While musing on the #veganuary challenge during a run last weekend, I decided to take on breaking down the barriers that surround a vegan staple (and, if done right, an overall delight): tofu. Tofu! Too many people have experienced bad tofu: gummy, watery, and bland. But, when done well, tofu can bring down a house (it may also burn down a house if you are not careful when frying but that’s a simple fact of cooking with oil. Fire extinguishers are key!)
So, I decided to host a “Tofu Done 5 Ways” gathering later this month both to introduce tofu in new ways to some friends and to glean their knowledge and experience in working with this powerful protein. What are the 5 ways, you ask? We’ll do some simmered tofu (either in soup or an simmering sauce), fried tofu, baked tofu, pureed tofu, and raw tofu. For the raw tofu, I decided that I wanted to make sushi. But, there’s a catch:
I don’t know how to make sushi.
I do know how to eat it though. Fortunately, through the insight of social media, I discerned my friend Chelsea is a sushi-rolling master. So, I asked her if she would teach me her ways, sensei. She happily agreed, so we’ll be knocking that out later today. To prepare for this endeavor, I visited a foodies gem in the haunts of an old Circuit City:
Why I hadn’t shopped at Li Ming’s Global Market more frequently is beyond me, but that will change for 2015. Rows and rows of fresh vegetables, tofu, and simmer sauces labeled in languages far beyond my linguistic grasps. After selecting the nori and other key sushi-making project ingredients, I sought the pièce de résistance for a dish from Veganomicon: fresh Udon noodles. I had never worked with fresh noodles before (a travesty!) and was overwhelmed by the sheer options of Udon noodles staring back at me. Some where seasoned with various animal-based proteins, so I carefully selected a straight-up-now-tell-me packet. And, after a few chops, flips, and minutes, this is what I was left with:
With some added bok choy (because who can resist giant bags of bok choy for $2?!), I found this recipe to be sublime. Excellent broth – the ginger/garlic combination is present but not overwhelming. This miso (which I also bought at Li Ming’s for an obnoxiously inexpensive price) tickled the tongue. Aaron and I took down the entire recipe (yes, it serves four) last night. What I also liked about the fresh udon noodles is that it came in four-individual packs, so we still have two left in our fridge, waiting for their own bath in the pool
Udon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kale in Miso Broth
Serves 4; Time: 35 minutes
1/2 pound fresh udon noodles or dried udon noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
1 medium-size red onion, sliced into thin half-mooons
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons mirin (optional)
2 cups water
3 tablespoons miso (see note below)
4 cups chopped kale
2 teaspoons soy sauce, or to taste
Note: In this recipe, Isa & Terry used a strong, dark miso (which I did too). If you are using a light, mellow miso, you may want to add another tablespoon or so.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the udon according to the package directions (about 10 minutes for dried; 3 – 4 minutes for fresh). When done, drain and rinse with cool water until ready to use.
Meanwhile, preheat a large skilled over medium heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms in the oil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and the onions are softened but still have some crunch. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute.
Add the mirin, water, and miso, and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the kale. Toss the mixture around with tongs until the kale has wilted. Add the noodles and use a paste spoon to stir them into the broth for about 2 minutes.
Divide the udon and vegetables among bowls and spoon some broth over each serving.
Then, slurp away, my friends. Slurp away. I just steamed the bok choy and threw in one for some additional green vegetable love.
And, one additional food-related plus for today. During my Target meat-alternative excursion, I discovered this brand of veggie burger:
After yesterday morning’s run, I tossed it into a pan for some protein fuel. YUM! Sweet Earth nailed it. It has a nice crunch on the outside, and I definitely could taste the Middle Eastern spices. I will gladly try out some of the other flavors.