By Ernest Barteldes
Renata and I are very lucky that our apartment is not on the “sunny” side for most of the day – the sun is on our side of the building during the morning, but in the afternoon – when it’s hotter – it mostly hits the other side. Thanks to that, we are able to use our kitchen for our regular meals, but especially for our Sunday dinners – one of the few times during the week we actually have a meal together, since our schedules during the week don’t necessarily meet.
Cooking in the summer is no joke, though. The last thing you want is to be in a hot kitchen for too long, so light dishes that can be prepared quickly are a must. I pretty much stay away from the oven – I recall an incident when I decided to bake something for breakfast one summer and it made me physically ill – living in tropical Fortaleza and being used to year-round hot temperatures didn’t make me immune to New York summers, after all.
Meat-free dishes are the best to prepare during summer because most recipes I know aren’t fussy – for instance, shredding cabbage and cauliflower for veggie koftas doesn’t require much effort if you have a food processor and tofu is also very easy to work with. I can be in and out of the kitchen in 45 minutes or less and in our air-conditioned room enjoying a movie in no time.
I try to use my indoor grill as much as I can during these months, and I also like for recipes that can be made without too much effort. I have a good stockpile of old Gourmet magazines (yes, I am aware that their recipes – and those that appeared on Bon Appetit – are available on Epicurious, but I still like to leaf through my copies’ stained pages). Lately I have been looking at Cooking Light for inspiration as well, and have found some very interesting dishes so far – one of which I will share with you today. It is a delicious combination of tofu, broccoli and sweet chili sauce that delivers just enough heat to make it interesting. To make it a little more interesting, I also made a side of brown rice pilaf made with almonds, garlic and curry powder.
Seared Tofu with Sweet Chili Sauce and Broccoli
(Source: Cooking Light)
- 1 (14-oz.) pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained
- 5 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (such as Mae Ploy)
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 2 heads baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 2 1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, divided
- 1 cup vertically sliced red onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- Cut tofu in half horizontally; place halves on a paper towel-lined plate. Top with more paper towels and a plate; let stand 15 minutes. Cut tofu into 3/4-inch cubes.
- Combine chili sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a bowl.
- Fill a large Dutch oven with water to a depth of 3 inches; bring to a boil. Place a steamer basket in pan. Add bok choy and broccoli to basket; cover and steam 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain.
- Combine flour and cornstarch in a bowl. Dredge tofu in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl. Add half of tofu to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Remove cooked tofu from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining tofu and 1 tablespoon oil. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and onion to pan; cook 4 minutes. Return tofu to pan; cook 1 minute.
- Divide broccoli mixture and tofu among 4 plates. Top evenly with chili sauce mixture, peanuts, cilantro, and sesame seeds.