brown rice pudding

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I’ve taken to eating pudding for breakfast. It was Deb’s idea, and it’s a very good one. After all, if we regularly heat one whole grain with milk to make oatmeal, why not do the same with rice? Somehow, oatmeal feels like winter food. Rice pudding seems lighter, more appropriate for warm temperatures and topping with strawberries.

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This might seem obvious at first – you usually eat oatmeal warm and pudding cold. Except so far, I’ve been eating the rice pudding warm, so it’s more like rice porridge I suppose. But if I was organized enough, I think making it the night before and chilling it would not only save time in the morning, but make a great cool breakfast for the 100+ degree days we’ve been having around here.

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Eating dessert for breakfast isn’t anything new – who hasn’t indulged in a slice of leftover cake with their morning coffee? But that isn’t what this is about. By using brown rice instead of white and reducing the sugar, rice pudding is actually full of fiber and protein instead of empty calories. Rice pudding has never been my favorite dessert, but it’s starting to become one of my favorite breakfasts.

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One year ago: Brown Sugar Blueberry Plain Cake
Two years ago: Tender Shortcakes
Three years ago: Cappuccino Muffins
Four years ago: Baba Ghanoush, Falafel, and Hummus

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Brown Rice Pudding
(adapted from Joy the Baker)

Serves 4 to 6

This is a basic recipe that you can add all sorts of goodies to, from dried fruit and nuts to spices or a swirl of jam.

If you plan to serve this for dessert instead of breakfast, double both the sugar and the honey.

1 cup brown rice, rinsed
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ vanilla bean, split open (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and salt; reduce the heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Drain the rice in a strainer and return it to the pot, off the heat. Cover tightly and let set for 10 minutes.

2. Add the milk, sugar, honey, and vanilla bean to the pot with the rice. (If you’re using vanilla extract, add it just before serving.) Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the milk is reduced and the rice is creamy, about 30 minutes. If you’re using vanilla extract, stir it in now. If you’re planning to eat the pudding warm, serve it now. If you’re planning to eat it cold, transfer it to serving dishes to chill.

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watermelon agua fresca

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This is the first watermelon I’ve ever bought. The thing is, I don’t actually like watermelon. Because it tastes like water. And if I want water, I’ll just drink some; no need to eat faintly sugary overly soft fruit.

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But, I see now – sugary water, isn’t that the perfect base for a drink? It isn’t quite enough on its own; after all, watermelon is bland. But with some tart lime juice to brighten it up and maybe some mint, now we’re talking. Basically, think of the most supremely refreshing ingredients you can, then blend them up and serve them over ice.

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This is so good that Dave had to verify with me that there was no alcohol in it. Yes, a refreshing summer citrusy drink without tequila or rum! I will be buying many, many more watermelons.

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One year ago: Strawberry Cream Cake
Two years ago: Turkey Burgers
Three years ago: Potato Galette
Four years ago: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

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Watermelon Agua Fresca (adapted slightly from sunny vegan)

6 servings

8 cups cubed, seeded, peeled watermelon (about a third of a medium watermelon)
6 tablespoons lime juice
4 sprigs mint (optional)
ice
sparkling water

In a blender or food processor, puree the watermelon, lime juice, and mint. Pour the mixture into a fine-mesh strainer (or a colander lined with a single layer of cheesecloth); set aside for 30 minutes for the liquid to drain, stirring occasionally. Discard the solids in the strainer. Serve the remaining liquid over ice, topped off with sparkling water.

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fish tacos

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For a while there, I made fish tacos more than any other meal. That might only be once a month or so, but for this household, once a month is considered heavy rotation. Unsurprisingly, with that much iteration, the original recipe has gone through some modifications.

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In fact, I now have two versions that I alternate between, an easy weeknight version cooked on the stove, plus a smokier grilled option using a firmer fish. The indoor recipe is similar to the original, except now I like to combine all of the toppings – cabbage, red onion, yogurt-based cilantro-lime sauce – into one slaw before building the tacos, which distributes the flavors better along with taming the onion’s bite and weighing down the cabbage – so you can fit more of it into each taco. The other important tweak is a squeeze of lime juice after the fish cooks, which refreshes the flavor of the marinade.

