I love our local marketplace, we have an opportunity to find unique ingredients and play in the kitchen. So when I went to the store for shishito peppers and there weren't any available, I shifted and quickly identified some substitute pepper options that I had not tried before. Manzano peppers (also known as Apple Peppers for their shape) have a lovely yellow color like bell peppers but wonderful slow heat that builds as you eat a dish; enhanced by the grill. I pair the grilled vegetables with tofu and a cooling raw sauce inspired by romesco (get it? Raw-mesco sauce!). Serve over top steamed crisp-tender green beans for a full meal in flavor and texture.
Sustainability Spotlight: Seasonality and availability matter in order to support a sustainable kitchen. Almost all of my meal planning ensures that what we expect to be at the stores from a seasonality perspective will be available. This is an important note because seasonality ensures that the flavor of your food is unmatched (important when we are cooking vegan where the taste is 100% reliant upon maximum beauty and burst of zest, tang, sweet, etc. are evident in your meals. For sustainability purposes, seasonality also means that your fresh foods are less likely to have traveled long distances to reach your table. We are incredibly fortunate in the United States that we have the ability to (largely) grow our own food supply with variety and great success based upon our soil type, weather patterns and on the grit of hard-working American farmers. Surprisingly though, according to the New York Times, in 2018, "more than half of the fresh fruit and almost one third of the fresh vegetables Americans buy now come from other countries." Why? Incomes have risen allowing consumers to purchase "out of season" produce and imported goods whenever they desire. Also, the diversity of this country from immigrants has broadened the palates and horizons of Americans for fusion foods and authentic ingredients. Many of those ingredients though are not native to the U.S. and as we develop our palates for these goods, consumers are purchasing these ingredients with abandon. The more consumers purchase, the more the suppliers will supply; the economics of consumerism are incredibly predicable in this way. Imported goods have an environmental cost that includes the carbon emissions from transit; the increased use of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides (regulations for environmental protection are often less rigorous than the U.S. for imported foods); and energy consumption for "out of season" produce in heated greenhouses for example. If we utilize (as much as possible) locally produced goods supporting domestic products, the shift back to more American produce will occur organically and reduce our global footprint for imported fruits and vegetables.
1 block of extra firm tofu (pressed & drained); cubed
2 Manzano (or any other "hot" pepper available) - de-seeded and coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper - de-seeded and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red onion - coarsely chopped
salt & pepper (to taste)
2 limes (juiced)
1 lb fresh green beans (trimmed)
2 fresh whole tomatoes (any kind)
1/2 red bell pepper (de-seeded)
1/2 cucumber (skin on)
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 slice whole grain bread (preferably bakery style) - torn into chunks
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp avocado oil
2 tsp agave syrup
3 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 handful cilantro (plus more for garnish - as desired)
Fill pot (with lid & steamer basket) will 2-4 inches of water; add steamer basket with green beans and cover with lid. Turn oven on Medium-High heat and steam green beans until crisp tender (~12 minutes from starting oven). Remove steamer basket from heat & pan when the beans can be easily pierced with a fork and are bright green in color.
Heat grill (or grill pan) and add tofu cubes; grill for ~2-4 minutes stirring (or shaking if on grill) infrequently and until tofu starts to brown slightly.
Next, add Manzano peppers, bell peppers, and red onion to grill pan. Season with salt & pepper to taste and grill for another 5-7 minutes (or until grill marks start to appear on the vegetables and tofu). Squeeze lime over grilled mixture and set aside.
While you are grilling, all all Raw-mesco sauce ingredients to a high-speed blender. Blend for ~30 seconds - 1 minute (you still want some texture) and set aside.
Once beans and grilled mix are done, it's time to layer and serve. Place beans in a layer on a large serving dish (or on individual plates). Next top with grilled mixture and then drizzle Raw-mesco sauce. Serve with extra sauce (for dunking as desired) and garnish with extra cilantro.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did; the raw-mesco sauce really balances the flavors and brings a bright note to the entire dish.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie