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Episode 301: Barbecue Health Food

Grilled Tofu in Pita with Middle Eastern Flavors

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Serves 4

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Grilled Tofu in Pita with Middle Eastern Flavors

Ingredients

For the pickled onions:

  • 1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the rub:

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumi
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (sea or kosher)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the tofu:

  • 12 ounces extra firm tofu, drained if water-packed sliced into 4 “steaks” (See Note below)
  • Extra virgin olive oil

For the tahini sauce:

  • 1 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Water, to thin sauce
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher), to taste

For the watermelon:

  • 4 wedges seedless watermelon, each about 3/4 inch thick
  • Nigella seeds (black onion seeds)

For serving:

  • 4 pita breads
  • 2 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cornichon (small French pickles)
  • 2 to 3 small hot or sweet peppers, thinly sliced (seed if milder peppers are desired)

Recipe Steps

1: Set up your grill for direct grilling and heat to medium-high.

2: Make the pickled onions: Combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the onions and set aside. (Cover and refrigerate if not using right away.)

3: Make the rub: In a small bowl, combine the spices and mix with your fingers to eliminate any lumps. Set aside.

4: Arrange the tofu “steaks” in a single layer in a baking dish. Brush both sides with olive oil and season generously with the rub. Set aside.

5: Make the tahini sauce: Combine the tahini, garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Whisk to combine. Add salt to taste. Thin to a pourable consistency with water (1 to 2 tablespoons). Whisk again, then transfer to a small serving bowl or cruet.

6: Sprinkle the watermelon wedges on both sides with the nigella seeds.

7: Brush and oil the grill grate with vegetable oil.

8: Grill the pita bread until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Grill the watermelon on both sides until marked with grill marks (you want the watermelon to stay crunchy on the inside).

9: Grill the tofu until marked with grill marks and warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and slice into 3/8 inch pieces. Arrange on a platter along with the pita bread, scallions, cucumber, cornichon, and chiles.

10: To assemble the sandwiches, slice an edge off each pita bread and open the pocket. Add sliced tofu, scallions, cucumber, cornichon, and chiles as desired. Drizzle with the tahini sauce. Serve with the watermelon wedges.

Note: If the tofu seems especially wet, angle a cutting board by the sink (elevate the edge of the board with a folded dish towel), lay the tofu on the board, and lay gently place something heavy (like a cast iron skillet) on the tofu to press out some of the water. This will take about 30 minutes.

Recipe Tips

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Steven Raichlen’s Project Fire is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2021 Barbacoa, Inc. Photos by Chris Bierlein

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