Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chubby Vegetarian Takeover

So I'm sure you all know of a fabulous little blog called the Chubby Vegetarian, right? Well, if you don't, you should get to know it. It's run by my friend/co-worker Justin Burks. He's a professional, freelance photographer and a vegetarian, so as you would imagine, his food porn is quite lovely. Justin shoots for the newspaper I write for, the Memphis Flyer, and since he's freelance, he has lots of other gigs too. In his free time, he and wife Amy cook up delicious vegetarian fare, and Justin even hosts local cooking classes and the occasional fancy, four-course dinner.

A few weeks ago, Justin proposed a post trade. I'd give him a recipe, and he'd give me a recipe. Well, the one he passed to me looked so delicious, I knew I'd have to try it myself. So that's been the hold up. I wanted to post his photo and recipe, as well as my own photo and feedback. I finally found time to make the dish tonight, so without further ado...

Here's what Justin had to say about his Baked Lemongrass Tofu with Coconut Jasmine Rice:

This dish gets its fragrant kick from a mixture of fresh herbs that you may have in your garden this time of year. The lemongrass, which can be found at your neighborhood health food store or Asian market, adds a floral note while the garlic and soy sauce add depth. This particular mixture would make even your shoe taste delicious. Luckily, we have a better plan for it than that.
Don't be deterred by the length of this recipe; it's really quite simple when you break it down. Make the spice mixture, toss it with the tofu, bake, sauté onions, add coconut milk, and it's done. It's healthier than the deep-fried stuff you get when you go out -- and you also know exactly what's in this.

Baked Lemongrass Tofu + Coconut Jasmine Rice

1 can of light coconut milk
1 cup jasmine rice
2 fat stalks of lemongrass
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger
3 cloves of garlic
tsp. of sugar
1/4 cup mint
1/4 cup basil
zest from 1 lime
1 tablespoon sambal (or sriracha)
1/4 cup of canola oil
2 blocks firm tofu (cut into bite-sized cubed, patted dry)
1 onion (sliced into 1/2 moons)
Braggs (or soy sauce)
1 head of butter lettuce (torn)
1 large tomato (sliced)
1 cucumber (thinly sliced)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. On the stovetop, bring one cup of the coconut milk and one cup of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the jasmine rice and cover. Reduce heat to low to allow the rice to simmer. It will take about 20 minutes for the rice to cook through and absorb all of the liquid.
Now comes the fun part: smack the stalks of lemongrass on the countertop to soften them and then split them open. Pull out the pliable inside part and place it in a food processor. The rest of the stalk goes into the compost pile. Add the ginger, garlic, sugar, mint, basil, zest, and, sambal to the food processor and crank it up. You want these ingredients very finely chopped.

In a large bowl, toss the lemongrass mixture together with the canola oil and tofu and throw in a pinch of salt. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu to a silpat-lined baking sheet and arrange the cubes into a single layer. Reserve the lemongrass/oil mixture that's at the bottom on the bowl. Bake tofu 20-30 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Don't let the garlic burn! Keep a close eye on it.

While that is cooking in the oven, sauté the onion in a large frying pan over medium using the reserved lemongrass/oil mixture. Once the onion is soft and translucent, remove pan from the heat. Add a tablespoon of Braggs or soy sauce to the onions. Once the tofu is done, remove it from the oven and toss it into the pan with the onions along with the remaining coconut milk. Mix and heat through. Serve over butter lettuce with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes and coconut rice.

I'm a huge fan of lemongrass tofu, which I typically fill up on at the Pho Hoa Binh, a local Vietnamese joint with fried cubes of lemongrass tofu on the lunch buffet. But as much as I would love to eat fried tofu everyday, I really don't want all those calories at home. Luckily, Justin's recipe is super low-cal. Yes, I did the calculations: only 220 calories per half-cup of tofu and 120 per one cup of the rice.

My photo isn't nearly as pretty as Justin's, but I'm sure that this tasted just as delicious:

The lemongrass coating is phenomenal, and like Justin said, it would even taste good on your shoe. But I'm sure it's even better on this tofu. I served mine with the recommended tomato and cucumber, as well as a side of steamed bok choy with soy sauce, mirin, and sambal.


dreaminitvegan said...

Thanks Justin for the beautiful description of this recipe you made. It sounds amazing and looks it too!

Justin Fox Burks said...

You beat me to the punch! Your recipe will o up this weekend. I think I'll make it for lunch today.

Thanks for the post. I'm so happy you like the recipe.

Shauna said...

this would be perfect use for the tofu that I have been trying to figure out what to do with! Sounds delicious!!!!

goaldigger said...

Wow, this looks awesome! Thanks for sharing.

Jesse said...

This recipe is so right up my alley! I love lemongrass, jasmine rice, and baked tofu - I really can't wait to try this one. I'll check out Chubby Vegetarian also. :)

Sharan said...

Oooh, this sounds good. I LOVE lemon grass! Thanks Bianca :)

Janna Renee said...

Oh boy that looks yummy!!

Anonymous said...

Oh wow that looks amazing. I've never cooked with lemongrass before and it has always kind of intimidated me. But this sounds easy and wonderful!

Erin said...

Wow, I think I need this tofu in my life soon. I love that it's low fat/low cal!

VeriityKae said...

This looks delicious! Just a quick question... for the 'can' of coconut milk, its the standard 14oz can, correct? Thanks so much!