Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grilled tofu and plantain

Those guys who live in Austin, TX probably heard of or been to this great shopping place called My Than in the Chinatown complex. Well, yesterday I went shopping there to replenish some of the long missing oriental food items in my pantry. I can go wild in that store, seriously. For the most part I behave like a babe in the woods in such foreign-to-my-being places....but luckily I knew exactly what I wanted. Well now, this morning I wake up with these two huge plantains on my countertop fruit basket staring at me. I knew it does them no good to procrastinate, so I had to make up my mind how I treat them. Last week it was Indian week in my house, so finally the sambar fragrance is out and so are my chapatis, thanks goodness. I had a long gaze in the fridge and spotted a pack of firm tofu et voila, une idee superbe implanted in my head. Grilling it!
I traced down a Thai marinade recipe and quickly:

Marinated the tofu


Marinated the plantains (cheated....used some Indian spices as well)


Threaded everything on bamboo skewers...(added some bell pepper for color)

and grilled them:


I made some whole grain rice mixed with Thai red rice for added drama....It was good!...oh, and a piquant youghurt sauce for balance!


From Mamaliga to Polenta

Italians, Hungarians, Polish, Romanians, Moldovans, Ukrainians love it, to name a few...and no matter how much people claim these two to be their creation, It Is Not! those passionate explorers carried maize back to Europe from Central America and introduced it to other countries through trade. I am sure the Aztecs were making it before us! (next time I am meeting one, I am going to ask!)

If you can boil water, you are half down in the recipe and you can whip up a superb Mamaliga (aka maliga in Moldova,or polenta as probably known more widely). There isn’t much science that goes into it. The creative input comes when you decide what to garnish it with (or use it as a garnish to a main dish).

The mamaliga in Moldova is coarser and heavier in texture, used for centuries to substitute bread. Polenta is finer and creamier in texture, and it takes longer to boil. Now, the word "vegetarian" is not in most people's vocabulary when it comes to eating mamaliga. Traditionally it is served with rich meat sauces and bites of deep fried fatty pork (my hands are a bit shaky writing down those in this post ;)). Even the mozarella (brinza inchegata) is traditionally made using rennet...

This picture was taken impromptu, a few years back when I was visiting my family in Moldova.


Clockwise top- garlic sauce (mujdei), hot melted butter, sour cream over cottage cheese, shredded feta (Moldovan one is made of sheep milk and rennet ???not good) and mashed garlicky white beans. The meat is missing (but not missed)-.

This is one one my recent creations, after roaming half of Austin's supermarkets to find the right corn flour... As I said, polenta is too fine (and man, ridiculously expensive!), and the corn flour here is fit for finer cakes and muffins...


My mom has a trick for slicing it so it cuts through finely without ruining the shape: She uses a thin, clean sewing thread, holds it with both hands, runs the thread under the mash and brings it up: Voila!. Very ingenious! (I even do that for slicing fine cakes!)

So what happens next day? Back home it is the chickens feasting on leftovers. I have no chickens here and thanks goodness for that! (but I have squirells). I slice any cold mamaliga leftover and bake it. Or fry it. Or share it with the squirells.

Here is the mamaliga (polenta) and mozarella cheese bake (checked the label, no rennet;) I made a few weeks back:


One more thing: Serve it with a good full bodied red wine!
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