Saturday, 4 February 2012

Couscous with maple-orange glazed tofu, orange segments and avocado

Couscous has been, since the first time I tried it, one of my favorite foods. In the past I would make huge batches and eat it all in an embarrassingly short time span. But, until now, I would always make couscous the same way, with a couple of variations; green and red pepper, sundried tomatoes, avocado, olives and chopped grape tomatoes. Yesterday, Mike commented that something I cooked tasted like many other things I make which motivated me to step out of my comfort zone and cook something a little out of the ordinary.

I know I say this a lot - I swear that it is true - but this recipe came into being because I happened to have a limited and specific set of ingredients on hand. First, I have to thank Vesna for telling me about cara cara oranges. I did not know these things existed until she revealed to me that they were currently in abundance at Whole Foods. Every time I have stopped at Whole Foods over the past couple of weeks, I grabbed a few lovely cara caras. These oranges have pink flesh, like a grapefruit but are sweet like an orange.

The next crucial ingredient was the tofu I purchased with the intent of trying this 'Miso Sesame Winter Squash' Recipe posted recently on 101 cookbooks. I split the tofu in half to use some in todays recipe and still have enough left to try the Miso-squash recipe.

I remember reading an article recently that explained how tofu is like cheese, different brands have different tastes and textures. If you do not like the tofu you buy, try different brands until you find one you like. I generally always buy the same brand of tofu, but am usually left mostly disappointed. At Whole Foods the other day I spotted a brand I have never tried before, one that is made in Victoria BC. I have to say I was quite impressed with the final result and actually noticed that right out of the package it did not have that weird tofu smell that I associate with uncooked tofu, the colour was more white and the texture not too rubbery. The package did not really have a logo, it just states 'Organic Extra Firm Tofu' but in teeny little letters on the side it says

Avocado, oranges and shallots are all that I could find in my kitchen to go with the tofu. To make the tofu fit in with the other ingredients I really felt that a citrus glaze was my only option. Just a tablespoon of maple syrup and some fresh meyer lemon juice to go with the juice from the oranges was all that I needed to make a lovely dressing for couscous and a delicious glaze for the tofu.

Another recent ingredient find that I would recommend is vegetable bouillon cubes from Harvest Sun, found on the organic items shelf in Save On food. They have a nice flavour, are not too salty and have no MSG. I have actually been using this in all of my recent recipes like carrot soup and risotto. I like bouillons because they are a lot easier to carry home from the store than cartons of liquid soup stock.

Also, for the first time ever I invested in a nice bottle of plain, organic, extra virgin olive oil to use in salads, which I used in the dressing here. The large bottle I usually have on my shelf has a bit of a strong taste and smell. It is fine for cooking but the flavour has ruined the last couple of salad dressings I have made. I figured it was time to invest in something superior; it was worth the extra few dollars. 

The combination of all of these high quality ingredients came together to be one of the most delicious dishes I have made in awhile; sweet, savory, light and citrusy.

Couscous with maple-orange glazed tofu, orange segments and avocado

3 - 4 cups prepared couscous, cooked in vegetable stock
2 medium juicy cara cara or other oranges (need ~1/4 cup juice and the segments)
2 tbsp meyer lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
Sea salt
1/2 block tofu well drained, cut into 1 cm cubes
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1/2 firm avocado, finely chopped
1/4 cup shallot, finely chopped
Cilantro to garnish

1 - If you have not already, prepare couscous according to package directions.
Example: Boil about 1.25 cups of stock and stir in 1.5 cups of couscous. Stir, remove from heat and cover. Let stand 10 minutes or until ready to use.
2 - Next, segment the oranges. 
->Use a sharp knife to slice off the top and bottom ends of the orange. 
->Then, slice off the peel, along the sides of the orange, exposing the orange flesh. 
->Release the segments into a strainer positioned over a bowl, allowing the juices to drain and catch in the bowl. 
->One at a time, one side at a time, slice the orange segments out of the separating skins.
3 - When all of the segments are released, squeeze the juices out of what is left of the oranges into the bowl (hopefully you will have about 1/4 cup of juice).
4 - Add 2 tbsp of meyer lemon juice into orange juice, add olive oil, maple syrup and season with sea salt; mix well. You should have about 1/2 cup of liquid total.
5 - Add 1/2 of the liquid (1/4 cup) to a saucepan, bring juice to a simmer and continue stirring, allowing water to evaporate and sauce to thicken, about 7 minutes.
6 - Stir the chopped shallot into the remaining dressing/juice and let sit while you prepare the tofu.
7 - Heat grapeseed oil in a well-seasoned iron skillet over medium
8 - Add cubed tofu, let cook about 2 minutes before tossing and continue to cook 2 minutes then tossing repeat for about 10 minutes total, until tofu is nicely browned.
9 - Stir tofu into reduced, orange-maple syrup.
10 - Into couscous, stir the avocado, dressing and shallots and orange segments.
11 - Serve couscous topped with glazed tofu and chopped cilantro.

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