Back in Thyme: Baked Tofu & Kale Chip Bowls with Tahini Dressing

Flore-style bowlFor Vegan MoFo, I’m doing a series called Back in Thyme, in which I travel to other periods of my life.  Today I’m setting the date to the year 2009, when I would regularly visit Flore Vegan Restaurant…

Back in Thyme BannerWe have a bird feeder just outside our dining room window.  One of the kitchen table chairs acts as a kitty perch, where the cats watch Feline TV and make catcalls to the birds outside who are having dinner.  The birds don’t seem to notice or care, but it gives the cats a chance to be as menacing as their adorable, furry selves can manage.

Knowing how hard it can be to wait for your favorite shows to come back on television, I try to keep the birdseed in full supply, so that the cats don’t miss their program.  This means that with some regularity, I go to the grocery store to get a huge bag of birdseed.  And whenever I leave the store, hefting a 20 pound bag, I always laugh to myself, thinking about if someone were to catch a picture of me at that moment – a vegan with an enormous bag of birdseed leaving the grocery store.  I think of them sizing me up and saying, “Yep.  That’s about what I thought.”

When it comes to so-called “vegan food,” people have a lot of opinions.  In addition to seeds, they imagine it’s all tofu, rice or barley, carrots, tahini, sprouts, avocado, and kale chips…  Oh, did I tell you that I have a recipe for you?

Baked Tofu & Kale Chip BowlThat’s right.  As much as I always talk about how vegan food is just food (and it is), the truth is, I like all of those crunchy, granola foods for which vegans are mocked.  I like green smoothies, green juices, hemp seeds, coconut water, and yes, I also like salt & pepper potato chips and cookie dough coconut milk ice cream too.

Welcome to a who’s who of much maligned plant foods… When a vegan throws a dinner party, this is likely what people fear they will be serving.  This bowl was inspired by the Basmati Brown Rice Bowl I would often get at Flore, a vegan restaurant in Silver Lake, California.  (You can find my write-up about their restaurant here.)

Flore MenuFor this bowl, I use my standard baked tofu recipe, which has appeared many times on my blog in various incarnations.  Not only is a big batch of baked tofu good for a bowl like this one, it’s also so handy to have as a straight-out-of-the-refrigerator snack, slipped into sandwiches or salads, or added to stir-fries for a quick weeknight meal.

For the grain, I chose barley or brown rice, but you could go with quinoa, millet, farro, or whatever tickles your fancy.  It’s then topped with all of the carrots, avocado, sprouts, and kale chips your heart desires.

Enjoy the filling warmth of the tofu and barley.  Revel in the crisp texture of the kale chips against the creamy, nutty tahini.  Sink your teeth into the fatty goodness of avocado until every drop is gone.  After all, sometimes an Iowan has to have corn-on-the-cob.  Sometimes a cat has to meow.  And sometimes a vegan has to have a dinner of tofu & kale chips.

Baked Tofu & Kale Chip BowlBaked Tofu & Kale Chip Bowls with Tahini Dressing

Serves 4-5

  • 1 batch brown rice or pearled barley (Recipe below)
  • 1 batch Easy Baked Tofu (Recipe below)
  • 1 batch Kale Chips (Recipe below)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Tahini dressing (Recipe below)
  • Optional toppings:  Sprouts, sunflower seeds & tamari

In serving bowls, include a scoop of brown rice or barley, 2 slices of tofu, a handful of kale chips, a scoop of grated carrot, and a few slices of avocado.  Top with tahini dressing and any of the optional toppings you prefer.

Baked Tofu & Kale Chip BowlEasy Baked Tofu

Makes 10 slices

  • 1 Tablespoon tamari
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 20 ounce vacuum-packed super firm tofu, sliced into 10 equal slabs*
  • 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large lasagna-style glass casserole dish, combine the extra virgin olive oil and tamari.  Lay the slabs of tofu evenly across the dish, taking time to coat each side with tamari and olive oil.  Put into oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, flip the tofu slabs, and cover evenly in lemon juice.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes and remove from oven.

* For this recipe, I use the large vacuum-packed tofu from Wildwood or Trader Joe’s that doesn’t need to be pressed, but you could certainly use a water-packaged extra firm tofu instead, press it first, cut it into six slices instead of 10, bake it in a smaller dish, and adjust the amount of liquid accordingly.

Brown Rice or Pearled Barley

Makes 2 cups

  • 1 cup brown rice or pearled barley
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water

Put the brown rice and vegetable broth in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil on the stove.  Once it has reached a boil, turn the temperature to low and cover the pot with a lid.  Continue to cook on low for 35-40 minutes, until all of the broth or water has been absorbed.  Turn off the heat and fluff the rice or barley with a fork.  Cover with the lid and allow it to sit for five minutes before serving.

Baked Tofu & Kale Chip BowlKale Chips

Adapted from Practically Raw

  • 1 bunch of curly kale
  • 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse kale and remove the hard center ribs.  Tear the kale leaves into chips of medium, mostly equal-sized pieces.  Keep in mind that the kale will shrink while it cooks, and so aim for pieces that are about two inches big if possible.  Put the kale chips in a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible.  The leaves should be as dry as possible, so that they will get crisp in the oven instead of soggy.

