Tofu Ropa Vieja

I made Ropa Vieja for dinner tonight, one of my old-time favorites, and decided to serve the same thing to my vegetarian daughter.  She was quite happy with the results. Really, all I did was make the sauce, reserve some of it before I added the beef, add some vegetable base and tofu.  She was happy and I was happy I was able to feed her.  I’m sure you can substitute another meat substitute for tofu, but that’s what I had at home.  I always serve this with fresh sourdough bread.

Tofu Ropa Vieja

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp vegetable base
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 lb extra-firm tofu, cubed

Directions

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauce pan.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until they start to caramelize.  Add the bell pepper and cook until soft.  Add the tomato sauce, wine, bay leaf and vegetable base.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.  Uncover, and the tofu cubes and cook for another 15 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and serve.

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Tofu Marsala

Tonight I made chicken Marsala for Mike and I and adapted the recipe so that Mika, my vegetarian daughter, could have it with tofu.  Really, all it took to adapt it was to use a separate pan to cook the chicken and substitute tofu for the chicken.  But here it is in case she ever wants to make it herself.  It was truly delicious.

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp Marsala wine
  • 1 1/2 tsp vegetable base
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu, sliced
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • dash of dried or chopped sage
  • salt & pepper to taste

Melt butter over medium heat in a frying pan.  Add the shallot and cook for one minute.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates.  Set aside.

Bring Marsala wine to a boil in a medium size sauce pan.  Boil for 30 seconds and then add vegetable base, water, whipping cream and reserved mushrooms.  Comine and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, pan-fry tofu slices.

When sauce is ready, add the remaining 2 Tbsp Marsala wine, the lemon juice and the sage. Stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary.  Serve the pan-friend tofu with the sauce.

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Belgian Waffles

One of the delights of downtown Brussels is their waffle stores.  Here, you can eat freshly made waffles with a variety of toppings.  A big variety.  The ones I tried were delicious but a pain in the but to eat on the go, specially as the plastic forks provided were too weak to easily cut the thick waffles.  The flavors were great, however.  I might want to recreate this at home.

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Bottom Round is Not the Best Idea for Milanesas

I usually use thinly cut top round to make milanesas.  While the cut has an annoying fat vein in the middle, it’s very tender, the version sold by Safeway is very thin and it just works great for milanesas.

This week, however, Safeway had thinly cut bottom round at half the price as top round – so I figured that I would give it a chance and see how it worked.  The answer is that it will do in a pinch, but it’s definitely inferior to top round.

First, the “thin” bottom round steaks sold by Safeway were two to three times thicker than the top round ones.  Bottom round is a very tough cut of meat, so I beat the hell out of the meat to tenderize it.  It worked quite well, though I ended up with a blister on the side of my finger.  A larger problem was that as the cut was thicker, so were the pieces of fat/gristle in the middle of the steaks.  There weren’t too many and I try to cut them, but it made it harder to eat the milanesas in sandwiches (it’s not a big deal if you’re using fork and knife).    I also don’t think the flavor was as tasty as the top round, but the issue might also have been the olive oil I was using.

All in all, I’d use bottom round again under similar circumstances, but at full price, I definitely prefer top round.

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Chickpea Milanesas Recipe

My oldest daughter is a vegetarian, so I try to find vegetarian equivalents of the meals with eat.  I’m not eager to make two meals, so the easier the vegetarian version can be, the better.  This version for chickpea milanesas qualifies as easy.  She likes them well enough that I’ve already made them four times.

Chickpea Milanesas

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley flakes or chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • olive oil for frying
  • lemon juice

Using an electric blender, puree chickpeas and water together.  Mix in the flour, spices and salt and pepper.

Put breadcrumbs in a large plate.  Four your hands.  Take a large spoonfull of batter and flatten it using your hands.  Press onto the breadcrumbs, then turn and repeat.  Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Using a spatula, transfer the milanesas onto the oil and fry for a couple of minutes until golden. Turn and repeat. Remove and drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with lemon juice before serving.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding

This year Christmas Eve’s dessert was Sticky Toffee Pudding.  I first had and fell in love with this dessert at the Golden Tea Garden in Hayward, and had made it once before.  It was a good choice.  I served it with vanilla ice cream.  I followed the instructions from this epicurious recipe pretty closely, but if I made it again I’d follow the advise of one of the reviewers and double the amount of sauce, pour same half of it on the cake the day I make it and then top it with the other half.

