Last weekend, O and I dragged ourselves out of bed early and drove out east of town to pick tomatoes on our CSA farm. For three hours we stooped in the dirt, grasping for the bright, plump fruits hiding within their rows and rows of tangled vines. Row by row, our senses became more honed: Was this one ripe enough? Diseased? Too soft? Begging to be sampled on the spot? It was hot and hard work—I have so much respect for all of the people who are out there harvesting our food every day. But even though we came out of it scorched and thirsty with aching thighs and backs, it was the best time I’d had in a while. There was something so intensely satisfying about being truly connected to the food that would end up on our plates and in our bodies. The heat and the dirt seemed to somehow intensify the scent and flavor of those tomatoes. When we were sent home with several pounds, we swooned over every bite.
For the last hour I’ve been trying to write something insightful about the importance of personally connecting with our food, but it’s just not coming out. Let’s just leave it at this: putting some energy into what you eat makes it taste better. So before tomato season is up, I urge you to try the following recipe using the most luscious, perfectly ripe, warm from the sun tomatoes you can get your hands on—it makes all the difference.
Panzanella (serves 2–3)
6-8 slices of stale bread
4 large tomatoes
1 cup losely-packed fresh basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
Flavorful Olive oil
Vinegar (your choice)
Cut the bread into 1-inch chunks. If the bread is fresh (not stale), toast it in the oven until crisp and dry.
Chop the tomatoes in half and squeeze out most of their seeds. Then into 1-inch chunks and place in a large bowl.
Tear the basil leaves into pieces and add to the tomatoes.
Chop or grate the garlic into the bowl with the tomatoes.
Add the bread and toss everything together.
Dress with olive oil (be liberal) and vinegar to taste (I like using the vinegar from pickled jalapenos for a little kick).
Add salt and sugar to taste (even just a dusting of sugar really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes).
Memorial day served as a perfect bookend between spring and summer this year. The wind and drizzle have been replaced by gloriously warm sunny days. The absolute highlight of the long weekend was laying in the sun on our “porch” (roof) and blasting Bob Marley to drown out the abysmal musical taste of our frat-boy neighbors—a quintessentially summery activity. Of course summer also brings the urge to cook less, picnic more and feast on such delicious things as sandwiches, coleslaw, potato salad. And what do these beacons of summer have in common – mayonnaise, of course! I’ve never been a big fan of conventional mayo—the eggy aftertaste was always a bit too off-putting, but I do love just about everything you can make with it. Just about everywhere now you can find a couple of brands of vegan mayonnaise for sale, generally based on tofu. Veganaise, one of the most ubiquitous offering is really very good. I was doubtful that I could match its texture and flavor at home…but I had to try!
And, if I may toot my own horn *toot!*, I must say my mayo absolutely blew theirs out of the water. I can barely resist eating by the spoonful. Considering my success using blending silken tofu in my hollandaise sauce, I decided to take the same approach with TPC’s standard mayonnaise recipe. I blended it as smooth as possible to begin with and then also used my immersion blender when adding the oil to ensure silkiness throughout. I ended up needing to add significantly more tofu that I originally anticipated, based on my egg to tofu approximations in the hollandaise. I think the fact that mayonnaise using liquid oil instead of melted “butter,” which has much more of its own body as it cools probably accounts for this. Anyway, without further ado, here’s the recipe:
12 oz. (1 box) organic firm silken tofu
1 Tbs. water
3 Tbs. ume vinegar (If you’ve never heard of this stuff, try it immediately. Its salty, sour, fruitiness is unbelievably good in just about anything! )
1/2 tsp. prepared dijon mustard
1 cup organic sunflower oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
Combine the tofu, water, vinegar and mustard in deep jar. Set on top of a damp towel (to keep the jar from sliding around when using the blender).
Blend with an immersion blender until as smooth as possible.
Dribble in the oil with your blender running.
Once all your oil has been added blend a few more second until perfectly smooth and glossy.
Add a little salt, to taste, if necessary.
Some ways to use your mayo:
Combine with crumbled tofu, capers and mustard for “Egg” Salad
Combine mashed chickpeas, diced celery and apples and curry powder for a fabulous sandwich filling
Mix mayo and siracha sauce for homemade bahn mi or as a dip for veggies.
Make vegan BLTs with temphe “bacon” (marinate with smoked paprika, maple syrup and soy sauce and saute with plenty of oil)
Potato salad – nuff said
Coleslaw (my favorite is green cabbage with sweet onion, red pepper, carrots & caraway seeds)