East Meets West: Fish … Nah, Tofu in Ginger Soy Sauce, Lemony Pesto Paneer and Nutty Basil Pesto

Good morning,

It’s one of those days where I’m wondering … why have I done this to myself?  The conversation in my head goes something like this:

Common Sense Me: You know that cookbook has a lot of meat recipes in it, don’t you?
Project Me:  Yeap, I’m aware.  It’s going to be a challenge.
Common Sense Me:  It’s not just the meat but seafood and fish and cheese and egg, right?  I mean they have a whole chapter on egg.  What are you going to do with all that animal protein?
Project Me:  Shhhh… it’s going to be fine.  It’s a challenge after all.  They had a whole chapter on cocktails and I got through that.  There are lots of other proteins… tofu, paneer, legumes, TVP …
Common Sense Me:  When was the last time you found decent tofu here?  Or TVP?  You’re going to have to go processed at some point and get veggie burgers.
Project Me:  Stop.  This is doable.  I’m not buying veggie burgers.  You have a point about the TVP though…
Common Sense Me:  I’m telling you this is hopeless.  You’ll never get all the recipes altered.  Never.  Not going to happen.  Give up now while you have a lot of recipes to work with.
Project Me:  You’re such a downer.  Leave me alone.  I don’t have any real entrees yet and … just … go away.
Common Sense Me:  Ha!  Fish today.  Good luck with that!

Yeap, CSM is a real downer.  Today’s fish recipes can be altered to make vegetarian dishes.   CSM doesn’t have to worry though – there’s more stuff to dread coming – seafood, rack of lamb, duck…

Today we’re tackling two fish recipes from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.  Page 348 – Chinese Black Sea Bass and Striped Bass with Pesto.  We’ll need to find protein substitutes for the bass obviously but there are still other challenges.  Rosso and Lukins seem to like their fat – in terms of butter and oils anyway, their sodium – salt and soy sauce and their microwave.  Fat and sodium is necessary in a healthy diet but in limited quantities, so we’re cutting down on those.  They’re really into herbs but not so much into spices, so we’re also going to change that.  Spice makes the world go ’round people!

Our versions are going to be Tofu in Ginger Soy Sauce and Lemony Pesto Paneer.  We’re also going to make a Nutty Basil Pesto to go with the Lemony Pesto Paneer.  I’m not going to try to fool you – neither really tastes like fish and I would have to up the sodium to get more ‘taste of the sea’ but I think we’ve found reasonable alternatives and certainly we’ve been able to expand the variety of dishes available to us.

One word about soy sauce – even the low-sodium soy sauces have a lot of sodium in them.  It’s only low-sodium relative to regular soy sauce.  So be kind to your heart and use it minimally or very occasionally in your dishes.

And another about tofu – no matter what you’ve heard about tofu, it can be delicious and can have a great texture.  You just have to know what to do with it.  Tossing chunks of it, untempered, in a salad is going to turn anyone off tofu.  My ex-husband was a master at dealing with tofu in traditional Vietnamese ways and that’s what we’ll be using here today.

Tofu in Ginger-Soy Sauce

1 kg firm, unflavoured tofu
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp minced, fresh ginger
1 tsp ground dulse or nori
1 tbls water
1/2 tsp sesame oil

For the sauce:
1 tbls unsalted butter
2 tbls sesame seeds
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbls fresh lemon juice
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped


Cut the tofu into 1″ cubes and place in a medium sized bowl.  Toss with the marinade ingredients – soy sauce, ginger, dulse, water and sesame oil.  Cover and allow the tofu to marinate for 45 minutes at room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  While the oven is preheating, line a baking sheet with tin foil or parchment paper and arrange the tofu cubes on the baking sheet so that they have a little space between them.  Bake the tofu for 40 minutes total, turning over about halfway through.

While the tofu is baking, make the sauce:  Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sesame seeds and saute for 1 minute.  Stir in the ginger and garlic; cook 1 minute more.  In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, lemon juice, water and cornstarch and stir until smooth.  Stir this mixture into the mixture in the pan and heat to a simmer, stirring.  Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute or so.  Set aside and keep warm.

When the tofu is baked, spoon the sauce over the tofu and serve or serve the sauce for dipping alongside the tofu.

Makes 2 – 4 servings

Lemony Pesto Paneer

This recipe uses a crispy baked paneer.  You’ll need a firm paneer to do this.  If you make fresh paneer at home, you can firm it up by wrapping it in a cheesecloth or piece of muslin, put it on a plate or in a shallow baking dish and put a heavy weight on top of it for three or four hours.  Drain any liquid that collects and unwrap carefully.  Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour before slicing.


1 kg firm paneer, sliced into 1/2″ x 2″ x 1″ fingers (recipe here)
4 tbsp of ghee or butter, melted at a low temperature
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 tsp ground dulse or nori
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Zest from 1 lemon
1 cup Nutty Basil Pesto (recipe below)
3 tbls shallots, finely chopped
Juice from 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Mix the panko, dulse, pepper, and lemon zest together in a shallow dish.  Place the melted ghee in another shallow dish.  Take one of the paneer slices and spread a little of the Nutty Basil Pesto on one side.  Sprinkle with a little shallot.  Cover this with another paneer slice, like a sandwich.  Do this for all the remaining paneer slices.  Carefully dip each sandwich in the butter and then in the panko coating.  Repeat.  Lay each sandwich on the baking sheet, leaving some room (at least 1″) between them.  Bake the sandwiches in the oven for 10 minutes, turning once half way through.  Sprinkle with lemon juice and served hot.

Nutty Basil Pesto

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
1/2 cup pine nuts, dry roasted in a pan then cooled
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place the garlic, basil and pine nuts in a food processor.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil through the feed tube, and process until a puree is achieved.  Transfer the pesto to a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days.

Tips: To dry roast the pine nuts, heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the pine nuts. Shaking the pan frequently, toast the nuts until the just begin to change colour and become fragrant. Remove from heat immediately and transfer the pine nuts to a plate or shallow dish to cool.


Well that wasn’t as hard as CSM thought now, was it?

Until next time,

Peace & love,



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