Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Braised Japanese Autumn Vegetables and Tofu

Any assortment of veggies can be used for the autumn stew. Above, we began with sliced sweet potatoes, quartered onions and frozen (and then thawed) tofu, all of which benefit from a longer simmering period. Faster cooking vegetables such as bok choy or broccoli should added towards then end of the cooking period; delicate greens like baby spinach or watercress need only a minute.

A good stock is the key to achieving the richest and most flavorful final result. Traditionally we use a dashi broth at Cafe Drake HRV made from kombu seaweed and dried shitake mushrooms. When you have neither in the pantry, vegetable stock will suffice. The brand seen above boasts big, deep flavor and is mysteriously low in sodium.

Apple cider is a perfect substitute for the pear cider in our recipe and easier to locate. Whichever you use, just check to be sure no sugar has been added.

The stew darkens and gets delivered an "umami bomb" with the addition of tamari.

Our autumn stew plated with brown rice and homemade kimchi. Chives or scallions are the only garnish required although a condiment dish of hot mustard is a lovely addition.

Freezing and then thawing tofu prior to cooking transform the texture and allows the bean curd to soak up, to the fullest, the savory broth.

Leftover stew with rice, shiso leaves, roasted cauliflower and peppers and habanero hot sauce.

For this recipe you can use either frozen or regular tofu. Either way, press 1 block of extra-firm tofu gently, with a clean dish towel, to remove as much water as possible. Complete directions on freezing and thawing tofu can be found HERE.

Cut the tofu into triangles or squares,really, any shape or size you like. Set aside while you heat in a wide saucepan or deep skillet 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 cup pear or apple cider, 2-3 T. tamari or soy sauce, 1 T. mirin or a sweet sherry and 2 T. grated ginger. Allow the mixture to simmer gently while you prepare the vegetables.

Now add to the pan 2 large onions (peeled and quartered), 1 large sweet potato (peeled and sliced into rounds) and the tofu. Return to a simmer and cover the pan partially. Cook over a low heat until the sweet potatoes are very soft when pierced with a knife, generally, around 25 minutes.

Add to the pan 2 cups tatsoi or spinach leaves. Cook another couple of minutes or until the greens have wilted.

Serve the stew in wide, deep bowls with brown rice. You can plate the stew with the broth or arrange the cooked vegetables and tofu in a bowl or on a plate with the sweet, rich broth on the side or even as a separate soup course. Either way, garnish with snipped chives or slivered scallions.

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