Tuesday, October 9, 2012

tofu green bean szechuan stir fry

Bonjour les amis! We've really been enjoying our bountiful veggie baskets from Lufa Farms, one of the world's only commercial rooftop farms. They amplify the bounty with fresh and local produce from local farms as well. The baskets have provided a variety of veggies and as a result I have been inventing new recipes and pimping old ones (tomatillos in my bean chili--booyeah!) Moreover, I collect my box at the local Green Peace office, and the people there are so friendly! I often end up chatting with other neighbourhood folk collecting their veggies. It's nice to feel part of a community of good eaters.

Here's a yummy stirfry that I think really captures some nice Chinese flavours like sesame oil, spicy szechuan pepper, and the delicious salty kick of soya. It helped me use up the tomatoes, onions, soya beans and green beans that were in my basket.

The flavour culprits that comprise most Chinese cookery: sweet, sour, salty, and umami.
Mix 2 teaspoons of sweetener (agave, honey, sugar, etc), 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil together, then taste. Does it taste like the makings of delicious stirfry? If so, you're good to go! If not, keep tweaking it, you'll get there. 

Once your taste buds are happy, mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in about a 1/4 cup of water.Mix those two together, then incorporate into the stirfry sauce, like so.

Now to get your spicy szechuan salt ready. If you don't have szechuan peppers, just add regular pepper or chili flakes, whatever you fancy to get your hot on.

It was my first time cooking with szechuan peppers, which actually aren't from the pepper family at all. They're some sort of flower pod. Neat! I toasted them over a medium hot flame and waited for them to change colour, stirring often.

I decided to turn my pepper into a pepper salt by crushing about 3 teaspoons of peppers and added that to 3 tablespoons fine sea salt. Now it's stirfry time!

The regulars in my wok: garlic and ginger, about 2 tablespoons each.

A pound of tofu, chopped up and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

A sliced onion and some chopped tomatoes will add some body to the stirfry (and use up some excess from the veggie basket!)

I shelled about a cup of fresh, organic soya beans and trimmed three big handfuls of green beans while watching bad internet TV (What Not to Wear--looking hot is all about showing your waist shape, apparently) while imagining that I was a farm girl in some parched and dusty town in the deep south, fixin' my vegetables on the front porch while mama was out back poundin' the grits.

Now for the actual stir fry process: are you hungry yet? First, fry the tofu in a bit of oil over medium high heat to cook t the cubes to a golden brown crisp.

I then added the soya beans and the green beans to the wok, giving a good stir occasionally. These greens were deceptively dense, took about 10 minutes to soften.

Next, the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and onion went in. I wanted these flavours to stand out, so I added them last and cooked for about 5 minutes.

Remember the sauce you made earlier? Add that in now and give it a good stir. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of the szechuan salt mix and let that cornstarch in the sauce do its thing. Get everything nice and coated now!

You can eat this on rice or noodles, but I just had it on its own with some sesame seeds as a garnish. Oh, I probably added tons of sriracha as well.  The peppers made the stir fry taste quite zingy, without the burn of regular chili peppers, for example. I enjoyed the electric feeling on the tongue created by the szechuan peppers.

Monday, October 1, 2012

strawberry jam (sauce)

Howdy readeroonies! My friend Rosemary and I slaved away a few weeks ago to make some strawberry jam which actually was only sauce in the end, but no matter, still delicious and blog worthy! I will show you what I did, and where we went wrong, and what you should do if you want jam and not sauce.

First, git yerself some strawbs up in the hizzle. We used double of what you see here. Roughly one pint of berries will make you 500ml of jam/sauce.

Wash and cut. Chit and chat.

Simmer berries over medium heat and add your sweetener. We made 3 batches:

-lime strawberry with maple syrup
-vanilla lemon with maple syrup and port
-classic strawberry with cinnamon and ginger

The juice of 4 limes is about sufficient for 8 cups of berries. Don't be shy to do multiple tastings. It's part of fun, and hot berry sauce is just about the funnest thing to taste and tweak. Sugar rush!

Boil away, my darlings! Alright people, at this point, when your fruit is nice and mushy and lots of liquid has exuded from the berries, you need to add thickener: pectin, kudzu, agar...something to make it gel. This, we did not do. Well, our piddly tablespoon of agar flakes did not cut it. Surf around the internet for proportions and recipes to suit your needs. 

Still, it was rewarding to see the delicious fruit mush go into sterilized jars and get sealed up in a nice bath of boiling hot water.

Next time, I will use pectin to make regular jam, and agar to make freezer sauce. Honestly, you can go through eating the stuff so quickly that boiling jars to seal them is not worth the time. Freezer jam is the way to go if you hoover through it like I do.

Cute labels! The vanilla strawberry jam tasted incredible on french toast this weekend.