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When I have more time, I’ll (have Dave) heat the grill, and we’ll cook the fish outside. I like thin tilapia filets for cooking on the stovetop, but something firmer, like halibut, is required for the grill. And if the grill is already hot, I’m definitely going toast the tortillas on there, and I might consider grilling the onions as well.

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Sadly, I don’t make fish tacos as often anymore, because I realized that the tilapia available in my town isn’t sustainably produced. Halibut, my favorite variety for grilling, isn’t sold at all here, so I only get to make that when I buy it in the Big City.  But, catfish is readily available here, and it seems like it would make excellent tacos.  I’ll have to test that out with one – or both – of my new and improved fish taco recipes.

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And if you run out of fish, this recipe works great with shrimp too!

One year ago: Lemon Bars (comparison of 3 recipes)
Two years ago: Cream Cheese Spritz
Three years ago: Strawberry Lemon Sorbet
Four years ago: Snickery Squares

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(Grilled or Pan-Seared) Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw

Serves 4

Marinade:
¼ cup lime juice (from 3-4 limes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
¼ cup minced cilantro, stems and leaves
6 (4 to 5-ounce) tilapia filets if pan-searing; 4 (6-ounce) halibut filets if grilling

Slaw:
2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1-2 limes)
½ small red onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon table salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup Greek yogurt (or a mixture of yogurt and mayonnaise)
¼ cup minced cilantro
½ cabbage, cut into quarters, cored, and sliced thin

For the tacos:
1 tablespoon olive oil (if pan-searing)
1 tablespoon lime juice
8 (5-inch) flour tortillas
other possible toppings: green chile, avocados, cheese, salsa

1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients, including the fish. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the slaw by combining the 2 tablespoons lime juice, red onion, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, and yogurt in a large bowl. Add the ¼ cup cilantro and cabbage, folding to evenly coat.

3. To pan-sear the fish: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook, without moving, until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip the fish and continue to cook until evenly flaky, an additional 2-3 minutes. To grill the fish: Heat a grill to medium-high. Oil the grill grate; grill the fish for about 8 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking.

4. Using two spoons, shred the fish into bite-size pieces. Pour the remaining lime juice over the fish; toss to combine.  Build the tacos by layering fish, slaw, and desired toppings on tortillas.

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lentil tacos

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While I loved these tacos, the real news here is that I’ve figured out how to soften corn tortillas without requiring a lot of fat or a lot of effort. I’m not saying they’re as good as fried tortillas, but in a healthy pinch, they’ll more than do. They still have the corny flavor I love and hold a generous scoop of gloppy filling, so I’m very pleased.

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I’ve started replacing flour tortillas with corn tortillas, at least for healthy weekday meals, saving the refined flour and partially hydrogenated fat-containing flour tortillas for weekend splurges. (And no, I do not want to make my own tortillas. Even I have limits, especially when the tortillas I can buy in New Mexico taste so good, partially hydrogenated fat notwithstanding.) Not only are they healthier, but they taste better. But I struggled for years with corn tortillas’ tendency to crack when folded, unless they were (deliciously) saturated with oil.

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I’d tried heating them on the grill, but they cracked as soon as they started to cool. I tried wrapping them in foil and heating them in the oven, but that didn’t solve the problem. I tried wrapping them in a damp cloth in a warm oven, which was an improvement, as the tortillas on the top and bottom of the stack were moist enough to fold without cracking, but those in the middle still broke.

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The trick, I’ve found, is to lay a damp dishtowel on a baking sheet, spread the tortillas over it in a single layer, then top with a second damp cloth. Heat the whole configuration in a warm oven while you make your filling. Then take the tortillas out of the oven, remove the top cloth, dollop on your chili-spiced lentils and some traditional-for-good-reason toppings, and dinner is easy, healthy, and delicious.

