March 24, 2009

Pickle My Fancy

Oh... I'm sorry... that's a terrible pun but I just couldn't resist! ^_^

Something you should know about me… I LOVE pickles! I crave them in any shape or form. Last week I was going through my refrigerator looking for items to make for lunch and found some firm tofu that was going to go out of date in a few days. I wasn't in the mood for my usual teriyaki or BBQ'd tofu, so I had a few moments of, "What to do?" I then remembered that I had saved some of the pickling "juice" from pickled green beans. It was all natural, with only white wine vinegar, sugar, dill seeds and garlic… yummo! I was instantly inspired. I would make pickled tofu with a German/European influence rather than Asian or Mediterranean. This was so easy it hardly needs a recipe but here we go:

Pickled Tofu with Dill

1 block firm tofu
6-8 pearl onions
4 cloves of garlic, julienned
4 oz fresh baby portabella mushrooms or white or even fresh shiitake
1 tsp dried dill weed or 1 Tablespoon of fresh
2 Tablespoons of any white wine (optional & more to taste) (I used about 1/4 Cup/60ml)
1 Tablespoon brown sugar or honey (optional)
1/2 C leftover pickling juice (or make your own from 1/4 C white wine vinegar, 1/4 C water, 2 TB sugar, 1/2 tsp dill seed. Warmed & stirred 'til sugar is melted. Let set for a day or two if you have the time)

Cut the tofu block in half, length-wise & parallel to the table. Place the halves between two cutting boards or a cutting board and a plate. Tilt them slightly (put a knife handle or a fork or something underneath to add a moderate slope) and place a light weight on the top one… I used a 6" (15cm) iron fry pan. Let the extra water drain from the tofu while you prep the rest. Slice the pearl onions in half, lengthwise, cutting the roots and the top ends off. Slip off the skins. Heat a small fry pan on medium high heat, drizzle a little sesame oil in (or olive oil, if you prefer, but realize that it will solidify somewhat when cold) and swirl to coat the bottom. Put the onions, sliced sides down and brown them until almost burned, flip them over ( I use cooking chopsticks) and push on them to separate the layers. Toss them for a minute or two until they have softened and browned on the other side. While the onions are browning, wipe off any dirt on the mushrooms and quarter them if they're small and cut them into 1/2 inch cubes (1cm to 1-1/2cm) & slice up your garlic. Remove the onions from the pan and put them into the container you plan to store them in. Quickly rinse the pan out with cold water (be careful! It may sputter a bit) to remove any overly browned bits. Wipe carefully with a paper towel and put back on medium heat. Let pan warm for a moment and then swirl in a little oil as before. Toss the mushrooms and let them sauté' and brown just a bit. Meanwhile, pat the drained tofu lightly on both sides with a clean cloth or paper towel, then slice each half into thirds lengthwise. Cut those slices crosswise forming little cubes. Toss them very gently with the onions in the container. Turn down the heat in your pan to medium low and add the garlic. Let that sauté' a bit until it begins to soften. Sprinkle the brown sugar or honey over the mushrooms & garlic. Toss and immediately increase your heat to medium. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Stir for a moment. Pour pickling juice into the pan and stir until hot and it just begins to boil. Remove pan from heat and let cool for a minute so that you don't melt your container and then pour it over the tofu and onions . Make sure all the tofu is below the pickling juice. If not add a little more. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days.

I put a half of a block's worth into my bento lunches and add a little more protein with nuts and/or cheese. Otherwise, enjoy with any meal as you would pickles. Aloha!