I made the cake the day before and the sauce a few hours earlier.

Ingredients

For the pudding

  • 1 pckg (~6 oz) pitted dates
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

For the sauce

  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp brandy
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

For the pudding

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a bundt pan or 6 ramekins.

Place dates and water in a small sauce pan and heat until it starts to boil.  Remove from heat and add baking soda.  Using a blender, puree.
In a separate bowl, sift flour.  Whisk in the baking powder and salt.
Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.  Mix in the vanilla.  Mix in one egg, then half of the flour mixture and half of the date puree.  Repeat with the additional egg and rest of flour and puree.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry, 30 to 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest for 30 minutes. Unmold.

For the sauce

Put the sugar, butter and cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Continue cooking for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Turn off the heat and mix in the brandy and vanilla extract.

Pour sauce over the cake and serve.

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Mushroom Marsala Gnocchi

This was probably my favorite dish of my 2017 Christmas Eve dinner.  And no wonder, I love gnocchi, I love Marsala sauce, and the two together are just dynamite.  Indeed, even my husband who hates gnocchi couldn’t stop eating it – even though this was already the 8th course of the night!  I used a combination of

Ingredients

 

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • dried sage
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 pckg (~1 lb) vacuum-sealed gnocchi

Directions

Melt butter in a wide sauce pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms, turn heat down to medium-low and cook until soft, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add marsala, borth and cream and cook for a few minutes.  Sprinkle sage and black pepper and mix in the lemon juice.

Meanwhile, book the gnocchi according to package instructions.  Add gnocchi to sauce in the pan and mix well.  Serve.

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Pear & Goat Cheese Salad with Caramelized Walnuts and Cranberries

I wanted to make a different salad for Christmas this year and finally decided on a pear and goat cheese salad.  Alas, I couldn’t decide on any particular recipe, so I ended up making my regular Mixed Green Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette and simply adding the ingredients I wanted to use.  It came out delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
  • 5 oz mixed greens
  • 1 bunch of green onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
  • 1/4 cup caramelized walnuts*
  • 3 Tbsp. goat cheese

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and raspberry vinegar. Set aside.

Toss together mixed greens, green onions, cranberries and walnuts in a salad bowl.  Add vinaigrette and mix well.  Crumble goat cheese on top and mix again.

* To caramelized walnuts, place 1/4 cup walnut pieces, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. butter in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter and sugar melt and the walnut pieces are well coated with it.  Pour onto parchment paper and quickly separate the pieces.  Let cool. Store in an airtight container.

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Spiced Chickpeas

I wanted a light snack with Middle Eastern flavors to accompany the mint pomegranate lassi I served as a first course for my Christmas 2017 dinner.  This recipe for chickpeas hit that spot.  They are good, easy to make, and they will keep for at least a couple of days in an air-tight bowl or jar.

Ingredients

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Drain, rinse and pat dry the garbanzos.

Heat oil over medium heat in a frying pan.  Add chickpeas and spices. Mix well and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas pop, about 5 minutes.  Drain on paper towels and serve.

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Pomegranate Mint Lassi

I discovered this delicious drink at All Spice restaurant in San Mateo, and I was hooked.   I’m a big lover of sweet lassis, and I couldn’t believe I had never had a mint one before – when it seems like such an obvious flavor combination.  I wasn’t sure what the pomegranate contributed – I still don’t know – but the drink at the restaurant was so delicious I just had to try it myself.

I did as a first course for my 2017 Christmas Eve dinner – and it was a big hit.  The recipe is very simple, you need:

  • plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
  • pomegranate juice
  • honey
  • dried mint

I can’t tell you the proportions as I simply combined the yogurt with the lassi until it had the right consistency and then added honey until it was sweet enough – beating with an immersion blender, but you can just put everything in a blender.  I then added mint until I could taste it.   I tried it with both fresh and dried mint, but dried mint works far better.  The key to this lassi is to let it rest for at least half an hour before serving, as the flavors need time to combine.  But make it, you won’t be disappointed.

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