Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oh, Nine.

Hello strangers. I missed you.

Did you miss the poorly lit and focused close-ups of my meals?

Like tonight's baked tofu with ginger sauce? know the story. Life gets in the way. These are busy, scary, weary times in which we're living. It takes time and energy for me to collect my thoughts and shape them. So I use photos as a crutch.

We had a really lovely, relaxed, quiet holiday break. Christmas was really nice. My family psychically conspired and all gave me unique, intriguing food items. I'll have to post photos and ask for ideas for how I might use pear vinegar, wild huckleberry honey, and such.

One of the best parts of the holidays was getting to see my sisters. I spent a fun afternoon hanging out in Jess's shop (that apropos name) and Kate, whose visit was compromised by bad weather in Portland, OR, managed to squeeze in a game night at our house. With ample planning and saving, we all hope to spend next Christmas in Portland.

Chicklet, who doesn't just warm to anybody, made herself right at home on Kate's lap during our domino game.

Too (two) much cuteness in one place!

Kate, intent on the game, Chris multitasking in the background, and Chickie wishing I would turn off the damn flash already.

I really love this girl.

I staged this picture to highlight all that is good about winter at our house. Notice the Kuddle Kup I thought nothing of purchasing when I was flush with Christmas bonus money but now makes me cranky because Chicklet won't lie in it of her own volition. That polyester piece of crap cost me $15! Why do I always fall for the impulse buys at Petsmart?

But c' can't deny the toasty coziness that radiates from this photo.

Then, almost as soon as they began (remember...we didn't put our tree up until December 21st), the holidays were over. D. and I stayed in on New Year's Eve. I made a "date meal" of marinated and grilled portabellos for me and a steak for D., richly mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and a standard salad (mixed greens, toasted pecans, blue cheese crumbles, shaved carrots, olive/balsamic/mustard dressing). We didn't drink a drop of alcohol. I think it was the first completely sober New Year's Eve I'd had since I was pregnant. We could see the First Night fireworks from our front yard but it was too cold to stand outside for long. It was sweet and so low key it was almost catatonic. I guess this is aging, y'all.

My new students arrived this week and I'm back into the crazy routine. I drove to and from the airport five times in four days.

Here are the new Ford Fellows and Fulbright Scholars and me, in front of Hank Kaminsky's world peace fountain - a must-see for new international students. It was freezing cold on Saturday.

It's now been about three months since Stella and I made the conscious decision to eat lower on the food chain and cut out most meats in entirety. We still eat fish and seafood some, about which I also have questions and serious concerns, but at least I can say that I could easily kill them for food if I had to. I think everything I put in my body I should be able to catch, kill, or make from scratch.

That's not to say I still won't eat, like, Rotel dip sometimes...but I think eating only what you can make from the earth is a guiding diet principle - as also , apparently, does Mark Bittman. If you're not already reading him regularly, then you've got to start. You do! He takes all the intimidation out of cooking. People have asked me, "How do you know to cook what you do?" and all I can tell them is that I know what flavors I like and every meal starts with my thinking about the flavors I want to create. I start with flavors I know will taste good, think about what textures I'll need to keep it interesting, and then play around a little. Technique comes from that same curiosity.

Tonight I started with a super basic ingredient - tofu...the great sponge. I didn't want mushy tofu because I was cooking it in a sauce with soft veggies. Usually I'd drain it, season it and fry the tofu chunks but I'm trying to eat healthier, so I sprayed the chunks in olive oil, sprinkled them in kosher salt, garlic powder and, as an afterthought, curry powder and put 'em in a 325 oven for about an hour, flipping every 15 min. or so. This made them crunchy and chewy.

Then I put the chunks in a bowl and doused them in about 2 tbs. minced ginger, 1/2 c. or so of the ginger lime marinade/sauce Jessy gave me for Christmas, a couple of dashes of toasted sesame oil, Worcester sauce, tamari, and umeboshi vinegar. I let this sit while I chopped veggies.

Here are the veggies. I used what I had in the fridge. I was really hoping we still had red peppers because I think it really needs that blast of color. Purple cabbage might be nice, or carrots. Oh well..I wasn't about to make a special run to the store.

So I threw it all in the pot with some sesame seeds I'd toasted and a little cornstarch mixed with water. In the meantime I cooked (sacrilege!) instant brown rice.

The cilantro and green onion are meant to be the garnish. If they cook too long they get stringy and lose color. Plus, I like the fresh flavor you get from throwing these in at the very end.

Here you go. And it only took me about $10 and 3 hours to make!

So how's the new year been treating you?


Alisson said...

Ok, yum! I have never baked tofu, but it looks delicious and I love it when it has a nice crust on the outside and I usually turn to frying to get it that way.
Keep up your wonderful photos. I don't always post comments but I check your blog like every day.
Love you Alannah :)

stephanie said...

It took Pepper a couple of weeks before she eventually would curl up in her "doggie bed" on her own. She still prefers the couch though...
Maybe rub that sucker with some catnip, or put it in the linen closet for a while :)

I love your pictures of family and food! you should have heard Z this weekend - he was asking all kinds of questions about being vegetarian.

Alannah said...

Love you too Alisson! What I wouldn't give for one of your amazing confections right now....

Uh oh, Stephanie. Am I gonna be in trouble with J. if the kids start wanting to go veggie?

Love the idea of rubbing the Kuddle Kup (I just kan't stop writing that) with katnip (sorry).

jennifer erwin said...

This looks completely scrumptious. Yum.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you make tofu look delicious, damn you! I am going to make this!

Chicklet looks just like Billy No Mates. Whilst poor Billy never gets anything purchased for him, I have recently bought no less than THIRTEEN assorted hammocks, beds and hanging sleep sacks etc for the rats, guinea pigs and ferret.

And old chewed one was druing under the radiator the oter day and Billy climber in so I've left it there for him, poor deprived cat.

Stacy said...

Mmmmm...just the sight of the green onions and cilantro on top makes my tummy growl.

allison w. said...

i always freeze tofu before i use it (defrost first!) it gives it an amazing absorbancy and firmness, plus i don't have to worry about it going bad if i don't use it for a while.

Alannah said...

Jennifer - hi! I'm a fan of your food blogs. Love the idea of focusing on soup recipes.

Mumb - I thought the exact same thing when I saw photos of ol' Billy. I never knew I liked black cats with tiny white spots on their bellies until Chickie came into our life.

Allison - good idea on freezing tofu. I always seem to use half and then the other half slowly goes bad. *Ding ding* of course....freeze the rest! Duh!

Anonymous said...

Looks like we had similar NYEs. No drinking for P for 8 weeks because of meds he's on. We did stop by a friend's house and when the ball dropped on tv we said our goodbyes to everyone.

Mr. Sheik loves his bed that looks like a couch. He also likes the big monkey pillow we got him for Christmas. He humps it ALL the time.

carolyn says said...

sometimes seasoning the tofu before baking it gives it more flavor (i was going to say a more robust flavor, but then I though, twhy carolyn, why try to make the tofu more than it is?)

we just had a really nice kidney bean and hominy stew the other night. found it on the veg times website and we were both very happy with it. i even made vegan cornbread that was suprisingly moist. apparently spft tofu in place of eggs makes a difference in a good way.

and, clearly, this comment was brought to you by tofu