Hi, my name is Dave, and I have something to say.
Actually that’s only part of what what I have to say. As is often the case, there’s the food, the story, and the more of the story.
The food and the story began a little over two weeks ago. I was trying to figure out what to make for the day-before-Valentine’s-Day potluck party that my friends were having. I wanted to make something new and different, but lacking full inspiration, I decided to go with Tofurky Sloppy Joes (in pitas with mozzarella). The night before the potluck, I got everything together and made it. When I tasted it, it was good, but it didn’t seem like anything special. It seemed like…Tofurky with homemade tomato sauce. It was done though, and ready to go.
I still had about an hour before I was going to go to sleep, so I started up another cooking project. Having just baked some tofu, I decided to try making tofu cacciatore, i.e., to try making something from the list I keep of new things to try, test out, refine, perfect, and then, after several tests, write about and finally share in their beautiful, glittering, and ‘Let’s make this right away because it’s ridiculously good’ final perfect form. That was the plan. But you know how plans can be – it’s not bad to have them (in fact it’s often good have them), but sometimes they don’t go…as planned. The key is to be open to adapting to change along the way.
The tofu cacciatore, on attempt #1, was actually pretty good. I wasn’t about to bring it to the party though because I’d made it only once. I didn’t even take notes or pictures along the way, as I figured I’d make it several more times before sharing it.
But come the next day, and the approach of the potluck hour, I was starting to feel a familiar struggle rising up, of, What should I do… Should I bring the Sloppy Joes, as already prepared and as planned? Or should I bring this other thing I happened to have, Tofu Cacciatore, which admittedly tastes better but isn’t perfect (isn’t what I imagined perfect would be, and not what I planned)? I stood there for 5-10 minutes, knowing that I had to choose and start heating one of them up. And then, without thinking too much, came a moment of clarity:
Bring the one you like more, the one you think other people will like more, the one that’s a little different, the one that’s more unique, the one that’s more you, the one that well it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect because right now, in the moment, it’s pretty good, good enough, and more than good enough. It’s Tofu Cacciatore. What more is there to say?
So I brought the TC. 🙂
It’s great when a decision feels right. And people liked it too.
- 1 lb firm tofu, cut into smaller pieces (about 1″ x 1/2″ x 1/2″)
- 1 Tbsp each: olive oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, white wine vinegar
- 3 Tbsp olive oil (in addition to the above)
- 2 onions, chopped into small pieces
- 1 Tbsp dried rosemary, diced
- 1 Tbsp dried sage, diced
- 2 peppers (any color), chopped roughly
- 3 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 1/4 cups crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Prepare and bake the tofu
- Mix the olive oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, and white wine vinegar (1 Tbsp each) in a bowl
- Add the tofu pieces, and mix to coat them in the marinade
- Arrange the tofu pieces on a baking sheet
- Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, flip the pieces, and then bake for another 15 minutes (30 minutes total)
- Let the baked tofu cool for 5 minutes, and then chop roughly into smaller pieces
- Saute the onions and the herbs (rosemary and sage) in the olive oil (3 Tbsp) over medium heat until the onions are soft, about 20 minutes
- Add the peppers and garlic, and saute for another 10 minutes
- Add the broth and wine, and simmer for 10 minutes
- Add the baked tofu
- Add the crushed tomatoes, and simmer for 10 minutes
- Add whatever is left of the tofu marinade
- Add the salt and pepper
The first thing I love about this recipe is the baked tofu. Over the past few months, I’ve made a lot of it, and the above marinade/time/temp combo is a keeper. The way I’ve been making the tofu is quick too – cut it, coat it, place it, bake it. You can also use this baked tofu for stir fry or as a hot or cold snack by itself. If you want, you can also leave out the 1 Tbsp of white wine vinegar (to make it mildly sweet rather than mildly sweet-tart).
A second part of the recipe that makes me smile is how, near the end, I add the extra marinade to the Tofu Cacciatore mix.
You might be saying, Uhh, soy sauce and maple syrup, in cacciatore???
The answer is, Yup! It’s only a small bit, and really, what else are you going to do with it 🙂
If you have fresh herbs, they’re always good to use. I still have a lot of dried sage leaves from my garden (if anyone wants some, let me know!), so that’s what I used for the sage. Chopping the sage also came with a satisfying crunch-sound of the dried leaves folding under the knife and an equally satisfying, ever-so-slightly-delayed punch of potent sage aroma.
Since I hadn’t taken any pictures and didn’t remember all the quantities from the first time, I did end up making the recipe two more times a few days later.
I didn’t bring any leftovers home from the potluck, but I did learn today that this version of Tofu Cacciatore also keeps for at least 12 days. (I may have, um, had the last of the Take 2 and 3 leftovers today. Shortly before taking the first photo above, the TC in a PP.)
Overall, it was a good recipe and experience. I modeled the Tofu Cacciatore recipe on the Chicken Cacciatore recipe that I used to make before I stopped cooking meat a few years ago, and that recipe was modeled in turn on the Joy of Cooking one. If there’s a TC 2.0 to in future, it might include the addition of more herbs (basil, oregano, and/or rosemary), flour (a browning and thickening ingredient from the past version), capers (also from the past), and mushrooms (maybe, maybe not; they’re not my favorite, but they are found in many a cacciatore recipe).
Admittedly, without the mushrooms, there’s no morel to the story 🙂 But, it does remain a story with food and more.
I’ve written before about letting go of trying to be and wanting things to be perfect – for instance, the reminder of how The reason is in the risotto – and there’s a bit of that reminder here too, with my new friend TC. Every reminder leads to a further shift in thinking, just like every day comes with something new to see, feel, think, and learn from. That was one of my thoughts as I was waking up today, along with the thought that it’s amazing that this post, what I’d be writing here, would be slightly different if I’d written it two weeks ago, one week ago, or even two days ago. Something new happens, is seen, and is felt all the time, and it’s a kitchen ripple. And I feel it. And just like the TC may change and evolve in the future, so too may I. Where we’re at now is good and right, and where we’ll be at later will be good too.
In some ways, it feels like a repost.
And with food, it’s also a repast.
Knowing that everything builds over time, we can say too: every day that goes by is a new past.
And as we move forward, every day that we live in, and are a part of, is a new present.