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Vegetable Stir-Fry with Tofu

The secret to success with any stir-fry is to cook the ingredients quickly in hot oil over high heat, so always have everything you need cut, measured and next to the stovetop before you begin cooking. You can vary the vegetables here according to what you have on hand, such as trading out the yellow squash and sugar snap peas for cabbage. To do so, core 1 head of cabbage and cut it into large dice. You can also add a tangle of pea shoots or fresh herbs just before removing the pan from the heat.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb. firm tofu, drained
  • Cornstarch for dusting
  • 3 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 carrot, sliced on the diagonal, or 3 or 4 small, slender carrots,
      cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch rounds and halved
  • 1/2 lb. sugar snap peas, strings removed
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. chicken broth
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. hoisin sauce
  • Few dashes of soy sauce
  • Few dashes of chili oil
  • Few dashes of rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white rice, cooked according to package instructions

Directions:

Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and blot dry with paper towels. Dust the cubes with cornstarch and blot again.

In a deep fry pan or a wok over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the canola oil, swirling it to coat the pan. Add the tofu and cook until lightly browned on one side, 2 1/2 to 4 minutes. Turn the tofu cubes, being careful not to break them up, and cook until browned on the other side, 2 1/2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Wipe the pan clean, place over high heat and warm 1 Tbs. of the canola oil, swirling it to coat the pan. Add the garlic, ginger, carrot and bell pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add to the plate with the tofu.

Return the pan to high heat and warm the remaining 1 Tbs. canola oil. Add the onion and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the squash, snap peas and a pinch of salt, and stir and toss to coat with the oil. Stir in the five-spice powder and 3 Tbs. of the broth and stir-fry until the vegetables have begun to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and chili oil and stir. If the mixture seems dry, add the remaining 1 Tbs. stock. Cover and cook until the vegetables are almost crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.

Uncover the pan and add the carrot mixture and tofu. Stir to blend and heat through, about 3 minutes. The liquid should be almost fully evaporated. Season with the vinegar to balance the flavors.

Mound the vegetables onto a platter and sprinkle with the sesame oil. Serve immediately with the hot rice. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Vegetable of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2012).