Posts Tagged ‘avocados’

Simple and Delicious Lemon Dill Tofu Filets with Avocado Salsa

The simple ingredients (minus tofu and avocado) that give flavor to the tofu fillets and avocado salsa

The simple ingredients that give flavor to the tofu fillets and avocado salsa

Wednesday night, I decided to make a quick tofu dinner. I don’t cook with tofu too often — maybe once a month — and I typically just make some sort of stir fry. But I had bought fresh dill and lemons at the market, and I had some green beans, tomatoes and lettuce from my veggie delivery that I wanted to use, so I decided to do something a little different — more akin to a fish dish than what I typically do with tofu.

I started by creating a green bean, tomato and curly lettuce salad. I boiled the beans until they started to get tender, then drained and dried them. Then I created a shallot vinaigrette from a recipe in the Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook. Their big secret is taking a minced shallot, macerating (soaking) it in 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar for at least 10 minutes, thn combining it with about 3/4 cup olive oil and adding salt and pepper to taste.

I also started just drying out the tofu. I took a block of extra firm tofu, took it out of the package, put it in between paper towels and placed a heavy frying pan and a cook book on top of it. This would really help press out the water, help the tofu be able to absorb more flavors, and make it easier to cook.

I ended up letting it sit for longer than planned since we decided to meet some friends for drinks down in Venice Beach, so the tofu was pressed for 2-3 hours.

When I got back, I sliced the block of tofu into 4 pieces (once through the thin side, once through the center, so I had pieces that were about 2x3x.5 inches). I heated up a nonstick pan, and when it was medium-hot, I added the tofu. I cooked it until it was nicely browned (about 4-5 minutes) on the bottom, then turned it over.

Once the second side started cooking, I spooned over some of the shallot vinaigrette (enough to cover the top of each tofu filet), a generous amount of fresh dill and the juice of half a lemon. I also put some thin slices of lightly cooked lemon on top of the tofu add some more flavor.

I made a quick avocado salsa by chopping avocado into small pieces, tossing with the vinaigrette, dill and the remaining lemon juice.

When the tofu is nicely crispy and brown on the bottom, serve it topped with the avocado salsa, and put the salad on the side.

The dish tasted wonderful. The salad was nice and light. And the tofu was some of the best I’d ever had. Drying it out for so long made it brown really easily and gave it a much denser and more satisfying texture than it normally has, though without making it too hard or dry. The flavors were simple and traditional, and it really tasted like a fish filet — without any fishy taste. Best of all, it was super easy and it looked beautiful. I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo.

Lunchtime at Leon

Leon CafeToday, I went on a bit of a walk down to Leon by Harrods (which I have yet to go into). The place had some funky decor, mostly consisting of images of oranges and bulls, and it had customer response postcards with photos of Leon them and a mailbox by the door to drop them into, which I actually thought was a cute idea.

The cafe is known for simple, fresh fast food, though in my opinion it was a little too fast — I would have appreciated getting a salad that wasn’t premade, and though the juices are supposed to be fresh squeezed, when they’re already in cups and you can see the pulpy bits separating, they stop looking as appetizing.

I ordered the superfoods salad, which was devoid of lettuce, though otherwise incredibly green, with peas, avocado, cucumber and broccoli. It also had some feta cheese and a lemony dressing, which was nice and light. I felt healthier for having eaten it, though while eating in would have liked to eat off a plate and not out of a box.

LeonThe restaurant is supposed to have free WiFi, and I brought my computer along, but didn’t find out how to log on. I should have asked, though I decided to occupy my time with a bit of drawing. I do need to figure out where I can work with some free WiFi, though. It would be nice to get out a bit more while still feeling productive.

I’ll post my latest drawings as soon as I can get them photographed and uploaded. My camera is having a battery issue right now: It takes double-A’s, but my rechargeable batteries don’t seem to hold a charge anymore. I was able to take the photos, but my batteries didn’t last long enough to transfer the photos to my computer. Very frustrating. At least I took a photo on my cell phone so you can see what Leon looked like.

Update (1/18/08): The sketch is posted, though the photo didn’t turn out that great. The page didn’t lie flat, so that’s why the perspective is all weird.

Cooking Dinner for the Editors

Last night, I tackled item #5 from my list, and cooked dinner for the editorial team. Our place is pretty small and we only have three chairs, so we went to Bernat’s to cook — he has a bigger table and enough chairs for the five of us. We still had to bring over some extra plates and silverware.

