Fun question: I was watching A Taste of History and I found out a bit of American history.
Who introduced tofu to America?
(hint: It was not Thomas Jefferson. Answer below the recipe.)
This dish is not what I went to the store to prepare. As I was sitting and thinking about dinner I remembered the stir-fried lettuce stem I was served in Chengdu. When I got to Lion Market, I found that they did not have it. I had seen it there before, so I guess it simply is not in season. What was in season was Chinese broccoli (gai-lan in Mandarin). What I normally do with this vegetable is make Spice Chicken and Noodles, but that is a real production number and takes hours to prepare. I wanted something simpler for a week day meal.
I love Twice Cooked Pork. Last week I made it with leftover Cuban Roast Pork and it was so good. But what do you do if you don’t have any leftover pork? Yes, you can cook some pork just for the occasion, but that adds a lot of effort to what should be a quick and easy meal.
Jan is always on me to do vegetarian meals, especially since she broke her rib and cannot exercise as much to burn off the calories of my meals. Today’s solution, to both problems, was to substitute tofu for the pork. Tofu is an extremely versatile vegetable cheese and if you press out much of the liquid you can use it as a substitute it for meat.
Karl’s Twice-Cooked Tofu
14 oz. extra firm tofu
1 lb. Chinese broccoli or 12 green onions or 2 leeks
2 Tbs. peanut oil
2 Tbs. chili bean paste
2 Tbs. sweet bean paste
1 Tbs. fermented black beans, rinsed and crushed slightly
1 Tbs. ginger, minced
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1. Several hours before dinner, drain and place the tofu on a large plate. Place a smaller inverted plate on top of the tofu. Place a weight on the top to press the liquid out of the tofu. Pour off any liquid that has seeped out of the tofu.
2. When you have pressed as much liquid out of the tofu as you can, slice the block into half inch planks. You will get 5-6 planks out of the standard block of tofu.
3. Put a Tbs. of peanut oil in a non-stick pan over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering add the tofu planks and fry them on both sides until spotty golden brown (about 3-5 minutes per side).
4. Let the tofu planks cool slightly and cut them into two by half inch strips. Set them aside
5. Rinse, trim and slice the Chinese broccoli. I separate the leaves from the stems, and then stack and shred them into half inch strips. I cut the stems into 2 inch pieces and cut the thicker pieces into planks so that all of the pieces are close to the same size.
6. Put the rest of the oil in your skillet and measure the rest of the ingredients into a small bowl and set it near to hand while you are cooking.
7. Heat the oil in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat until shimmering.
8. Add the broccoli stems to the pan and stir-fry them until they are mostly translucent, about five minutes.
9. Add the leafy parts and stir-fry until they are just cooked, about three minute.
10. Pull the vegetables to the edges of the pan. Pour the contents of the sauce bowl into empty spot the center and stir-fry briefly to blend the ingredients.
11. Add the Tofu and then toss to coat the tofu and vegetables with the sauce.
12. Give the tofu a minute to warm and then serve immediately with steamed rice (brown, of course, for Jan).
Answer: Benjamin Franklin described the recipe for making tofu in a letter to naturalist John Bartram in Philadelphia in 1770: “I send,…some Chinese Garavances, with Father [Ferdinand] Navaretta’s account of the universal use of a cheese made of them…the Tau-fu….” Samuel Bowen of Georgia planted the first soybeans five years earlier (in 1765), but seems to have been unaware of their use in making tofu.