Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lemon Tofu with Creamy Asparagus Sauce

I spent most of last night flipping through The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook my older sister gave me yesterday. If I haven't mentioned it before, I love Ina Garten. She is actually one of my biggest culinary idols. I just adore her dedication to simple, seasonal, quality food - she is one of the main reasons why most of my recipes have only a handful of ingredients, and take only a few steps to prepare. Ina has definitely helped me to see over the years that simple is always better, when prepared correctly. 

I recently was sent a review copy of The 30-Minute Vegan's Taste of Europe, and I have to admit that, at first glance, a lot of the recipes seemed a bit overwhelming. But as I read more closely, I realized that the recipes in this book could still provide me with inspiration to try new recipes that I may never have though of before. Like, for example, serving tofu with a creamy asparagus sauce.

The original recipe calls for 16 ounces of tempeh, but tofu was much cheaper at the grocery store this week, so I used that instead (and it worked out fine). I also omitted the pine nuts, which were meant for the asparagus sauce. Pine nuts are crazy expensive, but I can see why they would work here (the cheese and butter I added helped to make the sauce creamier, but nuts would have been preferable). Each recipe in the book thankfully recommends alternatives for certain ingredients, and this one does mention that pine nuts can be swapped out with cashews or macadamia nuts.

As I went through this recipe, I was relieved to find that - although the ingredient list and directions were long - this really wasn't that difficult or time consuming to prepare. And, in the end, we had a new-to-us dinner that was light, flavorful, and packed with fresh lemon flavor.

Lemon Tofu with Creamy Asparagus Sauce
Yields: 4-6 servings (in our house, it yielded about 3)
Tofu Marinade:
-1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1/4 cup white wine
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-1 garlic clove, minced
-14 ounces extra firm tofu, sliced into eight 1/4-inch-thick cutlets
Creamy Asparagus Sauce:
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-3/4 cup thinly sliced white onion
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 pound asparagus, ends removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3 1/4 cups)
-1/2 cup white wine
-1 cup low-sodium vegetable stock or water
-1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
-2 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-1 tablespoon dried basil (original recipe used 2 tbsp. chiffonaded fresh basil)
-1 tablespoon dried parsley (original recipe used 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley)
-2 tablespoons butter
-1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1.) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place all of the marinade ingredients, except the tofu, into a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish and mix well (I used a slightly smaller dish, which worked fine). Add the tofu and allow to sit for 5 minutes, flipping once to ensure an even coating (I marinated mine for 30-40 minutes; the longer the better!). Bake for 20 minutes. 
2.) Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus sauce: Pour the olive oil into a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently (in the future, I'd add the garlic after 1-2 minutes, as mine began to brown too quickly). Add the asparagus and white wine and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the vegetable stock and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the remaining ingredients, except the basil, parsley, butter and cheese, and mix well.
3.) Transfer the contents of the saute pan to a strong blender (I used a food processor, in batches) and carefully blend until smooth. Return the mixture to the saute pan. Add the basil, parsley, butter, and mozzarella cheese. Mix well.
4.) To serve, place a liberal amount of sauce on each plate, add the tofu cutlets, top with a small amount of sauce, and garnish each serving with a lemon wedge. We enjoyed our cutlets with some egg noodles, which resulted in a great combination of textures.

Although I tweaked the recipe a bit, I could seriously eat this creamy asparagus sauce with a spoon (it also helps that I'm a big fan of asparagus). I have to admit, though, that this dish wasn't super filling. I think next time, I'll also serve some sort of vegetable side dish to help "beef up" the meal. Either way, it was fun to try a new recipe, and to eat something we wouldn't normally eat during the work week.

Which do you most often prefer: simply prepared food or more elaborate dishes? 

*My copy of The 30-Minute Vegan's Taste of Europe was complimentary, but, as always, the opinions expressed in this post are honest and 100 percent my own.


  1. Oooh that creamy asparagus sauce is calling my name!

  2. definitely a winning sauce :) and i haven't been able to buy pine nuts since i last ran out... other nuts work too!!

  3. I don't know about the tofu... but the sauce sounds amazing!

  4. This looks like a great comfort dish. I have been loving simple meals lately.