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February 22, 2005

Small-Time Cooks 2-22-05

Maria and I were taking a break from the kitchen for a while. My detective work had slowed down to a crawl; I guess crime only comes out when the weather's bad. We took advantage of the warmth to test out some restaurants and make a few simple dishes. Maria came up with a gem: an orange-glazed tofu that went great over rice and vegetables.

Orange Tofu

Block of firm tofu

2 Tablespoons peanut oil

1 orange

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Slice the tofu into quarter- to half-inch slabs and drain on paper towels. Heat up the peanut oil in a pan over medium high heat.

Peanut oil is excellent for tofu and some vegetables because it's good for you—and doesn't break down in high heat like olive oil. Peanut oil will also give a nice flavor to the tofu that you wouldn't get with vegetable oil. Safflower oil also handles the heat very well.

When the oil is hot, add the tofu slabs. Sauté for about three minutes on each side until the tofu is golden and crispy. Remove from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, juice about half the orange and zest some of the skin, maybe half a teaspoon. Mix together with the soy sauce and brown sugar. Heat the same pan back up to medium high heat and add the orange and sugar mixture.

Once hot, put the tofu back in the pan and toss. Cook, tossing the tofu occasionally to keep well coated. Remove once all sauce is absorbed or when the tofu is nicely glazed. Serve over rice, and try it with sautéed bell peppers and mushrooms.

As a follow-up to the recipes in a recent edition of Small Time Cooks, this is the dessert prepared by the vegan team during the Chicago Iron Chef. They went on to win the competition, and their dish was a standout.

Vegan Team's Iron Chef Dessert

Scone Pastry

1 cup flour

1/6 cup sugar

1/2 Tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 Tablespoon lemon zest

3 Tablespoons soy butter

1/4 cup soy milk (can also use real milk)

1/2 fake egg made from Ener-G Egg Replacer

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Note: The soy butter and Ener-G Egg Replacer can be replaced with real butter and real egg, but that wouldn't be vegan.

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl with lemon zest. Add in soy butter dough, formed into little balls. Mix soy milk, egg and vanilla. Mix into flour and butter mixture, taking care not to handle too much.

Put small amount into muffin tins (scones will rise). Bake at 425 degrees until just golden on top.

Onions

1 yellow or white onion, cut into small slivers

Neutral oil (such as grapeseed)

Heat oil in a medium pan. Add onions, cover, and turn to lowest setting. Stir occasionally until translucent (10 to 15 minutes). Take cover off, turn heat up, and stir constantly, making sure to scrape bottom frequently. Onions are done when they are a rich brown color and form a gooey marmalade mixture. Mix with balsamic vinegar and sugar to taste.

Cut scone in half. Place a dollop of onions on top, then top with a raspberry filled with a drop of balsamic vinegar. Serve with white wine or champagne sorbet. If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can pour wine or champagne into an ice cube dish and stir every 5-10 minutes, until it becomes a sort of icy slush.