8 February 2012

"your wife is sighing, crying, and your olive tree is dying"

"Oh jeeez Tim, you've got a huge bit of sleep in your eye. Don't let it fall in the cornmeal, I won't be able to find it." And other such romantic truisms of our time. As I say every year, I don't dig Valentine's Day (val-meh-ntines?) partly as a "whatever" to corporate pushers of expensive heteronormative cards and presents, but also as a fist bump of solidarity to the Dolly magazine reading full o' sighs younger me. Waitangi Day is a much more important date to circle on the calendar for me. 

However, should you want to impress someone in a woo-ing manner, say it with tofu! If they reply with "NONE OF THAT EXOTIC FOREIGN RABBIT FOOD MUCK FOR ME", then they'll be really surprised and impressed with the deliciousness of this and they've handily let you know how small-minded they are so you don't have to hang out with them anymore. If they're a nice person who's either "I love tofu!" or "huh, tofu, haven't tried that before but this sounds nice" then you're good to go. A further option: I just made this for myself, and it was wonderful. Indubitably! 


Would I ever shut up about the price of dairy in this country? Not till its price ceases to make me wince like lemon juice swiftly applied to a papercut. With this in mind, I recently got this strange idea - what if I could make tofu taste like haloumi? They're the same shape, for a start. I was trying to analyze exactly what flavour haloumi is closest to, and settled upon black olives. Think about it. Oily, salty, intense...Then it turned out so delicious I decided to just call it what it is. Tofu pride!


Black Olive Marinated Fried Tofu Salad


Recipe by me.


1 block of firm tofu (250g-ish)
1/2 cup black olives, stones in
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 big cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon fine cornmeal 
1 tablespoon sherry
1 big handful green beans
1 big handful clean spinach leaves


Sometimes I suggest substitutions but please don't undermine your own tastebuds by getting those pre-sliced olives - they're so gross and vinegary and bland. Olives with the stones in them are a bit more work, but the oily fullness of flavour will reward you tenfold. Also, if you don't have sherry, try sake, Marsala, or a little white wine. 


Squeeze the stones out of the olives (seriously, just squeezing them is the easiest way) and mash the olive flesh with a fork in a bowl with the oil and garlic cloves. Slice the tofu into cubes and mix with the olives - pour over a little more olive oil if it looks like it needs it. Leave it while you slice the ends off the beans and simmer them in a pan of water. Once you've got that sorted, add the cornmeal to the olive mixture and stir it round so every bit of tofu has some grains clinging to it.


Heat a frying pan up, and lift out all the tofu cubes (sorry, also fiddly) and drop them in it. Fry over a decent heat on all sides, till excellently crisp. Tip into a bowl. By this time the beans'll be where you need them to be - drain and add them to the tofu. Roughly slice the spinach and add that to the bowl. Finally, heat up the frying pan again, tip in the remaining marinade, including all the squashed olives, add the sherry and fry for about ten seconds. Mix into the tofu and serve! 


It is wildly good. The olives have this soft, mellow intensity and a rich saltiness, which absorbs quickly into the tofu's usefully porous surface. The cornmeal is subtly sweet yet unsubtly crunchy, and the flavour from the sherry hitting the hot pan is basically indescribably good, but generally adds to the whole savoury, buttery, lusciousness of it all. The juicy crunch of the beans are improved by a slick of oily marinade, and the spinach is...present. And makes the salad go further. Thanks spinach!


I am proud of my brain. It did right by me with this. And I can tell you it's very, very good the next day too. Tofu doesn't always last so well once it has seen the light of day, but if anything, this got even nicer. It almost tastes like cold fried chicken. Indubitably! (I like that word.)

The weekend was a full and busy one, where the hobnobbing was non-stopping. Caught up with my wise and awesome aunty who has been living in Australia for years, plus her son (my cousin) and his son (my cousin...twice removed...any Downton Abbey watchers know the correct term for this?) We played Settlers of Catan with Krendan and I surprised myself by loving it, and surprised no-one by yelling "the hunter has become the hunter" every time I picked up a card or ate a Cheezel or whatever. Went to Jo's not once but twice, for a party of great delightfulness and an afternoon of delightful greatness, where she introduced Tim and myself to the awesomeness of Veronica Mars. We visited our dear friend Ange at her tiny, tidy flat which is really close to ours (so we can be the Kimmie Gibbler to her Tannerino!) We also went to superlovely cafe Arthur's with Kim and Brendan (Krendan!) and met up with Perth-based blogger Emma of Lick My Cupcakes, whose blog I just love. Her and her man were really sweet and I love that her photos of Wellington show the city in different way how I usually see it. Finally, Tim and I reflected upon Waitangi Day, shook our heads sadly at a few people and nodded them agree-antly with other, and watched some more of Season 2 of Twin Peaks. SO CREEPY. So important. "Mares eat oats and does eat oats..."
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Title via: All For The Best, a song from just one in a very long list of musicals with which I'm well obsessed: Godspell. I learned a tap dance to this song once, but muscle memory didn't see fit to hold on to that one. Even if musicals aren't your thing, a young Victor Garber was surprisingly babein' as Jesus.
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Music lately: 

Ten seconds in, all I could think was 'this is a bit weak and makes no sense' but as it goes on it becomes an intoxicatingly catchy song and I love it, indubitably. M.I.A Bad Girls.

