Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tofu Spaghetti Squash with Kale

The preparation time for this dish is a bit up there, but don't let that scare you away. Flavored with copious amounts of garlic, ginger, and crushed red chili flakes, this meal is vitamin-packed and sure to leave you feeling energized. The benefits of dark leafy greens, coupled with a lean vegetarian protein, layered together with hearty spaghetti squash make this a meal that really helps you if you're short in meeting your five-to-nine goal (I'm talking about the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables you should be eating per day) while sustaining you for quite a while. It might seem like the recipe calls for an excessive amount of oil (and maybe I overestimated in my measurements), but the oil really lends a creaminess to the mixture that melds all the flavors together. The healthy fat contributed by extra virgin olive oil also makes this a long-lasting, well-rounded meal versus just a pile of vegetables with some protein.

From the creative mind of Marko (I believe that he said that this dish resulted from a combination of four or so recipes), I give you one dish that is really worth the effort. Need I add that it becomes more delectable overnight? Lunch the next day will knock you off your feet!
The Stuff:
  • a large, sharp knife
  • large glass baking dish
  • a cutting board
  • clean kitchen towel
  • paper towels
  • 2 - 3 large books
  • wax paper
  • gallon-size plastic bag (for marinading)
  • 1 medium sauté pan
  • 1 wok or large sauté pan
The Edibles:
  • one ginormous spaghetti squash (maybe about 4 pounds or so?)
  • 1 block tofu
  • 4 T. low-fat Italian dressing
  • 5-6 T. olive oil, divided
  • about 5 cloves garlic, minced (or the equivalent in jarred or powdered), divided
  • about 4 T. ginger, either fresh (finely minced) or powdered, divided
  • crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • sea salt to taste
  • ½ red onion, sliced into pieces ¼ inch by 1 inch
  • a bunch of kale, cut or torn into 1 inch peices
  • ¼ c. sundried tomatoes, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
The Making (for spaghetti squash):
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Using a strong, sharp knife, cut squash in half lengthwise. (This will be hard to do. I suggest a.) strong arms, b.) a strong man, or c.) sheer will, a.k.a. my method of choice.)
  3. Remove seeds using a spoon or fork, and place spaghetti squash cut sides down in a baking dish (or two if it's a large squash). Fill dish with about 1/2 inch of water.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance. Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool enough to be easily handled.
  5. Once cool, use a large spoon to scoop the stringy pulp from the squash, and set aside in a bowl.
The Making (for tofu):
  1. Slice tofu block in half so that you make two thinner slabs. On top of a cutting board place one clean, thick kitchen towel, folded in half once or twice. Place one paper towel folded in half on top of cloth towel; lay tofu slabs on top of paper towel. Cover tofu with an additional folded paper towel. Place 2-3 large cookbooks (or if you’re me, public health textbooks) on top of tofu, so as to press out some of the water. After at least 30 minutes, flip over cloth towel, replace paper towels, and flip over tofu. Re-cover with heavy books and allow the tofu to be pressed for at least 10 more minutes.
  2. After pressing, cut tofu into small pieces, about ½ inch in every direction. Cover a plate with wax paper; place tofu cubes on paper and place in freezer for at least 1 hour.
  3. Combine Italian dressing, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 clove garlic, ½ tablespoon ginger, salt, and a hearty shake of crushed red chili pepper flakes (maybe ½ tablespoon?) in a gallon-size closeable bag. Remove frozen tofu cubes from the wax paper and place in bag; marinade for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator or overnight if you are one of those who plan ahead.
The Making (the real deal... Tofu Spaghetti Squash with Kale)
  1. Once you’re ready to begin cooking, pull out tofu so as to help thaw it a bit more. You will use it soon.
  2. Cover sauté pan with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and place over medium heat. Dump the equivalent of 1 clove minced or powdered garlic in pan, pushing it around with your wooden spoon or spatula for about 30 seconds. Place onion in pan and stir around so as to ensure it is completely covered with oil. Cook for about 2 minutes on medium, then turn down to medium low. Stir frequently; cook until the onion turns somewhat translucent and is caramelized (really juicy looking).
  3. Cover wok or super large sauté pan with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and place over medium heat. Dump the equivalent of 1 clove minced or powdered garlic in cooking vessel of choice, pushing it around with your wooden spoon or spatula for about 30 seconds. Add kale by the handful, stirring frequently so as to ensure oil is distributed over its surface. The green will cook down significantly, so if you feel you cannot fit it all in at once, wait until some has cooked down and add more at that point. Once all the kale is looking really wilty, turn stove off. Add onion mixture to kale and set aside.
  4. Cover the sauté pan you used for the onions with 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and place over medium heat. Dump the equivalent of 1 clove minced or powdered garlic in cooking pan, pushing it around with your wooden spoon or spatula for about 30 seconds. Empty the bag containing the marinating tofu over the pan. Make sure the tofu is in a single layer, but do not stir around. Allow the tofu to cook 5 or so minutes, checking every minute after 3 minutes. To check, carefully flip over 1 cube of tofu; you are looking for a dark golden crust (not burned, not barely colored, somewhere in between). Once your test reveals this, carefully move each cube so that another side is on the pan. Allow the cubes to cook for a few minutes to achieve the golden crust on another side. Then you can be impatient. Stir the tofu (no need to worry about flipping each individual piece anymore), and allow the cubes to cook for a few minutes longer.
  5. Meanwhile, re-heat your wok (or stand-in pan) to medium. Stir the kale-onion mix a bit to get the pieces loose. Add spaghetti squash, sundried tomatoes, 1 to 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, remaining garlic, ginger, and a generous amount of the crushed red chili pepper flakes. Add a bit of salt if you like. Give everything a good stir, making sure that the ingredients are well dispersed throughout the spaghetti squash. After fully mixed, add tofu and stir to incorporate fully.
  6. Serve topped with dried edamame (for crunch) and/or a sprinkle of crushed red chili pepper flakes or the rooster chili sauce (for heat… if you’re not a sissy like me)

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