Tag Archives: Spinach

CSA #1: It’s Easy Being Green

As I have mentioned before, me and my partner have signed up for a season’s CSA subscription to Garfield Community Farm, a volunteer-run, non-profit farm in the upper reaches of Garfield, just a hop, skip, and long jump away from James’s place in Friendship.

One of the reasons the CSA membership to GCF caught my eye is that while other CSA organizations offered more options on subscription length, type of goods, and pick up points, Garfield Community Farm seemed so direct, not just local but super local. Signing up for the subscription meant going to the farm to pick up the produce, walking the very land that was going to grow our consumable goods.

CSA subscribers are also asked to donate some of their time to the farm itself. On pick up days, starting around 6:00 pm, volunteers handle a variety of tasks and chores, all of which benefit the farm and the overall organization. After a few summers of half-heartedly growing a few herbs in my kitchen and on my porch, I’m looking forward to lending a hand… and getting that hand dirty.

But enough with the ramble. On to the veggies!


On the left, a pound bag of mixed greens. On the right, pea shoots.


Radishes!


Kale (L) and spinach (R). Mmm…


Fresh tarragon (L), a cup of brown rice (center), and field garlic.

I am envisioning a weekend of beans and greens. If anyone has a good idea of what to do with the field garlic, let me know.

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Anatomy of a Sandwich: Tomato and Balsamic Tofu


A simple idea can often be undone by its own simplicity. You figure, it seems so obvious, why isn’t it just assumed that this already works? And then you think, well, duh, cause of course it doesn’t work, and everyone already knows that.

When I was at the terrific Osteria 2350, I enjoyed a sandwich fairly common to Italian cafes and delis alike: The tomato and mozzarella with roasted red peppers and balsamic vinegar. This sandwich knows no one cuisine, because although its roots are clearly in Italian staples, its appeal is widespread and its basic form – a warm and possibly grilled cheese sandwich with added ingredients – is a well worn food item among any number of cultural heritages.

Osteria’s version was very delicious, so delicious that I had to lament the fact that, for my vegan partner, there is no accessible way for him to enjoy this sandwich. The tomato, red pepper, and vinegar portions, yes. The cheese? No. Vegan cheese can be tasty, but it has its limits, and there is not a vegan cheese on the planet that can imitate faux mozzarella.

Except that, as I considered the giant pillows of fresh mozzarella stuffed into the sandwich, I found that it bore a striking similarity to something most, if not all, vegans heartily enjoy: Tofu. Specifically extra-firm, uncooked tofu. Both are white and soft. Both have neutral, almost watery-fresh flavors. Tofu can’t melt like mozzarella, but in this sandwich, the mozzarella stayed perfectly solid, so melting wasn’t an issue.

So, I’ve had this dish in mind for a while. After a short stop into Lotus Foods on Saturday, I decided it was high time that I tried out my theory.

Success? Well, you be the judge. But would I write about it if it were a total failure?

A few tips for this very easy recipe:
– A pound of tofu should yield four sandwiches worth, unless you really want to get heavy on each sandwich.
– Soak the tofu in balsamic vinegar for extra flavor
– Press your tofu, but don’t get rid of all the moisture. A little dampness inside helps to mimic the mozzarella.
– Use good crusty bread for this. Jackie, my friend and most fantastic cooking partner, brought over some homemade sandwich bread that worked fantastic. Make sure to use thick slices and toast for extra support.
– We slightly cooked our tomato slices, but if you want to leave them firm and crispy, go right ahead.

Tomato and Balsamic Tofu Sandwich

Ingredients
– 1 pound of firm tofu, sliced widthwise into four big slabs
– 2 small tomatoes, sliced
– 1 red bell pepper, sliced into small strips
– Salt and pepper (to taste)
– Balsamic vinegar – we weren’t precise on the measurements, so use your judgment. About a 1/4 cup overall should be fine.
– Eight slices of thick, crusty bread, toasted
– 3 tbs olive oil or grapeseed oil (use more as needed)
– Fresh spinach (as desired)
– Vegan mayo (optional)

– Heat the oil in a pan, then add the red pepper slices. Saute until soft, adding salt and pepper as desired. Add the tomatoes, cooking for about a minute. Remove from the peppers and tomatoes from heat, but keep the pan hot.

