There are so many reasons why I love stir-fry for dinner. You get an enlivening mix of textures, a rainbow of colors, and an opportunity to douse veggies in sauce all in one pan! Sometimes I use stir-fries to use up veggies in my fridge, and other times I make them to highlight an ingredient I’m particularly psyched about. For some reason we haven’t made too many of these lately, though, so our gorgeous wok was hanging from the pot rack collecting dust for what seemed like (and may actually have been) months.
Today’s dinner was definitely more of a “Man, I really have to use up this stuff” stir-fry night, but it was reconnecting with my wok. I think we’ll be spending more time together in the upcoming weeks.
Stir-fry du jour
- 1/2 medium purple onion, sliced
- 1 cup green cabbage, shredded
- 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
- 1 small head broccoli, separated into florets
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/2 block tofu
- Stuff to marinate tofu
- Canola oil and/ or coconut oil, in liquid and/ or spray form
- Pot of rice or quinoa for serving
- Radish sprouts for garnish
- Spicy peanut sauce, recipe below
Part 1: Tofu preparation (do this part an hour or two before the rest if you can)
- Put a small saucepan with a couple inches of water on to boil and add a steamer basket to it.
- Cut your tofu into cubes, then add to the steamer basket and steam for about 10 minutes. Remove the basket from the saucepan and let cool on a cutting board. This will allow the water to evaporate so your tofu can soak up the marinade.
- When cool enough to handle, add the tofu to a bowl along with a marinade. Today I used a combination of tamari (which is wheat-free soy sauce, FYI), peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, miso, mustard, and ginger, but you can use whatever you think would be good. The exact measurements aren’t all that important, in my opinion– you aren’t going to be eating the marinade straight, you just want it to impart some flavor to the tofu, which is bland on its own. You can also use a bottled marinade or salad dressing if you have one you like.
Part 2: Stir-frying
- Once you have all the vegetables washed, peeled, chopped, and/ or sliced, as appropriate, heat up your wok or skillet for a minute or two over medium-high heat.
- Fry the tofu first, because it’s easiest to do in a clean pan. Drain the marinade off the tofu, then add enough oil to your pan to cover it. It doesn’t have to be a thick layer, but if the oil doesn’t cover the pan, the tofu will stick to it (the best parts, too). Once the oil is nice and hot, add the tofu in a single layer to fry. Don’t crowd the pan! Give the tofus a little space. Let them fry for a couple minutes, then flip over with a rubber spatula. You want them golden brown all over. When they’re done, remove them to a plate.
- Pour off any remaining oil from the wok–not so that it’s completely cleaned out, just to where there’s only enough oil so the veggies don’t stick to the pan– and then add the onions and a pinch of salt. Let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and slightly caramelized. When they are done, remove to a separate plate.
- Next, cook the bell peppers. This should only take a second. You may need to add a little oil before you add them to the pan– this is what I use coconut oil spray for. When they’re done, remove to the same plate as the onions.
- Add the broccoli and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring frequently and taking care not to burn the garlic. You’ll probably want to add a couple tablespoons of water here to help stem the broccoli through.
- When the broccoli is not quite done, add the cabbage, and then add the bell peppers and onion back to the pan so they heat all the way through.
- Make a cozy bed of rice or quinoa for your stir-fry, then nestle the veggies on it, then top with the tofu and garnish with radish sprouts and spicy peanut sauce.
Spicy peanut sauce
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
- 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup agave
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 pinch cayenne
- 1 1/2 Tbsp red chili flakes
- Combine all ingredients except chili flakes in a blender and process to combine, then add the chili flakes. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like getting your blender out, just put everything in a 1 pint wide-mouth mason jar and use some elbow grease and a tablespoon. I did this and it came out well, plus the markings on the jar made it easy to measure!
- Note: sauce is moderately spicy. If you’re sensitive to heat, reduce or skip the cayenne and cut the chili flakes down as much as you like. If you love heat, don’t let me stop you from adding extra chili flakes and/ or Sriracha to your sauce!
Now for something completely different… I’m going to put this out there for anyone trying to impress someone else on Valentine’s Day: People swoon when you cook for them. Preparing a meal is a wonderful way to put your love into action, and that action need not be complex.
If you don’t usually cook, I’d suggest trying something simple, like stir-fry, an easy soup, or even pasta with a homemade or doctored-up jarred or canned sauce. Why simple, you ask? If you’re trying to learn how to fricassee at 7:45 and you’re expecting your sweetie at 8, you are going to get stressed, which will defeat the whole purpose of cooking for your luvah: you’ll be tense, grouchy, and might get a headache or (yikes!) tummy trouble. NOT SEXY.
Keep it simple, focus on a special ingredient or two, and get some flowers/ wine/ nice loaf of bread for the table and some coconut bliss or vegan truffles for dessert, and you are in business.