For centuries, Mardi Gras – otherwise known as Fat Tuesday, or Carnival – has celebrated the last day of indulgence before the start of the Lenten season. The word Carnival itself stems from the Latin carne vale, or “farewell to flesh.” Millions of households participate each year, cutting back on meat and other rich foods during this period of purification.
Today, there are more reasons than ever to take the occasional break from meat. Cutting back not only reduces our risk of disease and helps the environment; it can also be a fun way to try new foods and flavors. Meatless Monday expert, columnist and cookbook author Kim O’Donnel recommends taking advantage of ingredients that have umami to enjoy a healthy, satisfying meal with no meat required:
“Roughly translated from Japanese as ‘savoriness,’ umami refers to the lingering finish and coating of the mouth that makes us want to smack our lips and say ‘that’s delicious.’ What I discovered is that there are lots of ingredients from the plant world that have major umami potential – mushrooms, soy sauce, smoked paprika, roasted vegetables, tahini, to name just a few. Developing recipes that are umami dense is one of my ways of showing the meat-eating majority that vegetarian isn’t rabbit food.”
In her latest cookbook, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations, O’Donnel offers a wide variety of recipes that guests of all culinary persuasions will love. Her meatless Mardi Gras menu will take center stage at Judkins Street Cafe on Monday, February 11th, when the Seattle eatery will offer a three-course prix fixe of hush puppies and raw kale salad, Cajun blackened tofu with red beans and brown rice, and bread pudding with citrus sauce.
You too can enjoy a traditional Mardi Gras meal this Monday with a recipe from Meatless Celebrations! Our Meatless Monday menu of Portobello Mushrooms Étouffée, Cleaned Up “Dirty Rice” and Louisiana Citrus Crepes also offers delicious, festive dishes that will help through the lean days ahead.
Cajun Blackened Tofu
From Kim O’Donnel’s The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations
- 2 (14-ounce) packages fresh extra-firm tofu, preferably organic
- 3⁄4 teaspoon cayenne
- 3⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- Neutral oil, for brushing
Tools: 10 or 12 inch cast-iron skillet
or smooth-surfaced griddle
Here’s What You Do:
Drain the tofu: Remove from the packages and place each rectangular
block on a separate plate. Place a second plate on top and weigh the
tofu down with something heavy, such as a can of tomatoes. Allow to sit
for about 20 minutes. Drain off the water.
Meanwhile, place the spices and salt in a small bowl and thoroughly mix. Spread the spice blend evenly in the center of a dinner plate.
Working with one tofu block at a time, lay flat on a cutting surface. Cut
the tofu block in half on the diagonal so you have two large triangles.
Lay each triangle half on its longest side, and from the top short edge,
cut into four triangles, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch thick.
Brush the tofu with the oil on both sides, then dredge in the spice rub until well coated. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Heat a 10-to 12-inch cast-iron skillet or a griddle pan on the flat side
until nearly smoking hot. Turn on your kitchen vent.
Cook the tofu in small batches, careful not to crowd the pan, for 3 to
5 minutes per side. The tofu will darken in color and maybe even look
slightly blackened; this is a good thing. You’ll probably switch back and
forth between medium and medium-high heat throughout the cooking.
Wipe the skillet with a dry towel of any lingering burnt bits.
Transfer the tofu to a baking sheet and keep in the oven until you’re
ready to serve, along with the red beans and brown rice.