I was under a shady umbrella of tropical palms, just one step away from a painted desert of succulent plants. That’s what it was like during the photo shoot for our current stylebook, “Everyday Exotic,” which features flora from a rainbow of climates as a backdrop to feminine, warm-weather fashion. Naturally, it inspired me to throw my own summer picnic in my backyard!
Today’s menu includes three vegan dishes that I dreamed up with “Everyday Exotic” in mind. Rather than typical barbecue chicken or grilled burgers, feast on Grilled Jamaican Tofu. Trade in traditional cornbread for a Quinoa Cornbread Bundt Cake, inspired by Peruvian and Incan cuisine. Lastly, refine your taste buds with a zippy Tabbouleh with Grapefruit and Fennel, a fusion of Mediterranean ingredients.
Grilled Jamaican Tofu
Jamaican jerk seasoning is a rub or marinade from the island country. It traditionally contains Scotch bonnet peppers, super spicy little dudes. Since I could not find Scotch bonnets, I used my much-loved jalapeños. I only used one pepper since not everyone likes super spicy foods, but feel free to make it as hot as you like!
One block of extra firm tofu
For jerk marinade:
½ cup chopped scallions
1-3 chopped spicy peppers, depending on your desired heat level
3 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s soy sauce substitute
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of vinegar
Juice of half a lime
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1. Slice one block of extra firm tofu into equal pieces. To drain, place the tofu slices between layers of paper towels or clean tea towels and add weight to the top. A cutting board with a few ceramic plates on top works well. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
2. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl.
3. Once most of the water has been drained from the tofu, add the slices to the mixed marinade. Let the tofu soak up the flavors for at least two hours in the refrigerator.
4. To cook, remove tofu from the marinade, making sure there’s no excess mix dripping from it. Add the tofu to a grill or stove top grill pan on medium heat. If using a grill pan, add just a bit of olive oil.
5. Once the tofu is browned or even slightly blackened (about 8-10 minutes), it’s ready!
Quinoa Cornbread Bundt Cake
2 cups of cornmeal
1 ¼ cups of cooked and cooled red quinoa
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of baking soda
⅓ cup of canola oil or vegetable oil
1 can of coconut milk
3 tablespoons of smooth applesauce
½ cup of sugar
1 chopped green chili or jalapeño pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Mix cornmeal, quinoa, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine the coconut milk, oil, sugar, and applesauce.
4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mix. Toss in the chopped peppers and gently combine.
5. Bake for about 45-50 minutes in a bundt cake pan. If you don’t have a bundt pan, bake for about 30 minutes in an 8×8″ or 9×9″ square pan.
Tabbouleh with Grapefruit and Fennel
½ cup of cooked and cooled bulgar wheat
¼ cup chopped mint
1 cucumber, chopped
1 teaspoon sumac
1 bulb of fennel
½ grapefruit, chopped
Dash of olive oil
1. While the bulgar is cooling in the fridge, sauté chopped fennel in olive oil on medium to high heat.
2. Toss all ingredients together and chill until served.
Don’t forget to make your backyard dining experience a decorative one, as well. A few pretty plants will liven up the table and are an affordable and adorable investment. And, well, you know how I feel about “poofs.”
What are some of your favorite summer cookout recipes?