I was racked with indecision. I hadn’t really cooked for days, and finally my family was back home with me, my cold was waning, and I wanted to do something with some of the produce in my fridge before it all turned to compost. At first I craved Indian; then I thought Thai curry. I went back and forth between the two so many times that began to worry I’d never get supper on the table. That’s when it hit me: Reading about food too much has given me CADD–Culinary Attention Deficit Disorder!
Finally, the brown basmati rice I’d tossed into the rice cooker while I was in my Indian mood was ready. Stomachs were rumbling and people were grumbling, and we just needed to eat. Whatever I did, it needed to be fast and filling. Still not sure what I was cooking, I put some dried bean curd into vegetable broth to rehydrate, began chopping my veggies, and let go of my plans for curry of either the Thai or Indian variety. When speed is important, nothing cooks up faster than a stir-fry.
It took about 10 minutes to have this meal on the table, but I had help. While I chopped the veggies, E. sautéed the garlic, ginger, and carrots. Since she helped, she thought she should get to name the dish. Her choice: “Tai Chi.” “Do you know what Tai Chi is?” I asked. “Sure. It’s a martial art.” Since Tai Chi is slow and meditative and this dish was neither, I didn’t think it quite fit. Still, I promised her I’d work the phrase into the blog, and now I have. Motherly duty fullfilled.
Dried Tofu and Vegetables in a Light Ginger-Garlic Sauce
1 1/2 cups dried bean curd pieces or strip-style TVP (see note below)
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 carrots, cut julienne
3 zucchinis, sliced thin (about 1/4-inch)
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 can straw mushrooms, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons kung pao sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili sauce (optional)
Place the dried tofu or TVP into a 1-quart bowl. Bring the vegetable broth to a boil and pour it over the dried tofu. Set aside to rehydrate.
In a large, non-stick wok or skillet, heat the sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of water. Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the carrots and sauté for 1 more minute. Add the zucchini and bell pepper and 1/3 cup of the vegetable broth from the dried tofu. Stir and cover tightly. Cook, stirring every 60 seconds, until the zucchini is just barely tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the tofu (reserving the broth) and add it and the mushrooms to the pan.
Take 1/2 cup of the broth and add the kung pao sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and chili sauce, stirring well. Add the mixture to the vegetables and cook, stirring, until it thickens slightly. Serve over freshly cooked rice. Makes about 4 servings.
Note: This type of dried bean curd, also labeled as Thit Chay, can be found in many Asian markets. It’s made only of soybeans and each 25 grams has 89 calories, 13 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fat. I used only about 1/3 of the 4-ounce bag shown here to make this dish, which means that it supplied around 135 calories, 20 grams of protein and 1.5 grams of fat for the entire dish. (Dried bean curd also comes in sticks and sheets. To me, those types are better used in soups, as in my Chickenless Soup, than in stir-fries.)
P.S. For all the worrying, sometimes the simplest meals are the best. I served this with extra chili sauce for the grown ups, and we all pronounced it delicious. E. said to make sure I added it to the kid-friendly list.