Tofu Nicoise

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There is nothing better than a Starbucks 2 for 1 salted caramel mocha special on a chilly fall Chicago day on your way to apple picking. Well, other than discovering that a traditional pescetarian dish can be made vegan! Having grown up in California, I am a lover of all things salad and usually enjoy a good garbage salad that empties out on the fridge on a Sunday night. I especially love the deconstructed components of a lovely tuna nicoise. From the briny capers to the sweet cherry tomatoes and crispy steamed green bean combo, to the lemony mustard dressing atop a creamy hard boiled egg and red potatoes — I had a craving this week and it had to happen.

TOFU NICOISE
1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed
4 red potatoes
5 cups mixed greens
1/4 pitted olives
8 ounces of extra-firm organic tofu, drained

Crispy Tofu Marinade:
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
½ teaspoon dried tarragon

In a medium bowl whisk together the garlic, tarragon, thyme, apple cider, lemon juice and vinegar. Slice the tofu into ½ inch slices and add to bowl. Cover and marinate for 30 minutes or more. Place under broiler on middle shelf in oven for 7-8 minutes each side, just watch that it doesn’t burn!

Put the potatoes in a medium-size pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for approximately 15 minutes of until fork-tender but still firm. Remove from heat, drain and cool. Peel and slice then season with salt and pepper. In separate pot, bring water to a boil the green beans for 4-5 minutes then remove from hot water. Individually plate salads, starting with layer of lettuce, then add small piles of green beans, tomatoes, olives, potatoes and tofu. Drizzle each salad with balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil and enjoy! We also added hard boiled eggs if you are so inclined.

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Hominy Tortilla Soup

IMG_2350.JPG I have often passed cans of hominy on the shelf at the grocery store and wasn’t sure exactly what to do with this simple yet somewhat daunting ingredient! Hominy is essentially dried corn that has been soaked in a mineral lime bath – a process known as nixtamalization. The process softens the kernels and causes them to double in size, which is why hominy looks nothing like corn. It is the main ingredient ground down into corn tortillas, and in Mexico it is even mixed with water and milk to make the sweetened beverage called atol. There are signs of hominy being produced in mesoamerica around 1500 BC so it is a very ancient ingredient that remains unchanged over time — the difference being as the consumer that I don’t have to do anything except use a can opener!

It turns out their chewy puffy texture makes hominy an excellent compliment to beans in a stew. So today I am sharing this flavorful and hearty meatless Hominy Tortilla Soup that is a cinch to make.

MEXICAN TORTILLA SOUP
14-ounce can crushed tomatoes or chunky tomato sauce
1 dried smoked chili pepper or 1 poblano pepper
1 avocado
6 corn tortillas (6-inch, taco-sized)
1 handful cilantro
1 lime
14-ounce can hominy, rinsed and drained
14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
32 ounces (4 cups) vegetable stock
1 medium white onion
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Olive oil
Salt

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Stack the tortillas and slice them into ½-inch-wide, 2-inch-long strips. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, then season with a bit oil and salt. Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion. Remove the seeds and membranes from the dried poblano. In a medium pot or Dutch oven, heat some olive oil on medium heat and cook the onion, garlic, and poblano peppers for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin, then the canned tomatoes and vegetable stock. Simmer for about 3 minutes, then add the hominy and black beans. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve the soup: first, discard the dried chili pepper. Pour into individual bowls then top with some of the diced avocado, tortilla strips, cilantro and a lime wedge. Add hot sauce if you like it spicy!