Charlotte Brontë, Charlotte the Dog, and Sesame-Crusted Tofu: A Winning Combination

The demure and dazzling Charlotte Brontë. Image via Nick Shelton.

There are few books that my husband Cameron loves more than Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Yes, he loves all things sci-fi, has read every book ever produced by Charles Dickens, and could point to his top three favorite Amy Hempel short stories, but Brontë’s titular character makes him swoon.

I can understand. Jane Eyre is a strong-minded female character who overcomes a host of trouble to maintain her spirit and independence. I was just annoyed (spoiler alert!) by the ending when Jane returns to Thornfield hall to serve as Rochester’s nursemaid after he is blinded in a fire caused by his insane wife who’d he’d locked away in his attic. Jane! Rochester is a dweeb. You deserve better!

Right around the time Cameron and I were re-reading Jane Eyre this spring, we decided to adopt a dog. I’d been trawling local animal shelter websites to acquaint myself with potential pooches who wouldn’t devour our cat Waffles. If you love animals as much as me, scrolling through photo after photo of shelter dogs is a bad idea. At one point my favorites list included twenty dogs. Somehow I doubt the pug twins, the Australian shepherd, the litter of Cavalier King Charles spaniels, the basset hound, and the Yorkshire terrier would have been happy in our already “cozy” downtown apartment.

To quench our growing obsession for a new four-legged furry friend, Cameron and I visited several of the area shelters. We successfully talked each other down from adopting a pet until we stepped into Velma’s unadorned room at the Denver Animal Shelter. She was lying on a towel-covered bench, head on her paws, gazing up at us forlornly. The animal attendant mentioned how her brother had recently gone on to a nice family and that Velma had been listless ever since. When I sat down beside her, she wiggled her paws and upper body onto my lap and nuzzled her nose into my elbow. Within an hour, she was hopping into the back of his car and learning her new name, Charlotte.

Charlotte the Australian Red Heeler. Image by Author.

While Charlotte the dog is not as enamored with Brontë as we are, she does make it her mission to spend every waking moment near us. She’s one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met, bringing so much joy to our home; I can’t imagine our lives without her in it. She even cuddles with our curmudgeonly cat! We’ve caught them grooming each other’s faces and paws when they thought we weren’t looking.

Most dogs beg for scraps, and while we’re often vigilant about saying no, one day when Charlotte was begging for a taste of our meal, we broke a small piece of tofu and gave her a nibble. She’s a big fan of her fancy Canadian dog food, but apparently she’s also a fan of sesame-crusted tofu.

Once you try the following recipe, you’ll probably understand immediately. The sweet and savory combination in the lemongrass-orange reduction sauce is delicious, and we pair the dish with a side of stir-fried dark leafy greens. A lot of folks I know balk at recipes that call for reduction sauces because they assume the sauce is hard to make. It’s not, I promise. Keep an eye on the pan as you’re reducing the sauce, and you’ll be fine.

Tofu and Greens, Top-notch vegan fare. Image by Author.

Sesame-Crusted Tofu with Lemongrass-Orange Reduction (adapted from Vegetarian Times)
Serves 4-5

1 16-oz. pkg. firm tofu, drained
6 Tbs. hulled sesame seeds
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1 Tbs. minced fresh lemongrass
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 Tbs. reduced-sodium tamari
1 large orange, supremed, for garnish

1. To make Cutlets: Press tofu between 2 cutting boards for 30 minutes. (I used two dinner plates, and I took Charlotte for a walk while the tofu pressed.) Drain the excess water and pat dry. Halve tofu crosswise into 2 slabs, and then slice each slab into 3 cutlets.
2. To make Reduction: Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and pepper; sauté for 3 minutes. Whisk in juice, broth, and tamari. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
3. Spread sesame seeds on plate. Dredge Cutlets in sesame seeds.
4. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat; add Cutlets. Cook 10 minutes, or until golden brown, turning once. Serve each cutlet with 3 orange slices and 3 Tbs. Reduction.

*The reduction sauce makes the dish, so if you have extra, I recommend pouring a little extra on the tofu.

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Cathy says:

    Sounds delicious – and what a sweet doggie!

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks, Cathy! I’d make that reduction sauce for all kinds of savory dishes. If you eat meat, I bet it would go well that, too.

  2. Clanmother says:

    I agree with you on Jane Eyre! I am enjoying following your blog!!!

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks, Clanmother. I’m glad to add another Jane Eyre admirer to my Jane Eyre admirer guest book. 🙂

  3. Su-Lin says:

    Oh, I’ve lost my heart to your Charlotte! She is utterly adorable! And I’ve certainly not made many reductions and am keen to try this vegetarian one!

    1. gwynnem says:

      I definitely give this sauce recipe two thumbs up. Let me know how it turns out!

  4. Awww…Charlotte is such a sweetie! 🙂

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks, Christina. Between her and our cat Waffles, we have quite the family over here in Denver. 🙂

  5. What a great new spin on tofu. Love the flavor combinations! such a sweet puppy. Take care, BAM

  6. orchid says:

    i love, love tofu ! i am drooling over your tofu recipe right now 🙂

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thank you! It’s really good. Just be sure to cut the tofu into reasonably-sized slabs of goodness, so you can get a good sesame crunch-tofu tenderness ratio. 🙂

  7. I’m not sure anything has made me want to try tofu more than your recipe has! The sauce sounds delicious.

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks, Délice! I think this dish would be a good entry into the wonderful world of bean curd. 🙂

  8. EDW says:

    So cute when animals lick each others’ faces and then get all embarrassed about you seeing it happen. Thanks for the recipe — I love tofu but get so bored with the same three recipes over and over again. This looks comany-worthy. Also, congrats on Charlotte.

    And you’re right about Rochester — total dweeb.

  9. Joan says:

    I could cry reading how despondent Velma was after being separated from her brother. Too bad they couldn’t have been adopted together but so happy that you found her and that you chose to rescue from a shelter. Yay you!

    1. Gwynne says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Joan. Our sweet Charlotte has gone to receive lots of love from us, her curmudgeonly brother Waffles the Cat, and her little human sister. 🙂

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