I fashioned this after a fancy restaurant dish, and I have to admit that it came together pretty well. There's a lot of prep involved, but once that's done, it plates up quickly. :P And, I thought the flavors went well together, especially the curried squash, smokey tofu, and pickled carrot. The hearts of palm have sort of a rich flavor, and make a good trompe l'oeil for an unmentionable...if you're in to that sort of thing. I think it's kind of fun. Alternately, you could use tofu cut into circles or trumpet mushrooms or king oyster mushrooms.
The small portion is according the fancy-schmancy restaurant paradigm of "small". If you're eating several courses, something like this fits in nicely...for a hearty mid-week quick fix...obviously not so much.
How does this relate to food from Florida? It's based on a menu item in a fancy Miami restaurant.
Curried Winter Squash, Pan Seared Hearts of Palm, Smokey Tofu w/ Sprouts and Carrot Pickles
Recipe and Method
This gets kind of long, so I apologize in advance for that.
There are 3 marinades that you'll need to put together a few hours (I'd say at least 3 hours) before putting it together.
Smokey Tofu Marinade
The idea here is a tofu bacon with a hint of maple.
1 block extra firm tofu, pressed to reduce the water, and cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari, Bragg's Aminos, etc...whatever you prefer)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
A few drops of liquid smoke...you'll have to judge yourself, but go sparingly. You can always add more if it's not smokey enough
Press the tofu to release extra liquid: I usually put the tofu in a colander, place a plate on top of the tofu and then put a heavy jar/can on top of the plate. Place the colander somewhere it can drain...like on another plate or in the sink.
Mix together the maple syrup, soy sauce, and liquid smoke. Taste for smokiness and adjust to your taste if necessary.
When the tofu has been pressed for 20 or 30 minutes, slice into 1/4-inch slices and put in a dish with the marinade. Allow to marinate 3 - 4 hours.
marinating tofu slices
Pickled Carrot Marinade
1 large carrot, shredded with a vegetable peeler or similar
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (the seasoned vinegar is important, otherwise they will be very sour}
1/2 teaspoon sugar or agave (or 1 teaspoon for a sweeter pickle)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Shred the carrot with a veggie peeler, put shredded carrot in a bowl and toss with the vinegar/sugar/salt. Allow to marinate for 3 - 4 hours.
Hearts of Palm Marinade
1 can Hearts of Palm, if whole, cut into 1-inch pieces (they have a tendency to break apart, use a serrated knife and cut slowly and gently)
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Sprinkle of garlic powder
Put hearts of palm pieces in a dish and pour marinade ingredients over. Allow to marinate 3-4 hours.
If you like it, you could also add some dulse flakes...I didn't use any.
Here's what they look like whole out of the can
hearts of palm in marinade
About an hour before getting everything on the plate, start putting the curried squash together.
Curried Squash with Ginger and Maple
~ 1 lb chopped winter squash...any kind you like
2 carrots, 1 chopped fine, the other left in large chunks
1/2 leek, chopped into thin rounds (~ 1 cup, chopped)
1 shallot, minced fine
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (I used a scant 1/2 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon curry powder
pinch of red chili flakes
1/4 cup white wine or veggie broth
2 tablespoons maple syrup
salt to taste
Boil the chopped squash and the large-chunk carrot until tender. In the meantime, saute the remaining carrot, leek, and shallot in a pan over medium heat, adding the chili flakes, fresh ginger, and curry powder. When the squash is tender, drain it, and add it to the pan with the leek/carrot/shallots, and toss through. Add the wine and allow to simmer for another 2 -3 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Transfer the squash/leek/shallots mixture to a food processor, add the maple syrup and blend well (2 -3) minutes. Keep warm over low heat until serving.
Steam the Brussel's Sprouts
Peel the outer leaves off of ~ 1/2 lb Brussel's sprouts and steam until just beginning to tender. Remove from heat and drain. Refresh with cold water and and cut each sprout into 4 wedges. If you want, you can scrape the heart of the steam off each wedge...some find it bitter. To warm them up again before serving, pour some boiling water over them, allow them to sit for 30 seconds or so and then drain.
Bake the Tofu
After the tofu slices have marinated for a few hours, remove it from the marinade. Heat the oven to 400 (F), lightly grease a baking tray, and bake the tofu slices for ~ 15 minutes, turning them halfway through. Keep an eye on them, to make sure they don't burn.
Allow the baked tofu to cool and then chop it into 1/2-inch slices.
smokey maple tofu out of the oven
Pan Sear the Hearts of Palm
The last step before you put everything together is searing the hearts of palm.
Remove the hearts of palm from the marinade, brush with a little olive oil and sprinkle with some paprika or chili powder (I used a combination of both).
Heat a seasoned pan over medium-high (preferably a cast iron one with ridges) and sear off the hearts of palm. Let them cook for about 2 minutes on each side. The pan should be hot enough so they sizzle when you put them in. If you're using a ridged pan, press down on them gently a few times while they cook to produce score marks.
Now you're ready to put it all together. Plate it up any way you like.
Don't forget about the carrot pickles...drain them from the marinade and squeeze out the excess liquid before adding them to the plate. To make the little nests, wrap some shreds around a fork--like with spaghetti--and then gently slide them onto the plate.
You'll probably have some squash puree leftover. Add veggie broth to it and make soup...a quick meal for another day.
Ciao for now. :)