Stir-Fried Cabbage and Lettuce, Tofu

Stir-Fried Cabbage, Lettuce, and Tofu
Stir-Fried Cabbage, Lettuce, and Tofu

The Philadelphia area has a bumper crop of lettuce right now, and frankly, I’m getting sick of it. Not that I don’t like lettuce – I do, I do – but this sort of classic green leaf variety is about my least favorite. What do? Shake it. This meal was very loosely based on the Stir-Fried Garlic Lettuce recipe from The Breath of a Wok. I also had a bunch of cabbage, so I added some of that, used a whole bunch of CSA garlic scapes instead regular old white garlic, and added tofu, fried in a bit of chili oil with salt and pepper. Really, it was remarkable. You could serve it over rice, or just eat a giant bowl all on your own.

Stir-Fried Cabbage, Lettuce and Tofu
serves 4

4 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tbs. chili sesame oil
1 12 oz. block firm, organic tofu, cubed
salt and pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 garlic scapes, diced
3 cloves of white garlic, thinly sliced
4 cups of napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 medium head of green lettuce, sliced
chili sesame oil

Mix all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. In a large wok, heat the sesame oil on medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles in the pan. Add the tofu cubes, stirring quickly to coat in oil. Turn every few minutes, until lightly browned. Salt and pepper generously, stir, and put tofu to the side (draining on paper towels if desired). In the same, hot wok, heat the vegetable oil. Add the garlic scapes, stirring to coat, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the sliced garlic cloves, and cook until they barely brown – about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, toss well to coat, and cover the wok. Uncover and turn the cabbage every few minutes, replacing the lid to steam in between turn, until the cabbage begins to soften and wilt. Add the tofu and toss. Add the lettuce and sauce then lightly toss. Cook until the lettuce just begins to wilt (one or two minutes) and the tofu is heated through. Remove from heat immediately. There should still be additional sauce left in the pan (if not, add a little extra soy sauce and rice wine). Serve over rice, drizzling lightly with chili sesame oil.


Late Spring Pho

Late Spring Pho
Late Spring Pho

Kate was sick. “I just want something salty and spicy and soup,” she said. I had more vegetables than I knew what to do with, so I offered to make some soup and bring it over. Spicy and salty – obviously had to been Asian influenced. And I had snap peas and carrots and mushroom and cabbage and broccoli and jalapenos – perfect for Pho. The cabbage, broccoli, snap peas, and green onions came from my CSA, the mushroom selection and tomato from the Fair Food Farmstand, and the Soy Boy tofu from Mariposa Co-op.

Late Spring Pho
serves 4

5 cups homemade vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbs. chili sesame oil
1 tsp. ground white pepper

1 pound extra firm tofu, pressed
1 tsp. sesame oil

5 cremini mushrooms, sliced
5 shitake mushroom caps, sliced
1 large wood ear mushroom, sliced
1 tsp. sesame oil

8 oz. dried rice stick noodles

2 cups of napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup snap peas
1 carrot, grated or cut into matchsticks
1 head broccoli, divided into small florets
1 large tomatoes, cubed

1 jalapeno, sliced
4 greens onions, sliced
fresh cilantro, if desired

Combine broth, oil, soy, vinegar, and white pepper in a large pot. Bring to a low boil. In a separate saucepan, lightly fry the tofu cubes, and place to the side. In the same saucepan, add another teaspoon of sesame oil, and lightly fry the mushrooms. Place the rice stick noodles in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Add the shredded cabbage to the soup broth and bring back to boil. When the cabbage begins to wilt, add the snap peas and boil for one minute. Add the broccoli, carrots, tomato, mushrooms and tofu. Cook for one minute, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Drain the noodles, now softened, and stir into the soup. Ladle into bowls and garnish with onions, jalapenos, and cilantro. Add additional chili sauce, to taste.

Green Pea and Pecorino Custard

Green Pea and Pecorino Custard
Green Pea and Pecorino Custard

What to do early on a Saturday morning with a house full of guests and a wedding (not your own) to attend later in the day? Get up at 8AM (the bay window in my bedroom lets in a lot of early morning light, and I just can’t bring myself to shut the curtains), do a few loads of laundry, and quietly, so not to awake the people sleeping on the couch, begin cooking.

I know it sounds crazy, but besides the sticky-roll muffins I wanted to make my houseguests, I had a deadline for an upcoming recipe in GRID magazine, and had been scheming all night about how to use some beautiful fresh peas and a lovely pecorino from DiBruno Brothers.

The recipe is loosely based on one by Mark Bittman in How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, but lighter. It has a touch of fresh mint for brightness, a creamy consistency (with a few little pea chunks for texture) and would work perfectly as a first course. You can find the recipe here.

