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Well, it's time once again for my fall sojourn -- a chance to recharge the batteries and resharpen the tines of this dulling fork. Nearly every year, just before the hustle and bustle of Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, I take the opportunity to escape the workaday world and learn how to relax again. Usually, that means a long weekend of camping in the Pecos Wilderness with the better half and the dogs -- both the barking and mustard-covered kinds.

This year, however, the pups are with a sitter, and I'm trading in the bumpy ride, lumpy sleeping bag and fresh-caught rainbow trout over hot coals for a little pampering in Durango and Pagosa Springs Colo. To prepare for the trip, I decided to buy new tires for the family truck -- which means there will be few fancy meals on the road, as the bank account now dictates. We'll be hauling coolers of food and wine up to a Colorado time-share condo with a full kitchen to help cut back on expenses, while trying to reconcile how washing dishes fits into the notion of a "getaway vacation."

Then there's the fridge I leave behind. I can't take everything with me, and leaving perfectly good produce to spoil in the refrigerator for seven days has me racked with guilt and apprehension. I may be the only person I know with acute separation anxiety when it comes to shelled peas.

There is also a brick of tofu tofu

Soft, bland, custardlike food product made from soybeans. Believed to date from China's Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220), tofu is today an important source of protein in the cuisines of East and Southeast Asia.
 taunting me from the top shelf. Nestled between a T-bone steak and a bag of Wisconsin cheese curds, which will no doubt be devoured greedily before my departure, that flavorless hunk of soybean soybean, soya bean, or soy pea, leguminous plant (Glycine max, G. soja, or Soja max) of the family Leguminosae (pulse family), native to tropical and warm temperate regions of Asia, where it has been  curd curd

the proteinaceous part of milk precipitated by rennin. Usually contains some fat when whole milk is used.
 cries out for love and attention. Now, I've been around tofu my entire Santa Fe life, starting with breakfast burritos in the mid-'80s. I graduated to serving it in Asian restaurants from Canyon Road to St. Michael's Drive, even hawking grilled and chilled slabs of the stuff smeared in sickeningly sweet marinades and sauces for a local big-box, avant-hippie grocery chain. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, my relationship with tofu could best be described as settling into a rocky marriage with a dullard.

I never really enjoyed eating or cooking with bean curd until I read local cookbook maven Deborah Madison's aptly titled treatise on the subject, This Can't Be Tofu! (Broadway Books, 144 pages), in which Madison also defends my shared view that marinades are overrated and, in the case of tofu, a waste of time and ingredients (although when used as a basting or cooking liquid they can be quite complementary).

When I found myself with both extra-firm tofu and two crispers filled with vegetables, I decided it was time to get creative. Madison's recipes are fantastic, and I often refer to them when I'm feeling uninspired. But for this recipe, I decided to go solo and create a recipe that would allow me to use the tofu in many different dishes over the course of a week without drowning my taste buds in just one sauce. And I knew just what to do with all those veggies Veggies of Nottingham, also known as Veggies Catering Campaign, is a campaigning group based in Nottingham, England, promoting ethicalbum alternatives to mainstream fast food. .

I tend to shy away from Verb 1. shy away from - avoid having to deal with some unpleasant task; "I shy away from this task"
avoid - stay clear from; keep away from; keep out of the way of someone or something; "Her former friends now avoid her"
 fried tofu because, no matter how much I dry it off and press the moisture out before frying, it tends to get soggy quickly. (And few things in the kitchen are more contradictory to me than greasy tofu). So I borrowed an old restaurant trick that has been keeping calamari crisp beyond the kitchen pass at some of Santa Fe's most high-profile restaurants for more than a decade: sweet-potato flour.

Available at most Asian markets, including Ta Lin in Albuquerque, and online (you can actually buy it on, and the price per pound, even with shipping, is comparatively decent to walk-in retail), sweet-potato flour is high in fiber and contains more carbohydrates and less protein than regular wheat flour. It leaves ingredients coated in it and fried properly with a crisp, non-oily exterior. Best of all, when paired with an Asian dry condiment called goma-shio (unhulled sesame seeds and toasted salt) in this recipe, it imparts a flavor and aroma similar to fried chicken nuggets! Beware: often sold as "sweet-potato powder," knockoffs may also contain cornstarch cornstarch, material made by pulverizing the ground, dried residue of corn grains after preparatory soaking and the removal of the embryo and the outer covering. It is used as laundry starch, in sizing paper, in making adhesives, and in cooking.  and other fillers. You can use this product, too, but folks with acute gluten allergies or a strong devotion to ingredient purity should take heed.

