So, I thought long and hard about what my comeback post should be and though I really wanted to do something summery (to come), I felt the need to go back to my roots, comfort food, Italian comfort food. Been craving this and it doesn’t surprise me because this dish always brings me back to my mother’s kitchen.
I have had a lot of time to think these last few months. Life gets hard sometimes and it is interesting to see what gets dropped as a result. And it’s not so much what gets dropped, but more what you don’t have the passion for as energy gets depleted and diverted.
I have spent a lot of time soul searching (my husband laughs because it’s difficult to imagine doing more of this) and for me this has meant:
- cutting down the number of people I see,
- spending more time with key people,
- indulging in what I feel like doing each day and this changes from day to day and even, at times on the same day, which necessarily means not making plans, but going with the flow,
- yoga, lots of it, and more yoga,
- exercise (now more and more outside of the gym),
- bike rides along Ottawa’s rivers and lakes,
- lots of time sitting by the water,
- re-entering the world of Charlotte Bronte (if you haven’t read “Shirley” I highly recommend it),
- less “I shoulds” (you should see the state of my house),
- lots of walks especially by the water,
- more time with my mother and grandmother,
- longer and more frequent visits to my farmers’ market (even though I do less cooking there’s something about a farmers’ market – community, back to basics, the aromas, people, and quiet bustling),
- catching up on sleep,
- easing into my mornings,
- more dessert,
- playing at work (still working on work / life balance),
- abiding by that inner voice,
- honouring the grey zones, and
- letting life ease in.
Essentially, feeding my soul, creating space for the things that I love, making time for things I want, continuing to lead a quiet life, and now simplifying it, manifesting magic…
A lot of this has taken me away from my beloved kitchen, which was ok because it too, in some ways, was becoming oppressive. The conundrum appears when life gets complicated and all of a sudden there’s less time and energy to cook when you most need nourishing on all levels. Walking away from the kitchen helped me make space for some of the other stuff, which eventually brought me back to my kitchen, just not in the same way. I have changed my attitude about cooking. I cook some three meals a week with bigger leftovers to mix and match for lunches and am doing more salads and sandwiches for dinner, good quality, but in a more manageable timeframe.
Dishes like this, breaded tofu cutlet sandwich have been feeding my soul on so many levels. Comfort food! But memories, gratitude for my mother, values-instilled, and my culture. My mom used to make this sandwich with both veal and chicken, but I preferred it with chicken. The cutlets were stomped thin, breaded and fried and then stacked in a classic Italian panino (bun) like the one featured with piles of romaine lettuce and an extremely generous serving of mayonnaise. The breading, savoury, the tofu, I would vouch tastes kinda like chicken, crisp lettuce, creamy and tangy mayo, and soft white crusted Italian bun. Ohhhhhhh, there’s nothing more to say really – yum.
My version flavours the tofu with garlic, tamari and sriarcha. Employs nutritional yeast in addition to breadcrumbs, and gets baked with pretty much the same effect. When I bit into it, I said to John, tastes just like my mother’s. He laughed, having tasted hers and said, “you’ve been away from chicken too long”. Maybe, but when I bite into it, it takes me home, only now it’s just a little bit healthier.
You can eat the cutlets in a sandwich or on their own. I have also cut the tofu into long cubes to make tofu sticks / fingers and dip them in plum sauce, also very good and a nice protein topping to turn salads into mains for dinner or lunch.
So go ahead, come on home with me.
|Tofu, firm||2 pkgs (700 g)|
|Garlic, clove, cut in half (to start)|
|Nutritional yeast||3/4 cup|
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Drain tofu. Cut tofu into 1/4-inch thick slices. Should end up with 8 tofu cutlets.
3. Cut garlic clove in half and use to rub both sides of tofu slices. Every couple of tofu slices, re-cut garlic clove ends off to re-fresh. Brush tofu first with tamari, then with sriarcha on all 6 sides.
3. Place flour and tofu slices in a ziplock back and toss until tofu is well coated. Coat tofu with egg then dredge with coating mixture.
4. Arrange breaded tofu cutlets in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.
5. Spray tofu generously on both sides with canola oil.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping once, halfway through.
7. Assembly: Cut bun in half. Spoon some mayonnaise on top and bottom slices of bread. Place generous amounts of lettuce leaves of your choice on bottom layer of bread. Top with one tofu cutlet. Follow with more lettuce leaves. Top with another tofu cutlet. Repeat process with other buns. Enjoy!