Monday, November 24, 2014

Braised Tofu and Leeks

Leeks look like giant scallions. Their flavor is milder than green onions and much milder than yellow onions. Fall is leek season - they take a long, long time to reach a good size. I grow them in my garden and I need to plant the seeds inside in January and won't start picking them until late summer/early fall. Lucky for you, leeks are available year round in supermarkets.

The big drawback for leeks is they need to be washed carefully. They are buried in soil to increase the amount of white stalk (look for leeks with a lot of white stalk - they are more tender). That soil gets in between the leaf layers. To clean them, cut off the dark green leafy top and the root end. Cut the leek lengthwise and swish energetically in dislodge the dirt. Check between the layers for hidden sand. On the plus side, they won't make you cry as much as other onions. :-)

I like to use them in Chinese dishes. Their mild flavor complements garlic and ginger. Their texture is nice in stir fries or braises. Here, I add water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, increasing the vegetable count in this one pot braise. Tofu replaces the meat for this Meatless Monday entree.

Braised Tofu and Leeks
(serves 4)

14-16 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1" cubes
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ Tablespoon minced or grated ginger, about an 1" piece
1 leek, white and light green part only, washed well (see intro) and cut into 1" slices
2 cups vegetable stock (see Note)
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
1 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 8 oz. can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon cold water
4 Tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish

Place the tofu cubes on a towel to soak up excess moisture.

Heat up a wok or deep skillet over high heat. Add the oil, then the garlic and ginger. Stir and add the leeks. Stir fry until the leeks wilt and start to brown in places. Add the stock, salt, soy sauce, sugar, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and tofu. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 4 minutes. Increase the heat to bring the stock to a boil. Dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water and add to the wok. Stir until the sauce thickens. Taste for salt. Serve over hot rice with a Tablespoon of sliced almonds for garnish.

Note: Though not vegetarian, this is excellent made with ham or chicken stock. 

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