An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


The Good Bean

Hodo Soy – The Good Bean from Hannah Kaminsky on Vimeo.

Rarely does one have the opportunity to see first-hand just how one of their favorite foods are made, from raw material to comfortingly familiar final product, which is why my visit to the Hodo Soy factory was so extraordinary. It didn’t hurt that my guide, Henry Hsu, was so generous with his time, allowing me to poke my camera into every step of the process. For the first time ever, I took this opportunity to experiment into the realm of motion pictures, so what you see above is still fairly rough. Regardless, I couldn’t wait to share this peek behind the scenes.

You may have heard the name before, or perhaps you’ve eaten their tofu without even realizing it. Hodo Soy provides the soy base for Chipotle‘s famous tofu sofritas, but their commitment to creating innovative foods that remain true to ancient art of soybean wrangling doesn’t end there. Increasing demand has brought their firm blocks, nuggets, and yuba noodles farther across the country than ever before, turning this homegrown company into a national brand in the blink of an eye.

Consider this just a small taste to whet your appetite; Coming soon, I’ll have a more typical recipe and photo post to share, using some of those incredible soybean savories I watched come to fruition before my eyes. Stay tuned, and stay hungry!


Soya with Aloha

Commonly regarded as merely a casual greeting, “Aloha” takes on an entirely different tone when spoken in Hawaii. The Aloha Spirit goes much deeper than surface pleasantries, and isn’t something that can be faked. It has to do with honesty, patience, and sharing, just for starters, which is why I can think of no company more aptly named than Aloha Tofu. Churning out soybean curds since 1950, the operation has always been a family business, focused on using high-quality ingredients while keeping the process as simple as possible. No added preservatives mean that none of the products are exported, meaning that they will always be solely local treasures. Luckily, these gems are easy to plunder, found in any grocery store worth its square footage on the island and of course, directly from their factory in Kalihi.

That’s where I met up with some of the most stunningly kind tofu-tamers imaginable. Although I happened to pick the one weekday where no production was actively taking place, they generously showed me around the storage room and gave me a good lay of the land. After refusing to take my money, I was loaded up with an embarrassment of soybean riches and sent back on my merry way.

Don’t let the brand name fool you- They make much more than just bean curd cakes in that unassuming downtown factory. In addition to okara, soymilk, and konnyaku, their natto could be considered something of a game changer, since almost all commercial varieties are frustratingly pre-seasoned with bonito dashi. Long ago I had given up on enjoying this admittedly polarizing pleasure, but Aloha Tofu’s delightfully slimy little number is 100% vegan, through and through. For the uninitiated, it’s generally a love or hate experience, with little space for ambiguity, although one of the best ways to ease into natto appreciation is with the aid of piping hot miso soup. The warm broth helps dissolve the stringy stickiness, while the miso paste pairs harmoniously with the funky, fermented whole soybean flavor. Even if you’ve found it hard to swallow before, a better brand can make all the difference in the world.

The classic dish recommended by the tofu masters themselves, however, is tofu poke. Their rendition adheres very closely to the traditional fish-based formula, substituting fried tofu cubes for the raw fish; a move that should appease those who can appreciate tofu well enough, but not so much that they care to eat it raw. The finished dish is sold in their brand new eatery, but since I didn’t have a chance to scope out that scene as well, I’m grateful that the full recipe is published on their website. No strings attached, no gimmicks or marketing ploys; just the desire to share their tofu and new ways to enjoy it. Now that’s the Aloha Spirit in action.

Tofu Poke
Recipe Ever So Slightly Adapted from Aloha Tofu

1 (12-Ounce Package) Deep Fried Tofu, Cut into Bite-Sized Cubes
1 Tomato, Diced
1/4 Cup Coarsely Chopped Ogo Limu*
1 – 2 Scallions, Chopped
1/4 Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
2 Teaspoons Toasted Sesame Seeds
1 Teaspoon Finely Minced Fresh Ginger
Pinch Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to Taste

*Substitute with cooked hijiki if unavailable.

Like some of the best dishes, this one couldn’t be simpler to prepare. There’s no big secret here; simply toss the tofu, all of the chopped vegetables, and seasonings together in a large bowl to thoroughly distribute all of the ingredients and coat them with the marinade. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving, or up to a day. Enjoy cold.

