When I made these Thai spiced tofu and vegetable pockets for the family there was a sense of wonderment and awe at the presentation, and a resoundingly positive reaction to the taste as well.
The entire time the family was having this dish I kept getting asked how I came up with this idea? The inspiration for this meal was from watching Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa cooking show. Ina Garten was making a halibut with herbs and lemon and cooking them in the oven in parchment paper pockets Ina Garten. Herb Roasted Fish. It looked so good that I wanted to somehow replicate that dish but without the fish – I know, fish is the main ingredient, what is the point of making it then? As you can see, I had a dilemma. How to make a scrumptiously sophisticated dish like Ina Garten’s fish cooked in parchment paper but have it be vegetarian? I came up with the idea of using tofu as my main ingredient – it looks plain and white like halibut, and just like halibut cooks very fast.
The next step was to figure out how to season the tofu so it had a ton of flavor. I knew that flavoring tofu with herbs and lemon like Ina Garten did with her fish would not have the flavor punch I was looking for. I debated between using pesto or soy sauce or an oriental braising sauce. When I was discussing this dish with my friend Iya, she even suggested harissa. These seasoning blends were all on the table as the flavor enhancers for my tofu.
In the end however I decided to use Thai seasoning purely by happenstance. I was in the grocery store picking up all my ingredients for the tofu pockets when I spot right next to the vegetables these seasoning tubes for lemongrass, Thai seasoning blend, and a spicy red pepper paste. A light bulb went off in my head 💡. I bought all three seasoning tubes and used these Thai herbs and spice blends for my tofu pockets. The combination of Thai-inspired flavors with tofu and veggies turned out delicious.
When making the tofu pockets go ahead and be generous with your vegetable portions in each pocket because when the veggies get steamed they will shrink down. I have given suggestions on what vegetables to use in these pockets but feel free to improvise and choose whatever veggies you like. To make the meal a little more filling, I served these pockets with a side of garlic and coconut oil infused white rice.
As it turns out these tofu pockets ended up nothing like the original fish recipe I was trying to emulate. For Barefoot Contessa’s original fish cooked in parchment paper here is the link to the recipe. Ina Garten. Herb Roasted Fish. For the tofu and veggie pockets recipe read on.
Thai Spiced Tofu & Vegetable Pockets
makes 6 pockets
- Parchment paper
- 3 blocks of extra firm tofu. Drain and cut the blocks into 12 even rectangles for a total of 6 tofu “sandwiches”
- 15-20 mini bell peppers cut lengthwise or in circles
- 3 cups broccoli florets
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- 2 cups thickly cut mushrooms
- 1 squash chopped
- Peas, green beans, or sugar snap peas – 2 cups
- 6-8 garlic cloves
- 3 tsp lemongrass paste
- Any Thai seasoning paste
- 1 lemon cut into thin slices
- 12 mint leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Braise the tofu: On the stove braise tofu blocks in oil until lightly browned. About 5 minutes. Generously season with salt and pepper while braising. Set aside.
- Sauté the vegetables: In a large pan heat 2 tbsp oil and sauté garlic until slightly browned. Add 3 tsp lemongrass paste and all the vegetables and cook lightly for 7-10 minutes. Set aside.
- Assemble the parchment pockets: Tear 6 large parchment paper pieces. My paper size was 18”x18″. Get ready to assemble the pockets.
- Place a sheet on a flat surface. Add 1 piece of braised tofu and coat the top of tofu with Thai seasoning paste. Place another tofu block on top and coat with more Thai seasoning paste. You can mix-it up by coating the tofu with different flavored paste.
- Next, pile on the lemongrass sautéed vegetables. Top vegetables with a slice of lemon and mint leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly sprinkle salt and pepper.
- Close the pocket and place on a baking sheet. Continue doing this with the remainder of the parchment papers until you have a total of 6 pockets.
- Place in the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes take pockets out of oven and serve with a side of rice.
- Add any hot sauce such as Siracha for added heat if you like.
Cook’s Notes: The next time I make these pockets I will play around with other seasonings and vegetable combinations. Try these pockets with pesto and Italian style vegetables, or with mushrooms and miso, or with harissa, the possibilities are endless. I will definitely be making these tofu pockets again!