Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alex Runs, Joh Cooks, p.1

Posted: August 18, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Alex Runs Joh Cooks, cheap, delish, Johanna, quick, spicy, vegetarian | 18 Comments »

I threw a dinner party on Saturday – Jesse and I threw one. In honor of Julia Child’s 97th birthday. I will post about it as soon as I’ve processed it. There are not many food photos, because the food disappeared, although one of my friends apparently took a few more. Until I can sort out the post, here is something to tide you over.

Think of it as an hors d’oeuvre.

This is a new facet of this blog, something I’m incredibly happy to be a part of. It’s for a good cause and it’s promoting something that’s important to me.
My college roommate, and dear friend, Alex, is running a half-marathon (my apologies to those I told a full marathon) as part of a charity team, to raise money for cancer research. This is a cause close to both my heart, since my Grampa lost the fight to lymphoma in 2006, and Alex’s since she has lost both her cousin and her father to blood cancers(in whose honor she’s running and raising funds). Please check out her site and support her.

I’m making a pledge to donate to this race, and in an effort to get as many people involved as possible, here’s the plan: I’m creating a category of recipes and posts called “Alex Runs, Joh Cooks” — for every comment I get on one of these posts, I’m donating money to Alex’s cause. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell runners, or any other athletes you know. Tell people – I would rather not be able to afford my donation goal, than not be able to give my friend support.

The Rules: Each individual comment counts, up to 2 per person per post. You don’t have to give insight – you just have to leave your name (although I welcome your insights!!!) Check Alex’s site, check the blog, leave your name here, and Alex will get money!! These recipes will be largely vegetarian (because Al is a vegetarian), lots of veggies, lots of protein, lots of energy and fuel. They will not be difficult.
You can do this.  She can do this. Help me help her, and everybody else!!

Seared Tofu with Lentil Salad and Spicy-Sesame DressingThis, my friends, is tasty and easy.

Seared Tofu, Lentil Salad with Spicy-Sesame Dressing

1/2 container Extra-firm Tofu
1 cup dried lentils
1/2 red onion
1/2 carrot
1 stalk celery.
Sriracha, Sesame Oil, Low-Sodium Soy Sauce, Cider Vinegar (if you like)
Assorted veggies, any type you choose. I used a green bell pepper, half a zucchini, and a crap-ton of heirloom tiny tomatoes.

1. Put lentils, 1/2 of the onion (so 1/4 of the TOTAL onion), carrots, and celery in a pot. Cut the onion, carrot and celery into large chunks. Cover by 2 inches with water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. If the water boils off, add more. Keep them covered for the first 10 minutes. Taste a lentil, and check every 2-3 minutes until the lentils are soft on the outside, but still have some bite. Maybe 10 more minutes, tops.
Lentils and veggies2. While the lentils cook, cut up into small dice the vegetables – pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, and the rest of the red onion. Put them in a big bowl.
3. When the lentils are done, drain them, pull out the big chunks of celery, onion and carrot, and rinse the lentils under cold water. Drain and rinse a second time to really cool them down, then put them in the bowl with the veggies. Season the veggies a little with salt and pepper. Taste, and make sure they taste good on their own. This is very important.

4. Put a big skillet or grill pan on the heat, and get it SCREAMIN’ hot. Combine a teaspoon of Sriracha, a teaspoon of soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Whisk together and adjust to your flavor preferences. Cut your tofu brick into strips and brush one side of each strip with the marinade.

5. Put the tofu marinade side down on your pan. You don’t need any additional oil. Sear for about 2 minutes on one side, brush the side that’s up with the marinade, and flip. This flip is why we need extra-firm tofu.

6. Bring it all together. Take the tofu off, and let it cool a bit. Take whatever marinade you may have left, and add more of all the elements: More sriracha, more soy sauce (but not too much, let’s not be crazy) more sesame oil, and probably some regular oil to thin it out. You’re going to need between a third and half of a cup total.
Assembly: pour the dressing over the veggies. stir, gently, to combine. Taste, and dish out. Put a tofu slice on top of the salad, and call it dinner. 

Tofu, side 1Tofu, side 2The usual suspects

Enjoy, and help me help Alex!! I cook, she runs, we all win!!!!

18 Comments on “Alex Runs, Joh Cooks, p.1”

  1. 1 marla said at 10:20 pm on August 18, 2009:

    Tofu hmmm? Im not a lentil person im sure if u cooked it will be delish.

