Grilled Chile-Cornmeal Crusted Tofu

I often get asked the question "What do vegetarians grill?" True, grilling has a heavy emphasis on meat. However, the most recent issue of Vegetarian Times had an entire section on grilling ideas. While it is always easy to grab a frozen veggie burger to add to the grill, that usually isn't the most tasty option. Vegetarian cooking isn't about finding meat substitutes; it's about changing the emphasis from meat to veggies. Therefore, vegetarian grilling almost always starts with fresh vegetables.

We got a CSA box this week full of fantastic fresh veggies and three cheeses. Pictured above, starting with the bag in the lower left corner is snow peas, sweetheart cabbage, fennel, carrots, white cipollini onions, fresh garlic, mini red romaine, arugula, and broccoli.

We also got some zucchini and cucumbers! My favorites!

These were new to me and actually new to our farm too. They are radish seed pods and have a really strong radish flavor that mellows when cooked. So, I decided to add these to a summer stir fry.

I didn't care for them in this stir fry. The texture of the tips were woody and thus hard to chew, and the radish flavor did nothing for this dish. I ended up leaving them on my plate. My husband liked it. I still have a few fresh pods left, so I'm going to try a different method of cooking them and see if I like them better next time.

We also got three cheeses in our CSA: Monterey Jack, Cheddar with Ramps (my absolute favorite cheese!), and labneh, which was a new cheese to us. It is a sheeps milk cheese that tastes a lot like yogurt and has the consistency of cream cheese. In fact, it's quite sour and inspired my new favorite appetizer: cucumbers with labneh and dill weed.

You've probably had cucumbers in a creamy dill sauce before. I love the flavors but I usually don't go to the trouble of making it. Labneh is tangy and sour and when spread onto the cucumbers, tastes just like cucumbers and cream. It's pretty much amazing. So amazing that I had to go out and buy more cucumbers because we ate all of our CSA ones already. If you can get your hands on some labneh, do it!

Back to grilling. I've grilled a lot of food before. It all was just OK. Not great, but still edible. Except for this grilled meal. It still makes my mouth water. If you make none of my recipes, you must make this tofu. Even if you hate tofu, this will change your life (or at least your opinion of tofu).

Grilled pineapple is fantastic. It's even better when you marinate it in 6 tablespoons tequila, 3 tablespoons agave nectar, and 1 tablespoon lime juice for a couple of hours before grilling...just sayin'... 

A couple recipes inspired what I'm calling Upside Down Grilled Caesar Salad. Drizzle some lemon juice and oil over hearts of romaine and grill for a few minutes on each side; coarsely chop it. Toast or grill some crusty French bread. Drizzle some vegetarian Caesar salad dressing over the bread. (Veganomican has a fantastic Caesar salad dressing recipe.) Top with the grilled romaine, shaved parmesan cheese, and enjoy warm. 

The star of the meal was by far the Chile-Cornmeal Crusted Tofu drizzled with Pumpkin Seed Mole. This mole is so good you will want to put it on everything, or at least corn flavored things... 

For dessert, we finished off a chocolate truffle cake I had made a few days ago and served it with homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam I got from a co-worker. It was even better with some whipped cream, but after a bad experience with whipped cream earlier this week, I skipped the whipped cream. If you want to see beautiful pictures of the cake and get it's amazingly simple recipe, visit 101 Cookbooks (linked above). 

Pumpkin Seed Mole
about 2 cups (which is a lot!), 20 minutes

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup fresh parsley
1 cup salsa verde (choose a brand with as few ingredients as possible or just used canned tomatillos)
1 white cipollini onion, green part only (or use scallions)
1 sweetheart cabbage leaf (or use 2 leafs of romaine)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
  1. Toast the pumpkin seeds lightly over medium heat in a skillet. They will pop and crackle. When they have a strong toasted aroma (about 3 minutes), add them to the food processor with the pepper. Grind to a fine powder, stirring occasionally for a more even grinding.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the olive oil, to the food processor and blend until thick and creamy. 
  3. Add the olive oil and blend for another 30 seconds or until the ingredients are well incorporated. Add salt to taste. Serve warm or cold.
Chile-Cornmeal Crusted Tofu
4 servings, 40 minutes

1 lb extra firm tofu
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Zest of 1 lime
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  1. Drain the tofu. Wrap in a couple towels or napkins and place a heavy can or jar on top to press it. After 20 minutes, unwrap it and slice it into 8 rectangles.
  2. Meanwhile, in a shallow container (a sandwich saver works great here), mix together the milk and cornstarch. Set aside. In another shallow container, mix together the rest of the ingredients and set aside. 
  3. Dip each slice of pressed tofu into the milk mixture, then into the cornmeal mixture, and set on a baking sheet.
  4. If grilling, preheat grill to medium-high. Brush the grill with oil and set tofu on the grill. Cook for about 10 minutes on each side. If baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray each side of tofu with oil (brushing oil will not work). Bake on each side for about 12 minutes. Serve each slice of tofu with a tablespoon (or more) of the mole.
Print these recipes. Adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero