Tofu, dreadlocks, and a fear of showers

Sometimes I feel like vegetarian food gets a bad rap amongst those who aren’t “foodies.” Not so much sometimes, actually, as all the time. Like by eating tofu, they’ve already flashed the bat-signal of hippiedom into the air, guaranteeing that a dreadlocked man in Birkenstocks is going to swoop down in moments, bearing woolen socks, glass beads and a walking stick, forcing them to give up meat FOREVER and eat nothing but dandelion heads from a smelly co-op for the rest of eternity.

This is not technically true. It is also not technically true that buying an item that is “free-range,” “organic,” or “humanely raised” is the precursor to sending a strongly worded letter to the government that you no longer want to be on the electrical grid, since you will be spending the rest of your life freeing caged test-monkeys and picking nits off of hairy women. Honestly.

Sometimes eating vegetarian meals, or purchasing foods that have been handled in a kind or ecologically-minded way, just means that you’re thinking about what you’re eating and where it comes from. And I feel really lucky that I have this choice to make.

So Chris and I only buy free-range chicken products, and try our damnedest to score hormone-free, humanely-raised meat. We use recycled paper towels. I sometimes get overly upset about the use of styrofoam (there are other OPTIONS). And we eat vegetarian a couple of nights a week. It lowers our risk factors for heart disease, it reduces methane emissions and deforestation, and it just tastes SO GOOD. But we’re not giving up meat anytime soon. And we really like electricity and the internet. So don’t judge us too harshly.

Last night was a veggie night, and it was very, very satisfying and seasonally appropriate. I rolled out a simple tabbouleh, made from bulgur wheat, campari tomatoes, Euro-cucumbers, a salty Mexican cheese called “cotija,” which has a similar texture to feta, but doesn’t make me want to yark, and scallions. It was dressed with fresh parsley, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt. Oh, and cracked pepper just for whoosits sake.

I couldn’t keep my spoon out of the bowl while it marinated. Tabbouleh gets better and better as it sits, but I have almost zero self-control. Because so much of it ended up in my belly while the rest of dinner was being prepared, I made good use of a block of extra-firm tofu. I weighed it down to get rid of the excess liquid, while the blender made short work of some lemon, scallion tops, cinnamon, coriander, sesame oil, chile paste and tamari. The tofu took a quick bath in the marinade, and then went into the grill pan to sear. The smoke from the cinnamon was like a punch in the sinuses, leaving me choking and teary-eyed, but the smell was enough to revive my appetite from its tabbouleh-binge.

Served together, the juxtaposition of smoky depth from the tofu with the bright, sunny, garden-orgy flavors of the tabbouleh was just the thing to make me forget about meat for an evening. Is it just me, or does summer do strange things to your tastebuds?