Rainbow Chard, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Fresh Egg

Rainbow Chard, Heirloom Tomatoes, Organic Egg
Rainbow Chard, Heirloom Tomatoes, Organic Egg

I didn’t get home until 8:30 last night, just in time for the last light of the day. I walked out back to check on my garden – something, I suspect the alley cats that keep kicking up my baby lettuces, is gnawing at my parsley – to pick some fresh mint for a soda and St. Germain, currently my favorite early summer drink.

By nine, I realized that I had yet to eat any dinner. This simple meal is made straight from my refrigerator, currently bursting with CSA vegetables and goodies from the Fair Food Farm stand. Just a garlic scape, diced and fried in local salted butter, with rainbow chard, diced stems and all. Some baby heirloom tomatoes, sliced and salted, and a local organic egg fried in more of that delicious salted butter. Fast and perfect.

Bun Gio Chay at Vietnam Cafe

tofu spring roll

I eat at Vietnam Cafe at least twice a month, and I’m always so hungry and excited when the food comes that I forget to take a picture before my meal is half-devoured. I stopped in for a University City dining days preview (3 courses, $15, July 23-30) and finally remembered to photograph before shoving everything into my mouth. Above, the Goi Cuon Chay, un-fried spring rolls filled with lightly fried tofu, lettuce, bean sprouts, fresh basil, and a beautiful green onion garnish. I particularly loved the green onion place right in the center of the roll, and the sauce was just lovely.

crispy vegetarian spring roll vermacelli

It’s hard for me NOT to order Bun Gio Chay – rice vermicelli noodles topped with crispy fried spring rolls, shredded lettuce, carrots, sprouts, and special vegetarian nuac mam sauce. It’s my classic dish, and if I haven’t had an appetizer I sometimes even add tofu to it. I should only ever eat half. And I always eat the whole thing, doused in a healthy amount of hot chili oil that, by now, they just put on the table as soon as I arrive. Now that’s neighborhood service.

Vietnam Cafe on Urbanspoon

General Tso’s Tofu

General Tso's Tofu
General Tso's Tofu

My sister was visiting, and had a hankering for some Chinese food. My CSA has been more than plentiful with the broccoli lately, so I decided on on of my favorites – General Tso’s. The extra step of shocking the broccoli may seem annoying, but it’s essential for keeping the broccoli from getting soggy.

General Tso’s Tofu
serves 4

12 oz. Soy Boy (or other extra firm) tofu
1 egg
1/2 c. cornstarch
4 Tbs. vegetable or peanut oil
3 cups broccoli, in small spears
1 Tbs. chili sesame oil

1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. sweet soy sauce
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. white vinegar
3 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cloves of garlic, diced
6 dried red Thai chilis, broken
8 green onions, sliced

1. Steam the broccoli spears for 2 minutes, until bright green. Immediately move to a bowl of ice water to shock.

2. Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces. With one hand, dredge in the beaten egg, and with the other hand, toss with cornstarch. In a large wok, heat the vegetable oil over high heat until a drop of water fizzles. Add the tofu in bathes, frying until lightly brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

3. Mix all ingredients for the sauce, except the green onions, in a small bowl. Heat the sesame oil in the wok over high heat. Drain the broccoli and add to the oil, stirring often. When the broccoli begins to fry, add the tofu and sauce, tossing to evenly coat. When the sauce is heated through and thickens, remove from the heat. Serve over rice, and garnish with the fresh green onions.

Spring Greens, Rasberries and Goat Cheese in Grid

Spring Greens with raspberrries and goat cheese
Spring Greens with raspberrries and goat cheese

The folks from Farm to Philly were asked to contribute a local menu for the June issue of Grid magazine. I contributed a spring greens salad with raspberries and goat cheese. Enjoy, and pick up the issue of Grid!

Spring Greens Salad with Raspberries and Goat Cheese
serves 4

6 cups Green Meadow Farm baby greens
4 oz. Shelbrook Farms Sharp Chevre
4 oz. local raspberries
Fresh mint leaves, torn

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. Lancaster Farms fresh mint
3 Lancaster Farm Fresh young garlic bulbs (or one small garlic clove)
5 local raspberries (take from your 4 oz. container)
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all vinaigrette ingredients, except the raspberries, in a small food processor or blender until smooth. Choose a few raspberries and add to the mix, pulsing until the vinaigrette turns a deep, rosy pink.

Place the salad greens in a large bowl and add the vinaigrette, a few tablespoons at a time, blending between additions, until the greens are lightly coated. Add the remaining raspberries and the crumbled goat cheese to the dressed greens. Lightly toss, and serve.