Sunday, June 20, 2010

Veggie BBQ: tofu & potato salad.

Most things taste better on the grill.  What doesn't benefit from a little char, a little smoke?  And while some may debate the merits of charcoal vs. gas, a gas grill can really make grilling a reality any night of the week.  With a quick turn of a knob and flip of a switch, you can have dinner on the grill in 10 minutes, and on your plate in another 5.  We love to grill veggies, tofu, bread, and fruit, especially pineapple, which caramelizes beautifully.
We had some friends over this weekend for a little good-bye party to fete my former co-worker.  She is on her way to a bigger and brighter future at a new firm (bye, Katie!!!!).  What better way to celebrate than to drink wine, eat food, and play some bocce ball and Wii bowling?  We discovered that our furbaby Cosmo, whom we have had for 5 years now, has suddenly developed the funny habit of chasing after the bocce pea and then picking it up in his little mouth and running it back to us.  You know, like fetch?  He has never ever played fetch.  We were shocked.  He's missing that last little piece of the game, where you drop the ball at your master's feet, but it was still a bit shocking.  And a little disruptive during the game!  I also discovered that my best chance of winning is to spin around three times and then chuck the ball behind me over my shoulder, eyes closed.  Who knew?
 The menu was fun and tasty.  We had grilled tofu with ginger-sesame vinaigrette, summer vegetable potato salad with balsamic vinaigrette, grilled bread, and watermelon.  For dessert, we scarfed down peach cupcakes.  Everything was great!!  I experimented with nigari tofu instead of my usual water-packed variety.  It's is a bit more dense and I thought that might work well on the grill.  It was good, but it didn't soak up the marinade the same way that the water-packed tofu does.  Still, it was smokey and delicious, especially with a squeeze of grilled lime.
 But the star of the night was the vegetable potato salad.  It was a recipe given to me by another co-worker from Better Homes & Gardens magazine, and it was really a hit.  I used the red new potatoes and fresh basil from our box, along with corn and the first cherry tomatoes of the season (sungolds from the Food Co-op).  The flavors were great and would stand up well to other grilled items.  We will definitely be making this again!
Here are the recipes for the tofu and potato salad; I will write about the peach cupcakes in a subsequent post.  They were simply stellar.
Summer Vegetable Potato Salad
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine

1 pound red new potatoes, scrubbed
3 ears of fresh corn (cook them if they aren't super fresh - I did because mine were a bit old, from the grocery store)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn, plus a few extra leaves for garnish
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Place the potatoes, whole, in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Add about 2 teaspoons of salt to the water, then bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and partially cover; simmer actively for 5 to 10 minutes, until your potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife (try one at 5 minutes to see how it is - if your potatoes are small like mine, they are likely done).  Drain and cool the potatoes.  (If you want to cook your corn, remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and then use the water again to boil the corn for about 5 minutes.)

To prepare the dressing, place the oil, balsamic vinegar, shallot, mustard, and sugar, plus salt and pepper to taste, in a medium bowl and whisk until emulsified.

Slice the corn off the cob and place it in a large, shallow serving platter.  Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise if they are small, or into quarters if they are larger, and add them to the serving platter, along with the tomatoes and torn basil.  Pour the prepared dressing over the veggies and stir to combine.  Sprinkle the top with feta and the remaining basil leaves.

Can be made ahead and refrigerated, covered, for 4 hours.  Allow salad to come to room temperature before serving.

Grilled Ginger-Sesame Tofu
Adapted from Cooking Light

Note: Make the vinaigrette first, then move on to the assembly stage of the recipe.  I've included a double-batch version of the tofu recipe, as we were feeding four and I find that one pound of tofu is never enough for that many people.

Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup filtered water
1/4 cup white miso
3 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil (do not use light sesame oil)

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, water, and miso, whisking until smooth.  Add in the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Vinaigrette can be made ahead and refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to five days.  This recipe makes about 1 1/3 cups vinaigrette.

Grilled Tofu  
2 pounds of extra firm water-packed tofu, drained (it's okay if your packages are smaller - mine were 14 oz each)
1 batch of Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette (above)
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons soy sauce
8 lime slices

Pat the tofu dry with paper towels, and slice each block crosswise into 8 slices, for a total of 16.  Pat the exposed side dry with paper towels, then flip the tofu over and dry the second side.  Press to get out as much water as possible.  Place the tofu in a 13x9 baking dish (use an extra dish if it doesn't all comfortably fit).

Add the cilantro and soy sauce to the prepared vinaigrette and stir to combine.  Remove 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette mixture and reserve for later.  Pour the rest over the tofu and flip each piece to coat it in the marinade.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, flipping occasionally.  When you are about ready to grill, add the lime slices to the marinade. 

Heat the grill to medium-high and coat the grate with cooking spray.  Place the tofu slices and the limes on the grill rack and grill, cover down, for about 3 minutes (reserve the marinade).  Before flipping, baste with the remaining marinade. When the tofu has nice grill marks and is heated, flip and baste again with marinade.  Grill for another 3 minutes or so, until both sides of the tofu are nicely grilled.  Remove from the grill.

Serve with the grilled lime wedges and the remaining 1/3 cup of vinaigrette.

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