Sunday, July 27, 2008

Turkey Rice Skillet with Black Beans, Zucchini, and Fruit

You may be thinking that this seems like a hodgepodge of ingredients that I probably just threw together because I happened to have all of them on hand. You would be correct in that assumption. But I have to say - it turned out really great, and it was just what I wanted: a filling meal that was both sweet and a little spicy.

Rice Skillet with Black Beans, Turkey, Zucchini, and Fruit

1 1/2 tsp. garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 red onion
1 nectarine, peeled and chopped
1 apricot, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
1/2 small zucchini, chopped very small
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 lb. cooked ground turkey
1 cup cooked white rice (I used the leftover rice from this recipe, cooked with cardamom and cinnamon, and it added a wonderful flavor)

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, and add the garlic and onion. Saute for about 5-8 minutes until the onions begin to get translucent. Add the chopped nectarine, apricot, zucchini, and parsley and continue to saute over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add the dried spices and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the diced tomatoes, black beans, and cooked ground turkey, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, and add more spices, including salt and pepper, to your own taste. When you are happy with the taste, stir in the cooked white rice. Serve with cheese substitute, sour cream, cilantro, or simply on its own!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Roasted Spiced Pattypan Squash

Lisa, being the avid and talented gardener that she is, is always bringing something fresh for us to experiment with in the kitchen. Last night, she brought a pattypan squash she had just picked that morning, sliced it up into wafery slices, and marinated it in spiced olive oil before roasting it in the oven. This was my first pattypan squash culinary experience, and wow. What resulted was an almost melt-in-your-mouth side dish that had a slight sweetness to it, yet was balanced nicely by the other spices.

Roasted Spiced Pattypan Squash

1 patty pan squash, sliced into thin pieces
2 - 3 tbsp. olive oil
Fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
Ground coriander to taste
Ground cumin to taste
Ground turmeric to taste
Ground pepper to taste
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Mix all spices to your own taste in the olive oil. Slice the squash into small pieces, then toss them in the olive oil so they are all coated evenly. Place on a foil-lined baking pan and place in oven to roast. They should roast for about 15-20 minutes, and should be turned or flipped after about 10 minutes to ensure even roasting. Take them out of the oven when they have become soft with a slight crispness around the edges. Serve as a side dish or with rice.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Moroccan Pastry-less Bastila

Lisa and I decided to have a Moroccan theme tonight for my "official" birthday dinner. I recreated and adapted a recipe for a Moroccan dish called "Bastila" that was served to me at a recent dinner party hosted by a previous Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. She served there in the 1970s and you can tell that it is still such a big part of who she is. It was wonderful to hear stories about that time of her life, and about the food we were eating. Traditionally, Bastila is a pastry-type dish reserved for special occasions, in which spiced chicken, seasoned scrambled eggs, and toasted, crushed, and sugared almonds are all wrapped up in layers in phyllo dough, slathered in butter, fried on both sides, and then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. A true mingling of tastes in so many ways! The Bastilas at this dinner party were individually portioned, but apparently in Morocco, they can be enormous and sliced more like a pie would be. Since the phyllo dough is out for me, I decided instead to make the fillings and serve them on a bed of lightly spiced rice. Lisa brought a squash from her garden as well, which we decided to marinate and roast as a side dish. I think this dish would hold up well if one were to replace the chicken with tofu to make it vegetarian, and certainly a vegan could simply leave out the scrambled eggs in the tofu version. This dish is probably different depending on the region of Morocco it is served in, and though I have no idea which region this particular variety comes from, it is so nicely balanced in terms of spicy and mild, crunchy and soft, and sweet and savory, that I think anyone who appreciates a complexity of flavor in their meals would enjoy it.

Moroccan Pastry-less Bastila

1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice
6 cardamom pods, optional
1 cinnamon stick, optional
1 cup slivered raw almonds
3-5 tsp. pure cane sugar, to taste
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, to taste
4 tbsp. Earth Balance "Buttery Spread), divided
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. cumin, to taste
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. turmeric, to taste
1/2 - 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste (add only a little at a time so it doesn't get too spicy!)
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, to taste
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, to taste
Salt and Pepper
3/4 cup water
6 eggs, whisked well

For the rice:

Bring 3 cups salted water to a boil. Add the 1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice, cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to very low, cover, and steam for 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

To prepare almonds:

Melt 2 tbsp. of Earth Balance "Buttery Spread" in a pan over medium heat. Add the slivered almonds and toast for 5-10 min., until they smell very pleasant, but be careful because these will burn easily. Remove from heat and let cool a bit, and then place into a food processor or chop by hand. Place in a bowl and add the sugar and cinnamon to your own taste. This is what mine looked like:

