It sounded weird.
Peas, tomatoes, cilantro, mushrooms, tofu, and soy sauce?
Yes, definitely, definitely weird.
It was the kind of recipe that would make my friend Ali who loathes tomatoes and weird food combinations gag and shudder in revulsion. The kind of recipe that could taint my reputation as the Quinoa Queen. And the kind of recipe that could potentially result in a frozen spinach pizza night catered by Miss Amy.
Even so, I kind of wanted to make it anyway. I'm constantly hunting for new healthy vegetarian entrees that can help balance out my more indulgent dining behavior like when I eat a four course dinner with wine pairings and then top it off with French fries and fried oysters and a bananas foster sundae and more wine and absolutely no quinoa and vegetables or any of the things I should be eating and drinking.
Sigh. My poor poor heart.
The recipe also appealed to me on a different level. Its weirdness seemed like a challenge – a triple dog dare, if you will. A dare I felt compelled to take like when I was a child and my mom used to tell me, “Don’t stare directly at the sun.” It wasn’t that I wanted to go blind or burn my eyeballs, but the Dennis the Menace in me was still curious to see exactly what would happen if I briefly turned my eyes toward the light.
So instead of clicking away from the image of the cilantro-speckled tomato stir fry and proceeding directly to TasteSpotting for more tantalizing ways to eat my greens, I printed the recipe and hit up the farmer's market. I was on a mission to find out how disgusting the dish could be.
I made several adjustments to the original recipe. I used shiitake mushrooms instead of button, I used a vine-ripened tomato instead of a plum tomato, I added green beans for additional vegetation, reduced the amount of oil, and ramped up the amount of ginger, soy sauce and rice vinegar because a paltry ½ tablespoon of soy sauce and ¼ teaspoon rice vinegar doesn’t do it for me. I also added a considerable pinch of red pepper flakes for added pep. The end result was far better than I anticipated when I’d dubiously read over the ingredient list. And even tastier when I made it again the next night and added some cashews for crunch factor.
I’m sure my friend Ali is still gagging out there in Chicago, but this weird recipe definitely earns marks for achieving do-over status. I might even make it again.
If someone triple dog dares me.
Tofu with Tomatoes and Cilantro
Adapted from Serious Eats who adapted it from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian
2-3 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes and patted dry
1 scallion, cut into thin rounds; keep white and green parts separate
1 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium-sized shiitake mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup fresh or defrosted frozen peas
10 green beans sliced in 1-inch segments
Pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste)
Toasted sesame oil for drizzling
Cooked brown rice for serving
Blanch green beans in a couple tablespoons of water in a large non-stick skillet for 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. Wipe out any excess water left in the pan, and add a swirl of olive oil. When the oil is hot, saute the tofu cubes until they are golden on most sides, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
If needed, add additional frying oil to the pan. When it is hot, put in the white parts of the scallions, the ginger, red pepper flakes and the garlic and stir for 40 seconds over a medium flame. Add the mushrooms and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in the cilantro and then add the tomatoes and soy sauce. Stir for about a minute before putting the tofu cubes back into the pan along with the vinegar and peas. Bring to a simmer. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 5 minutes, adding the green beans for the last two minutes. Turn off the heat, toss in the green parts of the scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil, and serve over white rice.