Working from home on most days means a few things: I’m on a first-name basis with all the house plants (the ones that are still living that is); I’m occasionally in my pjs until noon (mortified when the doorbell rings but apparently too comfy to do anything about it) and, I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy lunch ideas that have some yum factor.
Today’s plate is not untypical of what I might eat for lunch (except it doesn’t normally look this neat – I tried to tidy it up a bit for you) and I don’t usually have nifty spiralized beets and butternut squash either (a Whole Foods splurge leftover from Thanksgiving). Some local greens (mâche rosettes); quinoa made in our rice cooker and stored for up to 4 days; chopped fire roasted red peppers (from a jar!); salty pumpkin seeds and some jazzed up tofu that you can pull together in about 10 minutes (get to that in a sec).
One of the tastes I find most crave-worthy in meal bowls is the element of sour (that briny/vinegar flavor) so I find it really helpful to have a few pantry staples on hand to deliver the tang and turn an ordinary lunch into a super tasty one without all the heartache. Things like pickled fire roasted red peppers, kalamata (or green) olives, marinated artichoke, heart of palm or these beauties.
For delicious balancing fats (especially important when eating plant proteins that are naturally very low), I’ll switch off between avocado, nuts and seeds and feta on top of whatever oil is used in cooking and for dressing (my usual homemade vinaigrette for single service like this is about 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tbsp of apple cider or balsamic vinegar, tsp dijon, a few cracks salt & pepper). I occasionally use an infused olive oil (so good, basil is my current fave) and, if I’m in a hurry (or really hungry), a splash of lemon it is. I also like to add a spoonful of coconut oil to our grains (rice/quinoa etc) especially in the winter while the grain is steaming in the rice cooker. You will be amazed how much flavor and deliciousness it adds!
This particular tofu prep — which simply involves sautéing the tofu in some olive oil — is a great way to lock in warming spices while creating a little crust on the exterior of the tofu (a searing process that adds some textural appeal to the otherwise…, unremarkable cube).
By the way, I also use this pan sear method with chickpeas – you can have a look at another one of my lunch bowls here if helpful for ideas.
I hope you have fun with this one and be sure to check out the Notes in the recipe card below for best results.
Cheers to simple, delicious food (and cozy pjs!)
- 5 oz (150 g) firm tofu, drained and cubed (about half pack of tofu)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil, or preferred cooking oil
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- ⅛ tsp smoked paprika powder
- ⅛ tsp chili powder
- ¼ tsp sea salt, or to taste
- Place the cubed tofu on a clean kitchen towel and press down gently with another towel to remove excess water.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl add: turmeric, paprika, chili and salt, mixing to combine.
- Warm a small skillet with oil over medium heat (the skillet should be just large enough to accommodate tofu pieces such that they don't overlap but not so large that oil is spread too thin).
- Carefully add tofu cubes to the heated pan without overlapping, allowing the tofu to stay in its initial spot for 2-3 minutes (ie: resist the temptation to shake the pan and toss the tofu). This will allow a sear to develop. While this is happening, use a small spoon to sprinkle about ⅓ of the spice mixture over the tofu cubes (don't worry if half of the spice misses the tofu, all will be used as you flip the tofu). Also don't overdo it on the mixture (it will tend to glob onto the tofu preventing it from properly adhering to the pan - a little works well).
- Once the tofu has had a chance to sizzle for about 2-3 minutes, then you can flip (you should see a sear - darkening -underneath) flip the tofu and allow the other side to sit for another 2-3 minutes, adding another modest sprinkling of spice. Once both sides are nicely seared, transfer the tofu to plate to enjoy right away.
The Tofu: I haven't always liked the texture of tofu - in fact my early experiments with the drab slab were downright gag-worthy. Things turned around for me when I had something called "brother-in-law tofu" at an Indian restaurant a decade ago; it was a seared tofu much like this one. Searing doesn't crisp up the tofu like a golden potato but it does give it a nice crust that contrasts with the soft interior - when combined with savory spices, it's actually a pretty pleasant experience and a good plant based protein option. But like all things, it may take some getting used to.
Watch the Amount of Spice!: I've made this recipe numerous times and find a modest sprinkling of spice works best - adding too much spice just causes it to bunch up (glob) on the tofu and prevents the skin of the tofu from properly adhering to the oil surface of the pan (no sear for you!).
Straight from the Skillet: the seared tofu tastes best right from the skillet - this is not one that ages particularly well. So I recommend having all of your other meal ingredients ready to go (salad/grains/greens whatever they may be) and just add the tofu and enjoy.
What's the deal with Turmeric? turmeric's active (and best studied) ingredient, curcumin, is known for its antioxidant/anti-inflammatory properties which may offer protection against various forms of disease. Before turmeric started appearing in popsicle and brownie recipes over the last few years (health rage), it was more commonly known as a staple spice in Indian cuisine.
Turmeric Stains! Turmeric has a long history of use as a dye - this spice has some serious staying power. Just a little warning to mop up surfaces quickly if you encounter unwanted spills, etc. and it might be best not to wear your white silk blouse when prepping this particular meal ;o
bye-bye november ~ today’s parting shot courtesy of Autumn Mott