Some tourists visit places of scenic beauty, others seek out man-made wonders like cathedrals and museums, but when I travel, I look for… grocery stores!
Okay, that’s not strictly true. I tend to start with the scenic spots, take in a man-made wonder if it’s nearby, and then, if time allows, head for a grocery store. I like to visit local natural food stores and chain stores that we don’t have in Mississippi to look for items I can’t find here. I’ve come home with treasures like pure horseradish sauce from Sunny Farms in Sequim, Washington, and veggie jerky from New Frontiers in Sedona, Arizona.
Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t believe in sightseeing in grocery stores, so unless we actually need groceries, he doesn’t want to “waste” time shopping. I’ve always let him convince me that there are more scenic and important ways to spend our vacation time, until this summer when, strolling through the North Beach area of San Francisco, we rounded a corner and came face-to-door with Trader Joe’s. We didn’t need any groceries, but after years of hearing about Trader Joe’s, I wasn’t going to miss my chance to see what all the excitement is about.
As far as I can see, the excitement is about prices; on everything from wine to vegan toothpaste, Trader Joe’s had some of the lowest prices we’d ever seen. Since we had a day of walking ahead of us and a flight home to consider, we weren’t really able to take advantage of the low prices, so other than a few boring, easily packed items like toothpaste, we left Trader Joe’s without much of anything of interest.
The one exception was a little package of dried Lobster Mushrooms, an unusal looking mushroom that I’d never seen before. Being a lover of all things mushroomy, I picked up a package to bring home, where they went into the cupboard until I could think of the perfect way to use them.
Lobster mushrooms get their name from their red-orange coloring and, I believe, from their unusual flavor, which has just a hint of the sea about it. (I can’t tolerate anything very fishy-tasting, so rest assured that any seafood taste is just barely perceptible.) I decided that they’d be the perfect accompaniment to my delicately flavored, homemade tofu, and I was right. Simmered in mushroom broth, flavored lightly with ginger, the tofu maintained its fresh taste, while the lobster mushrooms provided a contrasting, firmer texture.
I served this easy, light dish over buckwheat soba noodles alongside stir-fried broccoli and water chestnuts for a delicious dinner. You don’t have to use fresh tofu or even lobster mushrooms, but they really do make it special. If they’re not available, try one of the other dried mushrooms noted in the recipe below.
Tofu and Lobster Mushrooms in Ginger Broth
- 1/2 ounce dried lobster mushrooms may use shiitake or other mushrooms
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon ginger root minced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon mirin or rice wine
- 8 ounces firm tofu cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon mellow white miso
- In a medium-sized saucepan, simmer the mushrooms in the water for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms to a cutting board and pour the mushroom broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough water to reach the 2-cup mark, and return the broth to the pan. Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan, along with all ingredients except the miso.
- Simmer on very low for 15 minutes. Stir miso into 1/4 cup water until it forms a smooth paste and add it to the tofu. Stir gently and return to heat for about 1 minute, and then serve over soba noodles or whole grain, garnished with sliced green onions.
Nutritional info is approximate.
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