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Vegetable Brochettes with Marinated Tofu

Vegetable Brochettes with Marinated Tofu
from Executive Chef Annie Somerville, Greens Restaurant

Certain vegetables are always good to include— mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, boiling onions, and green peppers—to provide contrasting colors and textures, but others can be included when in season. In summer try round of sweet corn, zucchini, eggplant, and new potatoes. In winter include winter squash, slices of yams or sweet potatoes, or fennel. Remember that you will need to marinate the tofu at least a day before making this dish. Use 10-inch-long wooden skewers; allow two brochettes per person for a main course.

For Vegetable Brochettes:

Makes eight 10-inch brochettes; serves four

Ingredients:
Brochette Marinade (see below)
16 medium mushrooms
1 green bell pepper, or pepper of any color, cut into squares orwedges
8 cherry tomatoes
16 boiling onions, parboiled and peeled
Choose two or three of the following:
Zucchini and yellow squash, cut into rounds
Sweet corn, cliced through the cob into ½ inch rounds
Winter squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
Small new potatoes, or potatoes cut into 1-inch cubes
Sweet potatoes, or yams, cut into rounds
Japanese eggplant, cut into ¼ inch rounds
Fennel, thickly sliced
16 to 24 ounces Marinated Tofu (see below), cut into 1-inch cubes
8 bay leaves
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

  1. Prepare the brochette marinade and set aside.
  2. Clean and trim the vegetables. If boiling onions are not available, use 2 or 3 red or yellow onions, cut into wide wedges, the root ends left intact. Some of the vegetables need to be parboiled: 2 to 3 minutes for the corn; 6 to 8 minutes for the winter squash; 10 to 12 minutes for the potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes. Cook the vegetables until they are done but still firm enough not to fall off the skewers, keeping in mind that they will cook about 10 minutes over the coals. Toss the eggplant slices in oil.
  3. Gather all the vegetables and the tofu. Plan to place a mushroom on either end (they work well as an anchor for the rest of the vegetable); then skewer an assortment of vegetables and the tofu, including the bay leaves, to make a colorful, attractive brochette. Put the finished brochettes on a baking sheet, and brush them generously with the brochette marinade, turning them so that all sides are well coated.
  4. Grill the brochettes 6 to 8 inches over the coals, turning every few minutes to expose all the surfaces to the heat. When the vegetables are nicely browned and hot, after 5 to 10 mintues, depending on the heat of the fire, remove them to a serving platter. Brush them with extra marinade, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and serve.

For Brochette Marinade:

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon herbs: parsley, thyme, marjoram, finely chopped
¾ cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Mix the vinegar with the garlic, mustard, and herbs. Whisk in the oil, and season with salt and pepper.

For Marinated Tofu:

Makes 2 ½ cups marinade (enough for 2 packages tofu)

Tofu, bland by nature, is given character with this strong marinade. Prepared in this fashion, the tofu is used in the Vegetable Brochettes. Use firm (Chinese-style) tofu, rather than the soft or regular tofu, because it can be easily handled without breaking.

Ingredients:

1 or 2 packages firm tofu, 14 to 18 ounces each
½ ounce dried wild mushrooms, porcini or shiitake
1 cup water
2 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup olive oil
½ cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
½ cup red wine
½ cup tamari soy sauce
4 cloves
½ teaspoon salt
Several twists black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut the tofu into slabs 1-inch thick—firm tofu often comes in pieces that size—and drain them: Set them on a bread board or the back of a baking sheet and raise one end; point the lower end toward the sink  to let the water drain off. Cover the tofu with another tray and weight it down with something heavy, such as a few cans of tomatoes. Let the tofu drain for about ½ hour. This will remove excess water and allow the marinade to penetrate without being diluted.
  2. While the tofu is draining, prepare the marinade. Simmer the mushrooms in the water for 15 minutes. Heat a small heavy skillet and toast the oregano or marjoram slowly until it is fragrant. Add the oregano and the remaining ingredients to the pot with the mushrooms, bring to a boil, and simmer slowly for a few minutes more.
  3. Remove the tofu from the draining board and arrange it in a single layer in a square or rectangular non-corrosive pan. Strain the marinade through a coffee filter or paper towel and pour it over the tofu. Cover with plastic or a lid and refrigerate at least one day, preferably longer.
  4. The tofu can marinate 4 to 5 days. The marinade can be boiled, strained, and reused, if the tofu was well drained.