Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lotso Matzo

Beyond the concept of not eating animals, and trying to avoid any products that come from them, I really don't have any restrictions on my diet at all. Honestly, the more I have gotten involved in the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, the more adventurous I've become with food.

This is probably why, even though I am not Jewish, and I don't have a lot of experience with traditional Jewish foods, I really ended up liking Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Matzoh Brie (or "brei") recipe from her Vegan Brunch cookbook. You'd kind of be surprised how addictive this dish is, despite how few ingredients it has, and how simple it seems to be. It didn't even fully hit me how good it is though until the next day after I made it, when I really couldn't wait to get home to my leftovers...

The dish is really a veganized version of a recipe typically made with eggs, and, in some cases, fat. In both the vegan and traditional versions, the matzo crackers are softened in some kind of liquid (water or egg), and fried. In the vegan version, blended tofu stands in for the egg.

I truly hope the insanely inventive Ms. Moskowitz does not mind me re-printing my slightly altered version of her recipe here, but seriously, go check out her Vegan Brunch book. I haven't tried every recipe in there, but I've really enjoyed the ones I have, and Isa is some kind of vegan goddess. There I said it.

Matzo(h) Brie

  • 6 matzo(h)s - The book recommends whole wheat, but I kind of like the plain old (I'm sure less healthy) white flour version for flavor; The picture above is the whole wheat version though
  • a few tablespoons of oil for frying (I like Canola myself)
  • 1 chopped onion (medium to large-sized is preferable)
  • 8 oz firm tofu (in the aseptic, virtually water-free packaging; It's just easier)
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp salt - freshly ground sea salt is pretty much heaven in this case
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste; I cannot stress how much of the tasty-ness of this recipe comes from the freshly ground black pepper. You may actually be surprised by how much black pepper you'll want to put on this once you try it. Really.

First, break up your matzo(h)s into 1-2" pieces and put them in a somewhat deepish bowl. Cover with warmish water (you like my technical terminology?) and let sit for 3-5 mins or thereabouts. Don't let them disintegrate, just soften. You can lift one out with a fork every so often to check their progress. They actually kind of look like they have the consistency of a fried egg when they're ready. When they seem properly softened, drain out the water using a colander.

While the matzohs are soaking, blend your tofu until smooth. I used my tiny adorable food processor for this and it worked out beautifully. The tofu should have the consistency and texture almost of a thick sour cream at this point.

Spread a small layer of oil in the bottom of a large frying pan (believe me, go big on the frying pan, you will thank me later). Fry your chopped onions over medium to high heat. You are aiming to caramelize the onions a bit. If your onions aren't getting a little brown around the edges, you may want to turn the heat up for a little while. Keep an eye on them though, you don't want to burn them.

Now add your drained matzohs. Plop the blended tofu on top of the matzohs, and try to spread it around, almost mixing it in with the matzohs. Use a folding/flipping motion, because you don't want to break the matzohs up into really small chunks. They shouldn't look like crumbs. Aim to have a thin layer of tofu surrounding each piece of matzoh, and the onions evenly disbursed in the mixture. Cook until the tofu has dried out a bit, sort of the moisture content you'd see in the scrambled eggs at a buffet.

Now comes the fun part. Plate up some of the delicious matzoh brie, and freshly grind some sea salt and pepper over the top. Again, I insist that if the mixture seems a little bland at first, grind some more fresh black pepper over it. Then send me a postcard from flavor country.

Chag Sameach ("joyous festival"/Happy Passover) everyone, and may all of you celebrating the holiday this week have delicious food and joyous company.


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