Heavenly. Creamy. This dish made with veggies tucked in your freezer is good for you too!
The garden is offering up a few chives right now, and this weekend I’ll tuck some lettuce in the cold-frame to at least give the illusion of gardening season starting. The squill is blooming, the daffodils are budding, and the mud is drying up a bit. It’s early spring, and that means we’re still trying to eat down the food we put by in the freezer last season – a perfect time to create dishes with that in mind.
Fresh is best, but frozen is pretty good this time of year!
In high summer, we’ll use fresh corn, edamame, and spinach in this. I poked through the freezer last week and found a few treasures, including a lovely bag of local cherries, edamame, some buckwheat crepes left from a brunch, tofu hotdogs, and three bags of corn. I should invite my friend Terrie from Comfort du Jour over for a chopped competition!
I’m always pleased when I retrieve a container of corn from the freezer that I dutifully tucked away in September. The flavor is so much nicer than anything in a can, and just for a moment I’m sitting in my backyard with a buttery ear of corn in my hands. Just for a moment. If you don’t have a stash in the freezer, use your favorite corn.
Cranberry or lima beans are traditional in a succotash, but I’ve swapped edamame for the old standby. I like them a lot, but you might stick with limas or butter beans if you prefer. The spinach is not traditional, but elevates the nutritional profile. If you can get spinach from your local greenhouse this time of year, use that of course! Even without the spinach, this dish is packed with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Tradition also often calls for cream to be added to succotash at the end, but I’ve substituted light coconut milk to reduce the saturated fat and it was delicious.
Mustard and tarragon, a great match
Two tablespoons sounds like a lot of mustard, but it lends just the right note and mingles nicely with the tarragon. If you can’t find fresh tarragon, use a scant teaspoon of the dried, it can be overpowering. And if you don’t like tarragon, how about using the last of that pesto you tucked away in the freezer. That is if there is any left. I have one precious container left that fell behind something else!
A tasty pasta
Fregula (fregola) is a toasted, tiny Sardinian semolina pasta that resembles Israel couscous in size, and I’m sure my friend Antonia will agree it is a wonderful item to have waiting for you in the pantry. The toasted flavor adds much to the end product! I usually buy this at an Italian market, but I’ve seen it in health foods stores and co-ops as well, and you might even be able to find it in a larger grocery store. I was lucky enough to find a whole wheat fregula, but if you can’t find it, just toast some whole grain Israel couscous in a dry skillet until it starts to brown. It’s not exactly the same, but a good substitute.
The tofu is perfect in this dish, but you could also substitute another favorite protein, or just serve this up as a side dish.
Baked Tofu with Mustard Cream Succotash and Fregula
- 12 oz. firm tofu
- Cornstarch to dust
- 8 oz. whole wheat fregula or toasted Israel couscous
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 10 oz. fresh or thawed frozen corn
- 10 oz. fresh or thawed frozen edamame, or other bean
- 10 oz. thawed frozen chopped spinach
- 2 heaping tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 cup coconut milk, light or full fat
- 2 tbsp. vegan or dairy butter
- 1 tbsp. tarragon, minced, plus more for garnish
Press the excess water out of the tofu. Place toweling on a plate, add the block of tofu, wrap the towel to cover the top as well, then place a second plate on top. Weight it down with something heavy like a 28-oz. can of tomatoes, and let sit for a half hour. You can also use a tofu press of course.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Once drained, cut the tofu into desired shape, cubes or planks, and dust with cornstarch. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil, arrange the tofu single file, give it a quick spray of oil, and a liberal sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, them turn and cook until lightly brown and crisping on the edges.
While the tofu bakes, Bring a large pot of water to boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt, and cook fregula a couple of minutes shy of the package directions. Mine advised to cook 14 to 17 minutes, so I took it out at 12 and it ended up perfect.
While the fregola is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium high and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, then stir in the corn, edamame, spinach, mustard, and tarragon. Season with salt and lots of black pepper, let these flavors all mingle for a few minutes, then add the coconut milk and reduce the heat.
Once the pasta is cooked, strain, reserving a cup or so of the cooking water.
Add the fregola to the skillet and cook a few minutes, until everything is well blended. If you feel it is too thick, and it will be, loosen it up with about a half cup of the pasta water, or a little more. Add the butter.
Turn out to your serving platter or bowl. Top with the tofu, sprinkle a bit more tarragon and black pepper, and enjoy. I won’t look if you want to add a little more butter…
Note: If storing, when you reheat you will probably have to add some water as the pasta will continue to suck up the juices of the dish in the refrigerator!
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