I first made this deliciously spicy, sweet, savory dish last year when I decided to get on board with the Meatless Monday movement and cut out meat once a week. Cutting meat one day a week can reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease while saving precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel. Think about it: by reducing your meat consumption by 15%. you not only improve your personal health, but the health of the planet as well AND, it will challenge you to venture into the vegetarian or vegan realm and get creative 🙂 Go to MeatlessMonday.com for more information, recipes, and to find out what health institutions, the media, chefs like Mario Batali, celebs like Oprah,and movers and shakers such as Michael Pollan and Wendy Murdoch (Rupert’s better half) have to say.
But first, are you ready to put the POW on some tofu? Check out my vegetarian take on a classic Chinese favorite: Kung Pao Tofu! This dish takes a bit more preparation because it calls for crisping the tofu first, but its totally worth it. It’s also important to have all your ingredients in place because, as with any stir fry, once you heat the wok or skillet the cooking part goes lightening fast!
12 ounces firm tofu
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 T. mirin (Japanese rice wine) or sherry
1 T. cornstarch
dash of salt and several grinds of fresh ground pepper
1. Can be prepared the day before, but at least one hour before you plan to bake the tofu, combine the ingredients in a bowl, stirring well. Slice the tofu cake into quarters, cut into ½ inch wide strips, then cut those in half. Place in bowl with sauce and toss to coat. Let stand for at least 40 minutes at room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.
3. Lay marinated tofu on baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until browned and lightly crisped on the bottom, 10-15 minutes. Turn pieces and bake another 5-10 minutes. While the tofu is baking, prepare the ingredients for Kung Pao Tofu below.
Kung Pao Tofu
(Adapted from The Passionate Vegetarian | Yield: 3-4 servings)
1 recipe of Oven-Baked Tofu
2/3 cup organic, low-sodium vegetable stock
3 T. tamari or low-sodium soy sauce*
2 T. mirin (Japanese rice wine) or dry sherry
1 T. honey (or agave for vegan)
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. vegetable oil, preferably peanut
red pepper flakes
2 T. ginger, finely chopped or zested*
2 t. garlic, minced
½ lb. green beans, tips cut off, cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
½ c. water
1 bunch scallions, split lengthwise and cut into ¾ inch lengths
⅓ cup honey-roasted peanuts*
1. As the tofu bakes, combine the stock, soy sauce, mirin, honey, and cornstarch and whisk to break up lumps.
2. Prepare all the ingredients and place next to the stove.
3. Place the vegetable oil in the seasoned wok or skillet over high heat. Let it get very, very hot – it will be fragrant with a glazed, swirly look on top. Add the red pepper flakes and stir-fry for one minute.
4. Add the ginger and garlic, and stir-fry for 10-20 seconds. Add the green beans or asparagus, stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the water and immediately put the lid on. Let steam over very high heat until veggies are crisp-tender and the water has almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the lid, allow any remaining water to boil off. Toss in the green onions, stir-fry for 2o seconds.
5.Stir the sauce mixture to re-blend and pour into the hot pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce becomes a clear, thick glaze – about 30 seconds. Add the oven-baked tofu and honey roasted peanuts. Serve immediately, over rice (preferably brown rice).
*Notes: For even less sodium, I use Coconut Aminos which can be found at Whole Foods or other natural food stores. I use a microplane to zest ginger – its quick and leaves you the fresh ginger minus the fibrous texture. I made my own honey-roasted peanuts by tossing them with a tablespoon of organic honey and roasting in the oven after removing the tofu. Turn the oven off and roast in the remaining heat, check after about 5 minutes, turn the nuts and roast for 5-10 more minutes.
Great to snack on too! Add a little sriracha or hot sauce to the honey for sweet & spicy.
For best results when stir frying – have everything cut and ready to go! Mise en place (pronounced MEEZ-ahn-plahs) is both a French term and a method. It means “put to place” and is the arrangement of all the prepared ingredients in bowls on the counter or on a tray so that they are ready to go.
Published in 2002, the Passionate Vegetarian, by Crescent Dragonwagon, is one of my go-to cookbooks and a sentimental favorite as Crescent was an exciting restauranteur and person of influence in my hometown during the 80’s and 90’s. The Passionate Vegetarian is a bountiful cookbook whose 1000+ pages will captivate you with engaging storytelling and healthy, exciting, imaginative, and deeply satisfying vegetarian cuisine.