Makes 4 – 6 Side Dish Servings

Printable Recipe


Anything but Leftover

With about half the heaping mound still staring back at me, my enthusiasm began to flag. Fragrant, glistening vaguely in the afternoon light, it was some of the most genuinely meaty dumpling filling I had ever prepared, and yet I couldn’t muster the patience to keep stuffing it into those tiny little wrappers. The final total of “40 – 50” is admittedly a wild estimate, a complete stab in the dark if we’re being honest, because I never made it to either of those numbers. An extra set of hands would do wonders on a recipe like this; simple but time consuming, demanding few skills but undivided attention. Giving up on the project never crossed my mind, but it became abundantly clear that there would be leftover filling.

This is not what I’d call leftovers, bearing the negative connotations of unwanted extras. Before neatly packing everything away for a later date, the next recipe was already jumping about through my synapses, the full procedure and list of ingredients unraveling itself in my brain. Perhaps we can call this concept an alternative preparation, since it’s worth making the original filling to enjoy, with or without any dumplings in mind.

Mapo tofu won’t win any beauty contests, but someone who turns down this dish based on looks is making a terrible mistake. Packing in umami flavor with ease, the soft cubes of tofu bear a spicy bite, swimming in a meaty stew of chili-spiked seitan. Naturally, my approach is far from authentic, spanning a number of Asian cultures just through the ingredients. Malaysian sambal oelek brings the heat while a spoonful of Chinese fermented black beans add their characteristic salty and savory twang. You could jump borders again and opt for a Japanese soy sauce, if you were after a genuine cultural melting pot… But it would taste just as delicious no matter what. Mapo tofu is the kind of dish that a cook would really have to try to mess up. Go ahead, experiment with sriracha instead of the sambal, dark miso paste instead of black beans; after it all simmers together and melds as one, it’s all good.

Mapo Tofu

1 1/2 Cups Seitan Dumpling Filling

1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tablespoon Finely Minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon Finely Minced Fresh Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
3 Skinny Scallions, Thinly Sliced on the Diagonal, Divided
1 – 3 Tablespoons Sambal Oelek
1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Vegetable Broth or Water
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
3 Tablespoons Fermented Black Bean Paste
2 – 3 Tablespoons Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Brown Rice Syrup or Light Brown Sugar
1 Pound Soft (But not Silken) Tofu, Drained

Prepare the ground seitan according to the dumpling recipe and set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a medium stock pot or large saucepan over medium heat. Toss in the garlic and ginger once the oil is shimmering and quickly saute, just until fragrant and lightly browned. Add the prepared seitan mixture into the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, whisk together the black pepper, two of the sliced scallions, the first tablespoon of sambal oelek, broth, and cornstarch. Beat out any lumps of starch so that the liquid is perfectly smooth before using it to deglaze the hot pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan with your spatula to make sure nothing sticks or burns, and turn down the heat to medium-low.

Stir in the black bean past, first two tablespoons of soy sauce, and brown rice syrup. Let it cook and mingle for a minute or two before giving it a taste; add more sambal or soy sauce as desired, but as you adjust seasonings, don’t even think of reaching for the salt shaker. These are all very salty ingredients, and you’ll end up with something inedible if you don’t manage the sodium level very carefully.

Once you’re pleased with the flavors developing, cut your tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and gently lower them into the stew. Soft tofu is rather fragile, so don’t go haphazardly stirring the whole mixture and smashing them to bits. Rather, use your spatula to fold everything together.

Continue to cook until the liquid has thickened and reaches a rapid bubble. Let cool for a few minutes before topping with the remaining sliced scallions, and serve with white rice (or any other cooked grain) if desired.

Makes 3 – 4 Servings

Printable Recipe


Inspiration Vs. Desperation

What spurs you on to create new recipes? Inspiration comes in countless forms, lurking just beneath the surface everywhere you look. It could be a trip to the market that lights a spark, or a great meal at a new restaurant. Even something as innocuous as watching tv or chatting with a friend might start the wheels turning. Some recipes, however, have decidedly less grand beginnings. Born not in some great flash of genius, but by sheer necessity, the results are by no means any less spectacular. Sometimes it just comes down to what’s already in the fridge.

