Saturday, May 8, 2010

Karyn's Green Zebra

I don't usually give my dishes creative names, only because I think that when you see my newest post online (or in your Facebook newsfeed), you should instantaneously be able to know if you'd like to make it, based on the ingredients.

This, however, I couldn't resist. This past weekend was nothing but work, work, work for me, but I did have one night of respite - and what respite it was. I had dinner with my friend Colleen at Green Zebra, an amazing upscale restaurant (thank you, Groupon!). Green Zebra also happens to be a vegetarian restaurant. I had heard such amazing things about it - from veggies and non-veggies alike - that I couldn't wait to go.

Green Zebra did not disappoint. In fact, it was one of the best meals I've had in Chicago. From a sublime cauliflower pot de creme to a truly transcendent duck egg on potato puree, it was an incredible meal from the first bite to the last. I can't wait to go back.

I also recently experienced local vegan haunt Karyn's Cooked, which was - much to my surprise - delicious! Not that I can't imagine vegan food being good...I guess I just didn't expect it to be that good. I had brunch with my friend Sarah, and I'd love to go back for lunch or dinner. Hence, I named this dish after my two recent inspiring vegetarian meals. Karyn's Green Zebra (or asparagus and carrots with cilantro chutney and marinated tofu) is easy, healthy, and was completely unplanned. It was borne of pure hunger and a desire to use the last of my fresh veggies before they wilted in the fridge.

If I made this again, I'd roast the veggies a bit longer, as they were a bit crisp, but if you prefer a more raw, salad-like texture, you could cook them as little as you like. The quick-marinating of the tofu really added a nice texture and flavor to it - this is a technique I am definitely going to revisit with varying ingredients in the future.

After a weekend full of work and several late nights, I'm exhausted and going to cut this short, but to my Chicago followers, let me know if you head to Green Zebra or Karyn's. Better yet, take me with you!


1 bunch thin-stemmed asparagus, washed and trimmed or tough ends, and cut in half
1 bunch true baby carrots (the kind with green tops attached), peeled and halved
2 finger peppers, sliced, with all seeds
3 T. olive oil, divided
1/4 block extra-firm tofu, cut into thirds and pressed dry of excess moisture
soy sauce
rice vinegar
1/4 c. roasted salted cashews
2 medium onions, halved and sliced thinly
salt and pepper
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
juice of one lime
juice of one lemon
olive oil
squeeze of honey


Preheat the oven to 400. In a shallow baking dish, toss the carrots, asparagus, and finger pepper slices in about 1 T. olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until desired donesness (I cooked mine for about 20 minutes). You could cook it more, but I wouldn't recommend cooking it less.


Meanwhile, heat another 1 T. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the tofu in the oil until golden brown on one side. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side. In a shallow bowl wide enough to hold the three tofu pieces, mix a few dashes soy sauce, a few dashe rice vingegar, and a squeeze of Sriracha. When the tofu is done, take it out of the pan (leave the oil in the pan) and place it in the soy sauce mixture. Let it soak until you're ready to seve the dish, flipping it occasionally. Nestle the cashews alongside the tofu, in the liquid.


Add another T. of olive oil to the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. Set aside.


Meanwhile, put the rest of the ingredients listed (starting with the cilantro) into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside. Remove the asparagus and carrots from the oven. Pile on a plate, top with some onions, lay the pieces of tofu on top, and top with a little of the tofu marinating liquid and the cilantro sauce. Scatter some cashews around the plate. Serve and enjoy!

Eat well and enjoy life, friends! More soon...

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