Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Seasoned Tofu and Bok Choy

This is the product of far too much ambition, though I'm not yet convinced that the work paid off. I was feeling like the lunches I've been giving Elspeth have been pretty lackluster and I am always lamenting how hard it is to keep up with our CSA. Thus, my lunch idea was born.

I stopped by the store on the way home from preschool and picked up some firm silken tofu (I thought that was an oxymoron, but that's what the package said). I did a small amount of research online for marinade ideas and unearthed the bok choy from the veggie bin and got started.

Elspeth was tentative at first but when I gave her my fork and the bowl, she shoveled in quite a bit of the bok choy. She wasn't as keen on the tofu, but did eat a couple of bites of that.

I think both my marinade and my tofu marinating technique need some adjustment, but this wasn't a bad first stab at it. I need to look at Fuschia Dunlop's Land of Plenty. She had a dipping sauce for dumplings (I think it was originally dumplings--we stuffed cabbage leaves) that might work well for a tofu marinade. Another thing to try would be to marinade and cook the tofu, but use peanut sauce for garnish instead of more marinade. I already worked harder during Elspeth's nap than I intended, or I would have whipped some up.

I took the tofu 'pressing' method from Elizabeth Andoh's gorgeous Washoku cookbook (it's so sad that I haven't managed to make much from this book) and the 'dry frying' method from the Internet

1 block firm silken, firm, or extra firm tofu
1/4 c unsalted chicken stock (I had frozen some homemade stock in babycubes for just this type of application--it would be even nicer with stock infused with ginger and scallion) Obviously, you'd need to use vegetable stock to make this dish vegetarian--veg stock could also be infused with ginger and scallion to up the Asian flavor
2 TBSP Japanese soy sauce (it would be fun to experiment with different types)
2 TBSP mirin
1 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp brown sugar or to taste
1/4 tsp ground ginger (fresh would be way better, but I didn't have any on hand)
1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (I omitted these but would have used them if making only for adults)
1 large bunch bok choy or other green

  1. Drain the block of tofu. To use Andoh's quick pressing method, blot the tofu with a paper towel. Wrap another paper towel around the tofu and put on a microwave-safe plate. Cook in the microwave on High power for 30 seconds. She says that a lot of liquid should have come out, but I didn't get too much liquid. Repeat with a new paper towel a couple of times until the tofu feels quite a bit firmer. Another method if you have more time is to press the tofu between two plates, weighting the top with some canned goods or a cast-iron skillet. Leave for 30 minutes, draining liquid once if the plate is really full.
  2. Once the tofu has been pressed, cut into about 16 pieces (I cut horizontally, then into quarters, then those quarters are cut diagonally).
  3. Place tofu pieces in a single layer in a dish (with sides)
  4. Mix together the remaining ingredients except the bok choy. Note that when I made this today, I used Melissa Ray Davis' dry fry method as written and did not marinade the tofu before cooking. I think I would next time, so that's what I will write down here.
  5. Pour 2/3 of the marinade over the tofu in the dish and let sit for 15 minutes; turn and marinate for another 15 minutes. If marinating longer, you should put the tofu in the fridge.
  6. While the tofu is marinating, clean and chop the bok choy. If you're using adult bok choy (not baby), I like to separate the stems and leaves and cook the stems first. Place stems in a microwave safe bowl with 1 tsp water and cover with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes in the microwave. Add the leaves, stir together, and cook another 1-2 minutes in the microwave. Remove from microwave, stir, and if not quite done, cover with the lid again for a few minutes. If the bok choy is done, stir in the remaining 1/3 marinade and set aside while cooking the tofu
  7. Place a single layer of tofu triangles in a Teflon pan with no oil and heat to medium (I had retired mine, but it works well at medium heat in this application)
  8. Let the tofu cook on one side without moving it around until it develops a nice crust. Not sure if it'll develop a crust when marinated, but I'm guessing the flavor will be nicer than when cooking it unmarinated.
  9. Turn tofu over and repeat
  10. Remove from pan and serve with the bok choy. I'm sure this would also be tasty over brown rice

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