There’s nothing like the holiday season to make a person reflect on life. I wanted to give back this year for the holidays, and I found an opportunity in an event I’ve wanted to participate in my entire life: the Sacramento Run to Feed the Hungry. At the crack of dawn, on Thanksgiving morning, I joined over 30,000 people on a casual 3K walk through some of the most beautiful residential neighborhoods in Sacramento (“The Forties” as they are often referred to subsequent to the street numbers being 40-49). It was exhilarating to be surrounded by so many people who wanted to donate a little money for those in need. Nearly everyone was in casual workout clothes or even their pajamas. Children were running and giggling, and live bands played upbeat music on intermittent street corners. It was a near record low for Sacramento; a bone chilling 26⁰ F (that may sound laughable to some of my Green Beet followers in different states, but for someone who was born and raised in California, it’s a shocking drop in temperature).
At $35.00 to $45.00 per ticket, per person (multiplied by 30,000 plus), it was exciting to know an absorbent amount of money was being raised to help people in need. As a thank-you for my morning of fun, however, I woke up the next day with a terrible cold, no doubt subsequent to meandering through 30,000 peoples' germs in 26 degree weather when my immune system was likely compromised. Earlier that week I had decided to postpone my own vegetarian cooking for the day after Thanksgiving. Because I was sick, I had to delay cooking all of the recipes I’d been saving in anticipation of Thanksgiving for more than a week later. Thanksgiving was a sad day for someone like me who looks forward to cooking with great anticipation. I recovered after a few days and was finally able to tackle some of the recipes on my Thanksgiving list; at long last they are making their debut on The Green Beet.
Don’t be fooled by the name of this recipe, “Thanksgiving Tofu” from Alicia Silverstone’s cookbook The Kind Diet, can be used for any occasion where multiple people are sitting down to enjoy food. If you have a tofu press, this is an opportune time to put its talents to good use. I just purchased a tofu press from TofuXpress and it has changed my life! If you don’t have a tofu press, you can follow the recipe instructions to strain your tofu in a colander. Alicia Silverstone’s recipe is brilliant; however, the tofu “dome” on the Thanksgiving Tofu could use a bit of a flavor boost, so I’ve included the marinade I created for the tofu.
Don't forget the Pumpkin Pie!
Note: You’ll want to seriously plan ahead for this meal. The cornbread can be made a day in advance. And it’s best to begin straining the water from your tofu as early as possible to save time.
2 18-Ounce packages firm tofu (I used extra-firm)
for the tofu marinade (suggested Green Beet add ins)
3 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp Shoyu
1 Tsp liquid smoke (I used a mesquite flavor)
1 Tsp Dijon mustard
2/3 Cup vegetable broth or vegetable stock
for the cornbread stuffing
1 Cup diced sweet onion
1 Cup diced celery
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 Tsp dried sage
1/2 Tsp dried thyme
1 Tsp dried parsley OR 1 Tbsp fresh
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 Cups cubed whole wheat bread (crusts included)
2 Cups cubed Cornbread
1 – 1 ½ Cups vegetable broth
1/2 Cup chopped pecans or walnuts
NOTE: If you haven’t made the cornbread, you can use an additional 2 cups of whole wheat bread cubes. But believe me, you WANT to make the cornbread!
for the basting liquid
3 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tsp shoyu
1) If you have a tofu press, allow each 18 Ounce cube of tofu to be pressed for at least 1 hour (If you don’t have a tofu press, skip to number 2).
2) In a small bowl, whisk together the tofu marinade ingredients (the sesame oil, shoyu, liquid smoke, Dijon mustard, and vegetable broth). Crumble both cubes of tofu into a large Tupperware container and drizzle with all of the tofu marinade. Toss the tofu if needed to evening distribute the marinade. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
3) Line a colander with cheesecloth or a clean dish towel and place it in your kitchen sink. Pack all of the crumbled tofu into the colander, fold the towel over the tofu and place something heavy on top of the towel (I used a small plate then put my mortar and pestle on top of it). Set aside for 45 minutes; on occasion, it’s good to press down on the heavy object above to tofu in order to coax more of the liquid from the tofu.
4) While the tofu drains, combine the onion, celery, and sesame oil in a large skillet. Sauté over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes then add the herbs, salt, and pepper and sauté for 1 minute longer (or until the onions are translucent). If the pan becomes dry just add a little water.
5) Combine the sautéed onions & celery with the cubed breads (cornbread and wheat) along with just enough vegetable broth to moisten all of the bread. Stir in the nuts.
6) Preheat the oven to 400⁰ F.
7) Approach your tofu that is draining in the colander (this part is fun!). Remove the heavy objects and open up the towel. Use your hands to press the tofu onto the bottom and sides of the colander to create a hollow space for the filling. Pack the stuffing mixture firmly into the tofu shell.
8) Oil a pie tin and place it over the colander. Quickly invert the pie tin and the colander at the same time. Carefully lift off the colander and the cheesecloth to reveal your beautiful tofu dome.
9) Whisk together the basting ingredients (sesame oil and shoyu) then use a pastry brush to baste the entire tofu dome with the mixture. A NOTE from Alicia Silverstone: “If you need more basting liquid, add more oil and shoyu; just be careful not to use too much or the tofu can end up a little oily.”
10) Cover the tofu dome with foil and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. After 1 hour, remove the foil, and baste the dome again with the remaining basting liquid. Return the Thanksgiving Tofu to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until golden (careful; do not burn your tofu).
11) Use two large spatulas to transfer the tofu dome to a serving platter. If you’re intimidated by this task, simply cut into wedges within the pie tin and serve.
Suggest pairing with: mashed potatoes topped with vegetarian gravy (I loved Hain Pure Foods Vegetarian Chicken Flavored Gravy Mix found at Whole Foods). Pair with the other half of the cornbread recipe and some roasted kale.