Adding a single box of phyllo to a recent coop order seemed like a reasonable impulse buy to complete the case- A least until it arrived, and needed somewhere to stay. Freezer stuffed to bursting, there was no choice but to let it thaw out in the fridge, with still no destination in mind. With time ticking and now fridge space dwindling, that phyllo had to go, and not straight into the trash! At times like this, the great interweb is a true godsend.

Still waffling between sweet and savory recipes, it was the idea of Susan‘s Spinach and Artichoke Pie that sealed the deal. Tweaking the seasonings and switching out spinach for kale, it was an impressive outcome for the phyllo that had no clear purpose. Instead of making one giant pie, it seemed more fitting to break the dish up into individual wraps; less messy to serve and easier to store. Shatteringly crisp and flaky, that phyllo is truly what makes the final bundle of gently spiced greens and goodies so compelling. Only when my parcels had finished baking did I realize the strange cultural mash-up at play. Indeed, what emerged from the oven turned out to be glorified Greek burritos.

Greek Burritos
Adapted from the Fat Free Vegan

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
12 Ounces Frozen Chopped Kale
1 Pound Extra-Firm Tofu, Thoroughly Drained
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Teaspoon Salt, or to Taste
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Dill
1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Oil-Cured Olives
1/8 Teaspoon Dried Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1 12-Ounce Bag Frozen Artichoke Hearts, Thawed and Quartered

1 Package Phyllo Dough, Thawed
Olive Oil in Spray Bottle

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper; Set aside.

Begin heating the oil in a medium or large soup pot over moderate heat. You want a vessel with high sides that can accommodate a good amount of food, so don’t hesitate to spring for one size bigger than you think is appropriate. It’s not a bad thing if it ends up being too spacious either. Add in the onions and garlic, and saute for 10 – 12 minutes until fragrant, softened, and beginning to take on a golden hue. Toss in the frozen kale, stir well, and let it thaw as it mingles with the hot onions. Turn off the heat as soon as the leaves are no longer icy.

Meanwhile, crumble your tofu into a large bowl and toss with the nutritional yeast, salt, dill, oregano, lemon juice, olives, pepper, cumin, and coriander. Once evenly seasoned, stir the tofu mixture into the hot onions and kale until well incorporated. Finally, introduce the artichokes, and mix just to distribute evenly throughout the filling. The mixture should be warm to the touch but not hot at this point.

To assemble your burritos, first lay out one sheet of phyllo on an immaculate flat surface, and lightly spritz with olive oil. Carefully top that with another sheet, lining up the edges to the best of your ability, and spritz oil on top of that. Repeat twice more for a total of 4 stacked full rectangle sheets. Gently distribute about 1 cup of the filling vertically, about 1 inch in from the left edge, top, and bottom. Now, as if it were a tortilla, fold the top and bottom edges over the filling, and roll, starting from the left side, until you have one smooth cylinder resting on the open end of the dough. Gingerly lift the wrap and place it on one of the baking sheets, and finally spritz the top once more with oil. Repeat for the remaining dough and filling, placing no more than three burritos on each sheet.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, rotating the sheets about halfway through if necessary, until golden brown all over. Serve immediately while hot.

Makes About 5 Large Burritos; Feeds 10 with Dainty Appetites, or 5 Very Hungry Vegans

If you’re cooking for a smaller crowd, you can keep any leftover filling and phyllo separate, assembling and baking individual burritos when desired.

Printable Recipe


Take Me to Tofu Town

Dawdling along the main thoroughfare at the bottom end of the speed limit, our final destination still managed to elude us. Surely the GPS hadn’t been mistaken, but even after two slow drive-by searches of the suggested location, not a hint was found to indicate that we had arrived. Sequestered within a completely unmarked building about the size of a modest New York apartment, the average onlooker would never realize that they were staring right at the source of the best tofu in the tri-state area. One could easily walk right past it for years without a second thought, and yet on closer investigation, the tell-tall aroma of cooked beans can be detected wafting through the air, and hints of laborious activity glimpsed through the small windows. This is the factory for Bridge Tofu in Middletown, Connecticut- Not exactly a tourist destination for those who are in the know.

Arriving completely unannounced after a few inquisitive phone calls fell on deaf answering machines, it was clearly no place for curious bystanders, and yet I was immediately, graciously welcomed through the plastic flaps covering the doorway. A tour would have been superfluous, as all stages of production could easily be viewed standing right there in the entry.

