This is hard to say but I’m turning into my mother.
Whenever we take her out to eat, albeit rarely, she always says, “We should learn how to make this” or “We can make this at home.” My father would entertain her requests and they would cook meals together to replicate restaurant foods. (I can’t wait to share my mother’s Southwestern egg rolls with you all one day.) Without a doubt, my mother takes more joy out of copying a recipe and making it at home than have someone cook, serve and clean up for her. During her last trip to Whole Foods, she asked the kind staff to let her try what seemed like all of the deli foods only to have the little Indian lady thank them and walk away. Afterwards, she tells me “We can make that at home.”
I used to be the opposite of that. As I’ve gotten older and more courageous in the kitchen, I find myself refusing to purchase items because I tell myself that with the right ingredients, I can put it together at home. I still will not buy any prepared food items from grocery stores just because I think I can do it myself. Don’t even get me started on the bakery items.
We have a favorite Chinese restaurant that we frequent often. However, as going there as often as we do is not really an option for the long-term, it was time that I buckled down and found a way to recreate the dish I love at home. I’m a fan of tofu. Binks is not, but is coming around – slowly but surely. I love the texture and its versatility. Especially for saucy dishes, the ability for tofu to soak up and marinade itself in whatever it simmers in is just one of the many reasons why I choose to use this as a protein source. After some tweaking, I created a dish that competes well with the one I order almost exclusively at the restaurant. You really can change the vegetables based on what you have on hand. I love eating it alone, but the sauce would be perfect draped over hot steamed rice.
Hot and Spicy Tofu
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 pound extra firm tofu, cubed
- 1 cup carrots, julienned
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
- 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
- 2 small red jalapenos, chopped – adjust to taste
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp ginger, grated
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tsp corn starch
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp chili in oil or red pepper flakes, adjust to taste
- Heat half of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add tofu to the oil and brown on all sides. Set aside.
- In the same pot, heat the remainder of the olive oil and heat. Add the carrots until softened a bit, approximately 5-7 minutes. Add the sliced onions and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the onions are wilted. Add the bell peppers, jalapenos, garlic and ginger and stir until the peppers are softened, approximately 5-7 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the water, vinegar, soy sauce, corn starch, brown sugar and chili sauce. Pour over the vegetables and stir to incorporate. Add the tofu and stir carefully to mix into the sauce, but don’t over mix that you crumble the tofu. Cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened a bit, which should take another 10 minutes.