i was trying to decide what to make this week since i actually am in town when i came across a vegetarian cookbook in my kitchen cupboard.
“clark, is this yours?” i hollered at my brother.
“huh, no,” he answered, as if he would ever own this kind of cookbook.
i checked the front cover to see if it had been signed as a gift from someone, but there was nothing. i don’t ever recall making the conscious decision to make this purchase, and i am at a loss as to how it came into my possession. i guess its origin will remain a mystery!
i flipped through the pages, searching for something a little outside my comfort zone, and there it was, sesame tofu stir-fry over rice. now, as we all know, i am a meat-eater through and through (not to be confused with a maneater), and even though i’ve only ever had tofu a few times (so few times that i can probably count them on one hand), i figured i’d be adventurous and give it a try. so, tofu is what would be for dinner!
a good number of components make up this dish, but when all was said and done, i didn’t think anything was abnormally difficult or demanding. but, hey, that’s just me!
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds
*disco kroger did not have black sesame seeds, so i just doubled-up on the regular ones
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 (1-pound) package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
*this you can find in the organic section of your store; it’ll be refrigerated and probably near the yogurts and cheeses
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
4 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 3/4 pound)
3 cups (2-inch) slices asparagus (about 1 pound)
*disco kroger also didn’t have asparagus. i know, they’re on a “we don’t have things” streak for this recipe. i got broccoli instead, which isn’t the worst since i like broccoli, but still, asparagus would have been nice.
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
*don’t worry; disco kroger at least had bundles of these guys just waiting to be bought.
1/2 cup organic vegetable broth (such as swanson certified organic)
2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (such as lee kum kee)
2 cups cooked long-grain brown rice
*i wasn’t in the mood to cook rice, so i just grabbed an uncle ben’s microwaveable pouch. sandra lee would be so proud!
combine sesame seeds and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.
plop that tofu out of its recyclable container and just look at it in strange wonder. because a block of coagulated soy milk and bean curds is just an interesting thing to see.
and then, as you realize the oil is burning in the pan and creating a lovely little haze around you, cube the tofu into 1-inch chunks, coat them in the sesame seed-salt mixture, and toss ’em in the pan.
after about five minutes, or until the tofu is looking golden brown, remove the tofu and keep aside, warm. i just put it in a sealed container and popped it into the microwave. boom!
return the pan to the heat and coat it with cooking spray. add the mushrooms, frying about three minutes or until they begin to brown.
add the asparagus (aka, broccoli) and stir-fry another four minutes or until the greens are crisp and tender.
reduce the heat to medium.
grab ‘dem green onions you sliced so perfectly…
and add them in the pan.
combine the broth, hoisin sauce, less-sodium soy sauce, cornstarch, and chili garlic sauce. add this broth mixture to the pan and then remove the pan from the heat. do not worry, that sauce will thicken up nicely!
add the tofu and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. toss gently to combine and serve over rice. just like that!
i plated my meal and man, i’ll be honest, it actually looked really appetizing. unfortunately, upon chewing that first forkful, i knew it wasn’t love at first bite. the sauces were tasteful. the broccoli nice and crunchy. but the tofu and shiitake mushrooms were doing all the wrong things for me.
the tofu’s texture was the big kicker for me. it’s not solid yet not soft, kind of crumbly and mealy but not quite. i tried to eat the pieces on my plate but couldn’t get past bite three before giving up on it.
as i sat there, mindlessly eating as i watched the bachelor, it became clear that this dish, for me, was a flop. i can picture it being more delicious with chicken or maybe even shrimp, but that tofu is my turn-off. perhaps you feel differently about this particular food item? if so, come on over because i’ve got plenty of leftovers for you!