Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ebrace the Tofu

For this week's recipe, I simply made a variation on my typical tofu and mixed vegetable theme. This isn't about being original, it's about sticking to a routine, which is to eat vegan on a regular basis. Sometimes repetition makes it easier to do that; as long as it's not the same thing every week. One way I decide what to make is to quickly survey the crisper, and see what I have either excess of, or what looks like it may have a short shelf-life. If there are a couple of brown spots on the broccoli, it goes in the dish. Same goes for the mushrooms. Zucchini looks fine until the day it oozes from the bag; kind of a buy it and use it item, or pick and use if you grow it. I noticed that when I am making stir-fry, there really isn't much of a sauce to speak of once it is served, compared to ordering a stir-fry dish at a local Chinese restaurant, when the sauce is half the meal. I suppose I inadvertently make a tasty vegetable rather than a tasty sauce to cover it- which takes skill, as one needs to time it right and not overcook anything; if one is using many different kinds of vegetables, they may have differing cook-time requirements making it easy to choose nuking everything and pouring on a tasty sauce. However, if one is doing this weekly, it won't take long to realize that broccoli crowns take less time than celery or onions. I've mentioned this before but I want to emphasize that it seems to work best to add the flavorings very late in the game; even fresh garlic, jalapenos, and cilantro can go in very last. Add ingredients like soy sauce or lemon too early, and it will get absorbed or cooked down to the point that it is hard to distinguish any flavoring was used at all. Add it late, and the seasoning stays concentrated on the outside of the vegetable, embracing the tongue with flavor!

1 package flavored tofu
3 celery stalks
1 large onion
1 large broccoli crown, and stem
4 cloves garlic
¼ head cauliflower
½ jalapeno pepper
¼ tspn cracked pepper
1/ 4tspn red pepper
1 tablespoon Bragg's aminos or soy sauce
2 tablespoons Bragg's apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Agave syrup
Frozen ginger root, 1 teaspoon grated
1 cup mixed rice
¼ cup lentils
water to first joint on pinky
1 tablespoon Old Bay
1 teaspoon canola oil
a bit of chopped onion
cracked pepper

In a largish pot, add the mixed rice, and then add the proper amount of water. I use the pinky method; put the tip of your pinky top of the rice, and add water until the water level meets your first joint on the pinky. Put this on high heat, add the oil, lentils, onion, and cover. Once it starts boiling crank down to about medium heat; you want it to continue to simmer but not boil over. This may take an hour or so to cook.

Over a large bowl, hack off the broccoli crown in steps to get the size pieces you want. Take a sharp knife and carve out stalks from the head of macauliflower, then quarter those pieces. Chop onions, celery, & broccoli stem (peel first.) Cube the tofu, and finely chop the jalapeno; squash and peel the garlic cloves, then slice into quarters. In a large skillet or Wok, on med-high heat, add 2-3 tablespoons canola oil; the oil should sort of cascade when you hold the pan up and turn to a 45 degree angle. If it runs in a single blob, it may not be hot enough. Once hot enough, add onions then season with pepper and a little salt. Stir often, and once they start to brown, add everything but the broccoli tips; stir until lightly bronzed, or until the cauliflower start to soften. Now add the remaining ingredients, including the Bragg's aminos, vinegar, agave, cracked red and black pepper, and grated frozen ginger. Once the crowns get deep green, take it off the heat.

I let everything cool for a bit, then transferred to air-tight containers for instant meals later. If the rice sticks to the bottom, but is not totally burned (it will smell awful) and before you spend the next week getting intimate with a Brillo pad, try this: first, do not remove the rice yet, and do not turn down the heat yet. More than likely the rice just needed more water- so add about another ½ cup or so, place back on the heat, and scrape the bottom with the tip of a wooden spoon. The stuff should start to come off easily.

As soon as you've got it, take it off the heat before it happens again!

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