Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tofu isn’t taboo

Special to The Star

Kansas City’s own Baron of BBQ, chef Paul Kirk, doesn’t always ask, “Where’s the beef?”
A charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society more than 25 years ago, Kirk has won more than 475 cooking and barbecuing awards and has written numerous cookbooks. Sure his latest collaborative cookbook (see previous page) is all about ribs, but that doesn’t mean tofu or veggies are taboo.

In fact, at an international barbecue competition in Ireland more than two decades ago, Kirk took the grand champion prize in the newly founded vegetarian category. His entry included an onion blossom, grilled eggplant with garlic and grilled Irish spuds.

“I like grilled vegetables, and interest in how to prepare them has certainly grown since the start of KCBS,” he says. “At a recent event, I was barbecuing and we tried to keep back grilled vegetables for the vegetarians in the crowd, because everyone was going for them.”
One of Kirk’s coming projects is a cookbook he’s writing about what grand champions grill for their families in their own backyards. “You never know,” he says, “There could be a vegetarian recipe or two in the book.”

Keep up with Kirk at

Tofu and Grilled Vegetable Stackers With Rainbow Tomato Relish

Makes 6 open-faced sandwiches

Rainbow Tomato Relish:
2 pounds (about 12) Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise, core and seeds removed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
2 large cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons finely minced basil leaves
2 tablespoons finely minced chives

Tofu Stackers:
Juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
Zest of 1 lemon
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh dill weed
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (18-ounce) block extra firm tofu, well pressed, cut into 18 equal pieces
1 (6-ounce) 6-count package baby bella mushroom stuffer caps, cleaned
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 12 equal pieces
1 zucchini, cleaned and sliced into 12 equal coin-sized pieces
1 yellow squash, cleaned and sliced into 12 equal coin-sized pieces

6 slices freshly sliced Italian bread
6 large cloves garlic, peeled

To prepare the Rainbow Tomato Relish:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees or grill to a medium heat of 350 degrees.
Place tomatoes into a large glass mixing bowl. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil over all and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Gently stir to coat. Place tomatoes, cut-side down, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and begin to caramelize. (Tomatoes can also be placed on grill and browned on both sides.) Dice tomatoes and return to glass mixing bowl. Set aside.
Place peppers, one by one, on the flame of a grill or gas stove. When the skins start to make popping sounds and blister, flip pepper over and repeat process on the other side. When peppers are evenly charred, immediately place each into a small brown paper bag, seal shut and allow to steam. Allow peppers to steam for at least 10 minutes or until the skin peels off easily.

Remove skin from each pepper, cut in half and remove veins and seeds from inside. Cut peppers into bite-sized pieces and place into large glass mixing bowl with tomatoes.
In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk remaining 1/4 cup olive oil with garlic, basil and chives. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pour over tomato/pepper mixture and gently toss to coat. Tightly cover with lid or plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill for 4 hours, or overnight.

To prepare Tofu Stackers: In a glass mixing bowl, whisk lemon juice, red pepper flakes, cracked pepper and salt together until the salt dissolves. Whisk lemon zest, garlic, basil, parsley, cilantro, dill weed and oregano into lemony mixture. While whisking, slowly pour olive oil into mixture to create an emulsion. Set aside.

Place cut tofu into a large resealable plastic bag and pour one-third of prepared marinade over all. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible, and place in refrigerator to marinate 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.
Place cut vegetables into a separate resealable plastic bag and pour remaining prepared marinade over all. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible, and place in refrigerator to marinate 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.

After marinating the ingredients, prepare a medium fire on the grill. Remove tofu and vegetables from the marinade. Discard tofu marinade, but reserve liquid from vegetables for basting.
Place tofu and mushrooms on grill first, then eggplant and finish with squash and zucchini, basting as desired. Grill tofu and vegetables on both sides, until desired doneness is achieved. As tofu and vegetables are finished grilling, place into a warming dish until ready to serve.

To assemble sandwiches: On the grill, toast bread on both sides. As warm bread comes off the grill, rub garlic clove vigorously, but not too hard, over both sides of bread. Place 1 piece of garlic-infused bread on each of 6 plates. Place 3 pieces of tofu on each slice and top each with tomato relish. Skewer grilled vegetables with a rosemary sprig and garnish sandwich.

Per sandwich: 582 calories (53 percent of calories from fat), 35 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 57 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 893 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.

Photo taken at Smoke’n’Fire Home of Xtreme BBQ in Overland Park.

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