For the past few years, I have been spending the month of January cooped up — intentionally and unironically — so I can cook every breakfast, lunch and dinner as a way to kick off the new year rehoning my kitchen skills.
Sometimes, I’d take a break and go eat at a friend’s house, but the idea was to get back in the habit of not only making meals but also connecting them like a daisy chain, rolling leftovers from one dish to another and reducing food waste in the process.
Well, these days, after so many months of cooking at home, every day seems to be rolling into the next. I’ve been trying to support local restaurants when I can, but I’ve been cooking at home even more over the holidays, in part to keep my food budget trim.
This kind of takes the wind out of my January cook-at-home challenge, but I’ll still be looking for creative ways to put the next meal on the table and innovative uses for any leftovers.
Diala Canelo’s new cookbook, “Diala’s Kitchen,” offers plenty of inspiring dishes that incorporate the flavors she’s enjoyed during her international travels. The Dominican food and travel blogger, who now calls Toronto home, is as stuck-in-place as the rest of us and using food as a way to “travel” without going anywhere.
I loved this recipe for Moroccan- and Japanese-inspired harissa tofu “steaks” served with soba noodles or spaghettini, or thin spaghetti. Any leftover harissa-spiced tofu would find new life on a bed of rice or served with homemade pita and hummus. Cold soba noodles are delicious served the next day at room temperature or fried in a pan — a la fried rice — with a fresh batch of veggies.
Sesame Noodles with Maple-Harissa Tofu Steaks
Barcelona is one of my favorite cities. Not only do you find some of the best Spanish food there, but the city is filled with restaurants showcasing the cuisines of countries as diverse as Italy, Japan and, because it’s close by, Morocco. I remember having a vegetarian dish with harissa, a hot chile paste made with garlic, spices such as coriander and caraway, and olive oil. The flavor of the harissa paste was the key ingredient to the pasta and roasted vegetables I had, so as soon as we finished lunch, I stopped at a nearby market and bought a jar to bring home. Experimenting with flavors is what I love to do the most in my kitchen, and that’s how this recipe was born. It mixes sweet and savory and adds that incomparable taste and a kick of fresh ginger.
— Diala Canelo
1 block (12 ounces) extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons harissa paste
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pound whole-wheat spaghettini or soba noodles
1/3 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 green onions (white and light green parts only), chopped
1/2 cup raw peanuts, lightly crushed
Fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet orange pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
Drain the tofu and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut the tofu crosswise into strips 1/2 inch thick.
In a medium bowl, combine the olive oil, maple syrup, harissa paste, salt and garlic. Stir until smooth. Place the tofu in a large shallow dish and cover with the maple harissa marinade. Let marinate for 10 minutes.
Drain the tofu, discarding the marinade, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the cornstarch evenly over the tofu slices. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown, turning once.
Meanwhile, boil the spaghettini or soba noodles in a large pot of salted water until just tender. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold running water until the pasta is cool. Return the pasta to the pot.
In a medium bowl, stir together the sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and green onions.
Add the baked tofu to the pot with the pasta. Add the sesame oil mixture and mix with tongs until the pasta is well coated.
To serve, divide the tofu pasta mixture among bowls and top with peanuts, cilantro, sliced sweet peppers and sesame seeds, if using. Serves 4.
— From “Diala’s Kitchen: Plant-Forward and Pescatarian Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel” by Diala Canelo (Penguin Canada, $30)