Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eco Minded, Body Smart

My life as a chef keeps taking me more and more to flavorful ways to eat with light ingredients. I want to not only taste combinations that are exciting, I want to cook them. If the world wants to head out for fast fake food or terrible eating, let them. Cooking is one of the best rewards you can find in the day. What is the sense of having great ingredients and a body that needs mental and physical nutrition if you don't take a minute to experience and appreciate how to make quick easy dishes.
It's definitely Winter. Fall passed a few days ago. The half hour run outdoors gets replaced by an early skate on Chicago's ice rinks just opened. Early morning stretching with floor mat pilates and an occasional swim at a club keeps my weight, skin and insides energized. No dry skin for this guy. Gotta keep that body motor purrring. This sexy hot pot recipe is part of what does it for me. Eco-minded with low cost to market for the simple fresh ingredients. Rewarding, body smart, Why? Well, if you want to know......you'll just have to make it! The answer is in each taste and the beauty of digestible lusciousness. A little extra jalapeno never hurt your senses. Grinding the black pepper at the last moment keeps the aroma. And, as you see it has a world of healthy notes.

Winter Vegetable Hot Pot
10 ounces (firm) tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup broccoli, stems and fleurettes
½ cup red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch strips
¼ cup celery, stalks and leaves, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
½ cup of peas (frozen are fine)
2 medium tomatoes, cored, quartered
4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
¼ cup fresh cilantro
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
½ teas sea salt
½ teas fresh ground black pepper

1) Cut tofu into one inch cubes. Place the cubes on a paper towel. Top with another sheet of paper towel, then a sheet pan or baking dish on top. This weight will work to remove some of the excess water from the tofu. Set aside.

2) Cut the broccoli stems in half lengthwise so they cook evenly. Heat a non-stick skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the olive oil. While shaking the pan, gently toss in the broccoli, red pepper, celery and garlic. Stir and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the peas and tomato quarters. Cook 2 minutes. Add the stock.

3) Bring vegetable liquid to slow simmer. Add the tofu, cilantro and basil leaves. Season with
salt and pepper. Continue cooking at a slow simmer 3-4 minutes occasionally shaking the pan so the tofu picks up the aromatic flavors of the vegetables, herbs and spice.

4) Ladel vegetable mixture into soup plates . Enjoy the YUM!