Friday, September 18, 2015

Vegan Chinese Weeknight Dinner: Soft Tofu, Country Style and Homemade Sichuan Pickles

The tofu simmers gently in a spicy brown sauce. Our recipe was lightly adapted from the cookbook Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health.

Soft Tofu, Stir-fried Asian Greens, Honey Drop Tomatoes, Millet and Sichuan Pickles

SOFT TOFU, COUNTRY STYLE

You'll need soft tofu for this recipe as the delicate, custard-like texture is essential to this dish of contrasts, pudding-smooth bean curd in a silky, hot and tart sauce. So begin with 1 block soft tofu. Be very careful removing the tofu from its packaging; if falls to pieces if stared at too long! Gingerly, with the deft hands of a skilled surgeon, wrap the tofu in a paper towel and leave to drain for 30 minutes at room temperature or up to 4 hours refrigerated. When the soft tofu has been drained of excess moisture, cut into 2" cubes and set aside.

In a shallow, wide skillet, over medium heat, combine together 1 cup water, 1 T. tamari or soy sauce, 1 T. toasted sesame oil, 1 t. rice or apple cider vinegar, 2 T. cornstarch, 6 cloves of minced garlic, a pinch of salt and a large grinding of black pepper. Bring to boil, whisking constantly and then reduce to a low simmer. Stir until the sauce has thickened. Add the tofu and heat to just warm through. Stir carefully so the tofu doesn't crumble. Sprinkle generously with crushed red pepper flakes and serve hot, with rice. Entirely optional garnishes might be sliced scallions or chopped cilantro.


SICHUAN PICKLED VEGETABLES

To begin, fill a clean 1-quart jar with boiling water and cover with its lid. Set aside while you prepare the pickles.

In a saucepan combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 t. salt and 2-3 small dried red chilies. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Season with 1 T. crushed Sichuan peppercorns. Set aside.

Drain the jar of water and with clean hands fill the jar with a combination of roughly chopped Chinese cabbage, peeled and sliced carrots, slices of red and/or green bell peppers and halved red radishes. Fill the jar not quite to the top. Now pour the reserved brine over the vegetables, making sure the veggies are all beneath the brine. Wipe the jar rim clean and seal. Allow to cool to room temperature then refrigerate for 1-2 weeks before opening. If refrigerated the pickles should keep well for at least 6 months.

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