The Lusty Vegan or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Veg

For months I’ve been eagerly awaiting The Lusty Vegan: A Cookbook and Lifestyle Manifesto for Vegans and the People Who Love Them, by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg. Actually, I’m still waiting—and you can wait with me by ordering a copy here. But until we all get our copy of this sexy cookbook, I got my hands on one of the recipes to try out now!

I tackled the Cajun Tofu with Dirty Quinoa. Here is what Ayinde Howell’s version looks like:

Here is what mine looked like:

Not are pretty, but pretty close (except I burned the tofu and onions). Before you tackle this too I’m going to share a little knowledge nugget: Don’t use a cheap Cajun seasoning blend. Why? Because it is mostly salt and will make your dish very very very very very salty.

Not satisfied with my salty attempt, I tried again the next day:

Rounds two was much better. I picked up a salt-free Cajun seasoning. Losing the high dose of sodium brings out the herby nuance of the spice rub and highlights the white wine and butter sauce. Want to try you hand at this? Here is all you need to know:

Cajun Tofu with Dirty Quinoa

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 30 minutes | Serves 2

Every now and then, I get lazy and hit the easy button. Often, this includes falling on my favorite prepared spice staple: Cajun seasoning. This rub is a nice blend of salt and red spices that can act as the undertone or the main flavor. In this recipe, it’s the main flavor. Traditionally, dirty rice is made with meat, rice, and herbs. I stripped it down to the main flavors and switched the rice to quinoa for extra protein. It is a flavorful dish guaranteed to satisfy. (From The Lusty Vegan © 2014 by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg. Used with permission from Vegan Heritage Press.)

QUINOA
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa, well-rinsed
1 tablespoon grapeseed or safflower oil
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons low-sodium wheat-free tamari
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Sea salt

TOFU
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, frozen and defrosted
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons low-sodium wheat-free tamari

BUTTER SAUCE
1 tablespoon vegan butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup dry white wine, divided
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

GARNISH
1/4 cup sliced cherry tomatoes

  1. Quinoa: In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil, then stir in the quinoa. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Set aside.
  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly from the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking. Add the garlic, and sauté for an additional minute.
  1. Add the cooked quinoa and mix well. Add the tamari, Cajun seasoning, thyme, and red pepper flakes (if using), and mix until all ingredients are well-incorporated. Remove from the heat.
  1. Tofu: Cut the tofu into 4 slices, approximately 1/8-inch thick. Use a paper towel to press out as much water from the tofu as possible, then transfer the tofu to a shallow bowl. In a separate small bowl combine Cajun seasoning, basil, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and sage and mix well. Use your hands to gently rub the seasoning mixture onto the tofu, coating well. Set aside.
  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and sear for 3 minutes on each side, until brown and slightly crispy. Add the water and tamari to the skillet and allow to reduce for 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the dirty quinoa onto the plates and top with the tofu.
  1. Butter Sauce: Melt the butter in a medium skillet over high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 30 to 45 seconds. Add the Cajun seasoning, basil, and sage. Working quickly, add 1/4 cup of the white wine and the cornstarch and sauté until mixture begins to bubble rapidly. Mix continually with a whisk or fork. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of white wine and allow the alcohol to burn off. It may flambé, but the fire won’t last long. Remove from the heat and stir until the sauce becomes cloudy. Immediately spoon the butter sauce over the plated quinoa and tofu and garnish with sliced grape tomatoes.
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