DISH: Monday Night Sweet and Sour Tofu
MAIN INGREDIENT: Firm Tofu
I know this is going to make me sound like a naive 86 year-old, but I think the Internet is really amazing. Especially since putting on the Chef Cara hat and embracing the personality of The Quarter-Life Cook, I’ve been surprised and delighted almost daily by the conversations you can have over email, Blogger, and Twitter that make you think about your own cooking in new and creative ways.
Case in point: My friend Marc has an Aunt Sara who has her own blog, on which she wanted to put an urtak question and answer section like ours. Aunt Sara, more importantly for our story, is a vegetarian with vegetarian (and vegan) children. She came to BGSK looking for an example of how to incorporate urtak, and she left with recipes for rice noodle salad and chickpea burgers. Sara claimed these recipes helped get her out of a meal-planning rut she’d been in. It goes without saying I was happy we could be of help.
But then when Sara and I got in touch and she emailed me her go-to Monday night tofu recipe, this whole Internet connective thing really took hold. Because though I’d been creative in other realms, I had been in a bit of a tofu rut—a rut I can trace back to about 1998, when Peter Berley and his Modern Vegetarian Cooking came into my life. The baked tofu recipes in this book are really, really good, and so though I don’t make tofu allll that much for a vegetarian, most of the time when I make it, I bake it. I vary the marinades, but when it comes to equipment, I like what the oven does to tofu’s texture, and so I’ve sort of been enjoying the rut. Sara’s recipe, to shake things up, is stovetop, which means it’s quicker to get on the table. It also has a built-in sauce, so as long as you have rice or barley or bulgur to go along with, you’ve got a meal.
I tested the tofu on myself first, as a throwback to when the Internet used to seem more like a sketchy imposter than a warm and cuddly connector. Now that I’ve vouched for the dish, I can assure you I’ll be serving it to others. Even carnivores.
From my kitchen, where someone else’s old standby is my new favorite, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Sweet and Sour Tofu
This recipe is pretty straightforward, but of course that doesn’t mean it isn’t open to adapting to what’s in your fridge. The lemon juice gives the tofu a fruity side, but substitute a mild vinegar in a pinch. I used 1 tablespoon grated garlic instead of ginger and it was delicious.
1 block firm tofu
about 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup honey/maple syrup/brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated ginger (or garlic)
Cut the tofu into slices about 1 inch thick. Press the water out of the slices, then cut them into 1-inch square cubes. In a baggie or on a wide plate, toss the tofu with the whole wheat flour til all the pieces have a thin coating.
Mix the lemon juice, sweetener, soy sauce, and ginger in a small bowl.
In a frying pan, warm the oil. In one layer, brown the tofu (in two batches if your pan is small). When it’s browned, add the sauce and let it cook down so the tofu is nicely and thickly coated, 5-10 minutes.