How, you may ask, can one make Osso Buco without meat? After all, doesn’t Osso Buco translate to English as ‘bone with a hole’ or ‘hollowed bone’?
With all due respect to my Italian friends, where true Osso Buco is a staple in their household, it’s easy to make. Really, it’s easy and takes approximately half the cooking time of the meat/bone version. This vegan version retains the rich, deep flavors of traditional Osso Buco while substituting organic style tofu cubes for veal.
1 pound fresh firm organic style tofu
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 small bay leaves
3 stalks celery (chopped)
2 carrots (coarsely chopped)
1 medium red onion (coarsely chopped)
½ green bell pepper (chopped)
½ red bell pepper (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups water
2½ teaspoons Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
¼ cup Marsala wine (white wine works but Marsala works better)
¼ cup brandy
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut tofu into 1-inch squares and pat dry with paper towels to absorb excess water. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy pan. Place tofu in pan and braise, turning on all sides, for about 10 minutes. Remove tofu to a plate or dish.
Wrap the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf in cheesecloth and tie with cooking twine. This is a “bouquet garni” that makes it easy to remove herbs that lend flavor but won’t cook down. If you’ve ever made stew and crunched down on a bay leaf that wasn’t removed you know what I’m talking about!
Reduce heat on empty pan to medium-low. Add celery, carrot, onion, peppers, garlic and the last 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté for approximately 10 minutes. Add bouquet garni, vinegar, tomato paste, water, bouillon, wine, and brandy to the pan. Bring to a boil. Add tofu, reduce heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
Remove the bouquet garni. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite rice dish (Risotto is good) and a tossed green salad for a complete meal. Mangiamo!