Monday, January 23, 2012

On Refrigerator Finds + Stir-Fried Veggies and Tofu

When I go to the grocery store to get ingredients for some recipes I plan to make, I always see a couple of food ingredients that I think could come in handy when leftovers are done. These are usually pretty basic stuff like broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, ground beef or turkey, chicken breasts, or whatever catches my eye or is on sale.

The weather has been pretty bad in the past couple of days, there is tons of snow and the roads are icy, then it got a little warm and everything started melting, turning everything to slush. I did not want to go anywhere (and I didn’t have to because school was cancelled Thursday and Friday)… except for a short walk to a neighborhood store to buy hot cocoa with two good-looking men on Friday afternoon and some trudging to the gym in the snow (for the love of fitness). No grocery shopping for me. I hate going out and about when the weather is icky.

Saturday afternoon, as I rummaged through the fridge and the pantry to figure out if I can come up with something for dinner with what we had on hand, my brain went click click click. All the vegetables need to be used because they won’t last very long… and there’s that tofu that I randomly picked last week because I am still in a tofu phase. Different sauces and spices were pulled out of cabinets and lined up like eager actors, anxious to land a role in a new show. When the final decision was made, I went with making use of all vegetables and a select few of the sauces and spices. Asian food time with a side of fluffy white rice!        

This is a recipe I made up on my own and it turned out quite nicely (let’s not mention the crushed tofu though, which I will teach you how not to do). Nothing fancy... just a simple, homey dish, with the right amount of seasoning that brings out the true flavors of each vegetable.

ADVISORY: Thou shall not be daunted by the long ingredient list. Most of these, I am sure, are already in your pantry.

Stir-Fried Vegetables and Tofu (Makes 4-5 servings)

16 oz firm tofu

Tofu Marinade
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp chili paste
½ tsp hot chili sesame oil

4 cloves garlic, minced
half of a medium onion, chopped
1 inch ginger root, crushed and minced
1 ½ cups mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bella, but next time I will use shiitake)
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped

Stir-fry Sauce
½ cup chicken broth (if you’re vegetarian/vegan, use vegetable broth)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chili paste
½ tsp hot chili sesame oil
1 tsp brown sugar, loosely packed
1 tsp cornstarch
3 whole cloves, ground (about 1/8 tsp)
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp sesame seeds 
6 stalks green onions, minced

2 tbsp olive oil, for frying
½ tsp salt

Drain the tofu by placing it on a plate and putting another plate over it, to remove excess liquid. Give it about 15 minutes then cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes. (Tofu is fragile, even though the container says it is firm. Do not press on the top plate, I used too much muscle and ended up causing it to fall apart.)

While the tofu is draining, mix all the ingredients for the tofu marinade in a small bowl and whisk well. Remove excess tofu liquid from the plate before pouring the marinade over the tofu. Soak the tofu on the plate with the marinade for however long it takes you to prepare the next ingredients. If you work faster, give it at least 20 minutes to sit in the marinade.

Toast the sesame seeds in a small, non-stick frying pan, over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until it turns slightly brown. Set aside.

Mix all the ingredients for the stir-fry sauce and set aside.

Chop and mince the vegetable ingredients.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan, over medium heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic until it turns slightly golden, about 1 minute. Add the onions and stir occasionally until it softens, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté for 1 minute. Add the broccoli and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers and sauté for 1 minute. Pour the stir-fry sauce evenly over the vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce evaporates. Stir occasionally, taking care not to break the tofu into pieces. Add the salt and cook for another minute or two. Turn off the heat and add the sesame seeds and green onions, stirring just enough to spread it evenly.

Serve while hot with white rice.        


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