Writing about my cooking comes naturally to me. Taking photographs of it does not. So when my routine is thrown off—by something good or bad—I totally forget to take pictures. Such was the case this week with my mother in law visiting.
As I mentioned earlier, my in-laws like Asian food—enough so that they are fairly un-picky about it. Unlike my family—who likes Asian food, but only certain Asian food. So one of my pleasures when any of my in-laws come to visit is deciding what Asian dishes to cook for them.
For this meal, I wanted something easy but healthy for the main course and something chocolate and decadent for dessert. I love making chocolate desserts for my mother-in-law because she always seems to particularly enjoy them.
It seemed like as good a time as any to pull out my new copy of Jack Bishop’s A Year In A Vegetarian Kitchen, as well as my slightly older Scharffenberger’s and Steinberg’s The Essence of Chocolate.
I had picked a curried soup from the Bishop book, when a conversation with a friend about tofu prompted me to look at some of his tofu recipes. They looked really easy and smart—like they were cooked in such a way that the tofu would end up with great flavor, which is an issue for me in the tofu dishes that I do not care for. Bland chunks of rubbery white stuff-ugh. On the other hand, tender chunks of flavor-laden tofu, that I can appreciate. So I chose his Pan-Glazed Tofu with Thai Red Curry Sauce and decided to serve it with jasmine rice and an Asian salad dressed with my nuoc cham.
It worked fabulously. I don’t know if I loved the sauce itself (although my mother in law, my daughter and my husband all did) because I can get a little picky about sauces made with canned curry paste. But the method was great, and I can hardly wait to try it with more sauces.
I have been wanting to make the Baked Hot Chocolate from the Scharffenberger book for some time now, so it was an easy decision. It is basically a baked pudding, extremely rich and decadent. The Essence of Chocolate is comprised of recipes by the creators of Scharffenberger chocolate (my favorite baking and cooking chocolate) as well as recipes contributed by other chefs. This particular recipe was contributed by Heidi Friedlander. I am not a pudding fan, but this recipe is more like a cross between a pudding and a mousse, served warm. It is scrumptious.
Pan-Glazed Tofu with Thai Red Curry Sauce
Source: Jack Bishop’s A Year In A Vegetarian Kitchen
¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used ½ cup light)
¼ cup vegetable broth
1 T soy sauce (I used fish sauce)
1 T fresh lime juice
1 t Thai red curry paste (I used Mae Ploy and frankly given the proportions it was too spicy for my elder daughter but not the rest of us)
1 t sugar (I used 1 T)
1 T roasted peanut oil
1 lbs extra firm tofu, cut into 8 ½ inch thick slabs and blotted dry with paper towels
2 T chopped salted peanuts
1 T minced cilantro
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet (he emphasizes elsewhere it really should be nonstick as tofu sticks easily so I did it in 2 batches since my skillet is 10 inches) over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown, 6-7 minutes. Turn over and cook further, another 5 minutes, until golden brown on that side too.
Add the coconut milk mixture to the pan and simmer, turning the tofu once, until the liquid reduced to a thick syrup and the tofu is glazed, about 2 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a serving platter and drizzle the glaze over it. Garnish with the cilantro and peanuts.
I mixed and quickly cooked extra of the sauce and served it with jasmine rice. This was my first foray into the world of tofu and it was a huge success.
Baked Hot Chocolate
Source: Heidi Friedlander (contributer), The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate.
9 oz 62% semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 T unsalted butter, cubed
4 large eggs
¼ cup granulated sugar
whipped cream for serving (necessary in my opinion to cut the richness of the chocolate)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Arrange 4 1-cup ovenproof coffee cups or ramekins in a baking or roasting pan. Set some water on to boil.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until smooth. Remove and set aside. Stir the eggs and sugar together in the bowl of a mixer, and then place that bowl over the simmering water. Stir until the egg mixture is warm to the touch. Remove to the mixer and beat until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixture and fold the eggs into the chocolate mixture until it is light and smooth.
Spoon the batter into the cups, dividing it evenly. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes (mine took longer, maybe 25, but I have a temperamental oven and was using larger mugs). The baked hot chocolate will be done when the tops lose their glossy finish. A wooden skewer inserted into the tops will be clean although the bottom will remain moist (I did not bother with this, the visual was enough—I am so sorry I did not take pictures! They become kind of a matted, baked chocolate surface with tiny pockmarks).
Carefully remove the cups from the pan. The cakes can be served warm, at room temperature, or covered and refrigerated for up to one day (yeah, right). To reheat, bring to room temperature and place in a preheated 350 F oven for 5 minutes, or until warm.
Serve with dollops of lightly sweetened whipped cream.