, and rather than wasting it, I always enjoy experimenting with it to make treats. And most of the times they turn out good enough to eat :o) In fact, on this last round of experimenting, the chocolate chip soft bake cookies were such a hit with the kids, that they were gone by the next day.  For these, I adapted a chocolate chip cookie recipe by substituting some of the flour with flour obtained from organic oat and marshmallow cereal (all I did I put the cereal in a food processor (or vitamix blender) and reduced it to powder.  Because I used cereal which was already sweet, I of course used less sugar than the recipe called for.   For the whole grain granola treats, I used a mixture of raisin bran and granola, but the recipe is a bit more involved, so I will save that for another time. But I can assure you that not much is left of those couple dozen whole grain treats.

In the meantime, go ahead and experiment, and feel free to share your results.  

Happy saving, happy baking, happy savoring.