I’ve been really overdoing it lately. Carrying on as though there is an award for self-exhaustion. And it needs to stop. I need an intervention.
I imagine it would go something like this:
You need to start getting more than five hours of sleep … ice cream is not an acceptable breakfast option … nope, not for dinner either … put down the cake … I mean it … have you even been reading Tender? … you know that’s a book about vegetables, right? … no, white Russians do not count as a serving of dairy … you should probably stop using that as an excuse to have cheese for lunch, as well … I know you just got a tetanus shot, but still … keep this up and you’re going to hurt yourself … seriously … I’m not checking you for ticks again … I’m concerned.
So before shipping off to Paris, I thought I’d instill some rules. Bedtime at 10 pm sharp. Eat more green, leafy things. Please do limit the dairy, as you are lactose intolerant. Step slowly away from anything that has been aged in a barrel.
In the spirit of compromise, things like whole grain muffins and dried fruit-studded rolls are encouraged. As are meals that include more than cake. A source of protein is required. Ingredients like sugar can be used when intentions are pure.
And, thus, I cannot tell you how pleased I am to present the resultant dish, born from excess and a little self-destruction. Sure, it’s tofu, but don’t let that stop you. Please. Those in the tofu-hater club, particularly: take note.
First, you’ll need macadamia nuts. (A good start, no?) After toasting them, crisp up some tofu in oil until golden brown. Sauté some aromatics; the shallot was born to play this role. Then, add back the tofu and—are you ready for this?—toss in three heaping spoonfuls of sugar. Yes, sugar. After you let the sugar coat the tofu, add some liquid and a bubbling caramel glaze will form. Fresh herbs go in at the end and become sweetly lacquered and crispy. Lemon verbena is lovely, if you have it, but a number of substitutions could be made here. Mint comes to mind. Think green and bright and you’ll be fine.
I’m telling you. This dish is so good it almost feels intervention worthy itself. When paired with a loose slaw of shredded brussels sprouts, lemon, pistachio oil, and dried cherries it very easily makes it as my new favorite go-to dinner. So it’s au revoir to all that excess. Bonjour, tofu. And hello to my sanity again.
Caramel and Macadamia Nut Tofu
¼ macadamia nuts, chopped roughly in half
15 ounces tofu (or 1 package), cut into thick strips
~2-4 tbsp olive or peanut oil
½ shallot, sliced thinly
½ serrano pepper, seeded and diced
Pinch of salt
3 heaping spoonfuls of sugar (about 3 tbsp)
Splash of ponzu sauce
~7 lemon verbena leaves
Toast the macadamia nuts in a dry saucepan on low heat until they become fragrant and browned. Meanwhile, pat tofu strips dry with a paper towel. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside. Add about 1 tbsp of oil to the pan and then add about ½ the tofu strips. Cook the tofu on one side on medium-high heat until golden brown on its underside and then flip and cook until well done on the other side. Repeat with the remaining tofu, adding more oil to the pan when necessary and adjusting the heat as needed if the tofu starts browning too quickly.
Set the cooked tofu aside and add a little more oil to the pan to sauté the shallot and pepper. Add a pinch of salt and cook the vegetables until they start to soften, about 1-2 minutes. Add the tofu and the macadamia nuts back to the pan and then add the sugar, tossing gently with a rubber spatula to coat. Add a splash of ponzo sauce; stir gently. Add a splash or two of water (~1-2 tbsp). Just enough to help the sugar start to bubble and caramelize. Stir gently, just enough to help coat the tofu with the caramel glaze. Add the lemon verbena strips, or other herbs, and cook just until the tofu is fully glazed.
Makes 2-3 rough cups of tofu strips.
-The inspiration from this came from the lovely 101 Cookbooks. The whole dish comes together in less than 30 minutes.
-I imagine a splash of citrus, such as orange juice, might be nice. Perhaps as a substitute for the water. Though watch the sweetness. Surprisingly the caramel doesn't become overly saccharine against the tofu, but adding other sweet items might send it over the edge.
-This is the ponzu sauce I tend to use.