Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gingery Tofu and Cabbage Stir-Fry

Sometimes, I'm ambivalent about what I want to make, agonizing over every ingredient and flipping through endless magazines for inspiration. And sometimes, like with this stir-fry, inspiration hits me as soon as I see an ingredient.


I knew I would have a ton of leftover cabbage from the fish tacos, and I immediately knew I wanted to make a brown rice and tofu stir-fry. I've been meaning to cook something with an Asian flair lately, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

I had to pick up the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, but being long-lasting staples, I wasn't worried, especially since I had most of what I needed on hand. The one thing I really wanted was sesame oil, which Dominick's didn't have, but I used olive oil and it still came out tasty.


Cabbage, in my humble opinion, is an under-used and under-appreciated ingredient. The one downside is that, being one person, it's almost impossible to use an entire head of cabbage (I see why it's a staple in the peasant soups of Europe - it's cheap and plentiful!). Unlike spinach and the like, cabbage really stands up to high heat and strong flavors, making it perfect in a spicy and gingery Asian dish. I really used a heavy hand with the ginger in mine, but if you like your ginger subtler, just tone it down a bit.

I was thrilled that I finally successfully fried tofu to a lovely golden brown - normally I just stir it in and wonder why it doesn't firm up and get some color (the key is frying it in a dry pan before you put it in a dish). It really enhanced the texture and allowed it to hold up through the vigorous stir-fry process.


Overall, this came out really nicely, and it was a great healthy end to a weekend of delicious indulgence at various barbeques and bars. I hope you put your own twist on this stir-fry (chicken, perhaps?) and enjoy it as much as I did.

GINGERY TOFU AND CABBAGE STIR-FRY

INGREDIENTS

1 cup dry brown rice
2 cups water
a little salt

1/2 a large head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 large white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced in rings
1-2 tsp. freshly grated ginger root
3 cloves of garlic
3 T. olive oil (or you could use vegetable or sesame oil)
a few good shakes of rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. reduced-sodium soy sauce, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
1/3 of a block of extra-firm tofu, sliced and patted very dry

fresh chopped cilantro for garnishing
raw cashews for garnish (optional: I needed to use some up, but they definitely added a nice crunch. You could also use unsalted peanuts)


STEP ONE:

Cook the brown rice in the water with a little salt, covered, according to package directions. Set aside. When as much of the moisture is squeezed out of the tofu as you can manage (pressing gently between paper towels), heat a large skillet over medium high heat and fry the tofu for a few minutes on each side, not moving it around, until it gets golden brown on each side. Remove from pan and set aside.

STEP TWO:

Using the same pan, add the olive oil and let it heat up for a minute, then add the onion, carrot, and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes, seasoning with a little salt and pepper and red pepper flakes (I went easy on the salt all the way through this dish because I knew I was going to season it later with the soy sauce).

STEP THREE:

Add the cabbage and add a little more salt/pepper/red pepper flakes. If your stir-fry looks too dry, add a little more oil. Cook for a few minutes, until the cabbage begins to soften. Add the vinegar and stir-fry everything for a few minutes. When the cabbage has gotten even softer, add the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry a little more.


STEP FOUR:

When the garlic and ginger are fragrant, stir in the rice and the soy sauce and stir-fry a little more. Add the tofu at the very end, careful not to break it up too much with the stirring. If it needs a little more soy sauce, add it. Serve, garnishing with the cilantro and cashews, and enjoy!


Thanks for reading! More soon...

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