With summer here and lots of grilling on the horizon, I decided I needed to throw more vegetarian meals into our weekday dinners. I often practice a “vegetarian before 5pm” rule, limiting our intake of animal protein to only dinners and even then, we don’t eat meat every night of the week. Certainly after our chili and sweet potato fries, and Memorial Day brats, we were ready for some lighter fare.
I know tofu makes a lot of people cringe. I can’t understand it because I ate it all the time as a child and my mom never presented it as a health food. A lot of Chinese food has tofu in it. Fried, laden with MSG, or steamed, tofu was a common ingredient at home. My palate is used to it. I like tofu the most when it gets to be itself, not masquerading as a burger, nugget (or other meat substitute), or some other filler. In fact, I can eat tofu straight out of a container. My co-workers who have seen my brown-bag lunches know that I even eat tofu sandwiches (all credit for that creation goes to my dear husbanders).
I pulled out a recipe I ripped out of the April edition of the Food Network Magazine and gave it a whirl. You know by now, I made my own modifications. I added onions and eggplant to increase the veggies. I subbed the oyster sauce for hoisin sauce and used rice wine vinegar and a dash of orange juice instead of Chinese rice wine. Of course, I couldn’t resist adding sesame seeds, a dash of sesame oil, and some sriracha for extra heat. I failed in my attempt to follow their methodology of coating the tofu and cooking it in the skillet because it left me with a gooey broken up mess, so I skipped that step all together. I was pretty happy with the result and proud that it bears some resemblance to the magazine photo. Check out Food Network’s version here and see for yourself!
TOFU, VEGGIES, AND PEANUT STIR-FRY
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup tablespoon water
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon orange juice
1/4 cup Hoisin sauce (I prefer Lee Kum Kee brand)
1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2-4 whole dried arbol chiles
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bella, you can use button mushrooms, or shitake too)
1 small eggplant, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound sugar snap peas, strings removed, halved crosswise
1 package 19 oz. firm tofu, drained and cut into large pieces (see below)
1 cup unsalted peanuts (preferably raw, but I used roasted because that’s all I had)
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
½ teaspoon sesame oil
Make the sauce: Whisk cornstarch, water, rice wine vinegar, orange juice, hoisin sauce and sriracha together in a bowl. Set aside.
In a wok or large pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. I did this in a dutch oven and it works wonderfully, just make sure you give it enough time to heat up before adding the oil. Add the ginger and chiles and let cook for one minute. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and eggplant.
Cook all of the vegetables together until the onions, mushrooms, and eggplant are tender about 2-4 minutes. Turn the heat to high, add the sugar snap peas, cook for about 1 minute then give the sauce a quick whisk and add it to the pan. Stir and combine everything together. Add the tofu, peanuts, sesame seeds, and sesame oil. Stir to thicken the sauce, taking care not to break up the tofu.
When the sauce begins to simmer and the tofu heats through, it’s ready to serve. Salt and pepper to taste. I served this with some basic brown rice.