Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Crispy Tofu Fried Rice

Photo by Jacob Marre
Our idea of true culinary skill is being able to make a delicious meal out of whatever you happen to find in your fridge. Cooking shows are based around that concept, after all. And while most of us aren't exactly on the celebrity chef track, being able to cook this way can save you time, money and most importantly, sanity.

A dish like fried rice is the perfect platform for the work-with-whatcha-got style of cooking. It came into being as the Chinese way of repurposing leftovers. Once you master the ratio of rice to protein and veggies to sauce, you can mold and shape this dish to suit your tastes or whatever tid bits you have on hand.

Don't feel bound by tofu, the veggies listed, or even the rice! You can use scrambled egg in place of tofu, or substitute leftover chopped chicken or other meat. With the veggies, pretty much anything goes. Bell peppers, green beans, corn, peas, shredded cabbage, sugar snaps, kale and cauliflower have all at one point or another found their way into my wok. While rice is traditional, other grains (like quinoa, farro or buckwheat groats) work great too. Just make sure that your grains are cooked and cooled completely - ideally at least a day in advance. If the grains are too freshly cooked, you may end up with a mushy mess!

We're making a version of this in our after school programs this week and the kids are loving it! We hope you have fun with this recipe, and are inspired to keep cooked grains in your fridge at the ready. Enjoy...

Photo by Jacob Marre

Crispy Tofu Fried Rice

1 package firm or extra firm tofu (12-14 oz)
3-4 T coconut or canola oil, divided
1 T sesame oil, divided
3 T plus 2 tsp soy sauce, divided
3/4 lb broccoli florets (halved or quartered for bigger ones)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced (heaping tablespoon)
6 cups cooked (and cooled) brown rice
1 carrot, coarsely grated or julianned
2 scallions (whites and greens, thinly sliced)
1 tsp salt

Remove excess water from the tofu by placing tofu between two clean kitchen towels. Set a plate on top and let stand for 15 minutes. Cut tofu into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 1/4 inch thick. Heat 1 tablespoon coconut or canola oil and 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil in a nonstick pan or wok over medium high heat. Add tofu and cook, without stirring, for 2 minutes, or until nicely browned. Flip tofu and cook an additional 2 minutes to brown the other side. Add 2 teaspoons soy sauce to the pan. Once absorbed, transfer tofu to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Add 2 T coconut or canola oil to pan and cook broccoli florets over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Add a little more oil if needed. If broccoli starts to get too browned before it's done, add a couple tablespoons water and cover the pan (or nest a pot lid gently in your wok over the broccoli) and let it steam for a couple of minutes. Make sure any water you add is absorbed or cooks off before continuing.

Add ginger and garlic and continue to cook for another 30 seconds. Add rice (breaking apart any clumps with your fingers as you add it), grated carrot and sliced scallions. Combine remaining 3 T soy sauce, 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil and 1 tsp salt. Add mixture to pan and stir fry an additional 2-3 minutes, or until heated through. Season to taste with additional salt if needed. Serve topped with crispy tofu and enjoy!

Makes 4-6 servings

What Kids Can Do (with appropriate tools and adult supervision)
*Cut tofu (with a wavy chopper or butter knife)
*Separate broccoli florets
*Peel papery skin from garlic cloves
*Snip scallions with scissors (you may need to halve or quarter the white parts to make them snip-able)
*Measure and mix sauce ingredients
*Season and taste (like all good chefs do!)

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