Tofu for Dinner - Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski

When I was in the seventh grade it was my greatest pleasure to displease my superiors, whether they be my mom, my teachers, or the security guards at the mall, I reveled in infuriating them all.  I had a partner on this mission named Priscilla.  We would sit together at lunch, munching on tater tots and brainstorming about what to do next.  On one of these occasions, on Ash Wednesday to be exact, we devised the perfect plan.  Hit by a sudden wave of devotion, we decided to practice Lent this year - the first time ever for the two of us non-Catholics - by making two very big sacrifices.  I would give up eating meat and Priscilla would give up brushing her teeth.  What that meant for me as a seventh grader was that my mom, the cook, would have to learn a whole new repertoire of recipes suited for a vegetarian and then make two different diners every night, one for me and one for her.  What this meant for Priscilla was, well - yuck!  Her mom would not be happy.

I broke the news of my newfound piety to my mother that night when she picked me up from volleyball practice, "Mom, as you know it's Lent."  "It is?" she asked.  "Yes," I replied, "and I'm giving up meat for God.  We will have to go food shopping and we might even have to buy some new pots and pans."  "OK, we'll just stop at the Super Fresh; it's on the way."  She didn't seem mad at all.  Why wasn't my plan working?  At the store she picked up a single filet mignon from the meat counter and a package of watery tofu from the refrigerated section.  That's what I'll be eating?  Clearly I had not thought this through.

That night my mom made dinner just as usual, with one small addition.  After everything else was done she sliced a chunk of wet tofu off the block and slid it into a pan with some bar-b-q sauce.  After the tofu warmed up she put it on my plate with the scalloped potatoes and the haricot verts where the filet would have been.  For the next few nights I ate the exact same tofu preparation while the sides and her protein changed.  She had got me; this joke was on me.

Needless to say, Priscilla's plan backfired even worse.  No one noticed that she hadn't brushed her teeth in two days except her - and she didn't like it one bit - so she gave in and brushed them on day three.

My new-found vegetarianism, however, lasted for many years.  I eventually took it upon myself to search out more interesting and flavorful tofu preparations.  For a few years there was a vegan cheese steak restaurant in Philly that really satisfied the meat craving.  After that closed I discovered a few brands of meatless crumbles that make a great vegan meat sauce.  And then there's deep fried tofu with Thai peanut sauce.  And spicy tofu stir-fry with bok choy, spinach tofu quiche, Japanese agegashi tofu, and tofu ravioli.  The list goes on.  And the tofu itself comes in a good number of varieties.  Extra firm tofu is my favorite to cook with.  What are your favorite tofu dishes?

Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski- Kangaroo for Dinner?

A friend recently told me that there are two restaurants in New York City that serve kangaroo.  "I really want to try it," she said.  "I wonder what impact that meal will have on the environment," I replied.  She brushed off the comment and told me more about the one restaurant that she planned on trying the kangaroo at.  Though I didn't stop thinking about what I had said.  Here was my train of thought.  Assuming that the kangaroo meat was shipped to New York from Australia, that's a ten thousand mile refrigerated journey.  Most of the beef in this country comes from Texas which is about fifteen hundred miles from New York.  So, on a journey that is about seven times as long, is the carbon footprint of the kangaroo about seven times as large as the footprint of the cow from Texas?  I'm not sure. But here is something that I am sure of.  The environmental benefits of cutting meat out of your diet - even if for only one day - are clear cut.  The production of your meatless meals will leave less of a carbon footprint and consume less water and fossil fuel than would the production of a standard meat meal.  Now try comparing that to a kangaroo meal!

And if you have already made the choice to go meatless on Mondays then I invite you to take it a step further.  Try only eating local fruits and vegetables at your Monday meals.  What you find at the farmer's market is always local and if you do a little research you can find out what is locally produced and sold at your grocery store as well.  It's a practice that is good for the environment and for your peace of mind as well.

Eggplant - Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski

I have heard a few vegetarian friends say that growing up they never ate eggplant, that they didn't like it, though they may not have given it a fair chance. But then, after becoming vegetarians or vegans - and growing up some - they gave eggplant another chance and were amazed to find out that eggplant is really good. Then, once the dynamic fruit was on their radar, they started to notice just how often it shows up in cuisine from all around the world. My point is: that eggplant is a great substitute for meat, especially in the cold months ahead when you may want to eat something a little heartier. Here are some of the ways that eggplant can be prepared and the cultures that inspired or created these dishes. The first, and my favorite, is thin sliced eggplant that has been breaded and fried. This preparation is typical in Italian food and tastes great on top of penne pomodoro with a generous helping of ricotta salata. Another favorite of mine is eggplant cooked in olive oil with ginger and soy sauce. Serve this over short grain brown rice and you've got the Chow Fun specialty - Chinese Eggplant - minus a few of the calories. Ratatouille is a traditional French dish much like a vegetable stew composed of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, and of course, eggplant. And then there are countless traditional Indian preparations of eggplant - not surprising as eggplant is native to India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. One of the more popular Indian preparations of eggplant is Baingan Bharta - or eggplant curry - this one is spicy and creamy.

And that is just the beginning; the list of unique eggplant dishes goes on. Maybe you'd like to add one of your favorites in the comments section below?

Monday Nights at August - Sommelier's Cure for a Case of the Mondays: ½ Priced Wine

Come by and try Monday Nights at August - Sommelier's Cure for a Case of the Mondays: 1/2 Priced Wine Every Monday enjoy a delicious bottle of wine from a hand-picked list of our Sommelier's favorite distinct bottles for half off the normal price

Monday October 11, 2010

Monday 1/2 Price Bottle List

Rich Autumn Whites!

Vin de Pays de Cotes Catalanes, Cuvee Cuthbert, Fin Amour  2008

Languedoc Rousillon, France

Regularly $80     now $40

...pears, textured richness, underlying acidity, lots of personality

Saint Veran, Domaine des Deux Roches 2008

Burgundy, France

Regularly $54     now $27

...clean, crisp and elegant, with honeyed flavors backed by a subtle mineral note

Muscat,  Heidi Schrock  2007

Neusiedlersee-Huggeland, Austria

Regularly $55     now $27.50

...a multi-faceted spicy aroma and a lively and precise palate... juicy and salivating and an oyster-shell finish

Greco di Tufo, Pietracupa 2005

Campania, Italy

Regularly $81     now $40.50

...with an almond like quality and some background notes of pears this wine is clean and refreshing

Fiano di Avellino,  Pietracupa  2007

Campania, Italy

Regularly $45    now $22.50

...notes of honey and hazelnuts...the aromas can be both smoky and waxy and help to frame the core of apple and pear fruit