Sunday, November 7, 2010

Curried Winter Squash, Pan Seared Hearts of Palm, Brussel's Sprouts, Smokey Tofu, Carrot Pickle

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'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 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.

carrot pickles

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. :)
Roseann LaPonte
Rosanne Tobin


  1. It's a really beautiful presentation and most inventive.

  2. I agree, that's a beautiful meal and very inventive! What a clever sub for scallops, using the hearts of palm. I just had those for the first time a few years ago while in Costa Rica, where they put them in salads. So using them for a Miami dish was so appropriate, and they're really pretty seared like that!

    I must try your smoky tofu marinade. I love marinaded, baked tofu and that sounds really tasty! (And looks really drooly!) :-)

    Are we leaving Miami now, or might there be vegan key lime pie in our near future? ;-) The yacht and Miami have been great fun, but I can't wait to see where the Random MoFo Magic Bus is headed next!

  3. Your presentation is better than the restaurant's. I agree about the portion size, this is probably about 200 calories, I'd be demanding seconds and thirds. Sure wish you'd let us in on Mr. Dandelion's reaction to this gourmet meal in his own backyard.

  4. ive never seen hearts of palm that large. ill have to give them another try. what is the texture like?

  5. You win the prize for most clever interpretation of a mofo theme. This is both seriously amazing and hilarious at the same time. I just love the concept and the presentation. But if you tell me you took that gorgeous photo outside in the rain, I'm quitting mofo in shame. :D

  6. What a good looking meal - I really enjoyed reading your narrative of how it came together. I took a look at the menu of the restaurant you selected, and I don't really have the culinary imagination to see how those dishes come together when they list a few ingredients. It does sound fancy to me, for sure. I love how you recreated each component.

  7. Catofstripes

    Thanks. :) I've seen hearts of palm used that way before, so I can't take credit for the idea though. :)


    The hearts of palm as a trompe l'oeil wasn't my idea...I've seen it other places...and I agree they are really yummy in salads! I was sort of in a quandry about what would be a "Florida" meal, but I assumed since it's tropical anything with something tropical would work.

    The tofu marinade is really good...I probably will never make this much work...and why? But I will definitely make the tofu that way again.

    You totally read my mind about the lime pie...that's up next. :)


    I know, totally. If I ate that in a restaurant, I'd be like "Now what's for dinner?"

    Mr Dandelion looked at it and said: "What's that?" He didn't like the hearts of palm...but he liked the tofu...he thought the squash was too sweet. You see I have a critic right here in my own home. :)

  8. Michelle

    If you buy them whole, you can cut them any size you like. I've put up a picture in the post of what they look like whole. The texture reminds me of artichoke hearts....sort of, but firmer.


    Thanks, I was kind of grasping at straws a little for an idea, but it was a fun way to spend a dreary afternoon...I took the photos in our sun sun obviously, but it's all glass, so plenty of light for pics during the day.


    I basically used a picture of the dish that I found on the restaurant's website (in the flash presentation at the beginning) as a guide...I wouldn't have been able to concoct it just with the menu description either. :)

  9. oh ok ive only tried the kind aat salad bars. but this i might like better

    my husband said im not allowed to read you blog anymore.....

    last night after reading that you were going out and listening o the conga song i got "too excited" lol i put on full regalia gear (short skirt, tiny tank, heels) and announced imperiously "im going out" stomper really wasnt concerned since the only places to go here are really small and i had to be happy with going out for ice cream(sorbet)

  10. All dressed up and nowhere to go? LOL. Our party night turned out pretty tame as well, truth be told.

  11. Very pretty. You are always so good with presentation Mrs. Rose :)

  12. Carissa

    That's such a sweet thing to say...I had all day to make this and play around...the idea for the pres came from the original really can't take credit for that. :)

  13. looks great! very "fine dining" :)

  14. This looks like a restaurant picture. How pretty and delicious looking.

  15. I've never had hearts of just doesn't sound Everything looks awesome though! Your presentation is just beautiful!! Maybe you should open your own restaurant! :o)

  16. that is an aboslutely GORGEOUS dish!

  17. aww i was hoping to live vicariously through you!! now what am i going to do??

  18. Michelle (Lovinlivinvegan)

    Hearts of palm are tasty in salads, and they are ok husband didn't care for them in this dish, but I thought they were ok.


    Thank you!

    Michelle (DirtyDuck)

    Maybe if we live vicariously through each other, something new will happen...(?) whatever that means. :D

  19. you've outdone yourself! what an incredible post. I'm definitely going to try this one. I've never cooked with hearts of palm, but I don't think I can resist the allure of these recipes. amazement!!!

  20. Amey

    Thanks so much...the hearts of palm are yummy, but to be honest, I prefer them simply in salads...tofu cut into circles and marinated would be tastier in this I think...but do try the hearts of palm too; they are sort of fun.


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