Main Dishes — 26 March 2012

Madhuri shares two recipes: ‘Tofu Mediterranean’ and ‘Beany Sage Two-Cheese Casserole’

Once in the early 90′s I had occasion to stay in a cozy little house on the side of a ravine with a waterfall in Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland. One could not see the place from the small untravelled road, and had to go down a steep chestnut forest path to get to it. Our hosts were a homey Swiss sannyasin couple, he an elder man with dark hair and a gentle manner, she a teacher and therapist from Zurich. He had built the house himself, every stick and stone of it, with great care out of an old stable as it is tradition in that aerea. The kitchen floor was stone and there was a stone terrace just outside the front, blue wine grapes hanging down from the roof. There were lovely lush gardens before the ravine continued its downward decline.

Pussarcima cottage in Cavagnago (Ticino)

'Pussarcima' cottage in Cavagnago (Ticino)

As a good guest – and if one is a guest as much as I have been one finds ways to show one’s empathy and gratefulness – I cooked some dinners while we were there. We shopped in a town some distance away and found wonderful mountain cheeses, and chestnuts in syrup, and fresh figs – for it was summer – and all sorts of things. Here are two dishes I invented there and which we ate on the terrace with the smell of a night-blooming yellow flower wrapped around us… ghost-showing in the night as the light went slowly; and the smell of herbs – rosemary particularly – intense and sun-released too. I still make these dishes, or as nearly as I can with what ingredients I can get…. My recipes are never exact, I haven’t the patience, so just put them together and hope for the best.

Tofu Mediterranean

Take a block of firm organic tofu, put in a bowl, and prick all over with a fork. Put about 1/3-1/2 cup of tamari on it and then squeeze the juice of a lemon on that. Cover, put in fridge, and let sit overnight. Turn tofu over in the morning.

When you’re ready to cook pick about 4 or 5 branches of fresh rosemary and put them in an oiled baking dish. On top of this bed lay the tofu with its marinade. Dot some tomato paste around it. Put a good layer of grated parmesan on top of the tofu and bake at 350 F degrees for about 35 minutes, until the cheese is browned and crusty. The tofu will swell slightly and the rosemary will infuse it with a delicious subtle taste. Even tofu haters like this! You can put hot cooked brown rice around it after baking and this will absorb the juices deliciously.

Beany Sage Two-Cheese Casserole

Oil a 9×13 baking pan. Brown some cubed tempeh in oil and put in the pan with one can of borlotti beans (similar to pinto) and one can of white beans, drained and rinsed. Add chopped fresh sage, some red wine, and salt and pepper to taste. On top grate organic mountain cheese or any really tasty smelly cheese – two kinds; one on one side, one on the other. The quality of the cheese makes the dish so choose well. Bake at 350 degrees F until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

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Punya