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I opened my email to a daily vegan recipe by Kathy Carmichael.
Sweet and sour tofu was the daily delight.
I cannot remember how long it’s been since I had that. It had to have been in the last century, eating out of the ubiquitous, white plastic-coated boxes with red Chinese characters on it, awkwardly using the supplied wooden chopsticks.
The boxes littered the coffee or dining room table, shared with no thought of double dipping as we sampled among the offerings. We laughed as we opened stale fortune cookies to read ours aloud as we drank wine or beer and passed a Doobie post-feast.
“I want to make this,” I said out loud to no one (the perks of being the only human in the home is telling folks you are sharing your thoughts with your felines).
I perused the ingredient list and noted I had everything if I substituted with her suggestions—except one: no pineapple juice. I decided on lime.
The sweet and sour sauce needed time to marinate the tofu, so I got to making it while my coffee was brewing. Easier to clean up my breakfast and sauce, making dishes at one time.
(I cook for one as a main meal at noon; it is my largest. I only measure grains to liquids.)
Grain: black rice or whatever grain you prefer
Tofu: organic, super firm is my personal favorite
Veggies: brussel sprouts, green beans, baby broccoli, yellow summer squash, zucchini, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms
Greens: swiss chard to steam, broccoli microgreens, raw for final topping
Oil: plain sesame, or your choice, or none
Spices to sauté: fresh ginger, brown mustard seeds, ground turmeric, mineral salt
Sauce: maple syrup, rice vinegar, tomato paste, tamari, lime, cornstarch, or arrowroot
Cooking pot with lid for grain, skillet or wok, glass bowl with lid for the sauce to marinate the tofu, spoon holder, spatulas, measuring cups, cooking utensils, pot holder or towels for grabbing hot pots, cat removal system, cutting board, towel to place washed veggies, chef’s knife of your choosing, patience and gratitude.
(And lots of love and good mood food frame of mind.)
Sauce prep for marinade:
Combine all the ingredients listed above and give them a good stir. Place the tofu, pressed by hand or tofu press, or towels into the mixture. Flip it a couple of times to coat it. You can make enough to cover the entire tofu block, but that could prove wasteful. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for two or more hours. I turned the tofu over about halfway through the marinade time.
Check the time and directions for your grain. I decided to get that started as I washed and chopped my veggies. My rice would finish a bit earlier but added a fork fluff and it did great sitting to the side until I finished cooking.
Keep cleaning up as you go; it really makes sitting down to eat more pleasant. I am in an apartment, and my space for living room, office, dining, and kitchen is one small, open area. I find it cheeriest if most of the dishes are washed and air drying in the second sink while the pot and pan are soaking in a bit of water.
(Keep checking out for curious cats. Hamlet is known to park himself quietly behind me, which makes for precarious stepping about the tiny kitchen.)
Start the burner, then add oil if using fresh spices and seeds and allow the fragrance to invade your nasal passages with enchantment and your salivary glands to start churning.
(Quick side note: if you know you need to eat but your digestive fire is not stoked, slice some fresh ginger, squeeze a bit of lemon on it, and add a touch of mineral salt. I chew on this as I was getting ready to mise en place my ingredients and supplies. The combination of flavors and good mastication will stimulate your salivary glands and signal your gut and brain that food is forthcoming.)
Okay, back to cooking. Since you chopped your veggies while the pan heated the oil and created culinary sensory delights, it is time to add the veggies and tofu. I added shrooms first, followed by the saucy tofu, then ground turmeric and salt.
Lots of stirring, especially if no or minimal oil. Time for the veggies to enter the party, starting with the densest first. Keep stirring. Do not leave the kitchen. Yes, ignore the phone, the doorbell, and a package plopped down outside your front door. It can all wait. About a minute or two left, add the swiss chard or other green to steam on top.
Stay present and enjoy the task. You are welcome to dance and/or sing as you create.
The last step is to plate, find a quiet space perhaps with a view—a good, relaxing view. Remember to give gratitude. Enjoy!
As usual, no critters were harmed at any point in the process. One small win for this tiny blue marble we call Momma Earth.
For a whole bunch of delicious recipes, scroll through my author page.