September 14th, 2011

Blackened Scrambled Tofu & Garlicky Grits

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Serves 4
Active time: 30 minutes || Total time: 30 minutes

Maybe it’s because I’m watching too much Food Network and True Blood lately, but I’ve been craving Southern food like mad. Or it could be that I just feel like I’m in the country, what with my garden and bird feeder, so it makes me want to sit on the porch with some sweet tea, just like in the movies! That’s all people in the south do, right?

But I think it’s also just that as the weather changes I begin to crave heavily seasoned foods and the feel of my cast iron skillet. So Southern cooking fits the bill!

I’ve always loved the look of shrimp and grits, with all those dark spices against a shimmery canvas of grits. So I thought I’d try it the hippie (or is it yuppie?) way…but does tofu and polenta have the same ring? Probably not.

In any case, these were easy and fun to make. Tofu is scrambled in big chunks with lots of onion and garlic, and then coated in dried herbs and spices, including two different kinds of paprika. I threw some cherry tomatoes in to bring a little moisture back to the scene. And like I said, the grits are actually polenta, with lots of sauteed garlic tossed in at the end. But feel free to use grits, too, I just didn’t have any at the time. This made a great brunch, but I think it would be good for dinner, too. And as you can see, I served it with a side of sauteed kale. Any greens will do!

Oh and a note: the polenta definitely makes more than you need, so poor the excess into a square tupperware while still hot. When ready to eat, slice into squares and panfry.

For the tofu

Spice blend:
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional, if you want it spicy)
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed with your fingers

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, quartered and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 block (12 to 14 oz) extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half (I used sungolds)
Scallions for garnish

For the grits:
1 cup polenta corn grits (such as Bob’s Red Mill brand)
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste, depending how salty your broth is)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced

To make the tofu:
Combine the spice blend in a small cup or bowl.

Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Saute the onion in olive oil for about a 5 minutes, then add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds.

Break the tofu apart into bite sized pieces and saute for about 10 minutes, using a spatula to stir often. Get under the tofu when you are stirring, scrape the bottom and don’t let it stick to the pan, that is where the good, crispy stuff is. Use a thin metal spatula to get the job done, a wooden or plastic one won’t really cut it. The tofu should get browned on at least one side, but you don’t need to be too precise about it. The water should cook out of it and not collect too much at the bottom of the pan. If that is happening, turn the heat up and let the water evaporate.

Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and saute a minute more. Add the spice blend and mix to incorporate. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are warmed through and slightly broken down, about 5 minutes. Taste for salt and seasoning and keep warm until ready to serve.

To make the polenta:
Bring vegetable broth and salt to a boil in a 2 quart pot. Lower heat to simmer. Add the polenta in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Whisk for about 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Keeping heat low, cover and let cook for 20 more minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

When polenta is almost done, preheat a small pan over medium-low heat. Saute the garlic in oil just until it begins to sizzle, being careful not to burn. Stir for 30 seconds, then transfer to the cooked polenta and mix well.

To serve:
Spoon some polenta onto a plate and scoop on some tofu, overlapping a bit. Complete the plate with greens, then garnish with scallion.

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