Fenway, Horses, and Baked Tofu

Well, it’s a rainy Sunday evening, and I am sitting in bed catching up on several (maybe a dozen at this point) episodes of Gossip Girl and sipping a basil-infused gin and tonic (more on that in a minute), trying to ignore my sunburned arms and sore butt.  Care to learn more?

Here goes.

I left work on Thursday and headed down to my sister Courtney’s house in Dunstable, MA so we could get an early start Friday morning for Fenway Park.  As usual, I was impressed at a red light with the skill my fellow NH residents show at choosing both illustrative and succinct personalized license plates.

So far nothing has topped the nondescript white truck I saw with the plate “GOT POOP” – but really, what can?

Friday morning Courtney woke me up at 5:45, and we made our way via the commuter rail in Lowell in Boston as employee and volunteer (respectively) for the Welch’s-sponsored Guinness World Record attempt for “most about of people toasting at once” at Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary ceremony before the first Sox/Yankees game of the season.  The first task was to place a cup, can of Welch’s Fruit Fizz, and card explaining the toast at each of Fenway’s 37,000 seats.

That’s a lot of seats.

Once that was done (oh, the stooping!) we were allowed to enjoy the park before the doors opened at 12:30.  After that, we would be on hand to interact with fans explaining the toast, and also serve as official Guinness Counters when toasting time came.  It was a picture-perfect day and Fenway looked like a million bucks.

Courtney and I agree that our favorite part of the day was the time in between setting up the cups (our group of 3 was responsible for around 700 seats) and the doors opening, when we were allowed to check out the view from just about any seat except the dugout, so we made do by getting a shot of us sitting on top of it instead.

The Fenway 100th birthday ceremony was an amazing sight to see, and if you watched it on TV, you already know why.  I am going to write about the day at length for my Yankee Seeker blog next Thursday, so if you’re interested in learning more, check there next week!

Nine hours and one sunburn later, we were headed back to Dunstable, exhausted, but thrilled to have had the chance to participate in such a special day.

The cows near Court’s house moo’d hello.  Clearly, I loved this.  Whattup, girls!!

On Saturday we met up with my mother and little sister Tara for a planned outing to Cornerstone Ranch in Princeton, MA for two hours of horseback riding.  None of us had ever been on a horse before, but someone (probably Courtney) had the idea we should do this together, and thankfully, we all (horses included) survived.  My horse, Hope, was a sweetheart, but today my butt is killing me from two hours on a saddle.

After me is my mom on Ginger (who was also Hope’s mom), Courtney on Shiloh, and Tara on Zoomie.

Which brings me to today – an overcast day, perfect for a multi-step stir fry.  I marinated some tofu (sesame ginger), then baked it (350 for 10 minutes, then flip and bake for another 30 minutes or til you’re happy with the texture) while I steamed some broccoli and sautéed a bunch of mushrooms, onions, red peppers, and zucchini.  Served over brown rice, it was quite delicious.  I love baked tofu because the long cook time lets it get a nice firm exterior, while the inside stays soft.  I loathe fried tofu.

I also decided to make a basil syrup, since I openly am in love with the basil lemonade at Clover Food Lab, and thought if I could make something like it for my gin and tonics, it might be the best thing ever.

I let the basil steep in the simple syrup for awhile…

But the jury is still out on how much I like it.  It made almost a cup of syrup so I’ve got plenty of time to try it in different things.

How was your weekend?  I hope it was adventurous, delicious, relaxing…and free from sunburn and saddle butt!

Tofu is Tasty

Kungfu Tofu magnet from  
Janelloshea on Etsy

My mom is fond of telling me that she didn’t like tofu the first time she tried it…but when pressed she admits that it was in “the seventies” and that it “probably tastes different now”. I am willing to bet that 2010 tofu tastes a lot different from 1975 tofu, and by that I mean it tastes good.  2010 tofu comes in all tastes and textures and provides limitless opportunities for healthy (and vegetarian!) snacks, meals, and even desserts.

Put simply, tofu is made by coagulating the milk of soy beans, and then pressing the curds into soft white blocks.  The resulting bean curd is a relatively tasteless, odorless product that can be talked into whatever you want to flavor it with.  You can find tofu in the produce section of the grocery store, usually in silken, soft, firm, and extra firm textures.  Firmer tofu is dense and can be cubed and stir fried, grilled, scrambled, pickled, smoked, baked, barbecued or served in soups.  Soft or silken tofu works best in recipes where it will be blended.  Tofu is very low in calories and fat, but has a good amount of protein and iron, making it very nutritious.

As you can probably guess, tofu has been around for a really long time…too long to know its exact origins, but it’s safe to say it’s been a staple in the diet of many Asian cultures for at least 2,000 years.  We tend to think of it as emerging in the US on the same magic carpet ride as patchouli incense and lava lamps, but actually…San Francisco was home to the first US tofu manufacturer in 1878, though it wasn’t until 1958 that Shoan Yamauchi, owner of Matsuda Hinode Tofu Co., created the first packaging that allowed it to be sold in grocery stores in its individual bath of water.  The rest is bean curd history.

I admit I never tried tofu before I became a vegetarian in 2001, but now I use it all the time in stir fries and curries.  Tofu is much easier to work with than you might think.  If you haven’t cooked with it before a great way to start is with a simple stir fry.  You want to marinate it in advance the same way you would any other protein.

Simple Marinated Skillet Tofu

  1. Bring home a container of extra firm tofu from your friendly neighborhood grocery store and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to marinate it.
  2. When you’re ready to marinate, remove the plastic on top of the tofu container (I usually run a knife between the edge of the container and the block of tofu inside) and drain the water inside over the sink.  The water is keeping your tofu fresh.
  3. Wrap the block of tofu in a few layers of paper towels and gently press all around to remove as much water as possible from inside the tofu.  If you have time you may want to place the wrapped block on a plate and place another plate on top for 30 minutes to press out more water.
  4. Once it’s relatively dry, slice that tofu up in whatever size pieces you want.  I like to slice it into cubes…think the size of grapes.
  5. Marinate your tofu pieces the same way you would anything else – but be gentle with them!  They can crumble if you’re not careful.  I like to use whatever bottled marinades catch my fancy, provided they don’t have meat in them or high fructose corn syrup as a main ingredient.  I wish I could tell you I make my own marinades but that would be lying…and some of you would know.
  6. Get a skillet nice and hot and drizzle some olive oil in there.
  7. Gently use a spatula to place your tofu in the skillet.  If you want to get a sear on the tofu try to make the layer nice and even.  I like my tofu a little on the soft side.  Restaurants tend to serve tofu fried within an inch on its life, giving it a tough hide, and after a few years of that I never want it “fried” again.
  8. Once it’s cooked to your liking it’s done. Simple as that.

Finished marinated skillet tofu is delicious with sautéed or steamed veggies and rice or couscous.  I made some tonight with a honey teriyaki marinade (thank you Ken’s) and accompanied the result with a shortcut steam-in-the-bag bag of carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower mix.  Delicious for supper…and for lunch tomorrow!


And just to set the record straight, I don’t advocate using tofu in place of things it clearly isn’t.  I stupidly trusted a recipe once that said you could use blended, seasoned tofu in place of eggs and milk in a quiche…and it was an unfortunate lesson.  A lesson that went right into the trash.

I should also note that this is one tiny percent of the information available about tofu and the many ways it can be eaten.  A very Western percent.  Visit the Soy Info Center online for much more info, or visit a local Asian market for a mind-boggling array of tofu products!