Sunday, January 29, 2012

Recipes for Globo Reporter's Segment on Combating Obesity in the U.S.

(imported post from "A Chef in Med School" 10/3/2010)

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the crew from TV Globo's Friday evening show, Globo Reporter, when they asked to come to my kitchen for a cooking demonstration and discussion on healthy cooking for an upcoming segment on what doctors are doing to treat obesity in the United States.  The other interviewees are David Eisenberg, MD, Director Director, Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies at Harvard Medical School, and pioneer of the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives continuing medical education conference that teaches doctors and other health professionals about healthy cooking and lifestyle change , and Walter Willett, MD, the most-cited authority on nutrition in the world and Chairman of Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

As promised, I am posting the recipes for the segment here: Tex-Mex Tofu Tacos, Quick & Dirty Salsa and (a recipe that should look familiar from a past post) Vegetable Rice Salad with Lime Vinaigrette.

Tex-Mex Baked Tofu

There are two major types of tofu – Silken (aka. Japanese-style) and regular (aka. Chinese-style or bean curd).  These types are further categorized by the firmness (how much water is removed).  Both kinds come in soft, regular (or original), firm and extra-firm.  This is confusing since there is regular regular tofu and regular silken tofu.  Silken tofu is either labeled, “silken,” or comes in aseptic packages that are usually found on the shelf in the grocery store.  Regular (Chinese-style) tofu is always refrigerated and comes packed in water either in a container or can be purchased in bulk from some delis.  If a recipe requires silken tofu, it will specify.  Otherwise, it’s generally a good idea to use regular tofu.  It is important to use firm or extra-firm regular tofu for this dish.


1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu (1-14-oz. container is close enough)

2 Tablespoons of canola, corn or other vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon minced garlic (approximately 1 large clove)
1 teaspoon agave syrup, honey, maple syrup or other liquid sweetener

Dry Rub (USE ONLY 1 TABLESPOON! – Save the rest for later*):
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions :                  
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 Celsius).

2. Drain the tofu and gently squeeze to remove some of the moisture.  Wrap the tofu in a double-layer of paper towels and press gently to soak up some of the moisture (the paper towels should be completely soaked with water).  Remove from paper towel and cut into 1-inch cubes. 

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk or stir together the marinade ingredients (oil, soy sauce, garlic and syrup).  Add the cubed tofu to the bowl and toss to coat well.  Let sit to soak up flavors until you’re ready to bake. 

3. In another small bowl, stir together the dry rub ingredients (chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, thyme, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper) till well mixed.  Keep 1 Tablespoon of the mix out to use in this recipe and store the rest for another batch or to use in anything that you want to be “taco-flavored.” 

4.  Spray a baking dish large enough to hold the tofu in a single layer with non-stick spray.  Mix 1 Tablespoon of the dry rub mixture with the marinating tofu until tofu is evenly coated, then pour the tofu mixture onto the baking dish and place into the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, flip over or stir, and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes or until tofu is starting to turn golden brown (which is sometimes difficult to see with the spice mix coating) and/or feels like it is a little firmer and drier than when it was placed into the oven.  Remove from oven and flip over once more; serve or store for later use.

5. Serve on warmed or grilled tortillas with toppings of your choice.

Yield: 4 servings

Store: Let cool to room temperature and then store in a closed container in the refrigerator; keeps for 5-7 days.  Can be used cold, room temperature or re-warmed. 

*Note: Left over dry rub is great to use as taco seasoning or taco-flavored dips.  To use in place of store-bought taco seasoning, use 2-1/2 tablespoons of the dry rub in the place of “1 packet of taco seasoning” called for in any recipe.

Other options:
-          Some topping ideas: shredded cabbage or romaine lettuce, sliced scallions, cilantro leaves, lime wedges, shredded carrots, salsa or tomatoes, avocado or guacamole.

-          Add 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger to the marinade mixture and omit the dry rub.  This is a great all-purpose tofu for stir-fries, salads, wraps or sandwiches.  For a bit of sesame flavor, add 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil to the marinade as well.

-          For the firmest, most flavorful tofu, make sure to use extra-firm and when the tofu is wrapped in the double-layer of paper towels, set it in a colander with a plate on top and a heavy can or other weight on top and let sit for an hour or longer.  This will remove more water which both contributes to a firmer texture, but also allows the tofu to soak up more flavor from seasonings or marinades.  Letting the tofu sit in the marinade mixture for an hour will also increase the flavor.

-          If planning to use this for stir-fries or tacos, the cubes work well.  For sandwiches and wraps, however, cutting the tofu into 1/2-inch wide strips or 7-8, ½-inch thick rectangles makes the tofu more manageable and easier to keep from falling out while eating.


