A Green Odyssey

I realize I work a lot on guilt and obligation. I am sure why or what that really means, but, often I find myself making decisions, simple everyday ones like groceries, on a some level of need to rather than want to. Even when the want to aligns I feel like it is still laced with obliging to do so.

Take for example the supporting of local businesses. When Jonas hit and we were covered in enough snow to cross country ski outside our stoops, the restaurant at the corner of my street stayed open. Passing it, I felt an intense obligation to go in and order something, any thing, just to show them camaraderie. I did not because, well, such actions usually come with a bill of fare that was not necessary. Yet, logical as the reasoning was, I felt guilty for a whole day and avoided going that way for another two whole days!

Pretty much the same with my weekly farmers' market. Don't get me wrong, I love it and that is where I do most of my weekly shopping for produce, interesting cuts of meat, and, most importantly my weekly almond croissant. 

No, actually, I bought that out of pure desire...!

Yet, on occasions of severe winds, cold, rain or any inclement weather, I feel it is my obligation to show my support and go buy something even if I did not need anything. 

I don't know if this is particularly important or interesting, but I thought I would tell you anyway. Not that I bought that gorgeous bunch of wild local spinach out of guilt. No, actually, I bought that out of pure desire...!

And, so, once I had them in my bag, I spent a while staring at their imperfect beauty.... And the ROOTS!!! Have you ever seen spinach roots?

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I caressed them, fondled them and took lots of photographs that I plastered all over social media. I mean spinach with roots! That's got to be sensational right? Well, in this day of instant gratification/feedback/silent-denial, I was categorically told that my crush was bizarrely unique and entirely uncaptivating for the general populace. Not one to go down quietly, I decided, I will prove to the world that my infatuation was really true love; the kind that is so deep and genuine that I am willing to suffer for it as a consequence!

Phase 2 of my cry for attention, therefore, involved, previously untested appliances and an already hard to work with ingredient, Tofu. Side note: I don't understand tofu. It is rather bland and does not really take on much flavor. How to the Asian places get it to taste anything better than nothing? With these questions swirling through, I decided to plunge right in with strong flavors and that delicate spinach to outflaw the protein.

I still think it was a brilliant idea!

spinach with roots! That's got to be sensational right?

You know the thorn about social media, particularly, Pinterest? It makes one more of a consumer! I mean, take me as an example. I have been doing just fine for 10 years without a grill pan. What I wanted crisped, it happened on me perfectly seasoned LeCreuset skillet or I was less fancy, stainless steel pan. Then, I was inundated over the last Summer and now from down South, with grill marks. Damn, those grill marks! I capitulated. I bought myself a cool ridged pan from LeCreuset (of course! The cheaper Martha Stewart was a no-go!)

So, here we were. Tofu marinated in a spicy cilantro-chilli chutney, a fresh faced  grill pan and the classic lover, wild spinach. To close the curtains, I also brought in almond ricotta (very interesting and recommend a try if you have extra cash lying around) and pomegranates.

Damn, those grill marks! I capitulated.

Mise-en-place right? I have other thoughts on that, but for now the counter was set. Then began the fury. The pan was hot and oiled and the tofu artistically arranged for best photographic styling. I hummed and ogled my pretty, pretty spinach more while waiting for what I thought must surely be routine; tofu searing nicely and crisping through the chutney. 

Oh but, cruel joke. The tofu stuck to the damn grill marks! Keeping in mind, my plan to show the world, I bottled my anger and summoned up inordinate amounts of patience that I never suspected I had. I managed to flip it over with only a few tears and smears. 

Quickly, I doused the pan with more oil. Grease helps lubrication and all that. But, those ridges! Nothing sticks to them. Cranked up the heat and the second side seemed to be faring a lot better than the first. I let out a sigh so huge that my sig other actually looked up from his very involving xbox game to ask if I was Ok! Yeah, that bad!

Well, the rest is history. Pretty plates. Half the spinach steamed and sauteed with the bits of cooked chutney still stuck on the grill pan and final plating with a study of raw and cooked wild spinach.

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The important thing here, dear reader is that my love was proven true, afterall. Because, after all that drama, one thing became clear. The best thing on that plate was the spinach! I was vindicated. Enough said. Now then, you must take notice!


Cilantro-Chilli Grilled Tofu and Wild Spinach Salad

Cilantro-chilli chutney

1 bunch cilantro, end cuts but stems retained

4 green Asian chillies

1/4 cup coconut

salt

For the salad

4 slices of firm tofu

1/4 cup of chutney

1 bunch of wild spinach

handful of ricotta (i used almond but regular will do just fine)

Pomegranate arils (optional)

salt, pepper and olive oil.

To make the chutney, grind everything into a semi-fine mixture without adding any water. What is left after the marinade makes a fabulous base for spicy curries or even as an Asian pesto version.

Generously spread the chutney on the tofu slices and let them sit out atleast 30 minutes, overnight is better. 

When ready, really heat the grill pan. Drizzle oil and gently place the tofu in the pan. Cook on each side for 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, quick steam half the spinach, drain and reserve. Once the tofu is cooked, add a little more oil and saute the spinach in the renderings.

To plate, arrange two tofu slices each, top with the cooked spinach, crumbled ricotta and pomegranates. Serve with a side of raw spinach drizzled in olive oil and sea salt.