Eating & Drinking

Chef Melanie Boudens of Grow Your Roots Cafe shares her recipe for coconut-crusted tofu

The new version of Canada’s Food Guide says we should fill half our plates with fruits and vegetables. In fact, it’s mostly a visual guide, devoid of serving sizes used in the past.

And that strong image, show below, was photographed by Ottawa’s own Christian Lalonde of Photolux Studio, who has done a lot of food photography for Ottawa Magazine over the past decade.

Photo by Christian Lalonde for Health Canada

This all got us thinking about the exciting plant-forward dishes being served in Ottawa restaurants. So we brought Lalonde on for a beautiful — and hopefully useful —  photoessay/recipe roundup. Lalonde brought his own interpretation to the project, choosing to show the raw ingredients alongside the finished dish, furthering the cookbook look.

In this post, chef Melanie Boudens of Grow Your Roots Cafe offers some creative strategies for cooking with tofu. 

Boudens is always excited about tofu. “I like convincing people tofu can be amazing if done right.” This dish starts with tofu from Gatineau-based La Soyarie, which is pressed and then soaked in a marinade of soy sauce, maple syrup, and spices. It’s then coated with a blend of coconut, tapioca, and ground flax seed before pan-frying (baking the tofu is also an option).

Also in this series:
Marc Doiron’s recipe for charred cabbage with avo-poblano dressing

Nitin Mehra’s recipes for a traditional Indian spread

Adam Vetterol’s recipes for peperonata, spelt risotto, and pan-seared trout

Photo by Christian Lalonde

Tofu marinade
1 block La Soyarie (local to Ottawa) firm tofu, pressed *
1 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
*To press tofu, remove from packaging and drain excess liquid. Wrap tofu in a tea towel or a few layers of paper towel, place on a plate and put something heavy on top like a few thick cookbooks and leave for 20 minutes. Unwrap and cut into 5 rectangle “bricks”, and keep in a small airtight container until read to use.

Tofu batter
1 ½ cups shredded coconut
½ cup tapioca starch
¼ cup ground flax
1 ½ cups water

Tahini dressing
½ cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water
½ cup soy sauce

Whisk all marinade ingredients together in small measuring glass or small bowl and pour over top of your tofu. Let marinade for at least four hours (overnight is best). Tofu can be prepared 3-4 days in advance.

To prepare the tahini dressing, whisk all ingredients together, adding more water if you to as the consistency will depend on the brand of tahini. Can be kept for 3-4 if kept refrigerated

To prepare the coconut crusted tofu, whisk the water and flax together in a large bowl. Set aside to thicken.

Prepare a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Place tapioca in one bowl and coconut in another.

One by one, dip each tofu brick in the three prepared bowls (flax/water, tapioca, and coconut). Begin with the tapioca, coating well; then the flax/water mixture; end with an even coat of shredded coconut, pressing the coconut to the tofu as needed. Set aside on your lined baking sheet

Repeat these steps for all tofu bricks

Heat a medium pan with canola or coconut oil to medium heat

Once the pan is heated, place 2-3 bricks of tofu gently into pan. Cook on one side 3-4 minutes, or until lightly golden. Flip over and repeat on the other side. Set back onto your parchment sheet while you cook the rest

While you’re cooking your tofu, you can prepare your sandwich and fillings as well as start plating your salad; we used spring mix, baked sweet potato, chopped apple, red onion, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds.

Once tofu is cooked, place it onto the prepared bread — we chose a locally made whole wheat bread, fresh lettuce and cucumbers, and our favourite spicy mayo. and top your salad with your tahini dressing.

The tofu can also be baked at 350 for about 20 minutes, flipping each piece halfway through cooking. Be careful not to overcook.