For the chicken:

In a separate pan, melt the rest of the Earth Balance "Buttery Spread" with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When it is melted, add the onion and cook over medium-high heat until the onions begin to turn translucent. At this time, add the chopped parsley and cilantro, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, ginger, and cinnamon and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring. Add the chopped chicken and saute with the onions and spices until it is browned, about 6-9 minutes. Add 3/4 cup hot water to the chicken, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer for at least 15-20 minutes, or for longer if you'd like the spices to mingle a little longer. Test and adjust spices to your own taste.
For the eggs:
Remove the chicken pieces and about half of the sauce to a serving bowl. Bring the rest of the sauce back to a boil, and then add the whisked eggs and, stirring constantly, scramble them in with the rest of the spiced sauce. Stirring constantly will ensure that the eggs are scrambled loosely and in fine pieces. Once the eggs are done, remove them to a separate serving bowl as well.

To assemble:
As mentioned, this is normally a filling that is wrapped up in layers of buttery phyllo dough, fried, and then sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. However, I decided that it would taste just as delicious and be a little better for the conscience to just stack it all up on a bed of spiced white rice. So to assemble mine, the rice went down first, followed by a layer of scrambled eggs, then the chicken with some extra sauce drizzled over it, and finally, the sprinkling of the toasted and sugared almonds.
And voila! Perhaps not as fancy as a pastry would be, but I promise you, you won't miss that part of it too much.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Torta Barozzi, or "Mystery Chocolate Fudge Cake"

When I got home from the birthday party that my family threw for me on Saturday, I was surprised by my friends Lisa, Reena, and Kyle with this beautiful sight - a perfectly moist, fudgey cake that is intensely flavored with espresso, almond butter, rum, vanilla, and dark chocolate. Notice on the picture below that there is even a "25" traced out of the powdered sugar on the cake! My friend Lisa found this recipe from Lynne Rosetto Casper, one of our favorite NPR personalities, and adapted it a bit so I'd be able to eat it, turning my kitchen into a dedicated gluten-free and dairy-free space for the afternoon. What kind of awesome friends do I have? :) Needless to say, this cake is completely delicious, and in particular contrast to the previous post, is a totally different kind of chocolate cake. Rich, dark, and incredibly moist, this cake is more substantive, but equally satisfying. Who needs flour?? It just gets between you and the real flavor, in my opinion.

Torta Barozzi

1/2 cup (2 ounces) blanched almonds, toasted
2-1/2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup + 3 or 4 tbsp. cocoa (not Dutch process), divided
1-1/2 tablespoons + 8 tbsp. Soy Garden Buttery Spread, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 ounces) sugar
4-1/2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter or almond butter
4 large eggs, separated
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
2 teaspoons dark rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the decoration:
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/2 tablespoon confectioner's sugar

Making Almond Powder

Combine the almonds, the 2-1/2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar and the 1/4 cup cocoa in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until the almonds are a fine powder.

Blending the Batter

"Butter" the bottom and sides of an 8-inch spring-form pan with the 1 tablespoon of Soy Garden Buttery Spread. Cut a circle of parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan. "Butter" the paper with 1/2 tablespoon butter and line the pan with it, butter side up. Use 3 to 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder to coat the entire interior of the spring-form, shaking out any excess. Preheat the oven to 375 F, and set a rack in the center of the oven. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric mixer, beat the 8 tbsp. "butter" and sugar at medium speed 8 to 10 minutes, or until almost white and very fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during beating. Beating the butter and sugar to absolute airiness ensures the torta's fine grain and melting lightness. Still at medium speed, beat in the peanut or almond butter (Lisa used almond butter). Then beat in the egg yolks, two at a time, until smooth. Reduce the speed to medium-low, and beat in the melted chocolates, the dissolved coffee, and the rum and vanilla. Then use a big spatula to fold in the almond powder by hand, keeping the batter light.

Whip the egg white to stiff peaks. Lighten the chocolate batter by folding a quarter of the whites into it. Then fold in the rest, keeping the mixture light but without leaving any streaks of white.


Turn the batter into the baking pan, gently smoothing the top. Bake 15 minutes. Then reduce the oven heat to 325 F and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few streaks of thick batter. The cake will have puffed about two thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. Cool the cake 10 minutes in the pan set on a rack. The cake will settle slightly but will remain level. Spread a kitchen towel on a large plate, and turn the cake out onto it. Peel off the parchment paper and cool the cake completely. Then place a round cake plate on top of the cake and hold the two plates together as you flip them over so the torta is right side up on the cake plate.


