Friday, April 6, 2012

Lemony Asparagus Risotto + Citrus-Roasted Tofu

I can't believe that Easter is this weekend. Wasn't I just blogging about Christmas Vegg Nog?

Easter is always such a fun holiday to cook for, because spring-themed foods are always so bright and pretty. Don't get me wrong, I do love the comfort foods that are born of fall and winter. Those pastas and breads and thick soups set my heart a flutter. But by the time spring rolls around and the sun is shining, I've had enough of the comfort foods for awhile and am ready for the bright greens and the crisp bites of vegetables freshly plucked out of the ground.

Of course, it's still way too early for most Ontario produce. All the same, I'm busy building my arsenal of spring meals so that I'm ready when they do finally arrive and I encourage you to do the same! That local asparagus and spinach window can be so small. You want to make sure you make the best of it when it is here.

Also, Easter is this Sunday, but you may still be planning your menu. Holidays can be challenging for minority eaters, especially if said eating is not happening in the comfort of your own home. You need something that is not only delicious, but also easily transported. Bonus points if it is enticing to the non-vegans, too. I present you with such an Easter meal option, courtesy of the Easter section in Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas.

Rice is one of the great vegan ambassadors present on holiday tables. Almost everyone eats it, so few people will be scared off by a vegan version of it. In fact, they probably won't even notice that it is vegan. It's just rice. Not that anyone should be scared off by anything vegan, but the truth is that we live in a world where people are, once a food item is labeled as such.

This was my very first time buying Arborio (Italian) rice and making risotto. Arborio rice is shorter and rounder than your standard rice. It's kind of like a cross between rice and barley. This particular risotto is made in a casserole dish in the oven, rather than than the traditional stovetop method.

Sometimes I watch Hell's Kitchen even though I haven't liked it since Gordon Ramsey ran his mouth about vegetarians a million years ago, and I know how to hold a grudge. All the same, I have not seen a single episode of the show in which Ramsey does not scream at somebody for screwing up a risotto. He is always so freaking mad about the risotto. And I always wonder why all these chefs are somehow messing up rice. Rice is kind of the easiest thing in the world to cook, no?

So, it turns out that risotto is actually quite easy to screw up. First of all, it cooks for what feels like forever. For the first half hour it seems like it is never, in a million years, going to absorb all the water you're cooking it in and that after all that effort you're just going end up with a pot of rice soup.

Then, in the second half hour, it fluffs up so quickly that one stir sends half of it out of the dish and onto the bottom of the oven.

Burning risotto smells great, by the way.

All that drama aside, when the risotto was complete it was positively delicious. In the end, the rice came out as thick and creamy as it should have, the asparagus and spinach spring-ified it, and the lemon made the whole thing bright and fresh and perfect for this time of year. It warms up nicely, so it's a great item to pack up and bring to Easter dinner.

Adding to that bright and fresh feel was the citrus-roasted tofu I made to go alongside the risotto, also found in the Easter section of Vegan Holiday Kitchen. And it tastes as lovely as it looks!

Marinated in the juice of lemon and orange and topped with baby carrots and almonds, this is another relatively simple Easter option for you. Much like the risotto, it's easily transported to the home of whichever relative is hosting Easter this year. The toppings can be prepared in advance and the tofu can be placed in the marinade ahead of time, to be tossed in the oven about a half hour before dinner is ready. This particular dish is a great way to introduce tofu to the masses, because once baked, it loses most of the squishy texture characteristic of tofu that sometimes sketches people out.

While both of these recipes are found in Vegan Holiday Kitchen, I was excited to see the tofu recipe also featured as Nava Atlas' Recipe of the Week last week! You can find it here.

Wishing those of you who celebrate a very Happy Easter. Might I interest you in some cardboard egg decorating?


Minty said...

That looks delicious! BTW I like your blog too. Adding you to my bloglovin'. :) said...

That risotto sounds lovely and the tofu looks great too, I love citrusy flavours.

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