I made guacamole and cooked what I like to call my Mexican veggie stew, which is really just black beans, corn and whatever veggies I have around cooked in salsa. We also had rice and tortilla chips. It’s a pretty easy dinner, but the kind of veggie meal that fills everyone up and doesn’t leave them asking “Where’s the meat?” The guacamole didn’t last more than 10 minutes before it was totally devoured, and we made a good dent in the large pot of stew. Evan’s bringing the rest to work today.

And to top it all off, Peter brought an assortment of pastries from Lukacs that we shared, and we cracked open the bottle of Tokaji Evan’s brother bought him for his birthday. I’m not usually a fan of dessert wines, but this one was fantastic.

I’m still full.

Malomto: Good Restaurant, No Patrons

malomtofrance.jpgWednesday night, Evan organized a group dinner at Malomto for some friends. We first found the restaurant in our Time Out guide — it was listed as one of their top 5 restaurants in Budapest — and we went there for dinner on our birthday in July (the photo is from that dinner). Evan also went another time, when his parents came to visit.

The restaurant has a modern yet cozy feel, with large pieces of art on the beige walls, white tablecloths and an architectural grouping of thin metal lights coming down from the ceiling over the bar. There is also a large outdoor deck that looks out on a small thermal lake.

For a nice restaurant with quite reasonable prices and a nicely stocked bar, though, we’ve found that it’s always empty. Wednesday night, we were the only party there, and on our earlier visits there couldn’t have been more than one or two other tables of people. We’re not sure what the issue is — it is on a relatively quiet street and it isn’t right in the center of town, but it really isn’t too far out of the way, and we’ve had a consistently good experience there.

The food is a contemporary twist on international classics. I started with a hearty mushroom and garlic salad that came with toast, and Evan had yogurt-marinated mozarella with tomatoes and basil that was nice and light. Other people in our group had the calamari salad, and the avocado salad (which Evan and I had in July and led to our realization that Hungarians need some lessons on using avocados–to be fair, though, everything in the salad other than the avocado was good). The soup selection looked nice, too.

For our main courses, Evan ordered duck with chocolate chili sauce and pistachio strawberry risotto. He enjoyed the duck, but really, the centerpiece of this dish is the risotto — it’s like an ice cream flavor brought to the main course. And while it sounds like it could end up being a gimmicky disaster, it’s lightly sweet, nutty and looks great with its pink-and-green color combination. The chocolate sauce could have used a bit more chili, but it complemented the rest of the meal nicely.

I ordered mushroom ravioli, which was served in a large portion and had greens, sun dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese on top. It was good, though not the best pasta I’d ever had. The other good thing about the vegetarian options, though, is that there are 3 entrees to choose from.

Other people had steak filets and Indonesian chicken, and they all seemed happy with their dishes. The service was also quick, and the waiters never let our wine glasses go empty.

We were disappointed to find out that we couldn’t order the chocolate souffle for dessert, but were pleasantly surprised with both the chestnut brulee and walnut tart, which were delicious and different from what we’d normally order. And though I’m not a big fan of the digestif, they had a nice selection that went far beyond palinka.

Then after our nice dinner, a few of us went to Cafe Vig to hang out for a bit, and though the place had a nice relaxed atmosphere and we were seated by a nice tropical fish tank, it was one of the smokiest places I’d ever been. I know I’m a spoiled California kid not used to smoking indoors, but this was just ridiculous.

A “Mexiterranean” Dinner at Ring Bar and Cafe

Tonight we went to an interesting restaurant/bar called Ring on Andrassy. We originally intended to go to Abszint, but it was closed for a private party, so after checking out the menu at Ring, which was only a few doors down, and noticing plenty of empty tables inside, we decided to check it out.

It was somewhat of a Mediterranean-Mexican mix of foods, with items like guacamole, couscous, pita and hummus, fajitas and quesadillas on the menu. There were also some fish and steak dishes. I got a mixed greens salad which was quite good–lots of tomatoes, sun-dried and fresh, and sesame seeds in a tart vinaigrette accompanied by soft toasted bread with a garlicky cheese spread on it and some festive tortilla chips. Evan got guacamole and grilled tortillas to start, which was pretty good, though it was much saltier and spiced up than the guacamole I usually have.

I had vegetable quesadillas for my main course, and they were pretty good, though once again there was something a bit off. The veggie combination included green beans, carrots and broccoli, which didn’t mesh well with the cheese and overly tomatoey salsa. It just seemed like the flavor combination needed a bit more thought.

