Vegan Pineapple Not-So-Fried Rice

RECIPE:
Vegan Pineapple Not-So-Fried Rice

FROM:
Chloe Coscarelli’s cookbook, “Chloe’s Kitchen”

I recently ordered this cookbook from Amazon (get it here) and was pleasantly surprised. If you’re not familiar with Chef Chloe Coscarelli, be sure to check out her gorgeous website, which is full of really great vegan recipes, videos and photos. She took home first place on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” making her the first vegan ever to win on a Food Network competition. This girl’s got skills, yo.

I love a cookbook with big, beautiful photos. This one doesn’t disappoint – it is FULL of them. In fact, the photo of this recipe looked so good that I HAD to try it. Although it is time-consuming, it is not difficult and the payoff is definitely worth it. Hubs loved it and so did I.

I have to confess – I was a victim of tofu-fobia. I had never tried it or prepared it until I made this recipe. It wasn’t bad, but truthfully, I don’t think the recipe needed it. Next time I’ll skip it, which will reduce the prep time immensely.

I do have one little complaint. I hate it when recipes list ingredients already prepared (like 3 cups cooked rice). Just say 1 cup of rice and then include the cooking step in the recipe. Does that drive anyone else crazy, too? So, I’ll be editing the instructions a bit to include ALL of the steps. Here we go…

STEP 1
Choose a small/medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. In the pot, combine
1 cup of rice (preferably jasmine – I used brown jasmine)*
2 cups of water
Cover with lid. Bring to a boil. Stir once. Cover with lid. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 50 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand in covered pot for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork.

*NOTES
If you don’t have 50 minutes to spare, I would just make instant brown rice.

STEP 2
While the rice is cooking, press the tofu (unless you want to skip the tofu – I personally don’t think the recipe needs it).

1 14-oz package of extra-firm tofu, drained

Tofu pressing instructions from Chloe’s cookbook:
Tofu retains a lot of water, so pressing out the water allows the tofu to take on more flavor from your dish. Take a block of extra-firm tofu and wrap it tightly in dry paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Set the tofu on a flat surface and place a small baking pan on top. Then stack something heavy, like canned food or books, on top. Let the tofu sit for 20 minutes while it releases its water.

If using tofu, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.

STEP 3
While the tofu is pressing, prepare the pineapple “bowl.” If you don’t want to be all fancy and serve the rice in a half pineapple shell, then you can skip this step. Unless I make this for guests, I’ll skip it next time cuz it’s kind of a pain.

If skipping, then just cut up your pineapple as you normally would (discarding the core), and set aside 1½ cups diced pineapple for this recipe. Save the rest for another use.*

If you feel like being fancy, then cut one pineapple in half lengthwise using a sharp knife (you’ll have to put some muscle into it). Remove the flesh from one half. As you can see in the photo, I cut around the perimeter, then across both ways two times (for a grid of 9 large chunks). Using a spoon and knife, I scooped out the pineapple flesh. Let’s just say it didn’t come out in neat chunks, but more of a mangled heap. So, with the other half, I cut off the top, bottom and the outside layer, then cut it into bite-size pieces, discarding the core. Set aside 1½ cups diced pineapple for this recipe, and save the rest for another use.* Reserve the half shell for serving.

*NOTES
I froze my extra pineapple chunks and used them in a smoothie the next day. Also, if you do prepare the pineapple bowl, there will be a lot of juice. I poured it into a small dish and added it to the skillet at the end.

STEP 4
(Skip this step if you are making this recipe without the tofu.)

When your tofu has finished pressing, cut it into ½-inch cubes. In a bowl, toss tofu* with
2 tablespoons soy sauce.
Place in one layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, turning the tofu a couple of times with a spatula. Remove from oven and set aside.

*NOTES
I found the tofu to be too delicate to toss using a spatula or spoon, so instead, I put a lid on my bowl and gently rolled/turned it until all the tofu was coated with soy sauce.

BONUS STEP
While you’re waiting on the rice and  tofu to finish cooking/baking, do something productive. I chose to clean out my refrigerator. There were some left over black beans in a container that were starting to smell funky. And they smelled even funkier when I opened the lid. OMG – I was gagging. So gross. Or you could just relax and read one of those magazines you subscribe to but never read (tell me I’m not the only one).

STEP 5
When your tofu has about 15-20 minutes left, it’s time to get rollin again…

This recipe calls for 1 onion, thinly sliced. Now, I have to interject here and tell you of yet another pet peeve. I hate it when the recipe doesn’t specify the size or kind of onion. Is it a small red onion, a medium white onion, a large yellow onion? Who knows?! I used half of one very large yellow onion, and I chopped it in my handy-dandy little Black & Decker chopper (I LOVE that thing) because a) I don’t like “strands” of slimy onions and b) my beloved chopper is so efficient and works like a gem.

In a LARGE skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil over medium-high heat and sauté onions until soft and lightly browned. Season with sea salt.

In the skillet, add
3 cloves garlic, minced (here’s another favorite tool of mine)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce*

Let cook for a few more minutes. (Peel and shred one carrot while you’re waiting.)

Add
¾ cup whole cashews
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup raisins
3 cups cooked rice
¼ cup vegetable broth
1½ cups diced pineapple
your prepared tofu (if you’re using tofu in the recipe) 

I also added a tablespoon or so of soy sauce (I use “Tamari” gluten free, reduced sodium soy sauce) for added flavor.

Cook until heated through and adjust salt to taste. Serve in pineapple shell if you’re fancy like that.

*NOTES
I didn’t have any chili-garlic sauce on hand, so I just used hot sauce instead. Worked great, gave it a little heat.

STEP 6
EAT!!!! Then clean up your mess.

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