Tons upon literal tons of soybeans piled into multiple barrels, hinting at the impossible volume of bean curd being produced in this tiny space. Committed to organics, their dedication to sourcing out the highest quality ingredients is one that comes through in the flavor.

An immense, metal-clad machine spit out silky white soy milk across the way, spewing out gallons by the minute. Every single drop is needed, condensed down further once coagulation is set into motion. Large rectangles press the curds into the largest slabs of tofu you’ve ever seen, to be cut into size once firm, but still creamy on the inside. It’s this incredible texture that truly sets Bridge apart from other tofu options on the market. Few would recommend eating plain, uncooked curd, but this is one that is genuinely delicious on a hot summer’s day with just a splash of soy sauce and handful of sliced scallions on top. It only comes in one level of firmness, but it’s a one size fits all style of tofu, seamlessly fitting into nearly any recipe out there.

Freshly severed small rectangles float through a final water bath before reaching packaging, a mere four or five meters away from where they were born. Each label is applied by hand, each bag sealed individually. It’s a painstaking process that is astounding to watch, knowing the reach of this one tiny producer. Available in Whole Foods Markets and independent health food stores for miles around, I could have never guessed that all of it came from such a humble beginning. First introduced to me through working at Health in a Hurry, it’s the only tofu we ever use, and it’s easy to taste why.

There’s a whole lot of passion going into those unassuming beige bricks. It’s not listed on the label, but easily detected in each bite.

Lest you think Bridge is a one-trick tofu factory, incredibly, they also produce the best seitan I’ve had the pleasure of cooking. If ever seitan shows up in my recipes, you can rest assured that Bridge is the brand going into the mix. Also churning out amazake and a tuna-like tofu salad, their home base may not be impressive, but what they manage to create within its confines sure is.


Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut…

…And it may have something to do with the fact that it’s National Peanut Month! It’s true, March has been designated as the official time to celebrate the humble peanut, in all of its goober glory. Rather than just enjoying the standard peanut butter sandwich, or baking up some ordinary peanut butter cookies, I craved a different sort of peanut sensation. It was a stroke of luck that Betty Lou’s presented the opportunity to test drive their latest creation, Powdered Peanut Butter.

Yes, dry peanut butter that rehydrates with a drop or two of water! Sweetened with coconut sugar and significantly lower in fat than the ordinary nut butter, it’s even a healthier option than many spreads currently on the market. A strong peanut aroma wafted from the jar as soon as the lid came off, and all signs pointed in a good direction, right through the initial reconstitution. Mixing easily and smoothly back to a spreadable consistency, I was genuinely impressed how it instantly became thick and sticky, just as I would hope for with any peanut butter. Admittedly, the flavor is different than I’m accustomed to, but every brand has their own unique flavor profile; this choice is no different. Nice and salty while not being too sweet, it strikes a fine balance between the two, accompanied of course by the roasted, nutty notes of peanuts at all times. Perhaps slightly less satisfying due to the lack of fat, it’s still plenty rich, and perfect for those seeking a lighter peanut fix.

Rather than just slather it on toast and call it a day, what really got me excited were the new possibilities such a unique ingredient could unlock. Immediately my mind wandered to my famed macarons, found in Vegan Desserts. Replacing the almond meal with peanut butter powder should be a snap, right? Paired with a creamy chocolate ganache, I was already daydreaming about the end results before the oven had fully preheated.

Unfortunately, this wild experiment wasn’t exactly a success, as is evident by the abundance of cracks and lack of feet. Perhaps too finely ground for this delicate cookie, it simply took on more moisture than almond meal, and didn’t produce the desired results. It was a good idea, but not recommended. Save your precious peanut powder for something easier and more rewarding, like a walk on the savory side with crispy tofu.

Seasoning the peanut butter powder lightly and dusting the tofu triangles to coat each piece, the results were spectacular. Not only did the quick dredge create some of the crispiest bean curd I’ve ever crunched on, but the added flavor put it light years ahead of the standard plain starch or flour approach. Served on a bed of sauteed kale and caramelized onions, it was the kind of quick, comforting meal that will no doubt see many repeat performances. Best of all, nothing goes to waste- The peanut butter powder leftover from dredging the tofu is effortlessly rehydrated into a creamy peanut sauce. Drizzled on top or used as a dip on the side, this nutty dish is a delight even to those not wild about tofu.

