Tofu Sweet Potato Pancakes

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Tofu at breakfast? What was that the question again? Wow, yes, that sounds interesting, maybe next time, or are you kidding me. Yes, that used to be me too. I get it, many of us still view tofu as that dish you try out of politeness or its that once in a blue moon occasion. No dispute, there are a lot of unappealing tofu dishes out there. I see tofu more as  a creative journey with health benefits, an adult chemistry experiment if you will, rather than a substance to swallow.

I got this recipe from my mother. Who got it from her mother. Who won it in a heated game of Crazy Eights from a Chinese widow who immigrated to the USA shortly before 1945. Actually no, though it would be a cool story. I did get the recipe from my mother. Originally it was a sort of tofu hash. This was the late 90s and my mother, who is always ahead of the curve, was experimenting with firm tofu. The turmeric colored the tofu yellow. To the un-expecting, my father, it appeared you were eating a chunky scrambled eggs. I believe he ate it once, maybe?

Okay, in case you are still skeptical, we will tart it up with sunny side up eggs and greens. And if you are still not sold, feel free to add as much of your favorite breakfast meat, e.g., turkey sausages. After all, you are eating tofu.

You need one large or two medium sized sweet potatoes, a packet of cooking tofu (firm), an egg (or three), and curry and turmeric for a bit of zip.

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Drain the tofu and place it in a medium sized mixing bowl. Break up the tofu with a fork and then add the curry and the turmeric. I use two teaspoons of each. If you are eating with the tofu adversed, dial it up or back accordingly. Add the egg and mix.

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Peel and shred the sweet potatoes. If you do not own a food processor, cut the sweet potatoes into thin long strips. Add the sweet potatoes to the tofu mixture and mix.

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Turn on your skillet. Let it heat up for at least one minute before you add one Tablespoon of cooking oil. I usually wait for three minutes as I like my skillet hot, yet not smoking. Take a small handful or approximately 1/2 of a cup’s worth of the mixture and gently place it in the frying pan. Flatten it with a spatula so the pancake is not too thick and makes as much contact with the pan as possible. I fit three in my skillet. I set the skillet on high heat for at least three minutes and then reduce the heat to medium for two to three minutes more. Adjust the heat according to attain desired doneness: golden brown, extra crispy, or blackened.

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After about six minutes you will need to flip them. I recommend a firm spatula and a swift motion. There is a chance the pancakes will break apart.  Try adding a bit more egg next time as a binding agent. If all cooking oil has been absorbed, I usually add a 1/2 teaspoon on the flip. Fry the pancakes on medium heat for another five or six minutes.

Remove pancakes from the skillet and repeat the process. The ingredients should yield six pancakes. I place the pancakes into a bowl and cover to keep the heat in. Of course you can put the bowl in the own on warm heat if you have a lot of pancakes to fry.

While I am frying the pancakes, I usually stir fry a green vegetable too, e.g., bok choy, bell peppers. Today, I went with blanched asparagus. Snap off the ends and place them in boiling water for two to three minutes. To review numerous asparagus prep options, paddle on over to Jamie Oliver’s and check  how to prepare asparagus.

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What about the eggs?  Okay, the asparagus is cooling and the pancakes are nearly done. I usually go with sunny side up and crispy. This allows me to let the yokes drain into the pancakes. Paddle over to Smitten Kitchen and check out Deb Perelman’s take on the crispy egg. If you have the time, forty minutes, try The Best Scrambled Eggs by Mark Bittman. While I rarely get forty minutes for anything, they look great, plus he learned from James Beard. How cool is that?

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Assembly and presentation: I usually overlap two pancakes slightly, add the asparagus/greens, place the eggs on top of everything and tuck the turkey sausages in under the eggs.

Tofu sweet potato pancakes
Makes about six pancakes 

2 medium size sweet potatoes (12 ounces)
1 packet of cooking tofu (12 ounces)
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 egg
cooking oil for frying

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Spontaneity, Mashups, and Meatless Meatballs

Leafing through the August 2013 issue of Food & Wine at the beach last week (yes, the beach), I happened upon Eggplant & Porcini “Meatballs” in Tomato Sauce. I scanned the ingredients and thought I had an instant quick dish hit on my hands. Bubba, my son, is is nearly eleven and is constantly hungry. We dashed to Jason’s, bought everything, and rushed home only to discover the eggplant needed to be roasted for an hour. Bogus!

Caught by my own favorite question, “did you read the directions completely?”

Cooking, like life, is all about organization, planning, and attention. Look for the patterns and try to assemble them where you can to save time. Now, fast forward to Saturday. I need to roast nut, usually almond & walnuts, for our weekly snacking. So, why not roast some eggplant at the same time? Sure, you might need to pay a bit more attention to roasting time and oven temperatures, but anytime I can multitask, I jump on it.

Roasted eggplant in hand, I got to work stripping off the skin.. True, I had no Porcini mushrooms, but I had Shiitake. The recipe wanted cheese, we went with Vegan Monterey Jack. Along with the basil, I chopped and married in a little Chinese parsley. Improvising, I tossed in a 1/2 cup of roasted walnuts for a little mouth feel.

Confession one, I skipped the tomato sauce.

Confession two, I would flash fry or saute the mushrooms next time.  I arrived at this conclusion through a feedback comment from Bubba, “too much mushroom taste.”

Folding and mixing, I combined all the remaining ingredients, bread crumbs,  eggs, and garlic. My only regret, I had no fresh chili peppers!. Arrabiata Meatless Meatballs, now that would be interesting! It was wet going in there and the faux cheese was not helping in the binding and adhering department. Undeterred I mixed on. Maybe a skimped on the bread? Or maybe I should have toasted the bread first? In my next revision, I might go with some corn starch.  Note to self, check with Mom, she knows things!

I dusted the balls as directed, but I didn’t really see the point. I find dusting very subjective? I never know how much dust is required. Into the refrigerator they went. After cleaning up, life distracted me and the balls ended up chilling for quite some time.. Honestly, I  thought, why not just pull them out as Bubba got hungry. If I had no other time to make anything else, there was always Bubba’s favorite, meatballs on a fork. And, he could actually fry them himself.

Instead of going with a 1/2 of oil for frying I used about 1/4. Note to reader, go with medium to low heat and pay attention. They burn easily! Ask me how I know? I used tongs to gently turn them in the pan as they lacked the cohesiveness of actual meat meatballs.

While I love bacon for breakfast, I thought, why not eggs over easy, with asparagus, and meatless meatballs. If you don’t have any asparagus, try bok choy. No bok choy, wing it. While experience may vary with equipement ruined, I prefer to think of it as there is nothing I can’t fix. And if you can’t fix it, spin it with a great story.

Eggplant & Porcini “Meatballs” in Tomato Sauce by Domencia Marchetti  in the August issue of Food & Wine.

Bubba’s verdict, “what if you added a little bacon?”

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