One of the secrets to cooking at home is having a well-stocked pantry. Of course, well-stocked is relative. It depends on what you like to cook. I consider myself a pretty eclectic cook, though for sure I lean towards ethnic recipes. As a result, I would never be out of wheat-free tamari, an ingredient used in many of the Asisan dishes that are part of my regular stable of recipes.
If you’re like me, you’ve either earmarked a gazillion recipes in cookbook or you have a pile of recipes you’ve torn out of magazines, just waiting to be created in your kitchen. But if you don’t have the ingredients you need to make these recipes, you’ll never try them. So, either make a mental note of the things you need to stock up on, or start a list that you’ll take with you the next time you go to the market.
There are times when I’m missing one crucial ingredient. If I can’t come up with a creative replacement from my pantry or cupboard, I have to put off making the recipe until I procure whatever it is that I’m missing. I either add it to my grocery list or make a mental note to get it the next time I’m at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or one of the ethnic grocery stores I frequent.
Tonight I was in luck. I had almost everything for the recipe I wanted to make. And I was able to make some reasonable substitutions for the ingredients I was missing. Plus, as always, I made some changes to the recipe by adding a few things that weren’t included in the original recipe.
So, take a look through your pile of recipes-to-try. And start accumulating the ingredients that will enable you to expand your repertoire of recipes.
The original recipe was called “Seared Black Bean Chicken on Crisp Noodles”. I subbed in tofu for the chicken and made some other substitutions and revisions as indicated. I also easily halved the recipe. It was enough for two healthy appetites.
Seared Black Bean Tofu on Crisp Noodle
adapted from Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds
Toasted Sesame Marinade
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce (I used wheat-free tamari)
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 pound extra firm cubed tofu (original recipe called for boneless chicken)
3/4 pound thin rice noodles, cooked, rinsed, drained, and tossed with 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil (I used canola oil)
Black Bean Seasonings
2 tablespoons fermented or salted black beans, rinsed, drained, and minced (I used canned black beans which I salted)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (optional – I used it)
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped bok choy (my addition)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (my addition)
1/2 pound snow peas, strings removed
2 cups Chinese Chicken Broth (I used vegetable broth)
5 tablespoons soy sauce (I used wheat-free tamari)
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or sake (I used cooking sherry)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
Combine garlic, tamari, and sesame oil.
This next step is optional, though it is how I prefer to prep my tofu. Drain the package of tofu. Place it on a plate, place another plate on top of it. Place a heavy object like a cast iron pot on top of the top plate. Leave it for about an hour. Remove the pot and the top plate then drain the extra water that accumulated in the bottom plate. Cube the tofu, size determined by preference.
Marinate the tofu in the toasted sesame marinade.
Preheat the broiler. Spread the cooked noodles on a baking sheet and broil for about 10 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Careful – they burn easily. Transfer to a heat-proof serving platter and keep warm in a preheated 200 degree oven.
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon of the oil and heat until hot, about 30 seconds. Add the tofu and cook until done – I like my tofu to have a bit of crunch to it, so I wait for it to get crispy. Turn off heat and remove from pan.
Reheat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and heat until hot, about 30 seconds. Add the black bean seasonings and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until the onions and peppers and bok choy are just tender. Add the snow peas and Cantonese Sauce and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add the cooked tofu and basil and toss lightly to coat. Spoon over the noodles and serve.