Torta Barozzi is moist and fudgy. Just before serving, sift the tablespoon of cocoa over the cake. Then top it with a sifting of the confectioner's sugar. (Or for a whimsical decoration, cut a large stencil of the letter "B" out of stiff paper or cardboard. Set it in the center of the cake before dusting the entire top with the confectioner's sugar. Carefully lift off the stencil once the sugar has settled.) Serve the Barozzi at room temperature, slicing it in small wedges.

Here are some additional tips from Lynne Rosetto-Casper:

-You want natural unsweetened cocoa powder for this recipe, not Dutch process which has been treated to neutralize cocoa's acidity. One quality brand that is not Dutch process is Scharffen Berger Cocoa Powder.

-Quality bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates include Valrhona, Lindt, El Rey, Scharffen Berger, Guittard, Isis, and Theo.

-A good online source for a vast array of chocolates for baking is

-Medaglia d'Oro instant coffee granules are good to have on hand if you bake a lot with chocolate. It's packaged in a small glass jar and found in well-stocked supermarkets and specialty stores. A bit of strong coffee blended into chocolate cake and cookies batters is a trick that enhances the chocolate flavor.

-Peanut butter is the surprise ingredient in this cake, and an important one. I use creamy Skippy, but no doubt other brands work well too. If an allergy to peanuts is an issue, substitute almond butter.

-Use dark rum for its rich flavor. Myers's Original Dark Rum is one to try.

-While it's not served this way in Vignola, the cake is superb topped with dollops of unsweetened whipped cream. Odd as it sounds, it lightens the intensity of rich desserts like the Barozzi.

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova...aka Giant Chocolate Macaroon

My Birthday Cake:

I stirred up some debate about the nature of a macaroon at my birthday party last weekend, and about what the name implies about the content of the dessert. I guess it has become so synonymous with coconut that any mention of macaroon now evinces an image of the deliciously chewy shredded coconut variety. It turns out I had some slightly disappointed family members on my hand who had pictured a coconut-filled dessert when I told them about the cake I was planning to make. But to me, a macaroon is a light dessert made from stiffly beaten egg whites that give it a fluffy, yet chewy consistency, usually with some additional flavoring. To this can be added any number of things: chocolate, coconut, nuts, etc. This recipe basically calls for a giant chocolate macaroon to be the base of a cake, which is then topped with silky vanilla cream, fresh raspberries, and shaved dark chocolate. Half of my family requested no raspberries on their cake (God only knows why someone would not want fresh raspberries on their pavlova!), and the two pictures that are up are from the two different halves of the cake.

I got this recipe from Nigella's website, and adapted it just slightly to make it dairy-free, since the cake itself is already naturally gluten-free. I wasn't sure how my family would like it, since they now trained to be innately suspicious about the taste of anything I can eat, since that means that is gluten-free, so I just didn't tell them how I made it until they had already raved about how amazing it was. This dessert was heavenly...and I don't use that word too often to describe food. The taste was intense, yet the texture was so light, that the combination was almost refreshing - and how often can you say that about a chocolate cake smothered in cream?

Chocolate Pavlova with Vegan Vanilla Cream, Fresh Raspberries, and Shaved Dark Chocolate

6 egg whites
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
3 tbsp. fine cocoa, sifted (I used Ghirardelli's Unsweetened Cocoa Powder)
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, divided, with some reserved for sprinkling over the finished dessert
(I used Baker's Bittersweet Chocolate Squares)

For a runnier, drizzle-consistency vanilla cream (pictured above):
1 package + 1/4 cup Tofutti "Better than Cream Cheese"
2 tbsp. - 1/4 cup gluten-free rice milk (or other dairy substitute of your choice)
1/4 cup thick coconut milk
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2-4 tsp. corn or potato starch
1 1/2 - 2 tsp. gluten-free vanilla (or to taste)
1 12-oz. package fresh raspberries

For a firmer, more whipped cream-like consistency:
1 package Tofutti "Better than Cream Cheese"
1/4 cup thick coconut milk
2/3 - 1 cup powdered sugar, to taste
1 1/2 - 2 tsp. gluten-free vanilla (or to taste)

For the pavlova/giant macaroon:

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound on to a baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 9 inches in diameter, smoothing the sides and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300 and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours. Be careful to make sure the temperature in your oven is accurate, since this can crumble easily if it cooks for too long. When it's ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the center you should feel the promise of squishiness beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the chocolate meringue disc cool completely.