Evan got a burger for his main course, and he liked it a lot–he even wrote in to Chew.hu to tell them to check it out for their ongoing “Burgerwars” feature. He said:

My girlfriend and I went to Ring Bar & Cafe tonight on Andrassy (just
across from Pizza Marzano), and their burger wasn’t half bad. The
restaurant itself seems to be “Mexiterranean”, but the burger was
pretty good. I attached a couple poorly-lit snapshots from my phone,
which probably won’t support my recommendation at all, but anyway
there you go. I also tried the Gerbeaud Pub burger, and although i did
like that one, I actually liked this one better. This came with
sauteed onions, pickles, lettuce, and tomato, and was well-cooked. I
was a little dismayed when I asked for mustard and they told me they
didn’t have any, but once I bit into the burger I found that there was
in fact a mustard-based sauce already on it. Go figure.

Thanks, Evan, for finally providing some info for the blog! (Finally, my first pseudo guest blogger… I guess it’s still more of a quote since he just let me copy part of an email he sent–to another blog.)

He also included some photos, which we unfortunately only decided to take once he was about halfway done with the burger. They were also taken with his cell phone.

Ring BurgerRing Burger

And now we’re out for the weekend. Tomorrow morning, Evan and I are heading to Vienna! We’ll be back on Monday, with lots to share–including new pictures. If you can send recommendations for what to see before we leave, we’d love to hear them.

Learning to Make Soup

New culinary adventure: I’ve been trying my hand at making soup.

Monday, I made garlic broth, though I think I should have put in some more garlic, and followed a recipe that had me poach an egg in the soup, which turned out quite well, considering I’d never poached an egg before. And being inspired by my soup from Klassz that had a poached egg, I was definitely more than happy to try my hand at it. Unfortunately, the recipe also called for putting dried bread in the soup, which I didn’t like at all–it got so soggy, I threw most of it out. I think I could have also used a bit more garlic–and I wish I would have added some other vegetables. I consider it a moderate success.

Today, I went to the market–I actually found a new market that I didn’t know about at all. It’s just a few blocks away, and by a great import food store called Culinaris. I noticed a few people selling vegetables at stands on the outskirts of the park across the street, and I went over to take a look. There wasn’t a big selection–the vendors were packing up for the day. But I looked back across the street, where someone was opening a large wooden door, and lo and behold, I saw a whole display of fruit! I crossed back to the other side of the street and went in, and there was a large indoor market with about five different fruit and veggie stands, meat counters, a bakery and more. I bought some bread and a chocolate croissant at the bakery. Found some big Israeli avocados at a fruit stand, and bought a leek and an onion, thinking they’d be good in my next incarnation of soup.

They were! I made broth from chopped up leeks, onions and garlic, and I seasoned it with salt and pepper and some spice I bought at the market–maybe tarragon? Evan had his broth plain, since he isn’t feeling fantastic, and I poached another egg for myself and added some diced tomatoes. Much better than the first attempt.

Also, I was excited that I got to carry everything home from the market in my new tote bag (pictured below–yes, it has a weird monster on it) that I got at Bolt–a small, quirky shop that sells art objects, T-shirts, accessories and more for the environmentally conscious Hungarian hipster. I’d been looking for a fun tote for a while since stores rarely give you bags here.

Tote Bag Monster

Holy Guacamole!

Last night, I also made some guacamole–I know, lots of food talk for one day. But the fact that I made guacamole in Hungary is interesting, in my mind, at least.

It all started this summer when Evan and I went out to dinner and ordered an appetizer with avocados in it. Evan warned me that he hadn’t had any good avocados in the restaurants here, but after living in California for so long, who could resist the allure of something so delicious and so reminiscent of home? Well, after a bite into the green slice, I could. It was so hard I could barely cut it with a knife. Someone, and I’m not naming names (ahem, chef), didn’t let the poor little fruit ripen, so it was tasteless, hard and absolutely unappealing.

This sent me on a mission: Were all avocados in Hungary bad, or do people here just not know how to use them? Well, I went to the big market and bought two nice-looking avocados, let them ripen in a drawer and made some guacamole. It turned out great. And the more markets I went to, the more avocados I saw. They sell them at Match, they sell them in the small vegetable stands. They seem to be pretty common.

And though this past time I didn’t quite let one of the avocados ripen enough (my own fault for buying different varieties a few days apart), I was still able to make a decent one-avocado guacamole. And this time I found some hot sauce to put in it too–no more spicing it up with paprika.