This round of the Platinum Chef Challenge is being hosted by my friend Stefany over at Proceed with Caution. Stef is one of my blogging and chatboard friends, and though we have never actually met, you could say we go way back – she and I went to the same college, she dated a boy from my hometown who later became my little brother’s high school chemistry teacher, and she even met my husband in college (a friend of the boy she was dating) and hung out with him long before I did. Our commonalities don’t end there – we also apparently share a love of eggplant and oats (tofu, olives, and plums aren’t so bad either!). These are the ingredients that Stef chose for this round of Platinum Chef, my little blogging event designed to challenge bloggers to create a meal incorporating five somewhat random ingredients. I have chosen the ingredients myself quite a few times, and I’ve seen many bloggers take the plunge with a new food they’ve never cooked with before. This time, the tables were turned on me, as I had to tackle tofu.I’ve had tofu quite a few times myself, and have never disliked it. As many will tell you, it really does just absorb the flavors of whatever you are cooking it with, so as long as the texture doesn’t bother you, there’s really not much to not like. It’s quite healthy too. Cooking with tofu, however was new to me. All those packages confused me – did I want soft or firm? Extra firm? Silken? I learned that for things like grilling and sauteing, where you are going to slice or cube the tofu, extra firm is best.
Unfortunately for my husband, he’s the type who can’t really get past the texture. I actually didn’t even intend to serve this to him, because even though he’s always been great about whatever I make, however weird, I had a feeling this might be pushing it with him. He was supposed to have a softball game tonight, which is why I planned on making this for myself for dinner. But, hubby’s game was cancelled due to rain, and so he was forced to partake in my tofu. To prepare the tofu, I took inspiration from one of my favorite dishes at The Naked Fish restaurant, the roasted Chilean Sea Bass. This meal consists of tender, meaty white fish roasted in an an individual-sized skillet with tomatoes, capers, olives, and basil. I knew the flavors would be strong enough to enhance the tofu, and I knew my husband, even if he didn’t care for the tofu, would eat any meal involving olives and capers.
For the eggplant, plums, and oats, I decided to go with eggplant “fries” with a plum dipping sauce. I processed my oats into a powder to use as a coating for the eggplant, and used egg whites as the liquid to make them stick. I chose to bake the eggplant strips, and they were just ok for us. As with lots of things, I’m sure deep frying would have produced a crispier result! We did get some crunch from the coating, but the eggplant inside was soft. Not terrible, as I love eggplant and would eat it anyway, but probably not what I would serve for company. If anyone has any better ideas on how to prepare these (aside from frying) let me know! The sweet and spicy plum sauce was a nice accompaniment.
Pan-roasted Tofu with Capers, Tomatoes, and Olives
1 14oz package tofu, sliced into 8 pieces
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
juice from one lemon
2 tbsp capers
1.5oz kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
pinch of dried oregano
6 large basil leaves, sliced
Heat oven to 400F. In an oven-proof skillet, cook onions in nonstick cooking spray over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more, then add capers, olives, lemon juice, tomatoes, and oregano. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Meanwhile, pan-sear tofu slices for about 4 minutes per side in a skillet coated with cooking spray. Add tofu slices to tomato mixture, spooning tomatoes over the tofu. Place pan in oven for about 10 minutes, to heat through and blend flavors.
Eggplant “Fries” with Sweet and Spicy Plum Sauce
1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced into strips
2 egg whites
1/2 cup dry plain oats
pinch of salt
2 tbsp chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 T soy sauce
2 T red wine vinegar
1 plum, diced
pinch of Chinese 5-spice powder
a few drops hot chili pepper sauce
1 T chopped cilantro
To make the sauce:
Saute the onion over medium heat in a small saucepan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray for about 8 minutes. Add garlic; cook one minute more. Add remaining ingredients except for cilantro, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes or until fruit is soft the mixure has thickened a bit. Cool until the eggplant is ready, and puree in food processor or blender with the cilantro.
To make the eggplant:
Process the oats and salt in a food processor or blender until the oats become fine crumbs. Place the crumbs on a plate. Toss the eggplant in a bowl with the egg whites to coat, then dip each piece into the oatmeal crumbs, turning to coat each side. Bake in a preheated oven at 400F for about 20 minutes, turning as necessary, until browned on each side.