Pan-fried tofu is an excellent option for those moments when you are running late and need to come up with a plan-B dinner. Although it does benefit from an extended opportunity to take on the flavors of a good rub, the tofu will be ready after about 15 minutes. For those who can't quite stomach the idea of tofu, a bscb (boneless, skinless chicken breast) would probably work just fine. It will be better if it is butterflied (cut partially through the thicker part so that it is the same thickness as the thin part and turn this out so that the whole thing will lay flat). But you really should try the tofu. You may surprise yourself by liking it.
1 14-15 oz package tofu/3-4 people (I usually wish that I had made more)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Combine the brown sugar, salt, paprika, garlic powder, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Cut the tofu in half to form two approximately 1-inch thick pieces. Press the tofu with a towel to remove some of the excess water. Rub the tofu with the seasoning and place on a plate. Return to the refrigerator while you do other things.
Preheat a frying or saute pan over medium heat. When the pan is radiating heat that you can feel an inch or so above the bottom of the pan, pour 2 Tbsp oil into the pan. When the oil ripples add the tofu. Allow the tofu to cook, undisturbed, for a couple of minutes. It will release easily when it is ready to flip. Pay attention to the temperature. If the tofu is not browning the temperature needs to be increased. If it is browning to quickly, remove the pan from the heat for a minute or so and reduce the heat a little bit. Flip the tofu and repeat the frying process on the opposite side. Remove to a plate and cut in half. Serve as immediately as possible.
Corn on the cob is very straightforward but perhaps there are people who have never made it. This is a place where I think of my dad when I am cooking. As I mentioned before, he owned a vegetable freezing plant and one of the vegetables processed therein was corn. He was adament that the corn must be absolutely free of silk when we had it at home, presumably because this was the standard required of his products at the plant. It's funny but I learned soon after marrying my husband that he actually likes the silk--he eats it plain--and did not mind if some of it clung to the corn! He obviously never had to worry about quality control at a vegetable processing plant. Anyway, it's easier to husk the corn now. I do this by pulling the whole husk off at once on each side and then breaking off the residual stalk by using the husk as a sort of leaver/handle. Then I remove as much silk as easily comes off. Place the corn in a large Dutch oven or stock pot halfway full of simmering water. Return the water to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes or so. Serve with butter, salt, and pepper. Really fresh corn is the best. This is a good farmers' market/local grower item.
3 cups/15 oz flour (up to 1/2 cup whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup/1 1/8 oz shortning (preferrably chilled)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk OR 3/4 cup milk and 1/2 cup plain yogurt, whisked
Preheat the oven to 450-degrees. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut or rub the shortning into the flour until the visible pieces of shortning are about the size of a small pea. Pour the buttermilk into the flour mixture and stir briefly to moisten the flour. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface. Using a bench scraper if necessary fold the dough over itself and press down for five or six turns. Pat the dough into a 1-inch thick rectangle and use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut it into 12 equal squares. Place these squares on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden. Spread a little butter on the tops if desired. Cool on a rack. For sweet biscuits (such as for shortcake) add 1/2 cup sugar to the dry ingredients.
© Katherine C. Otterstrom, August 2012