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One year ago: Brown Rice
Two years ago: Pizza with Figs, Prosciutto, Gorgonzola, Balsamic, and Arugula
Three years ago: Anadama Bread
Four years ago: Marshmallows

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Lentil Tacos (adapted from epicurious via Prevention RD)

Serves 4

With such a soft filling, these tacos really need a topping with some crunch.  I think very thinly sliced cabbage would be perfect, but lettuce would work well too. In a pinch, I’ve used coarsely chopped mung bean sprouts, and that wasn’t bad at all.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
10 taco-sized corn tortillas
toppings: cheese, avocado, salsa, tomato, lettuce

1. In a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until just browned around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and spices; cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute, until fragrant. Add the lentils, salt, and broth; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Uncover; simmer for 6-8 minutes, until mixture is thickened. Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, break up some of the lentils. Stir in the cilantro.

2. While the lentils cook, heat the oven to 275 degrees. Arrange a dampened dishtowel on a baking sheet. Spread the tortillas over the towel in a single layer (some overlap is expected), then top with a second dampened dishtowel. Heat in the oven for 10 minutes, until the tortillas are warm and soft.

3. Divide the filling and toppings evenly among the tortillas. Serve immediately.

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ginger fried rice

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Telling someone you’re having fried rice for dinner – not with dinner, but for dinner – doesn’t sound very impressive. Someone asked me if I was adding a bunch of stuff to it, and I had to think about it before I realized that no…not really. It’s really just aromatics stirred into rice, topped with an egg and some soy sauce.

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But it did seem to me that serving the egg fried and on top of the rice, instead of scrambled into the rice, made this more worthy of being a stand-alone dish. Plus, I added one leek per person, which seemed like a fair enough vegetable serving; not generous, perhaps, but adequate considering what else we’d eaten that day. With that, it has all the components many of my favorite weeknight dishes do – a whole grain, a vegetable, some protein.

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It certainly tasted like it was worthy of having the dinner plate to itself. I thought the rice would be bland, without any sauce stirred into it, but a heavy dose of garlic and ginger, not to mention the grassy onionness of the leeks added plenty of flavor. The drips of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil offer hits of strong seasonings, especially once carried into the rice with the unctuous yolk. This won’t be the last time I have to tell someone I’m having something as simple as fried rice for dinner, so I’d better get used to it.

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One year ago: Green Pea Ravioli in Lemon Broth
Two years ago: Brown Sugar Cookies
Three years ago: Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Four years ago: Sichuan Green Beans

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Ginger Fried Rice (adapted from Mark Bittman via Smitten Kitchen)

I used 4 leeks, but since leeks are usually sold in bunches of three, I wrote the recipe for just three leeks.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon canola or peanut oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
salt
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced ⅛-inch thick
4 cups day-old cooked rice (from 1 cup uncooked rice)
4 (or more) large eggs
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 green onion, sliced

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add another 1 tablespoon oil and the rice; cook until evenly heated, 3-4 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Crack the eggs into separate small cups. Add the eggs to the pan, season evenly with salt, and cover the pan. Cook until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft, 6-8 minutes.

3. Divide the rice between serving plates. Top with the fried eggs and a drizzle of both soy sauce and sesame oil. Garnish with green onions; serve immediately.

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poached salmon pasta salad

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It’s a recipe that doesn’t require butter and flour! These have been few and far between around this joint lately (and an unscheduled break didn’t help matters), or at least it would seem that way if your only window into my kitchen was through this blog. We’ve actually been eating dinners that are just as healthy as always (in other words, very healthy on the weekdays, decidedly less so on weekends), but while I was going through my excessive baking phase for a few weeks, I stuck to meals that were familiar and easy, so cooking dinner would minimize the time I had to spend apart from butter and sugar.

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Now that I’ve settled down and slowly stepped away from the mixer, I’m more willing to try new recipes after work. This one was a nice way to get out of the salmon rut I’ve been in. I know I can’t go wrong with pasta and a yogurt-based sauce. This one also has several other ingredients I love, like capers, mustard, and red onion. Since there was no cooking fat in the recipe, I indulged a bit and stirred in some mayonnaise to the sauce in addition to the Greek yogurt.

