ORANGE TOFU BALLS: Tender and Tangy!

Sometimes all it takes for a recipe to go from ‘meh’ to marvelous is one thing. This is usually an ingredient. But, every now and then, it’s a technique. With my Orange Tofu Balls: it was both.

In developing a new recipe, I generally start with a recipe that catches my eye. I make the recipe as written, then tweak it to suit my taste. In this case, I started with Moosewood Cookbook’s Buddha’s Jewels – Asian style tofu balls.

The recipe instructed to drain the tofu by sandwiching it between 2 plates and pressing out as much liquid as would come. After chopping the drained tofu and mixing it with the remaining ingredients, I formed golf-ball sized balls and baked. However, the uncooked balls were never really firm and had to be dealt with gingerly or they’d fall apart. During the baking process they sank into a mound rather than remain in a tight ball.

It finally came to my attention that there was too much moisture in the tofu. The plate pressing was not enough – I had to squeeze chopped tofu in a tea towel to properly extract the water. Then, I added some flour for good measure. Success!

ORANGE TOFU BALLS – makes about 15

Balls:

  • 397 g (14 oz) extra firm tofu
  • 2 T peanut butter (I use creamy)
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 scallions, white and green part, sliced thin
  • 60 g (1/2 cup) red pepper, chopped fine
  • 111 g (4 oz) mushrooms (I’ve used shiitakes & white common – both worked)
  • 61 g (1/2 cup) water chestnuts, chopped fine
  • 33 g (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour

Orange Sauce

  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 T water
  • 200 ml (3/4 cup) orange juice
  • 2 T pure maple syrup
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 garlic, pressed or minced

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit (190° Celsius).

The first thing to do is extract as much water as you can from the tofu. You can either begin by sandwiching the tofu block between two plates to get it started (you can use this time to chop the remaining ingredients), or go straight to squeezing it in a tea towel. Either way works.

Chop the tofu block (drained or not) into very small pieces. Spoon a fistful onto a clean tea towel.

Wrap the towel around the tofu, forming a sack, and twist to extract as much liquid as you can. (Do this in small batches – if there’s too much, it’s harder to twist out the water.) Empty tofu onto a bread board. Continue until all tofu has been squeezed.

Use a potato masher to smash the drained tofu.

In an empty mixing bowl, add the peanut butter, soy sauce, scallions, red pepper, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and flour – blend well.

Add in the mashed tofu and blend well.

Oil a rimmed cookie sheet with a very light coating of oil. Form about 14-15 compact balls with the tofu mixture and place on sheet spaced well apart to get good heat circulation. (A 3-T scoop, packed tightly, forms just the right size.)

Bake in preheated 375° F (190° C) oven for 45 minutes.

As the tofu balls are baking, prepare the orange sauce: In a small bowl combine the 1 T cornstarch with 1 T water to form a slurry. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, 2 T soy sauce, and garlic. Bring to a boil.

When the liquid begins to boil, drizzle in the slurry – stirring as you pour. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

When the Tofu Balls are darkened, serve immediately with the warmed orange sauce. I like to serve it over rice.

CHEESE CRUSTED SPINACH PIE: Easy-Cheezy!

Cheese Crusted Spinach Pie is a tasty quiche-like pie that incorporates cheese into the crust rather than the filling. It’s quick and easy to put together (unless you’re like me and insist on washing EVERY spinach leaf thoroughly), but do allow an hour from the time it goes into the oven to when it can be served.

CHEESE CRUSTED SPINACH PIE

Crust

  • 173 g (1.5 cups; 6 oz) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 97 g (3/4 cup; 3.5 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 99 g (7 T; 3.5 oz) butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 cup milk (I use 1% or 2%)
  • 14 g (1 T; 1/2 oz) butter
  • 66 g (1/2 cup; 2.25 oz) onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 227 g (8 oz) fresh spinach, stems discarded, coarsely chopped
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit (200° Celsius).

In a mixing bowl, combine cheese, flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and dry mustard.

Using a fork, mix in the 99 g melted butter – dough will be clumpy. Pour into a 9″ pie plate, spreading evenly.

Using your fingers, press dough firmly into the bottom and sides, pushing tightly into the corners (this will allow more surface area for the filling).

Into a large pot (when you add the spinach, you’ll understand why you need a large pot), add the milk, 14 g butter, onion, nutmeg, and 1 tsp salt. Bring mixture to a simmer. Turn off heat but leave pot on burner to keep the liquid warm as the spinach wilts.

Add in spinach, occasionally stirring until spinach wilts.

Place the pie plate on a rimmed cookie sheet to catch any spills. Mix beaten eggs into the spinach mixture, then pour into the crust to just below the brim. Arrange cherry tomatoes around top, cut side up.

CAREFULLY place in preheated oven – trying your best not to spill. (You can also place the unfilled crust on a cookie in the oven and then pour in the filling, if you prefer.)

Bake pie at 400° F (200° C) for 20 minutes – SET TIMER! Then decrease oven temperature to 350° F (175° C) and continue cooking pie until filling is set – about 15-20 minutes. (This is is bold to remind you!) Remove from oven and let gel for, at least, 15 minutes before serving.