Thursday, October 20, 2005

Thanks Marco!

A little confession about my cooking habits. Here in the Raisinhater household (members: 2) we have only one cook. J, the other member of the household, is utterly useless in the kitchen. It was only 6 months ago that I taught him to heat up his own Hot Pockets in the microwave (remove wrap, put Hot Pocket in crisping sleeve, put Hot Pocket on plate, put in microwave, shut door, press “2,” remove after beep, remove crisping sleeve, eat).

So I’m pretty much on my own. Right now I’m mostly focusing on J’s culinary appreciation skills. When we first started dating, he would eat a bagel or a slice of pizza from the same deli every night for dinner. I think we’ve come a long way since that time. He was the one that noticed the mysterious “healthy” taste to the sausages (cooked in olive oil), he suggested the creamy sauce for the chicken pitas (tahini). He is improving. Nevertheless, I have resigned myself to the fact that he’s never going to be able to cook much more than a grilled cheese, and that would pretty much be the culmination of my ten year culinary education plan. So I did what any sane person would do in my circumstances. I invented an imaginary friend/sous chef.

Marco is not only handsome and swarthy, he is extremely handy with the Wusthof. He loves chopping, slicing, dicing, mincing, hand-tearing individual basil leaves, washing and trimming cilantro, and generally sous-cheffing around the kitchen (shirtless). The thing Marco loves most is prepping veggies and putting minced garlic and premeasured herbs in teeny tiny little containers. Like on a cooking show. Like this…

Marco toils as I sip wine in the living room. When I swoop into the kitchen I do not have to trifle with the humdrum tasks of measuring or chopping; I can just toss ingredients around with an emphatic flourish. It was with his invaluable assistance that I was able to prepare Tofu with Green Beans and Coconut Sauce, based on this recipe.

Have your assistant prepare the following ingredients:

1/2 (14- to 16-oz) package firm tofu (sliced as shown below)
3 T soy sauce
1 T rice wine vineager
2 T vegetable oil
1 T finely chopped garlic
1- ½ tsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (it’s a pain to chop, so I just grate it instead)
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch-long pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips (2 inches long)
1 teaspoon salt
½ can low-fat unsweetened coconut milk (I froze the rest)
½ T fresh lime juice
1 tsp. honey
green curry sauce (optional)
Rice or Rice Noodles (cook this while you're making tofu)

Halve tofu lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and pat dry. Marinate tofu in mixture of 2 T soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and ¼ tsp of red pepper flakes for 1/2 hour. It helps to use a big flat bowl, but I didn't have one.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking, then add tofu in 1 layer and cook, turning over once, until tofu is browned, about 6 minutes total. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large plate, reserving oil in skillet. Tofu should look like this...

Add garlic, ginger, and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes to skillet and sauté, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beans, bell pepper, and salt and sauté, stirring, 1 minute.

Stir in coconut milk and remaining tablespoon soy sauce and bring to a boil, then boil, uncovered, until beans are tender, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and set aside vegetables.

Add a little bit of green curry paste (optional) and simmer sauce until thickened slightly and reduced (a few minutes). Stir in lime juice and taste sauce. At this point I thought the sauce REALLY needed a little sweetness, so I added honey and a little more soy sauce too. It made a huge difference.

Note: the recipe very explicitly stated that you should not use low-fat coconut milk. All I had was low-fat, I used it, and it was delicious.

Note 2: mine was spicy!!! Leave out some spicy stuff if you don't want yours so spicy.

Put the tofu and veggies over rice noodles (or rice) and pour the sauce on top. See...


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