Bubbling Cauldron of Reviving Potion

An example of how to use this physical component in a full blown spell:

Cut two blocks of firm tofu into three sheets each. Lay out flat and press with as much weight as you can get onto them for at least 30 minutes. Uncover and cube each sheet into sixteen.

While your tofu is pressing, get one can of black beans (with the goo) into a food processor or blender along with a generous portion of roasted garlic, vegetable broth and Chinese five spice. Don’t render completely smooth, but try to be sure nearly all the beans are broken up.

Get your wok (or a huge, non-stick skillet, or a huge cast iron skillet you trust to be not sticky) rocket hot and give it a very generous portion of the fire and ice potion. Once hot, augment with more unflavored high heat oil (like safflower) and possibly toasted sesame oil for flavor. Drop the tofu cubes in and keep them moving vigorously until they begin to brown up (in addition to the red oil stain, don’t mistake the one for the other). Splash some soy sauce and cook off the moisture. Splash a big sum of “rooster sauce” and do the same. If the season and your habits allow, do the same with fish sauce. Put the tofu aside in a serving dish.

Add the black bean mixture along with a second can of un-processed beans into the hot wok. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, stir often. Depending on how much broth you added, this may take some time. If you get bored, impatient, or simply want a lot of sauce, use corn starch to thicken before the liquid reduces too far.

Slice a batch of snap peas on the bias and put them on top of the tofu. Pour on the sauce, stir to combine, and serve with rice or noodles.

Have a lot of beverages near to hand — and handkerchiefs.

A Well Balanced Breakfast

And by well balanced I mean just enough “East meets West”.

I previously have discussed how to make oatmeal, not glue.

I’ve reduced my daily portion to 1/3 of a cup. Actually, for a long time it was down to 1/4 of a cup and is back up to 1/3. Half a cup proved to simply be way too much to try to get down every single day. I’d feel overfull all morning and not want lunch until three.

But that aside, I’ve been sticking largely to the basics; steam with water in just a hair more than 2:1 ratio for 30 minutes after browning in olive oil, with salt, for 30 minutes. Then add almond milk, honey (or agave nectar) and all spice, nutmeg, cinnamon or clove depending on my mood.

However, when Liz got back from her Summer in Tokyo and was talking about the traditional Japanese breakfast including miso soup, I got a funny idea. What if instead of sweet oats, I went for savory? So, I have tried steaming the oats in water, then finishing them with veggie broth, miso paste and toasted nori sheets. The result was way too salty, but had a lot of potential. If I can find a way to control the salt, this will prove to be a fantastic savory alternative to sweat oats. Suggestions on getting the salt down are welcome. Perhaps steaming wakame with the oats instead of toasted nori is a good start…

Well, this morning I took another direction. I steamed my oats in Ti Kuan Yin oolong tea and then flavored with soy milk and Chinese five spice. This was also very tasty, but not quite savory. Anyone know anything about Chinese breakfasts?

Dragon’s Breath Stew

What to do with all that napalm sauce I made?

Yet another spicy tofu dish, of course.

Slice a carton of extra firm tofu into 1/2 inch thick sheets and press between two plastic cutting boards with heavy weight for at least an hour.

Put your noodle cooking pot on to boil as you ordinarily would.

In your blender combine two ladles of your napalm with a generous spoonful of dashi miso paste, a handful of garlic cloves, a tablespoon of Chinese five spice, a quarter cup of sugar and two tablespoons of corn starch with two cups of vegetable broth. Obliterate into a smooth liquid.

Remove press and slice tofu into 1/2 inch cubes.

Fire up your wok on your hottest flame. Coat with safflower oil and toasted sesame oil. Brown the tofu cubes.

Open a carton of silken tofu and dump into the wok. Toss vigorously to break up into curdles. As all the water cooks out and pools, transfer to a sieve and back to the heat, repeating until no more water pools out.

Pour the spicy liquid over the tofu and stir occasionally to prevent burning on the bottom and to encourage thickening and evaporation.

Cook a generous portion of rice noodles in your boiling water and drain, do not rinse but immediately portion out — leaving starches on the outside of the noodles helps the sauce to stick, rinsing them makes it slide off into the bottom of your bowl.

When the sauce is quite thick, kill the heat and serve.

Do not breathe near anything flammable for some time.