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I keep trying to serve things in romaine leaves, and it keeps turning out to be a mess. But there are worse things than tangy bites of salmon and pasta falling out of their lettuce cups. There’s no butter or sugar and I didn’t get to use the mixer, but it’ll do.

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One year ago: Lentil Goat Cheese Burgers
Two years ago: Soft Chocolate and Berry Tart
Three years ago: Chicken Artichoke Pesto Calzones
Four years ago: Sushi Rolls

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Poached Salmon Pasta Salad (adapted from An Edible Mosaic via Prevention RD and from Cooks Illustrated’s Poached Salmon recipe)

Serves 6

2 lemons, 1 sliced ¼-inch thick, 1 juiced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, stems reserved
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup water
4 (8-ounce) salmon fillets, about 1½ inches at the thickest part
Salt
12 ounces dry pasta
½ red onion, minced
1 tablespoon capers
2 teaspoons mustard
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1. Arrange the lemon slices in a single layer across the bottom of a 12-inch skillet. Scatter the parsley stems and minced shallots evenly over the lemon slices; add the water and wine. Place the salmon fillets in the skillet, skin side down on top of the lemon slices; set the pan over high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the sides of the salmon are opaque but the center of the thickest part is still translucent, 11 to 16 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully transfer the salmon to a cutting board. When cooled, remove the skin and cut the salmon into bite-sized chunks.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to rolling boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta; cook according to the package instructions. Drain.

3. Combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, the mustard, parsley leaves, capers, yogurt, and mayonnaise in a large bowl. Fold in the pasta and salmon. Serve immediately or chill for several hours.

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black bean quinoa salad with tomatillo salsa

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A few weeks ago, I was skiing, and I was having fun, but I felt stale. I felt like I was doing the same things I always do when I ski, back and forth across the slope, not too fast, just nice and comfortable. After a morning of this, I was getting impatient with myself – why are you so timid, I asked myself? Go faster, mix it up, challenge yourself, get out of that comfort zone. So I did, and I fell, and I twisted my knees, had to sit in the lodge and read a book the next day while my friends skied, and I couldn’t run or progress in my weightlifting routine for three weeks (and counting*).

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My weeknight dinner routine has felt stale lately too. So many grain salads, so many beans. It seems like I always use quinoa the same way, in some sort of salad. And how many different ways can I possibly combine black beans, chiles, and avocadoes?

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On the other hand, maybe I’m in this rut because it works – it’s healthy, it’s fast, and it’s good. Sometimes it’s better to stick with what works. Quinoa salads work. Black beans and cilantro works. And avocado works on everything. This was one of the best meals I’ve made lately. Mixing it up is overrated.

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*Eventually, I decided that if resting wasn’t helping my knees heal, I might as well run. (Impeccable logic, right?) A couple runs in, my knees feel better than they have in weeks. Crossing my fingers to start weightlifting again this weekend!

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One year ago: Chocolate Frosting (comparison of 3 recipes)
Two years ago: Dorie Greenspan’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
Three years ago: Devil’s Food White Out Cake
Four years ago: Cream Cheese Brownies

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Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Tomatillo Salsa (adapted slightly from Cate’s World Kitchen)

Serves 3-4

I substituted about 4 ounces of roasted peeled Hatch green chiles for one of the jalapenos.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
salt
4 tomatillos, papery skins removed
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 jalapenos, stemmed and seeded
¾ cup cilantro, divided
juice of 1 lime
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, diced

1. In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 1 cup water, ¼ teaspoon salt, and the quinoa to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the pot from the heat and let sit, still covered, for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the broiler. Broil the tomatillos and garlic until the tomatillos are browned, 5-8 minutes. Peel the garlic; transfer it to a blender with the tomatillos, ½ teaspoon salt, jalapenos, and ½ cup cilantro. Puree.

3. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl. Stir in the lime juice. Once the quinoa cools to slightly warmer than room temperature, add the beans, tomatoes, avocado, remaining ¼ cup cilantro, and salsa. Serve.