Crispy Peanut Tofu

1 Pound Extra-Firm Tofu
1/2 Cup Powdered Peanut Butter
2 Teaspoons Powdered Garlic
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Ground Black Pepper, to Taste

Canola or Vegetable Oil, to Fry

1 Thinly Sliced Scallion, for Garnish (Optional)

Drain and press tofu for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the peanut powdered and seasonings. Once the tofu is ready, cut it into triangles, rectangles, or cubes, and toss them in the peanut powder. Make sure that all sides are fully coated.

Place a large skillet with high sides over medium heat, and add in about 1/4 – 1/2 inch layer of oil. When the oil is hot, carefully place a few pieces of the tofu in the skillet at a time, being sure not to crowd the pan. Fry for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until deep brown and perfectly crispy. Remove and drain the tofu over a over-turned wire rack resting on top of a paper towel, and repeat with the remaining pieces.

Create a fantastic, instant sauce to go with your tofu by adding water to the remaining peanut powder mixture, one tablespoon at a time. Drizzle over the tofu, and top with scallions if desired.

Serves 2 – 4

Printable Recipe


Talking Turkey

One week and one day are all that separates us from the big Thanksgiving feast, even though I feel a sense of déjà vu as soon as the traditional sides and sauces start pouring out of the kitchen. Cooking a separate feast for editorial photography assignments as far back as September or October, I’ve typically had my fill (and then some) of all the trimmings by the time November finally rolls around. Though cooking the yearly Thanksgiving meal a month or two ahead of the scheduled date takes some getting used to, it works out in my favor; The official family celebration can become rather hectic even without me jockeying for space in the overcrowded kitchen, so it’s nice not to feel pressured to make “go all out” and cook up something grand.

The center piece is always the biggest concern, whether trying to make a turkey replica or go a new route, but come the last Thursday in November, you can generally find me sitting down to a family feast with ye olde traditional veggie burger on my plate. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything on that specific date, having already gorged on gravy and potatoes well in advance. However, it is nice to put in a bit of additional effort and make something perhaps more seasonally appropriate. Still keeping it simple, stuffed veggies rather than a stuffed roast are the ideal main dish for a laid-back feast.

Delicata, my favorite little squash, is ideal for stuffing and roasting. Bearing thin, edible skin, there’s no need to peel; just hollow out, fill, and bake. Sizes of this gourd vary wildly, so for this particular recipe, opt for smaller, more manageable ones. To make it even easier, go ahead and cut them lengthwise like little edible boats. The seeds will be less of a hassle to reach and scrape out, and they tend to bake a bit faster, too. Serve up one of these beauties with some roasted onions, perhaps, and a generous pour of mushroom creme gravy, and you will certainly have something else to be thankful for this year.

“Ricotta”-Stuffed Delicata

1 – 2 Small Delicata Squash (Depending on the size of the squashes and how full you stuff them)

10 Ounces Super-Firm or Pressed Tofu*
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Teaspoons Soy Sauce
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder

1/2 Cup Diced Cremini or Button Mushrooms
1/2 Cup Frozen Spinach, Thawed and Thoroughly Drained
1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley (Leaves Only), Chopped

1/4 Cup Pine Nuts or Chopped Cashews, Divided

*You can start with 1 pound of extra firm tofu and press for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once the extra water has been drained off, it should be around the same weight (but it’s not critical if it’s slightly over or under.)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking dish with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Set aside.

Slice your squash in half either lengthwise or width-wise, and use a thin metal spoon to scrape out the seeds and guts. Cut a small sliver off the bottoms of each half so that they can sit in the pan without falling or sliding. Arrange in your baking dish so that there’s plenty of space between them.

In your food processor, place the tofu, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic and onion powder. Pulse to combine, until the mixture is mostly smooth and creamy, but still with a bit of texture. No need to go crazy here. Fold in the chopped mushrooms, spinach, parsley, and about 3 tablespoons of the pine nuts or cashews until well combined.

Spoon the “ricotta” mixture into your delicata as desired, and top with the remaining nuts. Lightly spritz or brush the exteriors of the squash all over with olive oil, and pop them into the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the squash are fork-tender.

Makes 2 – 4 Servings

Printable Recipe


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