Walnut-Crusted Tofu, Braised Chard & Butternut Squash.

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Swiss chard (Quebec), Butternut squash (Quebec), Organic GMO-free firm tofu (Montreal company Horium Foods Inc.), raw walnuts,  3 cloves of garlic, lemon, turmeric, chili powder (Korean), dijon mustard (Maille brand is my favourite-love it so much I get the ‘tub’ size), and pomegranate molasses.

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Start by chopping the walnut pieces into a crumb using a food processor. Careful not to over-process into a nut-butter. Set aside on a plate.

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Wash, cut, and roast squash on a baking sheet at 350-400 for 30-40 min or until tender.

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Rinse tofu and press it in a cloth, weighed down by something heavy (like a skillet) to release the extra liquid. This affects the texture, firming it up further and allowing more of the marinade to be absorbed like a sponge.

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Slice the tofu into 1-inch triangles.

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Marinate the tofu in 1 clove of minced garlic, enough soy sauce to cover all the tofu well and 1-tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. I used Nama Shoyu soy sauce, which has a unique slightly sweet taste and offers more nutritional value being unpasteurized. Like wine, soy varies according to the type, differing in flavour and texture (some soy’s are ‘thin’ others are ‘thick’). If you’re cooking with a soy your dish will reap the benefits.

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Bake the tofu for about 25 min at 350-400 until its crispy. You want to cook the tofu fully before crusting it with walnuts, as it will only need 5-10 min to brown once coated with the nuts.

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Rinse and dry the greens, then cut the bottom stalk off and slice thinly. Chop the green tops roughly into bite sized pieces.

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Chop two cloves of garlic and one red onion.

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When the squash is ready, let it cool before removing the skins (I love snacking on the skins – delish!)

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In a food processor, blend the squash into a creamy pureed mash. Season with salt and a pinch of turmeric to enhance the beautiful yellow colour and reap the anti-inflammatory, medicinal benefits of this amazing spice.

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In a hot skillet with a spray of olive oil, lightly brown the garlic and onion.

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After a minute or so add the chard stems. They are more tougher, and fibrous than the leaves and require longer cooking. Season with salt and cracked black pepper. Remove from the pan onto a plate and set aside.

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Add a bit more oil to the pan and braise the greens on high heat, cook for a minute. Add a pinch of chili powder and squeeze over the juice of half a lemon for acidity and brightness, as well as helps keeps the chard green.

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Add the onion, garlic, and chard stems into the pan once the greens have cooked, combine for a min and take off the heat.

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Once the tofu is cooked, its time to crust it. Cover each piece lightly with dijon, which acts as a glue and adds amazing flavour, then coat with the walnut crumbs, as you would bread crumbs. Bake the tofu for 5-10 min at 300 degrees until the walnuts are lightly toasted. The walnuts burn easily so keep an eye on the tofu while its browning.

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Plate the butternut squash, greens, and tofu as you wish.

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This is my plant-based healthy version of a Southern-style supper of fried chicken, grits or mashed potatoes and greens. It is a comforting, delicious and nutritious, balanced meal, made from a handful of whole-foods. I promise that any ‘steak and potatoes’ type of person will enjoy this meal and feel good after eating it.

P.S I had the walnut baked tofu cold the next day and it reminded me of my Bubby’s chicken schnitzel, which she should would wrap in tin foil for us after her epic Shabbat dinners. This childhood memory made me smile as I’d inadvertently re-created a vegan-version of Jewish-style schnitzel!

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– The bright colour of butternut squash is a good indication of its nutrient-density. It is a fantastic source of vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and contains B Vitamins, Vitamin E,magnesium, potassium, and manganese.

– Green Swiss chard is one of the more nutrient-dense foods on earth, jam packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, iron, calcium, amino acids (protein), dietary fiber, and is a great source of  B Vitamins, Vitamin E,  phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese minerals. Lightly cooking greens actually makes their antioxidant nutrients more bioavailable. The key is to blanch, sauté or braise greens (including broccoli) only until you see the colour brighten.

– Walnuts are one of the best sources of essential omega fatty acids! 1-ounce has 2565 mg of omega 3s and  10761 mg of Omega 6 fats, proving that there’s no need to pillage the sea for salmon in the name of nutrition.

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