Saturday, February 2, 2013

Oscar Noms #3: Silken Linings Playbook

Silken tofu gets a bad rap. I admit that I myself often discriminate against it.  I mean, silken tofu is great if you're blending it into a dessert, like a chocolate peanut butter pudding, but as the star of the show, in a savory dish, it just doesn't have enough bite. It's not "meaty" enough, if you know what I mean. I'll just come out and say it, I like my tofu extra-firm.

Until I had Ma-Po Tofu. The tagline for Silver Linings Playbook is, "Life doesn't always go according to plan." I didn't plan on liking silken tofu in this dish, but I did. The silky, custardy texture is a soothing contrast to the fiery heat of this Szechuan dish. It balances everything out.

This recipe was the first one I tried out from the new The Vegan Slow Cooker book by Kathy Hester. The traditional version is usually made with ground pork or beef, and the tongue-numbing Szechuan peppercorns. Hester's version is simplified and veganized, omitting the meat altogether, and using a combination of Sriracha sauce and red pepper flakes instead of the harder to find peppercorns, along with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, tomato paste, black bean garlic sauce (easy to find in the Asian section of most grocery stores), garlic, ginger, agave nectar, and white wine. The silken tofu is cooked in this sauce along with shiitake mushrooms and broccoli. It is a bold, bright, spicy, fragrant dish that will surprise you with the unexpected delight of silken tofu.

If this recipe is an indicator, there are many more hidden gems awaiting discovery in The Vegan Slow Cooker book. Soy Chorizo Black Bean Stew, Kung Pao Chick'n, Tempeh Braised with Figs and Port Wine, and Earl Grey Poached Pears are only a few of the recipes I have flagged to try. There are few things more satisfying than tossing some ingredients into your slow cooker in the morning and having a warm, delicious meal ready for you by dinnertime. It just might be the silver lining to an otherwise stressful day.

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