Szechuan Tofu

John has been shaming me on the recipe posts, so I’ll sneak in two weeks worth of Lenten pot luck dinner recipes and redeem myself, somewhat. Both are vegan (for Lent). I’ll start with tonight’s and work backwards. The first week of Lent’s dish was already posted here.

I LOVE spicy tofu dishes. While I’m not one of those people who wrinkles their nose at tofu, in fact I like it quite a lot, I do kind of insist that frankly, by itself, it tastes like nothing at all. BUT, this just means that it is all the more perfectly prepared to be the canvas for a universe of sauces and preparations. Thick, sticky, dark, sweet and blow your head off spicy just happens to be my favorite. As with any genuine culinary tradition, I have no idea what I’m doing, but like any good wizard or cleric, I know how to put on a good show and fake it.

Keep in mind, these are preparations for a communal meal where a few hundred people show up, so if the quantities seem big, they are — adjust down as you see fit.

Two tubs of firm (not extra firm, too crumbly) tofu, drained. I have seen this dish done with silken tofu, but it requires more finesse than I have. Slice in half such that you have to fairly flat, big rectangles — like a stack of 3×5 note cards. Lay the four rectangles out on something very flat, either plastic cutting boards or the bottom of cookie sheets. Place a second cutting board (or cookie sheet bottom) on top, and then pile on as much weight as you can find. I stack my #8 and #10 cast iron skillets and my #8 Dutch oven (with #8 lid) and that’s just about the minimum I’d use. Press and drain (this is why the cookie sheets have to be upside down, if you use the normal surface the liquid can’t drain off) the tofu for at least 30 minutes. Longer is better. Undo your press and then slide the rectangles into large squares. I usually cut the long way into four strips and then six pieces the short way for a total of 24*4=96 chunks of tofu. This is not actually as much as it seems.

Coarsely chop one good size stalk of lemon grass into pieces you’ll be able to remove easily later.

Put your wok (or other very large vessel that can take big heat) over your hottest heat source (dragon’s abdomens are just about hot enough), add a liberal amount of a high heat oil like canola or peanut and augment with toasted sesame oil (for flavor). When the pan (not the oil) begins to smoke, throw in the tofu and lemon grass. Boil the tofu in the oil, moving frequently, until the tofu just start to shrink, then scoop them out into a sieve of some kind to drain. Pick out all the lemon grass which is probably now rock hard and flavorless. Pour out the excess oil but do not wipe down the wok.

Dice a red onion. Split six Serrano peppers in half the long way. Remove seeds and membranes according to how hot you want your end result to be. The less you remove, the hotter the dish. I took out all of the membrane and seeds and the end result still wasn’t exactly tame. If you are unaccustomed to cooking with hot peppers, maybe try just one pepper the first time, left intact, and ramp up on subsequent occasions if you find you enjoy more heat. Take the long halves and make thin crescents.

In the blender or food processor place four to six big chunks of fresh ginger, peeled, along with dozen or more cloves of roasted garlic, soy sauce, honey, molasses, Chinese five spice, liquid smoke (or smoked spice alternative) and vegetable broth — enough broth so that the result is too thin to be a sticky sauce, but not so thin it will take too long to drive out the water to make it a sticky sauce. Now take a good measuring cup’s worth of tamarind paste and rehydrate it with boiling water. Once soft, push through a screen into the blender (or food processor). Alternatively, have the good sense to buy tamarind paste in a jar that you can just spoon out rather than a block of mashed tamarind with all the seeds and pulp still in it, like I did.

Put the wok back on the dragon’s belly and begin to saute the onion and peppers. Open one can of bamboo shoots and one can of sliced water chestnuts, drain both. Once the onion and pepper begins to make you sneeze violently, I mean, brown up, add the bamboo and water chestnuts. Once the extra water is off the canned veggies, put the tofu back in and pour on the liquid. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir or fold occasionally to prevent sticking down at the bottom center of the wok.

Meanwhile prep about half a pound of snow peas and a half dozen green onions. I like to leave the peas whole, with just the tips cut off, and slice the green onion into very thin rings. Get both the white and green from the onion, because both the flavor and texture are quite different.

After the sauce looks like it will be quite thick when cooled, taste it and make any adjustments. If you need more cooking time, add more veggie broth so that it doesn’t get too thick and start to burn. Once the sauce meets your requirements, add the peas and green onions, fold in and immediately remove from the heat source as well as the wok itself into a serving dish. Steamed rice, brown or white, is the obvious accompaniment.