HAPPY NEW YEAR!
By the time you read this, 2019 will likely only be a few hours old, which seems too early (at least for me) to have any resolutions in place—let alone underway. That said, it’s not uncommon to wake up on New Year’s Day (maybe hungover, probably full, definitely sleepy) with a palpable desire to be a little more virtuous than you might have been over the last month. Some of us turn to exercise (I’ll probably run one and a half miles on a treadmill today while watching football highlights on my iPad); some of us turn to meditation (I’ll absolutely be taking a nap); and some of us, lots of us, actually, turn to food.
I’m not talking about anything overly ambitious here, like cutting out carbs for six months, but simply starting the year off on the right foot when it comes to what we’re cooking and eating. (What can I say? Even jumping over a low bar is pretty satisfying.) With that in mind, here are four easy, pretty quick, mostly virtuous, totally satisfying recipes that you could cook, or think about (or ignore) this week. There’s breakfast (homemade crunchy grain cereal), dinner/lunch (West African peanut stew with chicken and vegetables, and tacos made from crisp crumbled tofu that’s seasoned like chorizo), and dessert (a Mexican chocolate tofu pudding that’s just insanely simple and delicious).
Aside from being a tasty way to set the tone for 2019, these recipes each have a useful technique embedded inside them that we can turn to in the kitchen beyond the first week of the year. There’s baking cooked grains until they’re addictively crunchy (you can add these to all sorts of savory dishes), thickening soups and stews with peanut butter (which instantly turns them rich and comforting), finely crumbling and crisping firm tofu in a skillet (not “better” than ground meat, but different, and really good, especially when you season it aggressively), and puréeing silken tofu in a blender (a luxuriously smooth canvas for strong flavors, sweet or savory).
Okay, that’s enough reading for the morning after New Year’s Eve (remember, we’re easing in). Have a great start to the year, and I’ll see you Friday.
Photo: Quentin Bacon
Twice-cooked grains translate to a one-ingredient breakfast cereal, along the lines of Grape-Nuts, but made by you and with zero extraneous ingredients. Name the grain and it can be served cereal fashion, which means you can use whatever you have leftover in the fridge, in whatever quantity (reduce the salt proportionately). The results: an intensely flavored breakfast cereal that is pleasantly dense and crunchy enough to sit in milk for a while without getting soggy.
Photo: Quentin Bacon
Soft corn tortillas make a perfect vehicle for this tofu “chorizo,” which is so good you’ll find a lot of other uses for it too. Make it as soft or as crisp as you like, but use a nonstick pan for the best results; cast-iron is a good second choice. Since it’s easy to double the batch well ahead of time, you might think about making this dish the next time you have a brunch.
Evan Sung for the New York Times
This West African soup is about as different from a traditional European chicken-in-a-pot soup as you can get, flavored with ginger, garlic and chiles (sounds Chinese, yes?), and incorporating vegetables like sweet potatoes and kale. Then of course there are the peanuts. When it comes to the peanut butter, “natural” peanut butter, made from peanuts and salt and nothing else, works best. Chunky or creamy? It doesn’t matter much. Finally, it’s nice to time the cooking so that the sweet potatoes do not quite fall apart.
Photo: Evan Sung for the New York Times
Tofu is not solely the stuff of stir-fries. For example, I can almost guarantee you will be impressed by this dessert, a pudding that takes about as much time to make as hot chocolate. But there are a few qualifiers. Without chocolate, the flavor is unimpressive; it tastes like sweetened tofu. Add chocolate and a few Mexican spices, however, and you have a real winner. And certainly no one I've fed it to had any inkling that it was dairy free. The texture of the pudding, which must be made with silken tofu, is almost unbelievably good. The brand of chocolate you buy is of utmost importance. Without mentioning names, let me just suggest that you use the highest quality chocolate—semisweet or bittersweet, please—you can lay your hands on. After all, it's the flavor of the chocolate, not of the tofu, that will dominate.
Talk To Me, Goose!
Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.