Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spicy Szechuan Tofu & Veggies

Our meal planning process has adapted again, as we realized Dan was coming up with most (all) of the ideas anyway, and our pow-wows just slowed things down. Now, Dan's in charge of planning the meals (running them by me to make sure they sound good and do-able), and I'm in charge of cooking.

This week, he found a recipe for Szechuan Tofu online and we decided to give it a try. We adapted it to add some veggies, and both enjoyed the results - though the next time we make it I'd like to bump up the spicy factor a bit more (doubling the hot bean paste didn't quite get us there)

While prepping ingredients for this meal, I realized something I've begun doing that I didn't think to do when I started cooking, and thought other people might benefit. I start by reading through the recipe, including the ingredients and the steps, from start to finish, to understand what I need and how I'll use it - and catch anything unexpected (like "marinate overnight"). Then, while I'm measuring and preparing ingredients (like chopping veggies), I keep referring back to how they're used in the recipe, to group things together that get added together. For example, the sugar & salt in this recipe get added together, so I put them in a single bowl when measuring, rather than separate ones. Likewise, the scallions, ginger and garlic go in at the same time, so I toss those together in a bowl, and the tamari and stock go in together, so I put them in the same measuring cup. This saves Dan from washing extra bowls, but also make the recipe come together faster. The one big exception is I generally don't mix liquid and dry ingredients ahead of time, as that can alter the results sometimes.

Spicy Szechuan Tofu & Vegetables
12 oz. soft tofu
1/2 lb baby bok choy
1/2 lb green beans
1 Tbpsn peanut oil
1 tspn minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tbspn chopped scallions
2 Tbspn Szechuan hot bean paste
1 Tbspn Tamari
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn sugar
1/2 cup stock
1 1/2 tspn cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbspn water
2 drops sesame oil
2 drops hot chili oil
1/4 tspn Szechuan peppercorn powder*

Drain and rinse tofu in cold water, and cut into 1-inch square pieces. Set wok over high flame and add peanut oil. When hot, add ginger, garlic and scallions, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add hot bean paste, tofu, bok choy and green beans. Stir gently to coat tofu and veggies with bean paste. Add tamari, salt, sugar and stock, and bring to a full boil. Cover and allow to steam for 2 minutes. Uncover and add cornstarch/water mixture. Continue stirring gently until sauce thickens. Add sesame oil, chili oil and peppercorn powder and stir to combine. Serve with rice.

* In a dry skillet or saucepan, heat peppercorns until fragrant and beginning to smoke, then grinde (while hot) in a coffee/spice grinder.

(Adapted from Spicy Szechuan Tofu Recipe on Epicurious.com, taken from the Vegetarian Times Cookbook.)

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