Monday, June 9, 2008

Otsu

It was such a treat to see everyone at reunion! I look forward to keeping in touch via stories about our cooking/eating experiences.

Since I read food blogs like nobody’s business, I’ll be posting here regularly about my adventures with recipes from other people’s blogs.

On May 31 I had a fabulous party to celebrate the new Sex and the City movie, and it was a great excuse to try out some of the recipes that have been catching my eye lately. I was looking for a few dishes that could be prepared ahead of time, would be light yet filling (since it was an afternoon party), and of course would taste delicious!

I’ll eventually blog about all of the dishes on the party menu, but let me start with the piece de resistance -- Otsu. It was exactly the right thing for this party… best served cold or at room temperature, light but filling, extremely flavorful, vegetarian (vegan actually), and it only improves after sitting out on the table for hours. I first read about this recipe on one of my favorite blogs -- http://eggsonsunday.wordpress.com/. As Miss Eggs explains, it is a recipe created by Heidi of http://101cookbooks.com/ (another one of my favorite blogs). Heidi removed the recipe from her blog since she has published it in a cookbook, but now it can be found on the Amateur Gourmet (http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2007/05/otsu.html)!

I’m going to give you the recipe exactly as I prepared it, which means it’s mostly copied from amateurgourmet.com, but with some variations I used that seemed to work out just fine. I’ll also insert all of the lessons I learned in the process of preparing this delicious dish!

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OTSU

Ingredients:

For the dressing:
Zest of 1 lemon
1-inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil

For the rest:
12 ounces dried soba noodles
12 ounces extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
1/8 cup toasted sesame seeds for garnish

I made the dressing on Friday night and then assembled the rest of the salad on Saturday morning, a few hours before the party. For the dressing, combine the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth. Then scrape the mixture into another bowl and whisk in the liquids. (The original recipe calls for adding the liquids to the food processor and pulsing, but when I tried that in my roommate’s mini-prep, it sprayed dressing all over the place, even as I held the lid down with all my might!) Store the dressing in the fridge overnight.

The next day...
Cook the soba noodles in rapidly boiling water according to the directions on the package, but taste frequently so you don’t overcook them. Then drain and rinse under cold water. (I first tried using soba noodles from Whole Foods that had a single ingredient: buckwheat flour. They all stuck together in a gelatinous clump, they looked big and weird and they didn’t taste very good. Fortunately I had built some time into my party prep schedule for just this kind of emergency. I ran to Safeway to pick up some much cheaper soba noodles that had a longer ingredient list. They didn’t stick together, and they were delicious! The day was saved! Lesson learned: simpler is not always better.)

Drain the tofu, pat dry, cut into pieces about 1/2 inch by 1 inch (the size of your thumb). Cook the tofu in a dry non-stick skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until brown on one side. Toss gently and continue cooking another minute or two until the tofu is firm, golden and bouncy. (Note that a good non-stick pan is key here. I don’t have much experience with tofu, and at first I tried this in a good ol' Revereware non-stick pan. That was a mess. The tofu stuck to the pan like crazy. Fortunately, I had so much tofu that I was cooking it in 5 separate batches, so all was not lost. I switched to my roommate’s beautiful new Calphalon pan, and the rest of the tofu cooked up perfectly with no problems.)


Once the tofu is out of the pan, wipe the hot pan with a paper towel and put in the sesame seeds. Swirl them over medium heat until they just start to turn light brown, then remove them to a bowl to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the soba, cilantro, cucumber, green onions, and dressing. Toss to coat everything. Then gently stir in the tofu. Garnish with the toasted sesame seeds.

I made a double batch, which served about 10 people at the party, plus a few days of leftovers!

(Thank you Henry for the pictures!)

1 comment:

vanlikethecar said...

Oh my gosh, I love all the action photos! And the otsu sounds perfect for the summer months!!! Can't wait to try it! Thanks, Karen!