December is always a month of excesses: food, friends, social events, gifts, and occasionally snow, at least here in Ottawa. I thought it might be fun to try to document some of the food fun that happens in my world at this time of year. I’ve got baking plans, a perogy-making afternoon, a small-plates bar excursion, an office holiday lunch, and a cookies-and-booze extravaganza all on my radar, and I hope to have short posts about all of those things up here by the time Santa puts his feet up on my coffee table for a quick glass of wine before hauling ass to South America.
But let us begin with tofu, which is what my husband requested for dinner last Saturday night. Yes, tofu. He felt that we’d been eating a fair bit of meat and could stand to lay off, given that we had steak planned for Sunday evening’s family party. So I mulled over what we could do that would be different from the last few times I’d cooked tofu, and when I factored in the bunch of curly green kale in my fridge and the sweet potatoes also kicking around, my brain went PING! A Japanese-inspired bowl of goodness, with different colours and textures playing off one another, united by an unctuous and umami-rich sesame sauce.
Doesn’t that look amazing? It really was. I mean, who gets excited about tofu and kale, right? But this was really, really delicious and – dare I say it – fun. Chris liked it so much he asked if we could have it again very soon. In a month where butter is the rule, not the exception, I’m totally cool with that.
Sesame tofu and kale bowl
Serves two generously
One block extra-firm tofu
One bunch kale (I used curly, but next time I want to try this with lacinato/black/dinosaur kale)
3 or 4 small sweet potatoes
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice powder) or hot chili flakes, to taste
Sesame sauce (recipe here) - I left out the garlic because we don't care for it raw, but your tastes may differ
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Toss with 1 tbsp oil and a little salt. Roast at 400F for 15 minutes; toss with a spatula and roast for 15 minutes longer.
Remove stems from the kale and tear into small pieces; rinse well and leave in the strainer without drying. Set aside.
Slice the tofu lengthwise into three slabs. Lay them on a board covered with two layers of paper towel, and press firmly with another towel to remove moisture. Cut into small triangles and toss gently with a little vegetable oil. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 more tbsp oil; swirl to coat the pan. Fry the tofu until brown and crispy on both sides; remove to a plate (drain on paper towels if you feel it is excessively oily) and sprinkle with shichimi togarashi to taste.
In the same skillet, heat up another tbsp of oil and wilt the kale over high heat. You want it to take on a little colour if possible; this sweetens it up. Cook until it is wilted to your taste. Remove to a large bowl and toss with ¼ cup sesame sauce.
In a large bowl place a layer of sweet potatoes and a layer of kale; top with half of the tofu and drizzle generously with sesame sauce. Top with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds if desired.