Today is Monday. And being Monday, I read another post about Meatless Monday via the NPR Facebook page, Campaign Aims to Make Meatless Mondays Hip. Now I’m not one to follow trends too closely, but I think there’s a lot of benefit to giving up meat for one day when you’re not already a vegetarian – and maybe if you’re a vegetarian, go vegan for the day…this recipe happens to also be vegan. Anyhow, I have quite a few great non-meat meals in my arsenal, but tonight I made one of my favorites, Stir-Fried Tofu with Green Beans and Cashews. It’s adapted from a Williams and Sonoma cookbook that I happened to page through at my friend Anna’s house one time several years ago. Seriously. I saw the recipe once. Did I mention I have a near photographic memory?
I often hear that people think they don’t like tofu. I honestly think that if more people learned about what tofu is in its almost infinite varieties, they would change their minds. A quick primer about tofu before I get to the recipe.
There are two main kinds of tofu: silken and regular. Silken tofu, also called soft, silk or Japanese-style tofu has a softer consistency than regular tofu and will fall apart if not handled carefully. You may notice that silken tofu (soft tofu), unlike regular tofu, is sometimes packaged in aseptic boxes that do not require refrigeration. Because of this, silken tofu is sometimes sold in a different section of grocery stores than regular tofu, which is packed in water and requires refrigeration.Both silken and regular tofu can be found in soft, medium, firm and extra firm consistencies. They are made from the same ingredients, but they are processed slightly differently, and are not interchangeable in a recipe.
Most recipes will let you know when silken tofu is needed. I find that there is little difference between firm and extra firm silken tofu, and for most purposes, the different kinds of silken tofu are interchangeable, so don’t worry if your grocer only stocks one kind.
Salad dressings, sauces and desserts usually use silken tofu for a thick and creamy texture. Silken tofu in an aseptic container has a shelf life of up to a year, unopened. Once opened, submerge any used portion with water in a container, cover, and refrigerate for up to a week.
Regular tofu, also called Chinese-style tofu or bean curd is more common than silken tofu and comes in a plastic container in the refrigerator or produce section of most grocery stores. Firm or extra firm regular tofu is best used in stir fries, tofu bakes or any dish where you will want the tofu to retain its shape. For recipes that call for crumbled or mashed tofu, such as mock ricotta or scrambled tofu, firm tofu will work just fine, though medium or soft tofu will have a smoother consistency.
Tofu information courtesy of about.com.
So, students, which kind of tofu did I use for my recipe tonight? That’s right, regular extra-firm tofu. The main thing to remember about tofu is that it is like a sponge. It will soak up anything you put it in, so always always always marinate it first if you want flavor. And, so, without further ado…
Stir-Fried Tofu with Green Beans and Cashews
1 pkg. regular extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
12-16 ounces of fresh green beans, stems removed and cut in half
1 medium brown or yellow onion, diced
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. cooking sherry (unless you have real sherry in your house, this will do just fine)
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp. peanut oil or canola oil (whichever you have on hand, although peanut oil will give more flavor)
3/4 cup toasted whole cashews
1/3 cup of cold water
1 tbsp. corn starch
Salt and pepper to taste
For the marinade: Mix the soy sauce, cooking sherry, garlic and ginger in a measuring cup. Place diced tofu into a medium bowl and pour marinade over it. Let sit for 10-15 minutes while prepping the green beans and onion.
Heat wok or extra-large skillet over high heat. Pour peanut oil into the hot pan and sauté onions for about 3-5 minutes being careful not to burn them. Add green beans and stir frequently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook green beans for 5 minutes. Add the tofu with its marinade and gently stir to combine being careful to not break up the tofu. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add cashews and cook for 1 additional minute.
Whisk cold water together with the corn starch in a small bowl or measuring cup, making a slurry. Push green beans and tofu to the side of the pan slightly and add slurry to the liquid already in the pan making sure to stir constantly. This will thicken up the marinade and make it more of a glaze or sauce. If it gets too gummy, add some vegetable stock, more soy sauce or water to loosen it up. Once the sauce comes together, there’s no need to cook it any further. Serve stir-fry with steamed rice or Asian noodles.
I’m telling you, give tofu a chance some Meatless Monday. You’ll be glad you did!