This New Year started differently from previous ones: I made a resolution. I also read about New Year's resolutions and their meager chances for surviving January's cold. I decided to ignore the naysayers and plow on.
My New Year's resolution is to add weight training to my exercise routine. Like broccoli, weight training is good for me. Unlike beloved broccoli, though, I find weight training rather unpalatable. On Jan. 1, I started talking about it; I went public with my commitment and plan to follow through. To make it attainable, I started with a small dose: 15 minutes once a week.
In reality, the actual "thing" is less scary than the thought of it, like cooking with an unfamiliar ingredient. Which takes me to my wariness about cooking with tofu. I like tofu but for years I was a little intimidated and made excuses for not preparing it, until one day I decided to change the situation. The immediate impetus for cooking with tofu was a virtual culinary tour I embarked upon with a group of food bloggers. When the tour stopped in China, I read some recipes that intrigued me, borrowed a few elements from them, added some personal preferences and prepared some tofu. Not only did I survive cooking but loved the dish and have been making it ever since.
So, in the still New-ish Year, I invite you to choose a vegetable, cut of meat, fish or other ingredient that intimidates you, find a recipe the appeal of which is greater than your apprehension and go for it. If tofu is that ingredient, below is the recipe that freed me from fear.
I marinate the drained tofu in tamari or low sodium soy sauce flavored with fresh ginger and Chinese five-spice powder (a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise and Szechwan peppercorns). I then cook the tofu and cremini mushrooms. The reward is a delightful dish that you can serve as either an entrée or a side dish, over noodles, rice or other grains (the photo shows it served with quinoa) and/or with a lively salad. I also like it at room temperature and recently I brought it with me on a flight: It beat anything on the airline menu.
Marinated Tofu with Mushrooms
7 ounces extra-firm organic tofu
2 tablespoons tamari or low sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
7 ounces cremini mushrooms
1 ounce shallot
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley as topping
Drain the tofu and wrap it in a clean kitchen towel or napkin. Let stand for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, prepare the marinade by whisking the tamari or soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic clove and Chinese five-spice powder.
Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes, place them in a shallow dish and pour the marinade on it. Toss gently and let rest for 30 minutes.
Clean and thinly slice the mushrooms. Remove the tofu and put the mushrooms in the dish with the marinade. Thinly slice the shallot.
Heat a wok or frying pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the sesame oil, and swirl it around. Add the tofu and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, then transfer it from the wok to a bowl and set it aside.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, add the shallot to the wok and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, scraping the dish that held them to add the remaining marinade. Stir-fry for 1 minute, then lower the heat slightly and cook for 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms have softened, stirring almost continuously.
Add the tofu back to the wok and cook gently for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle with the parsley, toss and serve immediately.
Simona Carini also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog www.pulcetta.com.