A brunch classic reinvented. Smoked tofu and grilled asparagus sing when topped with a super creamy and easy macadamia-chive blender hollandaise. Whip this quick brunch up on your next lazy Sunday and serve alongside huge mugs of coffee and tall glasses of orange juice or bloody mary’s.
I found asparagus! Finally. My one true vegetable love. I think I’m so smitten with it because it’s fleeting and because it signals the beginning of the warmer months, meaning the holiday season a.k.a my favourite time of year (I’m Christmas crazy!). Sadly there are no ramps to be found around these parts, unlike over in the USA and other countries I’m sure, so asparagus is the first we see of the Spring produce.
As I said in last week’s post, I thought I’d have to raid a farm to get my hands on some, but the farmers market brought the goods this weekend, and I’m very happy. I ran to the kitchen as soon as I dropped the market bags on the ground at home, clutching my bunch of asparagus kind of pathetically, as though I’d never see the jade spears again if I let them out of my sight. I probably need an asparagus intervention? But, so pretty!
I decided I’d make an asparagus Benedict with the baby spears, something I’d been thinking about making for aaages ever since I tried Hot For Food’s fantastic smoked tofu version of the classic brunch food. Back in my non vego days, eggs Benedict was my favourite thing to order for brunch whenever I went out; I’d always make myself sick from it because the eggy, buttery, bacony version is so ridiculously rich. Looking back on it, i don’t actually know how i ever ate it, it’s just way too full on with all of that dairy and egg yolk.
My Benedict is still rich, but not in a i-need-to-lie-down-and-sleep-for-five-hours kind of way. The good, happy kind of rich that makes you feel like you’ve just been given a big warm hug. It would be perfect to serve to hungover friends (or any friends), with Bloody Marys and lots of caffeine. It’s just the right pick-me-up! Plus it looks, sounds and tastes kind of impressive, so feed it to anyone you have coming over for brunch and be ready to receive all of the compliments.
My version is definitely inspired by the recipe on Hot For Food – I’ve kept the smoked tofu in mine because I loved it in their version and prefer it over regular tofu now. It has a lot of flavour and the texture is always better. Regular firm tofu would be just fine though. I never tried making traditional eggs Benedict at home, the hollandaise just seemed like too much work and so easy to mess up. This macadamia-based version that I whipped up however is stupidly easy (& animal-free!), you just put everything in a blender and at the end you’ve got hollandaise perfection.
It’s so so creamy and it tastes just like how I remember traditional hollandaise tasting, except better probably. Actually, thinking on it, definitely better. It’s bursting with flavour and I love the tangy brightness that the lemon & white wine vinegar bring to the party. It’s rich, but not in a way that makes you sick afterwards, and because it’s basically just made of nuts, you could drink the whole blender and not feel too bad! Though you probably shouldn’t do that. It sits so happily on top of the asparagus, smoked tofu & crunchy bread, so save at least a little for them?
I’ve been looking for an excuse to fire up my charcoal grill since bringing it out of hiding last weekend and it was such a beautiful Spring day outside on Sunday, so I thought grilling the asparagus, bread & tofu for the Benedict would be perfect. The asparagus was so thin and new, the spears only the size of my pinky finger – I knew that charring them on the grill over the hot coals would add a whole lot of smoky depth & would cook them quickly to maximise their flavour. They were so sweet and crisp, I didn’t want to ruin something that was already perfect by overcooking them. So, to the grill it was!
My tofu was already smoked, but cooking it on the grill added an extra layer of smoky flavour and the bread turned a deep golden brown and was all crunchy, olive-oily and just so good. I love grilling! But I let (make?) Chris – my other half – do it most of the time. I just like to eat all the things that come off the grill, I don’t actually like doing the grilling myself.
I’m not sure why, but I always tend to take a step back when it comes to the grill. Maybe I’m just sexist? Either way, it meant I was able to take some photos & he got to eat Benedict for brunch. So it was a win-win. He helped me create a few moody photography boards (used in this post) this weekend as well…I think he may be a keeper. Or just the best un-paid assistant ever.
We served the Benedicts along with big mugs of coffee from our (new!) french press, tall glasses of fresh orange juice & some fresh fruit alongside for afterwards; Sinatra was playing quietly in the background and sun was streaming through the open windows. It was a good time. A perfect Sunday morning.
