Tag Archives: pickled carrots

Horseradish Dry-Fried Tofu, Brown Rice with Wilted Greens, Quick Pickled Vegetables, and Roasted Tomatoes (Bento Box)

26 Mar

I’ve been reading a lot of Haruki Murakami, lately.  I love world he creates – simultaneously realistic and fantastical.  Reading one of his books is like living inside of an uncomfortably vivid dream.  One of the things I have enjoyed greatly over the course of all of his works that I’ve read has been the attention paid to food.  So often in literature, authors neglect to portray their characters eating, which strikes me as absurdly unrealistic.  As an author, Murakami casually captures the idea that food nourishes and sustains, sometimes through an important, monumental meal, and sometimes just as something to eat, quickly made and quickly forgotten.

As his novels take place in Japan, I thought I would take a bit of inspiration out of his works and make a bento box inspired dinner.  I have been researching bento boxes for awhile now, and finally pulled the trigger on buying one thanks to this meal, which consists of a variety of small Asian-inspired dishes.  Bento boxes generally contain three parts carbohydrate (such as rice, pasta, or barley), two parts fruit and vegetables, and one part protein (such as meat, fish, or tofu).  Bento boxes are particularly good for portion control, because if you follow the formula of 3-2-1, each milliliter of space, packed tightly, yields one calorie (for example, a 500 milliliter container is 500 calories).

This dish is made up of some brown rice tossed with wilted greens, pickled vegetables, roasted plum tomatoes, and horseradish dry-fried tofu.  I stuck to the 3-2-1 serving suggestion and was super happy with it.  I tried to choose components that balanced out texture (meaty tofu, crispy pickles, soft tomatoes, toothsome brown rice) and flavor (tangy tofu, slightly sweet and slightly vinegar-y vegetables, sweet roasted tomatoes, and savory brown rice), as well as employed a variety of cooking techniques (sautéed tofu, pickled vegetables, roasted tomatoes, simmer riced).  The flavors were simple but fresh, and we both really enjoyed this healthy, delicious dish.  For dinner, I served these separated on a large plate, with everything except the pickles warm.  For lunch, I ate this room temperature (pictured).  Both were equally yummy.

Horseradish Dry-Fried Tofu, Brown Rice with Wilted Greens, Quick Pickled Vegetables, and Roasted Tomatoes

(Bento Box)

Horseradish and Black Pepper Dry Fried Tofu:

1 14 oz. package extra-firm tofu, drained

1 tbs. freshly cracked black pepper

2 tbs. rice wine vinegar

1 tbs. canola oil

1 tbs. honey

1 tbs. horseradish mustard

Cut tofu block into slices 1/2″ thick.  Place a few paper towels or a clean kitchen towel on a cutting board.  Lay tofu on top on a single layer.  Top with a few more paper towels or another clean kitchen top on top.  Top with another cutting board and weigh down with a heavy cast iron skillet or canned goods.  Press until as much moister as possible is drained, at least an hour.

Meanwhile, whisk together all remaining ingredients.  Set aside.

Heat a cast iron pan, stainless steel pan, or other pan NOT coated with non-stick surface.  Heat over medium heat.  Add tofu, working in batches if necessary so the pieces are not overcrowded, and cook about 4-6 minutes per side until golden brown and leeched of moisture.

Transfer tofu and marinade into a zip lock bag or other marinating vessel.  Place in refrigerator and marinate at least 3-4 hours but preferably over night, turning as necessary.

Heat a pan over medium heat.  Add tofu and marinade and cook until tofu is heated through and marinade is reduced, about 4-6 minutes per side.  Serve immediately.

Quick Pickled Parsnips, Zucchini, and Carrots:

1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 1/8″ rounds

1 zucchini, cut into 1/8″ rounds

1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/8″ rounds

1 large pinch Korean dried chile flakes (or to taste)

1 cup rice wine vinegar

1 cup cold water

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tbs. soy sauce

Whisk together chile flakes, rice wine vinegar, water, sugar, and soy sauce.  Add vegetables and place in a sealed container.  Refrigerate at least one hour but up to overnight, depending on desired strength of pickle.  Serve chilled.

Brown Rice with Wilted Greens:

1 cup brown rice, cooked according to package instructions

1 tbs. olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/2 cups mixed greens (such as spinach, arugula, frisee, red lettuce, etc.)

1 tbs. soy sauce

1/2 lemon, juiced

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add greens and soy sauce, tossing frequently.  Cook about 1 minute until wilted.

Add rice and toss to combine.  Add lemon juice and toss to combine.  Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.