Put the kale chips in a large mixing bowl with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.  Using your hands, rub the oil, lemon juice, and salt into the kale, taking care to evenly coat them.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Lay the kale chips evenly across the sheets, taking care that they don’t overlap.  (You don’t want them to steam instead of bake.)  Bake the chips for 15 minutes and remove from oven.  Check for doneness.  You want them to be crisp, not burnt.

If they are not quite done, flip the chips, and return them to the oven, putting the baking sheets on opposite racks for even roasting.  Return them to the oven to bake for another five minutes or less, keeping a careful eye on them to make sure they don’t burn.  When the chips are crisp, remove them from the oven and serve.

Tahini Dressing

Makes about ¼ cup dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

In a small bowl, combine tahini, water, one teaspoon of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt with a fork until completely combined and creamy.  Taste and add additional teaspoon of lemon juice, if preferred.  The thickness of tahini will vary, and so if you’d like a creamier or more watery dressing, add additional water as needed.

60 thoughts on “Back in Thyme: Baked Tofu & Kale Chip Bowls with Tahini Dressing

  1. “In addition to seeds, they imagine it’s all tofu, rice or barley, carrots, tahini, sprouts, avocado, and kale chips…” Of course those aren’t even close to being ALL I eat or enjoy, but they are still some of my favorite foods!

    This entire bowl looks absolutely delicious, and I’ll definitely have to try the simple tahini dressing. We are always on the lookout for new ways to dress up our greens.

    • I agree, those are some of my favorite foods too! Especially when it comes to avocado, any meal is made better by its inclusion!

      Let me know if you try the tahini dressing! It’s kind of nice to have a simple sauce that doesn’t require dirtying the blender.

  2. Love it! There are times that I have a big bowl of barley with tofu and kale too and Irving always teases me for being so granola! I know he’s secretly jealous that he didn’t ask me to make enough for him!

  3. yum! I have to say, you are one step ahead of me because I just cannot get behind green smoothies. But, I did have an entire batch of collards (steamed) and an entire head of cauliflower (roasted) with noochy queso and tofu ricotta for lunch… so, there’s that! And, this meal looks totally glorious to me. I would love it. And I love that it’s got so many flavors and textures going on, and is super healthy. :) perfect!

    • First the breakfast burritos and now the green smoothies… Are you sure you’re a California vegan? Well, I suppose if you’re still eating nutritional yeast flakes and tofu ricotta, we can let you keep your membership! ;)

  4. Yep, it’s true – I know it’s all stereotypical vegan stuff, but I go made for kale and tofu. I find myself craving dark green veggies and beans. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right. That bowl looks divine!

    • Yeah, I generally use kale chips as a snack, but there’s something so satisfying about having that crunchy texture with the other softer foods in the bowl.

  5. Bowls are one of my all-time favorite meals! This looks so yummy!

    Also, off topic, but I had to laugh at your ‘crunchy’ comment. I was once at an art festival in Minneapolis and there were a lot of meat vendors, and I said, “for so many crunchy people you’d think there be more vegan options” and the lady next to me started laughing so hard I thought she was going to pass out :)

  6. I totally love a big bowl of hippy food from time to time, especially when it’s smothered in tahini sauce! I STILL have not made kale chips, I almost feel like a bad vegan for never trying such a popular recipe. One of these days…although I’m still kind of iffy about them for some weird reason.

    • I had heard there was one vegan out there who had never made kale chips, but I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to meet her! ;) But seriously, you should try them at least once. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

  7. This is the kind of thing I am trying to eat more of and I love how simple this recipe is. I will definitely be trying it out. Whenever I go to Flore, I can’t bring myself to get anything besides the Southwestern Seitan Quesadilla.

    • Oh, I’ve never tried the Southwestern Seitan Quesadilla! I know how hard it can be to veer from a favorite. Their portobello mushroom tacos are also really terrific. Let me know if you give this a go! :)

    • Isn’t that a great movie? I was half considering just getting an orange life jacket when we were looking for costume pieces, because it was surprisingly difficult to find an orange puffy vest without down/feathers. Luckily, I was able to find this one online after some searching.

      It’s true! Sometimes the simplicity of baked tofu, greens, and grains just feels right!

  8. Yum yum yum yum! I have to admit, when I first went vegan I didn’t like the crunchier vegan dishes but now I absolutely love them. I think it took some time for me to appreciate simpler dishes after coming from a greasy SAD. It never occurred to me to put kale chips in a bowl. That’s kind of genius!

    This is exactly what I was craving today and I just happen to have all the ingredients on hand. Hooray!

    • Good point! I’m sure when I went vegan, I wouldn’t have initially been excited about a meal of tofu and kale chips either. Now it’s the kind of food that I crave! I tend to use sautéed kale too in bowls, but the chips add a fun extra texture. If you make it, I hope you enjoy it!

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  10. This meal looks like heaven to me ^-^ Some days you want fancy, some days you want pizza (home-made, of course!) and others, all you want is nice big bowl of healthy, hearty comfort. I could really do with a bowl of that right now!

  11. Pingback: Do you think that healthy food tastes bad? | Care2 Healthy Living

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