Today’s Tofu with a hint of Italy

You must try this and serve it to somebody who hates tofu, you may have created a convert.

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I dislike labels, and although the word vegan describes most of my food choices I don’t feel the need to call myself a vegan. My inspiration for cooking and eating comes from the sanity and beauty that the kingdom of plants provides me with and the way in which it helps me cook dishes that are not only delicious and healthy, but also create a feeling of connection and comfort.

I love traditional regional cooking and probably the only aspect that I would admit disturbed me when I changed to plant-based cooking many years ago, was not being able to reproduce dishes in the traditional way(no eggs in a flan, no cheese on the pizza, or fish in the paella)
Veganizing a dish, or taking out some major component from it(the meat, the dairy, the eggs) seemed as if I were committing a major trespass, breaking the rules and ignoring the tradition, something like changing the instrumentation of a Beethoven string quartet. It wasn’t until I realized that the art in cooking is about these changes and that these changes is what keeps the art alive. Back then classical composers did change the instrumentation to their works when necessary, they improvised on their own ideas and on that of others, this is what kept their music alive, real and flexible, what made it sustainable.

The use of animals as a main source of food in our present society is not only unnecessary, but it makes our life in this planet unsustainable and this seems like a pretty good reason to reinterpret the traditional cooking customs in a way that will serve our health and our environment without denying the fact that these traditional flavors play an important role in our identity.

Tradition is intimately connected to culture, and culture gives us a sense of identity. This is a funny statement coming from someone whose cultural background and loyalties are so scattered as mine are. Nevertheless this may be at the root of my search for tradition within the vegan cuisine and my lack of attraction to nouvelle cuisine, molecular gastronomy and similar abstractions in the cooking world.

When we eat we are not only eating a particular food, but we are also ingesting a vision, a concept of what food is and is meant to do, as well as literally taking in a cultural statement. Although food is consumed to fulfill a biological need for nutrition, on another level it may be another sort of nourishment that we get and look for in a French Cassoulet or in a Cuban Black Bean Soup.This nourishment is not unlike some of the love and comfort that we may find in a beautiful painting, a poem or in the piece of music which at a given moment helps us connect to something intimately ours as well as vastly universal.

Cooking does this, it nourishes the body and the mind. In my cooking I try to make connections. Smells, tastes, colors, sounds, all strike a chord within us which connects us to ourselves and our surroundings. Vegan cooking doesn’t carry the long tradition that most of us have grown up with and as a result may leave some people with a sometimes unconscious dissatisfaction, which may eventually lead to binging, eating excessively or reverting to consuming animal products(unfortunate when it happens by default).Changing to a vegan diet is kind of like moving houses, you have to make your new house yours, put up some of your old pictures, invite your family and friends, and of course make new friends and create new memories and traditions so that your house doesn’t always feel new, so that you can create new connections.

I love creating connections through cooking!

Today’s Tofu with a hint of Italy
4 slices of tofu
2 tomatoes cut in half
1 tbs olive oil
4 tbs bread crumbs
1/4 cups grounded walnuts mix with 1 tsp. nutritional yeast, 1 tsp. of minced fresh basil and sea salt
grated dried chipotle or chili powder
4 tbs of tamari mix with 1 tbs mirin

-heat olive oil in a broad heavy pan
-place tofu slices and tomato halves cut sides down in the pan with the olive oil
-cook until the tofu is golden on both sides. Turn the tomatoes as well, but make sure that they get the most cooking on the cut side.
-sprinkle with a light dusting of grated dried chipotle or chili powder
-add the tamari/mirin mixture. Make sure that most falls on the tofu slices to avoid burning the sauce
– sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly on the tofu and tomatoes
-drizzle with tsp of extra olive oil
-let it cook for a minute
-add the walnut mixture
-warm up for a couple of minutes and serve

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