I feel like coffee and orange juice (or bloody marys) are a necessary addition to the brunch table when serving Benedict, it’s just not the same without them – you need that bitterness and bright acidity to play off the creamy hollandaise. The coconut bacon, avocado & baby spinach are optional here but highly recommended. I didn’t have any coconut bacon around so left that one out, but if you have any, go for it!
Grilled Asparagus, Smoked Tofu Benedict + Macadamia-Chive Hollandaise
Yield 4 people
vegan, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free, gluten free if using gf bread
Inspired by the geniuses at Hot For Food.
A brunch classic reinvented. Smoked tofu and grilled asparagus sing when topped with a super creamy and easy macadamia-chive blender hollandaise. Whip this quick brunch up on your next lazy Sunday and serve alongside huge mugs of coffee and tall glasses of orange juice or bloody mary's.
- 1 c raw macadamias, soaked 4–6 hours
- 1/4 c raw cashews, soaked 4–6 hours
- 1 c almond milk or water
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil
- 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (approx 1/2 a lemon)
- 1 1/2 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt or to taste
- a few grinds of pepper
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped chives (or 1 tsp tarragon for a different + equally delicious hollandaise)
- 4 thick slices of crusty bread / english muffins (i used turkish style bread)
- 1 x 300 g block smoked tofu (or regular firm tofu if you are unable to find smoked)
- 300 g asparagus (about 2 bunches), woody ends cut off
- 1 garlic clove, cut in half
- olive oil
- sea salt + black pepper
- 1 avocado, skin removed + avo sliced thinly
- a few handfuls baby spinach
- coconut bacon
- chives / herb flowers
- coffee + orange juice / bloody marys for the ultimate brunch
- Drain the soaked nuts & add to a blender (preferably a high speed one if you have it) with all of the other hollandaise ingredients except the chives. Blend on high speed until the sauce is completely smooth & all the ingredients have emulsified. It should not be grainy at all, if it is, just keep blending. I have a vitamix & didn't soak the nuts at all (although it really is best to soak them!), it took 5 minutes or so to get the sauce super smooth & creamy, so just be persistent. Add a few more tbsp. of almond milk / water if needed to thin it out a little.
- Once smooth, pour it into a little saucepan ready to heat up. Stir in the chopped chives, check the seasoning & add a little more salt / pepper / lemon if it needs it.
- Get your grill (or a grill pan / fry pan) nice & hot. While you're waiting for it to heat up, drizzle the sliced bread with some olive oil & cut your tofu block into 8 thinish slices (2 per person). Make sure all of your benedict ingredients are prepared & ready to go. Start to heat your hollandaise, keep an eye on it & make sure to only just warm it. Once warmed through, remove from the heat & cover with a lid until ready to use or keep warm on a very low heat.
- Once the grill / pan is heated to a high heat, throw in your bread & allow to cook until golden brown & crunchy on each side. Remove to a plate & rub with the cut end of the garlic clove & sprinkle with a little sea salt. Place your tofu on the grill, drizzle with some olive oil & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cook until browned all over, about 2 minutes each side. Remove to the plate with the bread. Now toss your asparagus with a little olive oil, salt & peper and place on the grill. Cook until tender (but still a little crunchy) & charred in places, turning with tongs as the spears cook. My thin, new season asparagus only took 2–3 minutes, if you have thicker spears they will take longer to cook. Remove to the plate with the bread & tofu. If you have a big grill / pan, you could just cook everything all at once (just make sure you don't crowd the food, or it won't grill properly).
- Put your garlic rubbed bread on a plate, top with avocado slices & a handful of baby spinach if using, then the tofu, grilled asparagus spears & a big drizzle of the warm hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with some coconut bacon if using & some finely chopped chives / herb flowers. Pour any leftover warmed hollandaise into a jug & keep on the table for people to add more to their benedict if they'd like. Serve straight away alongside big mugs of coffee, orange juice or bloody mary's for a brunch feast.
If you make the hollandaise the night before, this will be a super quick & easy brunch dish the next morning, just reheat the sauce gently when you're ready to go!
Don't heat the sauce too vigorously though or it may over thicken or become lumpy — if you do happen to make it too thick, just add a little more almond milk/water & re-blend if necessary to smooth out any lumps.
I didn't worry about soaking my nuts for the hollandaise, my vitamix blended them up perfectly, it just took a few extra minutes of blending to get the sauce completely smooth & emulsified. If you have a less powerful blender, i recommend soaking the nuts.