Vegetarians and meat eaters alike will enjoy this taste of the season!
Autumn arrived officially last week, and many of us in the north country feel more than a little cheated by the weather this year. Our summer consisted of rain, rain, rain, flooding, cold, and one exquisite week (well five days in a row) of really hot weather two weeks ago. There’s been so much rain, many hayfields have just been cut this past week because hay needs time to dry once on the ground; with the wet weather, that didn’t happen.
Let the color revive us!
Usually, I’m more than happy to welcome fall with its relief of crisp air and dazzling color after a long, humid summer. Still waiting! Picking apples on a sunny day is a gift of the season, especially if surrounded by beautiful foliage to lift our spirits. I’m thinking we’ll have a warm and lovely autumn. That’s my prediction at least. High 60s to mid-70s and sunny predicted for the next week so hope springs.
Early blossoming of fruit trees
As climate changes, one of the difficulties has been the early blossoming of our fruit trees. This is dangerous because even if we have 80-degree days in April, we often have frosts well into May, and this year our deep freeze came at the worst time with our apples and peaches suffering greatly at blossom time. Many orchards were hit hard, others recovered nicely and I’m happy to say there is picking about. Local peaches were hard to come by, but I was lucky enough to find some lovely pears that were quickly devoured, none kept long enough to put in a recipe so far, but I’ll be searching for more.
Yes, we have apples
We do have apples, beautiful apples of red, green, yellow, pink, and purple. I found a sweet little apple with a heart on it, and it cheered my own heart when I found it. I’ll make something tasty with you!
It was a good year for herbs
In my own back yard, I have an abundance of sage this year, and since sage and apples go so well together, they were destined to join forces in a seasonal dish. The flavor of the apples was enhanced with the addition of cider in the sauce, and since my cider happened to be on the tart side as well as the apples, I added just a touch of local honey. If your cider is sweeter, it probably won’t be necessary, so taste before adding. To keep this vegan, use agave or maple syrup, but taste to determine how much you need; you know what you like.
Add some crunch
Since everything is a little on the soft side, the addition of the walnuts is essential for some texture. If you have a tree nut allergy, substitute crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, or soy nuts. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but many are pulled from the pantry and it all comes together quickly.
Hearty Tofu with Apples and Sage
Marinade, whisk together:
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce, low sodium
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp. minced fresh sage leaves
Splash of fresh pressed apple cider
1 lb. extra firm tofu
Cornstarch for dusting
2 tbsp. butter or vegan butter
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, sliced, about a cup
1 large sprig of sage, or about six leaves
2 tart apples, sliced, about two cups
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sauce, whisk together:
1 cup fresh pressed cider
1 tbsp. more cornstarch
1 tsp. or so raw native honey, maple or brown rice syrup
Zest of a lemon, about a tbsp.
2 tbsp. lemonjuice
Dash of hot sauce or cayenne to preference
½ cup walnuts, chopped a bit
More sage leaves, chopped, and maybe some edible flowers
Press the tofu to remove excess moisture. A tofu press is easiest, but you can make your own – place toweling on a plate, add the tofu, cover with more toweling and another plate, then weight it down with a big can of tomatoes or a heavy pan. Let the tofu drain while you assemble and prep the other ingredients and make the marinade and the sauce.
Mix the marinade ingredients together and place in a shallow rectangular pan. Once the tofu is pressed, cut it into desired pieces (I made 12) and place in a single layer, turning them over so they are well coated. Let marinate for 20 minutes to an hour.
Have the rest of your ingredients prepped and ready to go, because it will happen fast.
When the tofu is ready, scrape off most of the marinade and dust all sides with the cornstarch. Heat a heavy skillet over medium high and add the olive oil and butter. Place the tofu in a single layer, and brown on both sides, adding a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
To the same skillet, add more butter and olive oil and toss in the shallots and sage, salt and pepper. Sauté until they are soft, but not colored. Add the apples and garlic, and continue cooking until the apples are softened but still have shape and texture. You don’t want applesauce here. Taste for seasoning.
Add the sauce, and cook for another couple of minutes, until it has thickened and has a nice sheen. Stir in the tofu gently along with the walnuts and remove from heat.
Place on a platter of brown rice or noodles, garnish with the sage, and dig in!