Eclipsed only in catchy goodness by Kei Konei Ra by Ahomairangi. They're young, they're talented, they'll make you want to press repeat over and over on this song.
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Next time: Aforementioned aunty got me some ceramic pastry weights for baking blind. If that makes no sense at all: it has to do with making pie. PIE! So I might do that. Or it might be something slightly simpler but still cake-tatious. 

23 comments:

  1. First cousin once removed. :-) Not that I have seen Downton Abbey... Mmm olives!

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  2. Haha, I too use people's reaction to tofu to quietly judge them :P I don't mind if they hate the stuff though, as long as they've tried lots of types and have come to an informed conclusion and aren't going to be mean about it.
    This sounds great too, I can think of some really good extra-firm stuff to use as well. I can imagine it'd still be great the next day too since you use cornmeal which doesn't lose so much crunch. Also there is one brand of pitted kalamata olives which I'm fairly fond of (ok, so the unpitted versions are tastier, but when the laziness strikes, it's a good compromise). It comes in a 700g jar I think and looks very ghetto but it's good.

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    1. Yes, there's no point being mean about it unless you've tried it, and not just any old tofu but tofu done in a delicious recipe, right? It's easy to hate, but it's so good. Poor old tofu.

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  3. Indubitably! What a great word. I've never heard it before!

    This recipe looks yum. I'm an "I love tofu" sort of person. Now I just need to convince Rian to like tofu too. He used to! I just cooked it really badly once and he's refused to eat it ever since, dammit.

    And I seriously cannot stop laughing at the first line. It's actually hilarious! Yet something I could so picture myself saying...

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    1. I definitely recommend using it, it's very satisfying to say (if you're a dork like me anyway)

      :)

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  4. Your cousins son is your second cousin! and it works backwards too, your dads or mums cousins are also your second cousins. I did figure out the removed thing once but can't quite remember, I think it has something to do with grandparents cousins children etc.

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    1. Oh, cheers :) All a bit confusing...

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  5. Laura, I love you, but as soon as you put cornmeal in the ingredients list I was thinking about Tim's eye crusty and now I don't think I want to eat anything ever again.

    Except that's a lie, because I love tofu and olive and greens so much. In fact, this recipe is problematic because I've made myself go cold turkey on tofu (HAHAHA weird non-vegan phrase there!) as I was eating it every day for about two months, and decided that couldn't be good.

    I think I'll have to make this and blame you for my fall from tofu grace.

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    1. I know, but we must sacrifice things for the sake of funny sometimes (like dignity) and surely on the grand scale of things it could've been WAY grosser?

      I ate a whole lot of tofu for a while there too and then abandoned it for a while, maybe too much soy makes me feel weird? But as a regular feature it has to be good for you.

      Let me know if you make it :D

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  6. If I could eat tofu without my stomach raging a revolt and my face breaking out in hives - I would eat this.

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  7. You say tofu, I say haloumi.

    But I kept on reading, and came to the conclusion that I'd never come across a tofu dish that made me crave it, until now.
    Paired with photos that, not only speak louder than words, they grabbed me by the collar and shook the fear of tofu right out of me.
    I hope you're proud of what you have done :)

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  8. Oh yes, Twin Peaks! Creepy, but so good. They don't make TV shows like they used to.

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    1. I want to just devote my spare time to watching it all, but I don't want it to end - the age-old (well, TV-old) conundrum.

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  9. If a guy gave me tofu on V-day...I would be shocked and appalled. ANd then I would marry him. Love this dish!

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  10. A kiddley divey too, wouldn't yooooooou! I have had that song stuck in my head for months. We sing it to each other at home at least once a week.

    AND I LOVE SETTLERS!!! In my second year at university, we formed a Students of Catan club; we thought Klaus Teuber would be proud of us. For some reason, we never attracted any new members. I don't get it, cause that game's frickin awesome.

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    1. It's so creepily catchy :D

      SETTLERS! It's so fun. I would've joined your club for SURE.

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  11. Omg, tea towel envy!

    X Vicky.

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    1. I admit, I've done alright with this one XX

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  12. Good old tofu... this sounds like a winner. An excellent idea indeed!

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  13. Good to see your great-grandmother's tea-towel is being useful (and that someone has tea-towel envy!). There was an article about tofu by Wendell Nissen in yesterday's herald. You can easily fond it online.

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  14. ...fond it? Well, quite possibly, but find it first...

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  15. I was just about to ask if the title was from Godspell, and then I read that it is!

    That's cool about the tap dancing. I took dance when I was younger. I wish I had stuck with it. Then I could be on Sesame Street with Savion Glover.

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