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yogurt hollandaise

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I am totally fascinated by emulsions, those silky mixtures of water-based liquids and fat. I’d love to claim this has something to do with my chemistry background and an interest in immiscible liquids and amphiphilic molecules, but, in truth, I think it’s because I like the creamy rich mixtures that result. I love mayonnaise, an emulsion of oil and vinegar; vinaigrettes, in which mustard holds the oil and vinegar together, although not as well as the egg yolks in mayonnaise; and even cake batters, in which a few egg yolks work to hold the butter and milk (or whatever liquid) together, and have such trouble doing it that the ingredients need to be as close in temperature as possible to prevent curdling.

Hollandaise, an emulsion of butter and lemon juice, again held together by egg yolks (the kitchen’s favorite emulsifier), isn’t my thing though. It isn’t that I don’t like it – what isn’t to like, other than blowing your entire day’s worth of calories for breakfast? It’s just that I don’t see the point, when my old favorite pretend-fattening ingredient, Greek yogurt, does such a good job of mimicking the richness of traditional hollandaise.

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You still add egg yolks to make the sauce silky smooth, and this yogurt-based sauce has all the same flavorings as a full-fat version, with the lemon juice, salt, and spice (hot sauce here instead of cayenne powder). A pinch of sugar and tiny squeeze of mustard round out the flavors. And in the spirit of being healthier but maybe not perfectly healthy, I usually stir some tiny cubes of butter into the sauce to add richness.

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There’s no question that the main advantage of this sauce over traditional hollandaise is that you’re not pouring nearly pure butter over your eggs. But it doesn’t hurt that it’s easier and less finicky either, requiring nothing more than a quick whisk over a double boiler, with no worries about the emulsion breaking. I guess I like fake emulsions just as much as real ones.

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One year ago: Yellow Cake (comparison of 3 recipes)
Two years ago: Rich Katz’s brownies for Julia Child
Three years ago: Red Velvet Cake (comparison of 5 recipes)
Four years ago: Salmon Pesto Pasta

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Yogurt Hollandaise (adapted from Fine Cooking and A Food Centric Life)

Enough for 6 servings of eggs benedict

You can use any fat level of Greek yogurt you like. I always use low-fat, because that’s the easiest to find where I live.

Sometimes I also add a tablespoon of butter, cut into small cubes, and heat it with the other ingredients.

I didn’t make traditional eggs Benedict; I topped my English muffins with green chile, avocado, poached eggs, and hollandaise.

¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 egg yolks
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
pinch of white pepper
dash hot Tabasco sauce

1. In the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, egg yolks, mustard, salt, sugar, pepper and Tabasco sauce.

2. Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes. (The sauce can be set aside at room temperature for up to 1 hour; reheat gently in double boiler.)

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marinated roasted tofu

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I cannot eat another hard-boiled egg. For a long time, it seemed like the perfect snack to bring to work – portable, easy, packed full of protein and nutrients. And, most importantly, I loved hard-boiled eggs. The creamy yolk balances the watery white, and I would try to get just the right ratio of each in every bite.

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A year and a half later, they’ve lost their charm. I considered switching to a new snack before it reached this point, but I couldn’t figure out what would have similar nutrient characteristics. I already eat plenty of beans, nuts, and dairy, so I needed a new protein source.

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Soy is a comparable replacement, nutrition-wise, for eggs, but digging into a cube of spongy tofu wasn’t appetizing. But tofu is perfect for marinating, because it soaks up whatever flavor you add. Then you can roast it to concentrate the flavors of the marinade and firm up the texture.

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I’ve eaten this tofu every afternoon at work for three weeks, and so far it’s one of my favorite daily snacks. (Still doesn’t hold a candle to my morning bagel, of course.) I’m sure I’ll go back to hard-boiled eggs eventually; maybe in another year and a half, when I get tired of tofu?

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One year ago: Pasta e Fagioli
Two years ago: Oatmeal Raisin Muffins
Three years ago: World Piece Cookies
Four years ago: Chocolate Cupcakes

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Marinated Roasted Tofu (adapted from Jeanne Lemlin’s Vegetarian Classics)

Serves 4

I like these plain as a snack, but they also make a good sandwich filling.

