Visit my new blog!

I’m probably asking for trouble, trying to keep up with 2 blogs and 2 kids, but… you can now join me at Simply: Home Cooking for cooking from scratch and adventures in SOLE food.

Food in the News: List of Links

Here’s a fun blog to follow: Obama Foodorama (White House Food Initiatives…And Other Bipartisan Bytes of Food Politics). Be sure to check out the post on 2 firsts in the State of the Union address!

And kudos to Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan,  who continues to work for change to the food system in America – read a summary of her appearance at the EcoFarm Conference on Civil Eats.

Cucumber & Bamboo Beancurd Soup

If you live near an Asian market, you should be able to find “bamboo beancurd,” a nice change of pace for those into tofu. Here it’s used in a warming soup with cucumbers. Can’t find bamboo beancurd? You can substitute any firm variety of tofu – plain, pressed, or baked – cut into strips or cubes. You can use any type of cucumber for this soup, although if it has a lot of seeds, I recommend scooping them out. Easy to make this vegan if you use veggie broth.

ingredients:

  • 1 oz bamboo beancurd, soaked until soft in warm water (approximately 1 h), then cut into 1″ lengths
  • 4 oz cucumber, cut into 1.5″ lengths, then cut into eighths lengthwise
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 2 sliced fresh ginger root, minced
  • salt to taste
  • 2 c stock or broth

method:

  1. Heat the oil in the wok over medium high heat just until it shimmers.
  2. Add the scallion and ginger and explode just until fragrant.
  3. Add the broth and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer immediately.
  4. Add the cucumber and cook just until it’s tender.
  5. Season to taste.

Curried Beancurd

Full disclosure – this is really not a Chinese recipe. But since you can occasionally find curry recipes in Chinese cookbooks, and since I just received a lovely gift of some homemade curry powder, I thought, “Why not?” So here it is, with thanks to Madhur Jaffrey for the basic idea. We prefer the silken tofu, but you can certainly use any firm variety.

ingredients:

  • 1 pkg firm silken tofu
  • 1″ piece of fresh ginger root, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk
  • 1 T yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon, to taste
  • 1 sprig fresh basil or 1/4 tsp dried

method:

  1. Cut the tofu into 1/2″ cubes, then soak in salt water (1 c water:1 tsp salt) – this keeps the tofu from breaking apart during cooking.
  2. Place the ginger, garlic, and onion in a blender with 1/4 c water and process until liquified.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat, just until it shimmers.
  4. Add the liquid from the blender and stirfry until slightly less watery.
  5. Add the curry powder, stir to combine, then add the coconut milk.
  6. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 m or until slightly thickened.
  7. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice.
  8. Add the tofu and the basil and simmer until the tofu is heated through.

do ahead:

The sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator or up to 2 h in advance and left, covered, at room temperature.

variation:

This sauce would go well with all sorts of vegetables and/or meat: stirfry the main ingredients, then add the sauce and stir to combine.

Braised Cabbage

Well, the pickings are pretty slim for Chinese vegetables in Michigan in the winter – so bad that every time we cook Chinese food, my daughter groans, “bok choy agaaaaaaaain?!?” I do miss the Asian vendors at the Torrance Farmers’ Market, but we’re making do with napa and bok choy, which seem to be the only Asian produce most non-Asian stores here stock.

This recipe can be made with either napa or bok choy, although I prefer the crinkly napa for this one – it makes for an almost soup-like, warming winter dish. Want it heartier? Use a homemade chicken stock or broth. Want it vegan? Use water or vegetable stock – you may want to adjust the seasoning a bit in that case. Romaine or even iceberg lettuce is also a good vegetable to use for this dish!

ingredients:

  • 1 lb napa cabbage
  • 1 T oil
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fermented black beans, optional
  • 2 c broth, water, or stock

method:

  1. Break the cabbage leaves apart and soak in cool water – rinse and repeat if it’s particularly sandy.
  2. Heat the oil in the wok until it shimmers, then explode the scallions just until fragrant – don’t brown them!
  3. Add the cabbage leaves just until coated with oil and barely wilted.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, cover lightly and simmer just until the cabbbage is tender. If you cover too tightly or cook it too long, the color will be very drab. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Winter Vegetable & Pressed Beancurd Stirfry

Truly deep into the winter vegetables in Michigan now – if we want to buy local, we’re down to roots and a lot of the cabbage family. Luckily we like those veggies, but we do think often of the farmers’ market in Torrance these days…. This recipe is great for using up broccoli stems, although I often see only broccoli crowns available. We often eat steamed broccoli, both stems and tops, but we like to reserve a few stems for just such a dish, making the food dollar stretch a little further.

I try to cook with mostly whole, local, close to the source ingredients, but once in a while we will buy some bamboo shoots, and they are a great addition to this dish. If you live near an Asian market (or your regular grocery is into Asian ingredients) you should be able to find vacuum-packed bamboo, either the whole shoots or slices or shreds – any of those are infinitely preferable to the canned varieties.

Pressed beancurd, called doufu gan (sort of translates into “tofu jerky!”) is literally tofu that has been pressed to squeeze out excess moisture. The result is a firmer texture that some people compare to meat, although the flavor is of course different. Pressed tofu comes in a variety of flavors – our favorite is five-spice, which has a dark, slightly smoky exterior and an off-white center. You can easily substitute baked tofu, now readily available in most conventional markets, for this ingredient. Since much of the flavor in this dish comes from the beancurd, you can play around with the various flavors available – as with the Christmas Stirfry, the bbq type might be interesting here – but you may want to reduce or eliminate the soy sauce in that case.

Leftovers? Chopped finely into “confetti”, this stirfry is excellent mixed into Fried Rice.

ingredients:

  • 3 squares pressed five-spice beancurd or baked five-spice tofu (other flavors can be substituted)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″ strips
  • 1 large broccoli stem, peeled and cut into 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″ strips
  • 2 oz bamboo shoot, cut into 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″ strips
  • 1 T oil
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste

method:

  1. Slice the beancurd 1/8″ thick, then cut the slices into shreds approximately 1.5″ long.
  2. Heat the oil in the wok just  until it shimmers.
  3. Add the carrot, broccoli stem, and bamboo shoot strips and stirfry gently until the vegetable just wilts but is still bright green.
  4. Add the tofu and stirfry to heat through.
  5. Add the soy sauce, stir to combine and heat thoroughly, adjust seasoning, then slide onto the serving plate.