Ordinarily, when stir-frying tofu, I use the drain and freeze technique to prevent it from turning to mush. But I did not have such luxuries on Monday night, so I went for a quick press followed by a slow cook in order to remove the moisture before incorporating other ingredients. A little bacon fat didn’t hurt.
Tofu, Kale & Bacon Stir-Fry
Bring a large skillet up to medium-low heat with a piece of thick-cut bacon. Flip every so often. Meanwhile, place half a block of extra firm tofu on some paper towels to drain, pressing and flipping to extract as much water as possible. Slice a small red onion pole to pole. When the bacon is firm but not overly crisp, remove it to a paper towel. Slice the tofu into thick matchsticks and add to the pan. Drizzle some soy sauce over the top and let sit until the pieces are browned and lightly crusted. Rinse a couple of handfuls of kale, de-stem and chop roughly. Rotate the tofu and continue cooking until quite firm and somewhat leathery. Slide to the side, crank the heat up to medium, and add a little neutral cooking oil along with the onion. Grind a good dose of Szechuan peppercorns over the top. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is limp and nicely charred. Slide to the side and add a little more oil, the kale, and a nice pour of soy sauce and chili oil. Slowly incorporate everything together and cook until the kale is crisp-tender. Chop the bacon and sprinkle over the top. Some scallions would be nice if you’ve got ’em. Maybe a little sesame oil.
This is a big week. CSA season started and the teenage vegan is making her annual pilgrimage to New York. Rather than camp out on an air bed in my living room, my baby sister will be interning with the Powerhouse Theater for six weeks and, much to my delight, bunking in my old dorm. She was scheduled to fly into LaGuardia at 3:00 this afternoon. It is now after 8:00pm and her flight to White Plains (yes, White Plains) has yet to depart. This is Eliana and the plane that may or may not bring her to New York tonight.
I had planned a lovely vegan dinner for two. Alas, it looks like I will be dining alone.
Happy Rich, Seitan and Shiitake Stir-Fry
- 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon corn, canola or peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon chili oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3-4 small cloves)
- 1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
- 15 or so sichuan peppercorns
- 1 small onion, halved and cute pole to pole
- 1 small bunch Happy Rich (shoutout to Windflower Farm and Prospect Park CSA!), broccolini, Chinese broccoli or other sturdy greenery, chopped
- 8 ounces seitan (which, incidentally, freezes brilliantly)
- 1/2 tablespoon concentrated vegetable stock (If you have remembered to replace the tamari you used up last week, you could probably use that instead.)
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
- parsley (optional)
- 1 cup brown Jasmine rice or whatever else tickles your fancy, cooked
- Boil a little water, pour it over the shiitakes and let stand while you get your rice going.
- Bring a wok or large heavy-bottomed skillet up to medium-low temperature with the vegetable oil, chili oil, garlic, ginger and sichuan peppercorns. (I might recommend crushing the peppercorns up a bit, which I did not.) Once your pan starts sizzling and from then on, be sure to stir almost continuously. Cook for a couple of minutes until the oil is infused, add the onion, crank up the heat to medium high, and stir-fry until the onion starts to brown around the edges. Add the Happy Rich and cook until just starting to go limp. Toss in the seitan.
- Add the vegetable stock or tamari, rice wine vinegar and the shiitakes with their liquid. Cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or two until the liquid has boiled off.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil and some fresh flat-leaf parsley if you happen to have some languishing in the fridge.
Polish off half of this with the remainder of the surprisingly full-bodied Pinot Gris you’ve been nursing all week. Pack the rest in a recycled takeout container to present to the teenage vegan–if and when she arrives.