Almost nothing is simpler or more versatile in Asian cooking than fried rice. It's the perfect accompaniment to this crispy tofu and is a marvelous vehicle for utilizing a fridge full of vegetables in something other than soup or salad. Ready your woks, and remember the cardinal rule of making fried rice (a rule that should extend to every other kitchen project that includes numerous ingredients): chop everything and assemble all of your ingredients within easy reach before you even dream of approaching the stove. Oh, and wear an apron, unless droplets of fat are the new black.


Serves 4-6

For the tofu:

1-pound brick extra-firm tofu

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon tamari ta·ma·ri  
Soy sauce made without wheat.

 or soy sauce

21/2 cups sweet potato flour

1/2 cup goma shio (sesame seed salt)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper or 1/2 teaspoon ground Schezuan peppercorns

Peanut or vegetable oil for frying

Preparation: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Press drained tofu brick underneath a weight (two heavy soup cans on a large plate will do) for 30 minutes to release moisture. Pat dry. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Scramble eggs and soy sauce together thoroughly in a large bowl. Gently toss cubes in egg mixture to coat. In a separate bowl, mix sweet potato flour, goma shio and pepper until well combined. Heat oil in fryer, wok, or deep cast-iron skillet to 360 degrees (use a deep-fat-frying thermometer or heat oil until a pinch of flour skims across the fat's surface and sizzles). Strain off egg mixture and set aside. In small batches, gently toss egg-coated tofu cubes in flour mixture until well coated. Deep-fry cubes in small batches until slightly golden brown or to desired doneness. Drain fried tofu on paper towels, transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in oven until ready to serve. If saving fried cubes for later use, cool completely on a countertop and store in an airtight plastic bag or sealable container in the refrigerator for up to a week. (You can reheat Re`heat´   

v. t. 1. To heat again.
2. To revive; to cheer; to cherish.

Verb 1. reheat - heat again; "Please reheat the food from last night"
 refrigerated cubes like chicken nuggets in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes).

Sauce recommendations for tofu: These crispy cubes pair well with your favorite sweet and savory Asian sauces and condiments. Curries, spicy chile-garlic sauce, broad bean sauce, fermented black bean sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin, peanut sauce, wasabi, tahini ta·hi·ni  
A thick paste made from ground sesame seeds.

[Turkish t
, kung-pao, hot mustard, sweet gingerthe list is endless. If you love falafel fa·la·fel or fe·la·fel  
1. Ground spiced chickpeas shaped into balls and fried.

2. A sandwich filled with such a mixture.
 with creamy tsadziki sauce, this tofu is a great substitute for fried chickpea chickpea, annual plant (Cicer arietinum) of the family Leguminosae (pulse family), cultivated since antiquity for the somewhat pealike seeds, which are often used as food and forage, principally in India and the Spanish-speaking countries.  dumplings. But why just serve it with fried rice? Slathered in barbecue sauce, stuffed inside burritos and tortas, bobbing in hearty soups, topping noodles with broth, or tossed in salads, it's as versatile as your imagination and kitchen comfort level.


3 cups cold, cooked, long-grain white rice or brown rice

3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (optional)

1 teaspoon hot chile oil (optional)

Leftover egg mixture from tofu

2 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly smashed

Assorted vegetables, 1/4-inch pieces (like carrots, celery, yellow onion, green onion, corn, peas, summer squash, sweet and spicy peppers, broccoli, runner beans, and radishes)

3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice cooking wine

Salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Add 1 teaspoon of oil to hot wok. Pour in egg mixture and scramble quickly or make a flat omelet. Remove and cool. Wipe out wok, add remaining oil and garlic cloves, and heat to high, stirring the garlic until it's brown and sizzling (do not burn). Remove garlic and discard or chop finely and set aside. Add crispier vegetables to the wok first, and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and cook 3 minutes. Add rice, cook for 5 minutes stirring constantly or until it reaches desired crispness. Add soy sauce and rice wine, and toss with rice, cooking 3-4 minutes. Toss in scrambled egg or diced omelet, if desired. Serve immediately. Cool and store in the refrigerator up to 7 days.

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Title Annotation:Taste
Publication:The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM)
Date:Sep 8, 2010

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