It is a constant struggle to keep week day meals interesting. My mother, Claudia, was a strict budgeter; with 5 kids to feed she had to be. However, the result of this budgeting was that frequently you could tell what day it was by what was on the table. I had the same problem when I worked off shore, “If it is Tuesday it must be T-bone steaks.” No matter how good the food is, it gets boring if it is predictable.
I have some tofu that has been sitting in my refrigerator for some time. The other day I was at the Chinese market and picked up some Chinese broccoli and bamboo shoot. Since I have not done Chinese in a while, I decided that this was the night to put them all together.
Chinese broccoli is one of Jan’s favorite vegetables. You basically get two vegetables in one with kai-lan. It has broad, dark green leaves and a stem that looks and tastes very like Western broccoli. I wash and shred the leaves and then cut the stems into one and a half inch planks. Although the flower buds are edible, if the plant has gone to flower it is best to remove the buds.
There are two ways to buy bamboo shoot (three if you count the woody stuff you can get in a can). Fresh bamboo looks like a stick, if it is regular bamboo, or a horn, if it is giant bamboo. You peel off the outer layers and slice it into planks for a crunchy addition to your stir-fry. You can also buy bamboo pre-cooked. This is bamboo that has been peeled and boiled or steamed to make it soft. You will usually find these in the refrigerated shelves or at the end of the vegetable bins in buckets full of water. When you have picked out your bamboo, hold the cut side down over the bucket and squeeze it gently to break the internal membranes. This will allow the trapped water to escape. Frequently, one of the buckets will contain shredded bamboo, but I prefer not to buy this, because this is usually the old bits that were not sold as whole bamboo shoots.
Karl’s Tofu and Chinese Broccoli Stir-fry
14 oz. extra firm tofu
1 tsp. hoisin sauce
½ tsp. chili garlic sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
3 Tbs. peanut oil, separate uses
1 lb. Chinese broccoli
6 green onions, coarsely chopped
1 giant bamboo shoot, boiled, peeled and sliced into planks
½ large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbs. hoisin sauce
3 Tbs. chili garlic sauce
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. ginger, minced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. corn starch mixed with 2 Tbs. of water
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.
Tip: Quick method—Slice the tofu block into ½ inch planks. Lay three layers of paper towels on a large dinner plate and arrange the tofu over the towels. Lay three more paper towels on top and put a second dinner plate right side up over them all. Put a weight on the top plate and press the tofu for 30 minutes to an hour.
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 4-5 planks out of the standard block of tofu.
3. Spread the marinade over a dinner plate and dip the tofu in it to cover the planks completely with the sauce. Let the tofu marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Put one tablespoon 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 golden brown (about 3-5 minutes per side).
5. Let the tofu planks cool slightly and cut them diagonally into 2 inch strips. Set them aside
6. 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.
Tip: Prep the rest of your ingredients at this time. Measure all of your sauce ingredients into a small bowl so you may add them all at once. Once you start stir-frying there is no time to chop vegetables or to measure sauces. Keep the cornstarch mixture separate.
7. Put the rest of the oil in your pan and measure the rest of the ingredients into a small bowl and set it near to hand while you are cooking.
Tip: I usually use one of my woks when I stir-fry, because before they cook down the vegetables may take up a lot of room. If you do not have a wok, a very large sauté pan will work.
8. Heat the oil in wok pr pan over medium-high heat until shimmering.
9. Add the broccoli stems to the pan and stir-fry them until they are mostly translucent, about five minutes.
10. Add the onions and bamboo. Continue stir-frying until they are just cooked, about three minute.
11. Add the leafy parts of the broccoli, red pepper and garlic. Stir-fry until they are just cooked, about three minute more.
12. Pull the vegetables to the edges of the pan. Pour the contents of the sauce bowl into the empty spot the center and stir-fry briefly to blend the ingredients.
13. Add just enough of the cornstarch to thicken the sauce.
Tip: Add half of the cornstarch mix and heat the sauce for one minute. If the sauce is still seems thin, add the rest.
14. Add the tofu and then toss to coat the tofu and vegetables with the sauce.
15. Give the tofu a minute to warm through and then serve immediately with steamed rice (brown, of course, for Jan).