Crispy tofu in smoky-sweet sauce

Tofu with sweet smoky sauce

Malcolm is on the roof. I’m so worn to a nub that I’m not telling him to get down. Not right away. We’ve had a spate of bad ideas, defiance and sassiness, here at The Ordinary, that has us retreating to the secret underground swimming pool, where we can swim through the cool, blue, shifting waves of quiet. Sigh, of course there are no such pools. There’s just me losing my temper and screaming like a crazy person, and regretting it instantly, but yelling again a minute later. (Is that the definition of insanity?) Malcolm’s bored, and I don’t believe in boredom. I don’t believe that the smartest, most creative, most interested ten-year-old boy I know, who also happens to have more toys on the floor at this moment than I had my entire childhood, could possibly be bored. Didn’t I raise him to have inner resources? Didn’t I pioneer the parenting method of making no plans for him, and not signing him up for any activities, and submitting him to long periods of nothing-to-do, just to prepare him for these occasions? It’s because he has too many toys isn’t it? I should have given him a balloon and a cardboard box, and left it at that! Because now, he doesn’t want to draw, or write, or play with his brother, or with his toys, he wants to walk in circles hitting things with a stick. (Why? Why?) He wants to sit on the roof. And I’ll leave him there, just for a little while.

We’ve all been a little tense and cranky lately, with anxieties that are distracting us from that bittersweet end-of-summer piquancy. We needed to do something as a family, just the four of us, something calm, and pleasant, and free, because we don’t have any money. Malcolm and David hit on the perfect thing, yesterday. We sat by a fire in the backyard. We talked about summer passing, we watched the perfect August evening deepen all around us. We watched the balance of light shift, so that at first the sky was brighter than the clouds, and then it deepened and the the clouds glowed brightly in the dusk. Isaac watched the glowing embers and the clouds of smoke, and I remembered what he’d said earlier in the summer, that it’s like the fire’s telling us a story of what it looks like in the clouds.

Our fires smell ridiculously good, because David saves leftover pieces of cherry and walnut. I love the sweet, smoky smell, and I love smoky flavors. It’s sort of a quest, as a vegetarian, to come up with that perfect smoky briny taste. I think this sauce is deeeeelicious! And it’s extremely easy to make – smoked paprika, sugar, tamari, some smoked sea salt. And it’s perfect with crispy tofu! This is my first tofu recipe on The Ordinary! I’ve been posting a vegetarian recipe a day (almost) for nearly a year, and this is the first time tofu has made an appearance! Must be some kind of record! I thought of this preparation because I made a cuban-inspired meal of black beans and rice, and this was my equivalent of crispy pork to go with it. (I’ll tell you about the rest soon, I hope.) I only like tofu if it’s fried till very dry and crispy, but it doesn’t have much flavor. Coated in this yummy sauce it was perfect – not too dry, and really tasty. I had to fight the boys off from eating the last few pieces so that I could take a photo!! I made the sauce again the next day, to go with some oven roasted french fries. I’ll be making this a lot!

Smoky sweet sauce

Here’s What a fire, by The Ethiopians

1 block extra firm tofu

2 T olive oil
1 plump clove garlic, minced
2 t tamari
1 t balsamic
1/4 t marmite
2 t brown sugar
1 cup canned diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
1 t smoked paprika
1/2 t smoked sea salt (or to taste, or regular salt if you don’t have smoked)
plenty of black pepper

Drain the tofu. Put it on a plate or in a colander, and weigh it down. I put a pot on top with some cans of beans in it. Leave it for about an hour, turning it from time to time. Once it’s quite dry and compressed, cut it in half lengthwise, in half width wise, and then into 1/4 inch pieces. Warm about 1/3 inch of olive oil in a wok or small saucepan until very hot (you should be able to fry a bread crumb in under a minute). Fry the tofu in small batches until golden and crispy. Maybe five minutes each side. Remove and drain, on paper towels or a rack, while you fry the rest.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, and when it starts to brown, add the tamari and marmite. Then add the sugar and balsamic. Then add the tomatoes and paprika. Cook for about ten minutes, till it’s very pasty and thick – the tomatoes will seem to separate from the oil. Process everything till smooth with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup water. Season with smoked salt and lots of pepper.

Put some sauce on a plate. Add the tofu in small batches, and, using your fingers or two forks, roll it around until coated. You can bake/ toast the tofu at this point, to warm it up again and set the sauce a bit, or just pile it on a plate.

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2 thoughts on “Crispy tofu in smoky-sweet sauce

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  2. Pingback: Cuban beans & rice burgers, and cuban sofrito | Out of the Ordinary

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