The pictures might be confusing – the first couple times I made these, I sliced the tofu into slabs and then cut the slabs into thirds.  Later, I got annoyed with arranging so many little tofu bites (I always make a double batch) on the cooling rack, so I kept the tofu as larger slices and cut them in half after baking.

1 pound firm tofu, drained
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sriracha (optional)

1. On a dishtowel, slice the tofu crosswise into eight slabs approximately ½-inch thick. Arrange the slices in a single layer; cover with a second dish towel and pat dry.

2. Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients in an 8-inch square container or baking dish. Add the tofu to the marinade in the dish; stir gently and set aside for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate, covered, overnight.

3. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Arrange an oven-safe cooling rack on a baking sheet. Transfer the marinated tofu slices to the cooling rack. Roast until dry and browned at the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. (If you don’t have an oven-safe cooling rack, bake the tofu in a baking dish in a single layer.) The roasted tofu can be refrigerated for at least 5 days.

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black bean avocado brownies

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I have developed an extensive spreadsheet of calculations in an effort to address to issue of brownies that aren’t bad for you, and what I have discovered is that brownies are bad for you. The problem is the chocolate. Chocolate on its own doesn’t taste good, as you’re probably aware. It needs sugar to taste good. Fat is nice too. Sugar and fat aren’t good for you.

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Sure, the internet is rife with recipes for black bean brownies, in which beans replace the flour, cocoa powder is the only source of chocolate, and, in Cara’s recipe, avocado adds some fat, but the healthy kind. I made Cara’s recipe, exchanging 2 tablespoons of cocoa for 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate to add oomph to the chocolateliness in a compromise between health and flavor that I thought was worthwhile. The brownies were very, very edible. They didn’t taste like beans or like avocado. They also didn’t taste much like chocolate.

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This is when I started calculating calories, trying to see how much chocolate I could add to black bean brownies before it defeats the purpose of making a healthier brownie. I started by looking at Cook’s Illustrated’s Lighter Brownies recipe, replacing the flour with beans and the butter with avocado. I also added some ground almonds, because the original brownies needed something dry to absorb some of the moisture and bulk up the batter.

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Once you add more chocolate and fatty nuts to the recipe, it has just as much fat as Cook’s Illustrated butter-containing light brownie recipe. It has twice the fat of Cara’s recipe – but half the fat of my favorite regular brownie recipe (for the same size square). It has about the same amount of fiber and protein as Cara’s recipe, and two or three times the protein of a regular brownie recipe. (Regular brownies don’t contain any fiber to speak of.)

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What these brownies have going for them is that they’re chock full of fiber, high in protein, gluten-free, and full of good fats. What they have working against them is that they still have a significant amount of refined sugar, and they have more fat and therefore more calories than other black bean brownie recipes. They also have more flavor, more chocolate flavor, that is; in fact, so much chocolate flavor that this won’t just satisfy a chocolate craving, but it’ll cause a craving – for black bean brownies.

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first batch (all other photos are of second batch)

One year ago: Great Grains Muffins
Two years ago: Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
Three years ago: Tofu Croutons
Four years ago: Potstickers

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Black Bean Avocado Brownies (adapted from Cara’s Cravings and Cook’s Illustrated’s Lighter Brownies)

12 medium squares

¼ cup almonds
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
⅛ teaspoon table salt
1 (15-ounce black) beans, rinsed and drained
2 ounces avocado flesh (about ½ an avocado)
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with vegetable oil spray.

2. Process the almonds, sugar, and salt in a food processor until the almonds are finely ground, about 2 minutes. Add the beans and avocado; process until the beans are smoothly pureed, 4-5 minutes (some flecks of bean skins may remain).

3. Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan containing one inch of simmering water. Add the chocolate; stir frequently until the chocolate is smooth, then remove from the heat. In a separate small bowl, whisk the cocoa, water, vanilla, and espresso powder together. Add the chocolate, cocoa mixture, and baking powder to the bean mixture in the food processor; pulse to combine. Add the eggs; process for 30 seconds, stopping twice to scrape the sides of the bowl.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, at least 1 hour. Store leftovers, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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