meatless . #41 {buddhist tofu}

On the days when the energy’s been sucked out of me and thus don’t feel like cooking or going our to eat, you can usually find me {hair amuck, makeup-less, in sweats…wait, that’s how I typically look everyday} running into Chinoise, a neighborhood Pan Asian restaurant that has become our go-to take out place. While I may get phad thai, chicken phò, sushi or some combo of those things, Mike’s order never varies. It is always…and I mean always, Buddhist Tofu with brown rice. And I have to admit, it is one of my favorite tofu dishes. The wonderful sweet salty marinade for the tofu becomes key to a beautiful silky thick sauce for the dish which we like over rice but would be equally delicious over noodles. Baking the tofu might seem like an unnecessary step {you can certainly just stir fry the tofu before the vegetables, removing it after all sides are browned and then returned it to the pan after the veggies are cooked} but the baking process gives the tofu a nice texture and firmer crust. Chinoise serves their version with green beans but the ones at the store didn’t look so great so I skipped ’em. I think zucchini would be good in this dish as well. And you can swap the tofu for chicken or shrimp and skip the marinating. However you make it, just make it. It’s super yummy and while it makes for a nice warm fall dinner, it’s great all year long. Just ask Mike.

Buddhist Tofu
serves four

4 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 ½ tbsp. rice vinegar
½ tsp. mirin
1 tbsp. tahini
½ tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 – 14 oz. package extra-firm tofu, drained + patted dry
2 cups brown rice 
1 bunch broccolini, cut into 2″ pieces
1 large carrot, thinly sliced on the diagonal
¼ lb. snow peas, trimmed
1 tbsp. corn starch
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine first six ingredients, whisking to incorporate. Pour into a shallow bowl or baking dish. Using paper towels, press down on tofu block to express as much packing liquid as possible. Cut tofu into 1″ cubes and place in one layer into bowl/baking dish. Marinate tofu, turning at least twice, for at least 30 minutes. You can do this several hours in advance.

While tofu is marinating, cook rice according to package instructions {which should take about 1 hour}.   

Preheat oven to 375º. Gently remove tofu from marinade, reserving the liquid, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Turning tofu at least once. Remove from the oven and prep the vegetables. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Plunge broccolini, carrots and snow peas into the water; cook for 1 ½ minutes. Strain the vegetables from the pot and immediately put into a ice water bath to stop the cooking. 

In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and stock; set aside. Drain vegetables from the ice water bath; set aside. In a wok or open saute pan, heat the canola oil over high heat. Sauté onion and garlic for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add vegetables; stir fry for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium high and add the stock cornstarch mixture and reserved marinade. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce will thicken. Taste and add salt or soy sauce if needed. If you’d like a little heat, add a pinch of crushed red peppers flakes. Serve over hot rice. 

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