For the vegan vanilla cream:

In a bowl, cream the Tofutti "Better than Cream Cheese" on low-medium speed, and add the 1/4 cup coconut milk. Add the powdered sugar as you continue to blend the mixture, then add the vanilla. Add the potato or corn starch and continue to beat with the mixer. Add the rice milk tablespoon by tablespoon to desired consistency, being careful not to make it too thin. Add a little more starch if you think it needs to be thicker. The cream that I ended up with was somewhat runny, so I froze it for about 2 hours until I was ready to serve it, at which point it had thickened considerably. Feel free to adjust all ingredients to your own taste as well.
**Note: I tried this again and left out the rice milk and ended up with a much better and thick consistency. If this is what you prefer, I would suggest using the second vanilla cream recipe listed.

When you are ready to serve, transfer the pavlova very gently to a large plate. Spread the frozen vanilla cream evenly across the top, then arrange the fresh raspberries over the cream. Sprinkle grated or shaved bittersweet/dark chocolate over the entire dessert and serve immediately.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa and Rice

Tonight was a venture. I have never liked fish, and I think it is because my family just never ate it when I was growing up (except for tuna fish - one of the fishiest smelling fish you can get, yet my mom liked it!). But my taste buds have changed a lot over the last 3 years or so. Whereas before, the mere sight of a mushroom would be enough to utterly disgust me, now I almost crave them sometimes. I used to hate stuffing; now it is my favorite part of Thanksgiving (although I'll have to figure out a gluten-free version this year). And my next attempt to overrule what my taste buds have always told me? Seafood.

I started with a taste of a shrimp here and there; last year at the Taste of Clayton I was bold enough to try a scallop. Seafood has just never really enticed me - something about the texture of it put me off. But I am also trying to change how I think about seafood. I think at least half the battle is mental. So I decided to decide to like fish. And tonight, my taste buds were actually rather pleased with what they were met with! I spent the evening with my lovely cousins, Meade and Grace, and we tried out this recipe, which originally called for halibut but which we replaced with tilapia. Grace can't stand cider vinegar, which the original recipe also called for, so we used red wine vinegar instead for some extra flavor. One thing to consider with this recipe is how much cilantro you really want in your salsa. I enjoy the taste of cilantro, personally, but Meade and her mom did not care much for the salsa because of the cilantro. So, use wisely and possibly sparingly. Enjoy!

Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa and Rice

1 cup Jasmine or Basmati rice
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
5 cardamom pods (optional)
2 cups plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups diced peeled ripe mango
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional; the flavor of this was rather strong)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place rice, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, a dash of salt, and 2 cups of cold water into a pot. Cook rice according to directions.

Prepare mango salsa:  Combine first 7 ingredients. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and garlic.

Prepare the grill. Rub tilapia with oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place fish on grill rack; grill 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with mango salsa.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chutney-Topped Tofu Curry Cheesecake

Do NOT let yourself be put off this dish just because the name has the word "tofu" in it. If you like curry, you will love this. If you hate tofu, it doesn't matter because you won't taste any! The flavor is immense, and there is a perfect balance between the curry cheesecake and the delicious ginger mango chutney that is slathered over the top of it. I had to force myself to stop eating it, to be honest, but only because there were other people at the table who wanted some. I cannot emphasize the word "force" enough in that sentence,though! Heidi and Ben did a fabulous job with this appetizer.

Chutney-Topped Tofu Curry Cheesecake

1 cup unsalted raw cashews, finely ground
1 8-oz. package regular or tofu cream cheese (Heidi used Tofutti brand)
1 8-oz. package silken tofu
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup mango chutney

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil the inside of a 7-inch spring-form pan. Spread the ground cashews over the bottom of the pan and use your hands to press them into an even layer. Place the pan in the oven until cashew crust is lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the nuts. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a food processor or using a hand mixer, process or beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the tofu, cornstarch, curry powder, salt, and cayenne, and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Cover with aluminum foil, making several holes in the foil for steam to escape. Place a trivet, rack, or a small heatproof bowl in the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Pour an inch of boiling water into the bottom of the cooker. Place the foil-covered spring-form pan on top of the trivet, cover, and cook on Low for 4 hours.

Take the pan out of the cooker, remove the foil, and let it stand until cool. Once cool, cover and refrigerate for at least several hours or overnight. Let cool completely before removing the pan.