Roasted Plum Tomatoes:

1 cup plum tomatoes

2 tbs. olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 350º.

Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil.  Toss tomatoes with olive oil and season liberally with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Place in oven.  Roast about 25 minutes until wrinkled and dark brown in places, shaking 3-4 times during the roasting process.

Serve warm.

Coffee and Orange Brined Chicken in Milk with Pickled Carrot Spring Salad

3 May

This chicken was one of those dishes that I read about and immediately think, “Mmmmm” and add the ingredients to the shopping list.  It’s yucky and rainy and cold in Cleveland and roast chicken is such a lovely, warming comfort food.  This chicken was absolutely delicious – as you can see from the pictures, it was falling off the bone to the point where we couldn’t remove it from the cooking vessel without losing a wing and the leg.  It had a delicate sweetness from the orange and brown sugar with a nice smokey flavor from the coffee.  It sounds like a strange combination at first glance, but I promise you the orange, coffee, milk, and cloves were a winning combination.  This varies slightly from my standard roast chicken because it is braised in the brine liquid and milk rather than roasted at high heat followed by a lower temperature.

The salad was simple but delicious.  The pickled carrots, which Zak made, were absolutely the star of the salad.  They lent a really delicious crunch to the salad that paired well with the spring greens.  The chicken and salad together made up the perfect meal.

Coffee and Orange Brined Chicken in Milk with Pickled Carrot Spring Salad

Coffee and Orange Brined Chicken in Milk:

Adapted from Food52 – Gingerroot


1 whole broiler/fryer chicken, giblets removed (about 4 lbs.)

2-3 cups water per pound of chicken

1/2 cup kosher salt per pound of chicken

1/2 cup sugar per pound of chicken

2 cups freshly brewed hot coffee

2 navel oranges, halved

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1 tsp. whole cloves

1/2 tsp. juniper berries

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns


3 tbs. olive oil

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbs. brown sugar

2 cups 1% milk

To begin, in a medium or large saucepan heat water.  A little at a time, add kosher salt and sugar while whisking until dissolved.  It may be necessary to add more water to the saucepan in order to dissolve all of the salt and sugar.  Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, transfer the water to a container large enough to hold the brining solution and chicken.  This can be done in a large ziplock bag, though I prefer to use a large stock pot.

Add all other brine ingredients and allow brining solution to cool to room temperature, placing solution in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes if necessary.  Once the solution is room temperature or cool to the touch, add the chicken to the solution.  Place the chicken in the refrigerator and let soak in brining solution about one hour per pound (round up to the nearest hour).

Remove chicken from brining solution by straining through a colander.  Reserve one cup of brining liquid.  Make sure you save all brining ingredients.  Dress the chicken with oranges, garlic, cloves, juniper berries, and the bay leaf.  Allow the chicken to rest overnight, at least 18 hours.  This allows most of the moisture to evaporate from the skin of the chicken, which will result in a crispier skin (my favorite part!).

Preheat oven to 350°.

Rub chicken all over with brown sugar.  Heat olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven.  Add two minced garlic cloves and 2 bay leaves.  Add chicken and brown 6-8 minutes per side until light golden brown.  Add milk and reserved brining liquid, cover, and transfer to oven.

Roast chicken roughly 20 minutes per pound (rounding up to nearest pound).  Baste occasionally with milk/brine mixture.  For the last half hour to forty five minutes of cooking, remove the top.  Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken’s thigh reads 165º (yay, FDA, for lowering the safe internal temperature!).

When fully cooked, remove chicken from Dutch oven and cover with tinfoil.  Rest 15-20 minutes, which will allow juices to redistribute and result in a tender, juicy bird.

Pickled Carrot Spring Salad:

1/2 cup pickled baby carrots (recipe follows), chopped

4-5 cups packed spring greens mix, spun dry

1/4 cup walnuts

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions

1/2 cup lemon and olive oil vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Toss together all ingredients.

Pickled Baby Carrots:

Adapted from David Lebovitz

8 oz. baby carrots, halved lengthwise

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled

1 1/2 tbs. kosher salt

2 bay leaves

Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Drop in carrots and simmer for about 1 minute.  Pour through colander and rinse under ice cold water.  Drain.

In the same pot, heat remaining ingredients over medium-high heat to a boil.  Once it boils, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add carrots.  Cool until room temperature and then place in airtight jars or containers and chill.

Let soak 1 day.  Will keep for up to four weeks in the refrigerator.

Lemon and Olive Oil Vinaigrette:

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Whisk ingredients together.

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