The last time I was in Maine, I picked up a bottle of espresso-infused balsamic vinegar at Leroux Kitchen in Portland. Instead of featuring the usual tang of balsamic, this vinegar has a deep and darkly complex quality—and combining that with a sweet and salty element results in a perfect marinade for tofu. (However, you can really use any kind of balsamic vinegar for this dish and it will still taste really good.) Besides looking really pretty and rustic, the finishing touch of dried thyme and freshly cracked black pepper and the end gives this balsamic tofu dish a subtle earthly feel as well as a slight and pleasant kick of heat.
BLACK PEPPER AND THYME CRUSTED TOFU
Yield 2 servings
for the tofu
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 TB raw agave nectar
- 1 TB soy sauce
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 block of tofu, pressed very well
- a few dashes of liquid smoke (optional)
- 1-2 tsps dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp coarsely ground pepper
for the couscous
- 1 cup large-pearl couscous
- 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 TB Earth Balance
- 1 TB olive oil
- 3-4 shallots, diced
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 7-10 oil-cured olives, depitted and chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- In a large glass pyrex dish, combine the mirin, balsamic, agave, soy sauce and olive oil. Place the very-well pressed tofu into the dish, flip over once and place into the refrigerator to marinate for a few hours.
- When you are ready to prepare the dish, place the couscous, broth or water, salt and Earth Balance into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover. Stir it every five minutes or so.
- In a a separate skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the shallots and saute for about 10-12 minutes, or until nicely caramelized. Don’t stir them during this time to allow a nice caramelization to develop. After 10-12 minutes, stir them around gently. Add the garlic on top of the shallots, so it will soften, but won’t burn by making direct contact with the skillet. After 5-7 minutes, give everything a good stir. Add in the olives and parsley and stir to combine, and add this mixture to the cooked couscous, which should be ready by now.
- You can now use this same skillet to sear your tofu. Gently place as many pieces as you can into the skillet and saute for 5-7 minutes. Flip the tofu over, and sprinkle with a generous amount of the thyme and black pepper. Continue to saute for 5-7 minutes more. Flip the tofu over again and add a bit more thyme and pepper, then add a few dashes of liquid smoke.Serve immediately with the couscous and a side of some of the unused marinade.