Whenever we have to go out for dinner as a family, we have some obvious choices: Olive Garden or PF Changs. And from that you can deduce that Italian is one of our favorite cuisines. It is actually DH’s preference, he says there is something magical about how Italian food is enhanced by the wine that is paired with it and how the wine is more enjoyable with the cheesy Italian food. I for one don’t feel so strongly about wine, but I guess it does seem a good point. Anyway, the dish that is my DH’s favorite at Olive Garden is the Chicken Parmesan and it is served with a side of mashed potatoes and a mushroom gravy. I have been wanting to make my own version of it at home one day, and make it vegetarian so that I can eat it as well.
The obvious choice was Eggplant Parmesan. But, I have been trying to increase my protein intake especially during dinner as an attempt to control my dinner and fasting blood sugar levels and using tofu in place of the chicken seemed reasonable. After some research, I set out to make Almond crusted tofu parmesan. I also made garlic mashed ‘faux’tatoes, aka garlic mashed cauliflower and sauteed mushrooms to go with the tofu. It not only made a pretty plate resembling that of Olive Garden, but tasted good too.
I have made it a very healthy version by cutting down on the fat and the carbs, by using almond meal in place of breadcrumbs/flour for the breading and by shallow frying the tofu steaks. Here is a healthy, vegetarian, high protein, low carb, gluten free version of an Italian classic.
1 lb firm or extra-firm tofu
1/2 cup almond meal(See Note below on how to make almond meal at home/where to buy)
1 egg + 1 tbsp water
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese + 1 tbsp
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp dried parsley
salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup pasta sauce(see Note below)
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
First, start off by pressing or weighing down the tofu(see note below). This helps get the moisture out of the tofu and helps it fry up.
Next, set up an assembly line:
1. Tofu Triangles: Once the tofu is pressed, cut the block of tofu lengthwise and breadth wise, making 4 squares. Cut each square diagonally to make triangles.
2. Egg wash: A small bowl with the egg beaten with water, a pinch of salt and pepper to make an egg wash.
3. Breading: Whisk the almond meal with 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, black pepper, Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder and parsley.
Heat up a non stick pan over medium heat and coat with a tbsp of olive oil. Dredge the tofu triangles in the egg wash first and coat evenly with the almond meal mixture. Place in the pan and fry until the coating turns crispy. Flip to the other side and fry the other side as well.
Drain on paper towels and set aside. Take care not to crowd the pan. I was able to fit 2 -3 triangles at a time.
At this point, you can proceed with the recipe in two ways.
Line the tofu triangles on a plate. Top with about 2 tbs of warm pasta sauce(Just microwave for 30 seconds). Top with mozzarella and serve.
Stack the triangles in an oven safe casserole dish. Top with about 1/2 cup of pasta sauce(watch the carbs in the pasta sauce, see notes), sprinkle 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese and a tbsp of parmesan. Set under a broiler for about 5 -10 minutes, until the cheese melts and is bubbly. Serve with sides of choice.
Verdict: This was a delicious recipe, befitting a feature at an Italian restaurant. It is also a very healthy recipe and I enjoyed making this and eating the outcome. The sauteed mushrooms and the mashed cauliflower(recipe coming soon) that I paired it with, made our dinner a very gourmet affair. Even DH agreed that this was truly Italian, and would eat it again.
* How to Press Tofu: I usually wrap the tofu in a kitchen towel and place a cutting board on top and bottom of it, weighing it down with a gallon of milk.
* How to make Almond meal at home: Place whole almonds in a food processor and process until you get a flour like consistency. Be careful not to process it too much, or you would end up with almond butter.
* Where to buy Almond meal: Almond meal is available for a very good price at Trader Joes. It most times works out cheaper than buying whole almonds and processing it into flour.
* Pasta Sauce – Watch out: This is an SBD friendly low carb recipe, but you can easily lose out the low carb benefits, if you don’t pay attention to the pasta sauce you use. Look at the ingredient list to make sure the brand you use, does not have any added sugar. Also helps to make sure the pasta sauce has less than 6 grams of carb per serving.(the typical serving size is 1/2 cup)
Sending this dish to:
– Cooking with Seeds – Almonds, event series by Priya.
– MLLA 58, an event originally by Susan of the Well Seasoned cook, now taken over by Lisa.
– Jagruti’s Gain Popularity event
– Spotlight: Show your Best Creation, event series by Ria