Quick & Dirty Salsa

This is a great recipe to use anytime you don’t have fresh tomatoes from the garden or farmer’s market.  It can be made entirely from canned tomatoes, an onion and jarred condiments, but I’ve listed the fresh options in case you have any of them around and want to give the salsa a brighter taste.  The fresh cilantro in particular adds a lot to this dish.

1-14oz. can of tomato puree or diced tomatoes (or about 1# chopped fresh tomatoes)
Juice of one large lime (or 2-3 Tablespoons bottled lemon or lime juice)
½ small yellow or white onion, diced or finely chopped
½ jalapeno, chopped fine (or finely chopped canned jalapenos or chipotles in adobo, to taste)
1 clove garlic, minced (or ¼-½ teaspoon jarred chopped or ground garlic)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and crushed* (or ½ teaspoon ground coriander)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, optional (or 1-2 teaspoons jarred cilantro)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions :                 
By Hand
1. It is easiest to use the tomato puree for this version unless you like very chunky salsa.  Mix all ingredients together.  Salsa is best if allowed to sit for an hour or more, but can be served right away.

With a Food Processor
1. Add roughly chopped garlic and jalapeno to food processor with about ¼ of the diced or fresh tomatoes and process until garlic and jalapeno are finely chopped. 

2. Add the tomatoes, lime juice, roughly chopped onions, coriander, cilantro, salt and pepper and pulse until onion and tomatoes are finely chopped or the salsa is the consistency that you desire.  Salsa is best if allowed to sit for an hour or more, but can be served right away.

Yield: about 2 cups

Store: in the refrigerator and use within 5 days.    

*Note: to toast coriander seeds, place them in a small, dry sauté pan over medium heat and warm, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and turning a bit deeper brown.  Remove from heat and pour seeds onto a cutting board and crush with the bottom of the sauté pan; add to the salsa while still warm, if possible, for the most flavor. 


Vegetable Rice Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

Vinaigrettes are very simple to make and taste much better than the salad dressings and marinades that you can buy in the store.  This salad is a great way to use up leftover rice.  Leftovers made a great wrap filling, topping for a green salad or side dish for another meal – the salad is actually better-tasting the second day.  Leftover vinaigrette can be used later for another salad, sauce or marinade. 

¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
1 Tablespoon chopped pickled or fresh jalapeno pepper
½-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 small cucumber, medium (1/2”) dice
2 small red bell pepper, small (1/4”) dice
3 small carrots, grated or shredded
3 scallions, finely sliced or chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander

4 cups fully cooked, room temperature, brown rice

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions :                 
1. In a medium mixing bowl, mix the garlic and jalapeno with the lime juice and let sit for 5 minutes so that the lime juice is infused with the flavor of the garlic and jalapeno. 

2. Whisk ½ cup oil into the lime mixture by drizzling the oil in a slow stream and whipping constantly with a whisk or fork.

3. Adjust acidity: take a small taste of your vinaigrette; it should be quite tangy, but not so sour that it makes you pucker.  If it is too sour, whisk in a bit more oil and re-taste.  If it is not sour enough, add a bit more lime juice.  Season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. 

4. In a large bowl, mix together herbs, vegetables, cumin, coriander and rice.  Stir vinaigrette well and then drizzle over the vegetable-rice mixture, stirring to coat ingredients lightly.  Use enough vinaigrette that the vegetables and rice are lightly coated, but not so much that extra dressing pools in the bottom of the bowl.  You probably will not need all of the vinaigrette.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Yield: 8 (1 cup each) servings

Store: Refrigerate leftover salad and eat within 3-4 days.

-          Leftover vinaigrette: save it for a salad or use it as a marinade or sauce.  Keep it in the refrigerator (in a glass jar with a lid or a leftover salad dressing bottle) and use within 5 days.  The oil may solidify in the refrigerator because of the cool temperature – the dressing is still perfectly good.  Just remove the dressing from the refrigerator a few minutes before using or run some warm water over the outside of the jar/bottle to melt the oil.    

Other options:
-          The vinaigrette recipe can be used to make any flavor of vinaigrette that you want (just omit the garlic and jalapeno).  Replace the lime juice with another sour citrus juice like lemon, lime or grapefruit; or any vinegar.  Replace the olive oil with another oil (canola, sunflower, safflower, vegetable, or grape seed, untoasted/plain sesame, peanut or sweet almond oil.  You can also use a small amount (couple teaspoons to a couple of tablespoons) of hazelnut, walnut or toasted sesame seed oil, but these are very strongly flavored and/or expensive so a little goes a long way; just add it to one of the blander oils, like canola.  You can also add other ingredients, like scallions and herbs, for flavor.  Vinaigrettes that include fresh ingredients such as garlic, onion, herbs or freshly squeezed fruit juice will keep several days in the refrigerator, whereas those with only oil, vinegar, prepared condiments and/or dried herbs and spices can keep for weeks.

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