A Tale of Two Ingredients

In between letting biochem take over the last couple weeks and being on that pre-spring break schoolwork grind, I did cook with two new (to me) ingredients in the last week. While not explicitly listed in my list of nom goals, I’m always up for a new ingredient or a new recipe to try. It keeps things interesting. Plus I have a pretty patient and forgiving beau who will eat whatever I cook.

This week I made…

Tofu. I had never made tofu before but decided to try it because I like to have some meals throughout the week that are meatless and because this recipe was basically tofu that was crispy coated in soy sauce. I was sold. The recipe I used here is courtesy of Budget Bytes.

The extra firm tofu before pressing.

I learned that when you make tofu you have to “press” the tofu. Tofu is packed in water so before you cook it you need to squeeze the water out of the tofu block. Budget Bytes recommends pressing the tofu between two plates lined with paper towels or a cloth and weighing the top plate down with some canned goods. So that’s what I did. I weighed my top plate down with a couple jars of pasta sauce I had on hand. I evidently did not get the engineering genes in my family because I couldn’t get the weight on the top plate balanced just right on the tofu block so that it was sturdy. There were two instances of jars sliding off the plate onto the floor. Sorry, downstairs neighbors. Those marinara jars must be made of crazy strong glass because nothing broke..thank goodness.

I finally got it together enough to press the tofu for 30 minutes. And A LOT of water came out onto those paper towels. Who knew. I think next time I would press the tofu for longer and change out the paper towels more than once to soak up some more moisture. But after 30 minutes I was hungry so I forged ahead.

After pressing, I cut the tofu into cubes, coated it in corn starch, and started cooking it. Things were going great until I realized those little tofu cubes looove to stick together in the frying pan. I frequently needed to separate the cubes so I could cook each side. Maybe I needed more cornstarch coating? Noted for next time.

The soy sauce mixture complete with lots of sesame seeds.

I finally got the cubes nice and crispy. I cooked the broccoli in the soy sauce mixture, added the tofu back to the pan, and started drooling. Best part of this recipe was definitely using frozen broccoli and not needing to slice a single vegetable.

The tofu and broccoli final product.

Verdict: tasty! I would add some sort of spiciness to the sauce next time – maybe sriracha or something similar. But that crispy tofu was on point.

And the second new ingredient I tried this week was..

Nutritional yeast. I’ve been reading a lot of food blogs recently that are vegan or vegetarian. I don’t know why – I’m not vegan or vegetarian. Links lead to links which lead me to a veggie-filled dinner that happens to look good and easy to make. Anyway, their recipes often call for nutritional yeast, something I had to google. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is full of vitamins, particularly B vitamins. All those B vitamins and its versatility could make it an important element in the vegan diet. Typical sources of B vitamins are meat, eggs, dairy, etc. which are not eaten in the vegan diet.

I decided to make these pesto veggie bowls from She Likes Food. The homemade pesto called for nutritional yeast so I decided I was up for it.

I couldn’t find it at my normal grocery store so I had to go to the market where they have the bulk bins. I’m not going to lie – my first impression was that the look and smell of nutritional yeast was a little off-putting. It looks a little like sawdust and smells like nutty sawdust. But I kept an open mind.

This yeast eventually made it into this beautiful green pesto. And it tasted good! The yeast has a subtle nutty flavor so I think parmesan cheese would be a good substitute if I decided to take the non-vegan approach next time.

Makin’ that pesto in the food processor.

We ate this yeast-y (ha…ew) pesto over roasted veggies and quinoa and it was a super satisfying dinner.

Pesto and veggie bowl final product.

Verdict: eh I could take it or leave it. I’m not sold on nutritional yeast for me. I didn’t mind that it was there but wouldn’t miss it if were gone. I have some leftover so I’ll try it in another recipe when I find one.

Time to pick that next new ingredient!

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