To serve, remove the sides of the pan, using a knife to loosen it if necessary. Spread the top of the cheesecake with the chutney and serve with crackers. We used Hazelnut Nut Thins, but the curry cheesecake is so strongly flavored that it probably does not matter too much what you serve this with.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Quinoa-Chickpea Salad

Ohh, this was so good.  My friend Suzuko made this for our Vegan Gluten-free Food Fest and said that it's usually served hot, but this worked so well as a cold salad that I think I might make it cold next time, too! This dish is packed full of goodness; quinoa is one of the oldest grains in the world and packs a punch with complete protein, calcium, iron, fiber, magnesium, and antioxidants. It is an excellent alternative to wheat grains like couscous, and can also substitute for rice. Plus, it looks a little like confetti when it's fully cooked. How perfect can a grain get?? It comes in several different varieties, including the one shown here, which is Inca Red. You can purchase quinoa at any health food store, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Chickpeas (or Garbanzo Beans) are extremely nutrient-dense with high protein and fiber content as well. This dish is incredibly healthy for you, and tastes delicious, too.

Quinoa-Chickpea Salad

Serves 4-6

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. crushed coriander seeds
several pinches ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup quinoa (any variety will work; Suzuko used a red heirloom variety)
2 cups cooked or 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth

In a small stockpot over medium heat, sauté onions in olive oil for about 7 min. Add garlic and sauté 2 more minutes.

Add tomato paste, coriander, cumin, black pepper and salt. Sauté for another minute. Add quinoa and sauté 2 minutes.

Add chickpeas and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, lower heat to very low, cover, and cook for about 18 - 20 min., or until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. Stir occasionally. Fluff with fork and serve hot, or chill to serve as a salad.

Marinated Moroccan Tofu/Chicken with Dried Fruit Topping

This was originally a recipe for Moroccan Chicken with Dried Fruit and Olive Topping, but I don't like olives, and in the spirit of the vegan-ness of the dinner the other night, I substituted tofu for the meat. So, this is no longer the *most* authentic ethnic dish, but that did not make it any less delicious! Feel free to substitute 1/2 cup of chopped, pitted green olives for 1/2 cup of the dried fruit, should you so desire. And obviously, you could substitute chicken for the tofu as well - but you don't need to. And don't let the length of this recipe fool you; this is a piece of cake to prepare and is sure to please!

Marinated Moroccan Tofu with Dried Fruit Topping

Serves 6-8

3-5 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 -1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 packages extra firm tofu, with water drained and pressed for at least 20-30 min. (see below)
1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice
6 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 cup chopped onion
4 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 1/2 cup dried mixed fruit (I used figs, apricots, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, papaya, and mango)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup vegetable broth OR fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped pitted green olives (completely optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the marinated tofu:

Preheat oven to 425 F.

To drain the tofu: Drain water from the package of tofu, and place it on a paper towel on a level surface. Take another paper towel and press down to get some of the water out. Replace both paper towels, adding a few more underneath and on top of the tofu, and put a plate with a large book onto the tofu and let it sit for about 20-30 minutes until the water has been pressed out of it. Slice it into 1/2-inch thick pieces (I ended up with about 8 pieces per piece of tofu).

In a small bowl, put the 4 tbsp. olive oil, and all of the spices through the thyme. Mix well. Dip each piece of tofu into the oil mixture and hold it over the bowl for a minute or so to let the excess oil drip off. Place the piece of tofu onto a flat baking pan that has been covered in foil. Place the pan on the very bottom rack of the oven and bake the tofu on each side for about 10-15 min., or until each side is well-browned. Remove from oven; set aside.

For the rice:

Boil salted water for the Jasmine rice, and when it has boiled, add the rice, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cumin, and coriander. Bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down very low, cover, and steam for 20-30 minutes until done. Remove cinnamon stick and cardamom pods before serving.

For the dried fruit topping:

Chop the onion and place in a pot with 1 tbsp. olive oil and sauté for about 2 minutes, and as the onion starts to cook, add the minced garlic. When the onion begins to appear translucent, add the dried fruit, broth, wine, salt, and pepper (and olives, if you are using them). Bring to a soft boil, then reduce heat to medium-low to simmer until the sauce has thickened. I boiled mine for at least 20-25 minutes, but it is really a matter of taste. I think it takes much longer than what the original recipe called for (which was 5 minutes) for the flavors to mingle nicely enough.

To serve:

Spoon rice out onto a large serving plate and arrange the baked tofu (or chicken) slices over it nicely to serve, as seen above. Have the dried fruit compote in a nice serving dish so each person can spoon it over their tofu and rice.

**If you use chicken instead of tofu:

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, oregano, parsley, and thyme evenly over chicken. Add chicken to pan; cook 4-10 minutes on each side or until done. When I made this with chicken, it seemed like it took forever to brown and get done in the middle, but we had very thick pieces. Remove from pan; cover and keep warm. Arrange over a bed of rice and serve in the same way as with the tofu.