Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tofu Perico

Breakfast with the entire family on the weekends has to be one of my favorite meals of the week. I get to wake up late and make whatever type of breakfast I want.  It often turns into brunch because by the time I'm done cooking it's always past 12pm.  During the week though, breakfast becomes the most neglected meal of the day.  We always find ourselves in a rush to get to work.  We forget our keys, our cell phone, or sometimes the very important umbrella on a rainy day.  The worst offense though has to be that we forget to set time aside to eat a decent breakfast, and note that I don't say "a proper breakfast".  If I had what  Colombians consider a proper breakfast in the morning, then I would never make it to work on time.  

That's why in the morning I always try to set aside enough time to make myself "a decent breakfast".  I am not a morning person and my commute to work tends to run an hour and a half, but if I don't eat before I leave I'll be starving by the time I get to work. I will most likely get cranky and will require an everything bagel with cream cheese from the corner deli.  To avoid this scenario, I usually like to make myself a morning scrambled egg with a toasted loaf of whole wheat or whole grain bread spread with half a wedge of the Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss cheese.  That paired with a freshly ground cup of coffee will get me through my morning commute.  

Unfortunately, I have recently encountered that I can't always eat eggs in the morning.  Most of the time my stomach can handle the eggs but there are some days when I have an adverse reaction.  Am I allergic?  Not sure, but it doesn't happen all of the time.  That's why I  decided that I should try to substitute eggs with something else, and well, Tofu came to mind.  It's low in fat and sodium and it's got a ton of protein, iron, and vitamins.

Though you can never truly substitute the taste of an egg, I needed to come up with something that would give my block of tofu a flavor that my taste buds were familiar with.  Most of the recipes I found online paired tofu with Asian ingredients, and even though I love the way it's prepared with those ingredients, I wanted to give the tofu a Latin twist.  That's when I remembered that Colombians love to eat
huevos pericos for breakfast.  That's what we call scrambled eggs mixed with diced scallions and tomatoes. I could use the scallion and tomato sauce or guiso as a base for the tofu giving it that Latin Sazón.  

Making the sauce ahead of time could save you time in the morning.  It could be as easy as heating up a tablespoon or two of the sauce and mixing the crumbled tofu.  Just like my morning scrambled egg routine, you could try pairing your tofu with toast in the morning.

Because I prepared this dish during the weekend, I took the recipe a little bit further and paired my
Tofu Perico with some tostadas de platano maduro or fried yellow flattened plantains.  You also find the word tostones and patacones used to described them.  They are usually made with green plantains, which would also be delicious with this dish, but I like my plantains on the sweet side.

Now let's get started!

Tofu Perico
serves 2
1/2 a block of extra-firm tofu (14-ounce packet), drained
3 to 4 scallions diced
1 medium tomato diced
1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove roasted garlic or 1 minced clove of garlic
1 packet of culantro with achiote food coloring (depending on the flavor you want this can change)
Add salt and pepper to taste

Sweet Yellow 
Flattened Plantains 
Use the same recipe to make green flattened plantains.
serves 2
1 sweet plantain (makes 5 to 6 tostadas)
1 cups of canola oil (amount varies by pot used)

Tip 1 - Don't buy a yellow plantain from the store, get a green one and let it mature on its own. You want the plantain to turn yellow, but you want it to maintain a bit of the firmness of the green plantain. That makes the sweet plantain easier to mold when you flatten it. It's a trick my mom and aunt both taught me. It's also cheaper to buy green plantains.

Dice tomato and scallions but don't combine.  Break apart half a block of extra firm tofu with a fork until you get the consistency of ground beef.  Remove the skin of the sweet plantain and cut into 1.5 inch slices. That should yield about 5 to 6 tostadas depending on the size of the plantain.  Set ingredients aside.

Sweet Yellow 
Flattened Plantains 
  • In a frying pan, add a cup of canola oil, or enough oil to coat half the plantain. Set the oil to medium heat. Don't use the highest setting, you don't want the plantains to burn.
  • Pinch a piece out of one of the plantains and use it to test the oil.  You want to make sure it bubbles to the touch.  Add the diced sweet plantains. Fry the plantains and wait until they are a light golden color, then turn.  If you are using enough oil to coat the plantain wait until they are a light golden color then remove and drain on top of paper towels.  Don't turn off the heat of the oil (see Tip 2 below).
  • Take the diced plantains that have been drying on a paper towel and flatten between two smooth surfaces.  I use a wooden plantain smasher but even two plates will do.  I recommend lightly oiling the surface you are using to flatten the plantain so it doesn't stick.
  • Place the flattened plantains back in the oil and fry until golden brown.  Remove and drain on top of paper towels.
  • Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on top of the finished sweet flattened plantains.  Try to remove as much of the oil that you can.

Tip 2 - Don't turn off the heat of the oil if you are going to cook everything right away. If you are preparing the plantains earlier in the day, follow the recipe until the step where you flatten the plantains. After you flatten the plantains, place them in salted water until you are ready to fry. Because we are using yellow plantains, I don't believe they will oxidize, but I've never tried this tip with yellow plantains. It will definitely work on green plantains though. Dry plantains thoroughly before placing back in the heated oil.

Tofu Perico
  • In a skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil them add the roasted clove of garlic along with the diced scallions.  Use a spoon or a fork to break apart the soft roasted garlic and mix with the scallions.  If you are using minced garlic, saute the garlic first, then add the scallions.  Visit the Don't Burn the Garlic! blog for a great recipe on how to create the perfect roasted garlic.
  • After about 3 minutes of sauteing add the additional tablespoon of olive oil along with the diced tomatoes and a half packet of food coloring.  Add the rest of the packet if you want your tofu to have more coloring.
  • Saute the tomatoes, but don't let the mixture dry out, you want the tomatoes and the scallions to form a light sauce, then add the tofu and mix all of the ingredients together.
  • Let everything cook together for another 5 minutes and set aside.

It's now ready to serve and enjoy.

Tip 3 - You can use the Tofu Perico to serve as an appetizer by buying a plantain smasher for stuffed tostones. You can also supplement the Tofu with any type of meat, the key here is the tomato and scallion sauce to give your dish that Latin Sazón.

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About This Blog

I started this blog because I want to introduce new and healthy ingredients into my everyday meals. Living in the NY, NJ, CT tri-state area you find a plethora of local grocery stores that service a number of diverse neighborhoods. Every time I visit one of these stores I find fruits, vegetables, and ingredients that I have never used, or that I am afraid to use. I want to incorporate these ingredients to create new and healthier ways to experience Latin food, as well as other types of cuisines. I think it's important to love and continue our cooking traditions while also testing and incorporating new and healthier ingredients and techniques.

One of the most distinct ingredients that I know is not widely used in Latin cuisine is tofu, and it’s a shame. I have had tofu at Chinese and Thai restaurants before, but I never gave the ingredient a second thought. Tofu is such an amazing alternative to meats and it’s super healthy and cheap! This one ingredient got me thinking about all of the other healthy and fresh ingredients I could be using to develop Latin infused dishes that everyone in my family will love. That’s why I decided to name this blog Tofu con Sazón!