– Put a slab of tofu in the pan. Add balsamic vinegar, cook for a minute, then flip, adding more vinegar. Once slab has soaked up some of the flavor – a touch-and-taste test works – remove from heat. Repeat with each slab.

– Assemble your sandwich. Toast the bread, then layer tofu, tomato, red peppers, and spinach. Add vegan mayo if using. Enjoy!

Good Morning, Spinach Pie!


I love pie. Particularly savory pies. Upon discovering that a decent pie crust is fairly easy to make (after a little personal trial and error, that is) I set about to make as many pies as I could. I made pie after pie after pie. Quiches and pot pies, tarts and tortes. I went a little pie crazy.

Savory pies are great because they require so little work. Make the crust, press it into the pie plate, then add your filling. Bake, cool, cut, eat. They take a little time, especially if you don’t use a food processor to mix your crust dough, but they’re not something you have to watch every second in the oven. Set the time and relax.

What I really want to get is a set of mini pie plates. Because, as we discussed with the almond tarts, everything seems a little better when it’s miniaturized. But big, small, savory, sweet, doesn’t matter. I’m a pie addict. Now you know.

This recipe is an adaptation, of sorts, of a great recipe in The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I really need to do a feature on this incredible collection, and I will at some point, but suffice to say, if you don’t own this book and you enjoy spending even occasional time in the kitchen, but it ASAP. It’s vegetarian cuisine for people who like to eat well, regardless of dietary preferences. The only problem is that it’s a little butter and egg heavy in spots, so it’s not always adaptable for a vegan diet.

However, looking over the recipe for “Spinach Ricotta Pie” got me thinking, however: Silken tofu and ricotta, aside from what they actually are and what they taste like, are very similar. Texturally, they’re identical. This dish requires both the ricotta and 2-3 eggs, and tofu can more than make up for both. The end result of the substitute was pretty satisfying. On the whole, it was lighter than the Katzen recipe, with maybe a tiny bit less flavor, but I can more than make up for that the next time around. And there will be a next time.

Spinach Tofu Pie

Ingredients
For crust
– 6 tbsp vegan margarine
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 4 tbsp water, non-dairy milk, oil (I went with the water, because the only non-dairy milk I have is vanilla soymilk – delicious, but not appropriate for this.)

For filling
– 8 ounces silken tofu, firm
– 3/4 lb fresh spinach (I stress the use of fresh spinach in this recipe – the frozen stuff gets too soggy too quickly)
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 2 tbsp vegan margarine or oil
– 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
– 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
– Salt and pepper to taste

– To make the crust: In a food processor (or using a pastry cutter or two forks) cut the margarine into the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse cornmeal. Slowly add the water to form a dough. (The recipe works with 4 tbsps, but feel free to add an extra tbsp or two if the dough is proving too dry to work with.) Roll out your dough and press it into a pie tin.

– Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan, saute the onions in the margarine or oil until translucent. Add spinach and spices. Continue to saute for about three minutes, then crumble the tofu in. Using a fork, combine until the mixture is fairly smooth and the spinach is wilted.

– Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Add extra paprika or vegan sour cream on top, if you like, then place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. The top should be lightly golden brown and slightly crisp. Serve warm or cool.

Sometimes a coupon doesn’t save you from a non descript dinner.

Sometimes you walk into a restaurant for entirely the wrong motivations.
 
Sometimes you walk out of a restaurant understanding why you SHOULD have listened to your more evolved palette, rather than your moth eaten wallet.
 
Such was the case when Emily sent me a text this past Sunday. She had obtained a sterling BOGO Coupon for the Maharaja Restaurant and Lounge at the Day’s Inn on Banksville Road, just past Dormont and a scooch away from Downtown Pittsburgh.  Usually our local Indian haunt is the even closer Namaste in Banksville Plaza, which to this point….has never served us wrong, literally AND figuratively. Continue reading