  2. 2 Briana said at 12:20 pm on August 19, 2009:

    what a great idea for a fundraiser! i’ve never been much of a tofu person BUT that looks so yummy that i may just have to break down and give it a try again :)

  3. 3 Alyssa said at 9:44 pm on August 19, 2009:

    I am a fan of lentils ever since you fed them to me on New Years :) and if this dish wouldn’t kill me it would sound REALLY good!

  4. 4 Adi said at 10:48 pm on August 19, 2009:

    Oh hell yes. Why don’t I make tofu more often? I’m a vegetarian! Shouldn’t it be my one true love?

    ….Oh wait, that’s you ;)

  5. 5 Jesse said at 11:30 pm on August 19, 2009:

    This was quite tasty, and I’m not even the world’s biggest fan of tofu.

  6. 6 Jesse said at 11:31 pm on August 19, 2009:

    Oh, and Adi, tofu is just one of the proofs that vegetarianism is wrong in the eyes of god and food.

  7. 7 Señor Nitro said at 11:41 pm on August 19, 2009:

    Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaandwiiiiicheeeeeeesssssssssss, who want’s saaaaaaaaaaaaandwiiiiiiiicheeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssss?

  8. 8 Natalie said at 12:10 pm on August 20, 2009:

    My firm belief is…if you are not a tofu fan, you just haven’t tried it the right way yet. That being said, I think this recipe sounds delicious! I often make grilled teriyaki marinated tofu and serve with rice and broccoli or some other green veggies, but never grilled tofu over warm lentil-veggie salad. Yum!

  9. 9 Stef said at 2:23 pm on August 20, 2009:

    Why hellooooo! Tofu is sometimes tasty. It’s sort of weird and takes the flavor of whatever it’s put with, adding mostly a spongy texture. But for those vegs out there, it’s a good thing.

  10. 10 Alex D. said at 9:31 am on August 21, 2009:

    This sounds so good that I want to try it tonight! Ob-v not expecting you to count my comments Joh, but I couldn’t help but leave one because this looks amazing and simple enough for me to do. :)

  11. 11 leah said at 9:35 am on August 21, 2009:

    in the pic this looks like grilled fish. what a suprise! and sounds delish. i’ve cooked with the softer tofu for stirfrys but never the extra firm. will try that soon. yum!

  12. 12 Laura said at 10:35 am on August 21, 2009:

    Mmmmm…I LOVE tofu and I’m always looking for recipes that feature it (though most of the time, Steele is nice enough to substitute tofu for meat in our old stand-by recipes, when I’m craving it). I cut it off the block and eat it raw sometimes too.
    Alex, lets go for a run sometime! (I’m training for the NYC marathon). I do most of my long runs with two friends and they always end with some sort of delicious food…it makes it easier and much more fun that way :)

  13. 13 Laura said at 10:43 am on August 21, 2009:

    Also Alex: which half are you doing? If you say the Nike Women’s Half in SF I’ll be so jealous! (I know they have a huge charity component)

  14. 14 Auntie Beth said at 12:13 pm on August 21, 2009:

    Although I am not a big tofu fan, I think that dish looks great!!!! What are you cooking next Jo?
    Good luck with the cooking, Jo. And good luck with the running Alex!!! :)

  15. 15 Keetha said at 2:07 pm on August 21, 2009:

    You had me at “spicy sesame dressing” and also the part about somebody running – go Alex!

  16. 16 Mom said at 6:50 pm on August 21, 2009:

    Gotta try this one for Trev. It looks yummy. Maybe I’ll even get your dad to try it Josie!! Good luck Alex!!!

  17. 17 susan said at 6:28 pm on August 30, 2009:

    That’s the prettiest tofu I’ve ever seen! I like tofu in stirfry, and also when Adi orders it in a veg version of chinese food. It’s crispy, and probably not too healthy but good! This recipe sounds like it has plenty of flavor to carry the tofu, and lots of veggies!

  18. 18 David said at 6:54 am on October 22, 2009:

    This looks great, creative combination. My wife was vegetarian when I first started cooking, and still cook a lot of veggie dishes. (though nurturing our 11 lb 3 oz baby brought out her taste for steak!). I will mention your blog and this over on Cooking Chat.

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Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.