What’s for Dinner?
Grilled Tofu with Eggplant
-Adapted from Great Chefs TM Cook Vegan by Linda Long. Reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith, gibbs-smith.com
Tofu and Eggplant:
2 (8-ounce) packages extra-firm tofu
1 large eggplant
1⁄2 cup soy sauce
1⁄2 cup sesame oil
1⁄4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
Coconut Red Curry Sauce:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1⁄4 cup finely diced onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely minced lemongrass, optional
1 teaspoon curry powder
1⁄4 cup vegetable stock
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
Kosher salt to taste
Crispy Ginger Toping:
1 (2-inch) piece gingerroot, peeled
1 cup canola oil
1⁄2 pound thin rice noodles, cooked and chilled
Basil leaves for garnish
To make the Tofu and Eggplant: Cut the tofu into 8 slices, each about 1/3 inch thick. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and place the tofu on the pan in a single layer. Cover the tofu with additional paper towels and place another baking sheet on top. Place two dinner plates or other weights on top of the pan to gently press the tofu to help remove excess moisture for about 1 hour or more.
Wash the eggplant and dry with a towel. Cut the skin from the outside of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into strips about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the strips into rectangles the same size as the sliced tofu. Place on paper towels arranged in a pan and sprinkle very lightly with kosher salt; reserve for about 1 hour to allow some of the water to be released.
In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and ginger, whisking thoroughly.
Remove the tofu slices from the “press,” pat dry with a towel, and place in a very lightly oiled shallow baking dish to make it easier to remove for grilling. Rinse the salt from the eggplant slices, pat dry, and put them in the dish with the tofu. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade and pour the remaining marinade over the sliced eggplant and tofu, being sure they are well coated; marinate for 1 hour.
To make the Coconut Red Curry Sauce: Place a saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat. Add the oil and lightly sauté the onion until tender. Add the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring frequently, or about 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to burn the curry powder.
Add the vegetable stock and cook, stirring frequently, and reduce liquid until a paste forms. Whisk in the coconut milk and bring contents to a slow simmer for about 5 minutes; remove from heat. Transfer the contents to a blender and purée until smooth. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove any pulp, and then return the sauce to the stove over low heat. Adjust seasoning with salt and keep warm.
To make the Crispy Ginger Topping: Using a Japanese mandolin with the finest blade attachment, carefully push the ginger through lengthwise until completely cut. Heat oil in a small saucepan to 325 degrees F and sprinkle the ginger into the oil; fry until golden brown and just crisp, watching very closely. Remove the ginger from the oil quickly and allow to drain on a paper towel.
To Finish: Place the rice noodles in a bowl and toss with the remaining marinade from the tofu and eggplant; reserve. Grill the sliced tofu and eggplant over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes on each side, carefully turning once on the diagonal to achieve the crisscrossed grill marks. Reserve in a warm oven.
How to Plate: Divide the rice noodles evenly among four plates. Top the noodles with a slice of eggplant and then place a slice of tofu on top of the eggplant; repeat with another slice of each. Spoon the warm Coconut Red Curry Sauce around the stacks and top each stack with a pinch of the Crispy Ginger Topping and some basil leaves.