Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mu Shu Tofu

I finally made it to 88 Market this week, with the sole intention of getting some mu shu pancakes.  Of course, I left with much more than that, including sweet steam buns, peanut sesame candies, and a packet of baby bok choi seeds for my garden this spring.  At any rate, finally I can make mu shu without resorting to wrapping them in tortillas.

This is one of those recipes a good friend would call a "kitchen sink" meal (as in "everything but the kitchen sink"), meaning I throw in whatever is in my fridge, and so every time it's different.  The key ingredients are cabbage and hoisin sauce, and everything else just improves it.

1 package firm or extra firm tofu, frozen and defrosted
1-1/2 cups broth or bouillon
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 T rice wine vinegar
1-2 T chopped garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1 small head of cabbage (about 2-3 cups chopped)
1 large carrot (about 1-2 cups sliced or shredded)
3-4 stalks bok choi (about 1 cup sliced)
2-3 stalks kale (about 1 cup chopped)
1-3 T canola oil
1-2 t sesame oil
1/4 cup hoisin sauce, plus extra for serving
1-2 T corn starch

Here's my favorite tofu trick: when you bring it home, store it immediately in the freezer.  When ready to cook it, move the frozen brick to the fridge or put it in a bowl of warm water (in package) to defrost, depending on how much time you have before you're going to use it.  This freezing-defrosting process creates a spongy texture that soaks up whatever flavors you add to it.  The tofu also holds together better in cooking.  Be sure to use firm or extra firm tofu.  This time, I used a locally made tofu, which was already flavorful and delicious.  No, all tofu isn't the same.  But local, small batch tofu is more expensive than Trader Joe's, and so for me, it's a rare treat.

Because you're going to wrap the mu shu in pancakes, making small, thin pieces is best.  These are less than 1" square and about 1/3" thick.  Mix the bouillon or broth with soy sauce and vinegar, and add to the tofu to marinate. 

Meanwhile, chop the vegetables.  Again, remember that the pieces need to be small enough to keep the pancakes intact when you eat them.

Feel free to use any cabbage (red or white), chinese cabbage, and greens.  Mushrooms are also a nice addition, but cook first before adding the cabbage.  Non-vegan mu shu also includes egg, but I don't think it's missing anything without.

Cabbage, bok choi, kale, carrots.  Isn't it pretty?

This next step isn't necessary, but I like the flavor it gives.  Drain the tofu and set aside the marinade for the sauce.  Heat up a mix of canola and sesame oil in a wok or large pan, and add the drained tofu.  Stir fry until lightly browned.

Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.

Heat up more oil in the pan and add chopped garlic and onion.  Stir fry until translucent and golden brown.

Add the vegetables in the following order: cabbage, carrots, Kale, and bok choi and stir fry on high.  Cabbage should be softened before adding the other vegetables.  Add the hoisin sauce and 1 T corn starch to the marinade to create the sauce.  Once all the vegetables are cooked down (but not necessarily mushy), add the tofu and the sauce and stir on med-high heat.  Be sure to let the sauce reach a boil so that the corn starch works as a thickener.  Add more corn starch (combine with cold water or soy sauce first) until sauce is as thick as you like it.

Steam mu shu pancakes in a steamer, or wrap in a wet paper towel and microwave for 20-30 seconds.  Add a stripe of hoisin sauce to each pancake, and then the mu shu mix.  Wrap the pancakes like a taco, folding the bottom up first.  Eat with your hands, and expect to get a little messy!

Leftovers go fine with rice or extra pancakes.

Nutrition per 2 filled pancake: 581 calories, 35g carbs, 19g fat, 20g protein.  Plus, lots of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and other important nutrients.  If you don't stir-fry the tofu, it cuts down on the fat and calories.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I recently got a request from a friend for something that is dairy-free, soy-free, and easy.  So, here it is!

2-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
2-1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt

(or equivalent proportions)

Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork and microwave until soft, for about 10 minutes.  Check at 5 min and every subsequent 2 minutes.

Scrape out potato flesh from peels into bowl (I used a grapefruit spoon).

Rice and/or mash sweet potatoes (what you're looking at is a ricer - it's very satisfying to press that sweet potato through those little holes).
Mix the mashed sweet potatoes with flour, using hands, until it holds together.  It still might be a bit sticky.  Roll with hands into logs, lay on floured board, and cut into 1-inch pieces.  It will be a lot easier to handle if you use plenty of flour on the board, knife, and your hands.  Lay out three or four logs alongside each other and slice all at once to save time.

This is how many gnocchi I made.  They can be saved for a long time in the freezer.  To freeze, put on a cookie sheet on floured parchment or a silicon baking sheet to prevent clumping.  Once frozen, put in plastic bags or containers and return to the freezer.
Boil for 8-10 minutes.

Add sage butter - which is sage and butter (or in this case, Earth Balance), melted.

 I served it with sauteed broccoli and garlic.  That's nutritional yeast powder on top.

Nutrition: for 10 gnocchi, 134 calories, 30g carbs, <1g fat, 4g protein
Complete dish (using 1/2 T olive oil, one medium broccoli stalk, 2 t earth balance, and 1/2 T nutritional yeast): 333 calories, 41g carbs, 15g fat, and 11g protein.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Potato Leek Soup

Leeks and red potatoes arrived in my Boston Organics bin on Friday.  We're at about five feet of snow today Naturally, potato leek soup ensued.

1 medium leek
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
2-3 pounds potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
4-6 cups vegetable broth
3 cups unsweetened soy milk
Chop garlic and onion into small pieces.  Cut end of leek off, slice in half, wash thoroughly, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Cube potatoes (I used red potatoes) in 4-6 pieces each.  Leave the skin on to keep the nutrition and taste.

Heat olive oil in a large pot and add the onion, garlic, and leeks.  Sautee until soft but not browned.

Add potatoes and salt and stir to coat.  Add enough vegetable broth to cover the potato mixture - about 4-6 cups.  Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to simmer for about 30 minutes, until potatoes are soft.
Liquefy in blender in batches with soy milk.  Add water to make desired texture.  Serve with freshly ground black pepper.

Nutrition: One cup has about 150 calories, 28g carbs, 3g fat, and 5g protein.

Here's how I ate it for lunch today (yes, that it my homemade bread machine bread):

Creamy Vegan Salad Dressing

The salad dressing I used, by the way, is the following: 2 parts Low Fat Vegenaise, 1 part seasoned rice vinegar, 1 part olive oil, plus spices (salt, pepper, chopped garlic, and onion flakes) to taste.  Put it in a small jar and shake until mixed.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes, or as long as you can wait, so the onion flakes soften.  Keeps in fridge for a while.  (One tablespoon of dressing has about 58 calories, 2g carbs, 6g fat, and 0g protein.)