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A blast of flavor zips through tofu stir-fry.

While rum and red beans bake together

Now a vegetarian, Mary Lee Gowland misses the chewiness of meat, especially in Chinese dishes where beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and fish lend their unique textures to vegetable mixtures. In fried, firm tofu she has found an admirable protein alternative, both in texture and in nutritional value.

Although mild in flavor, tofu soaks up seasonings that emphasize its meaty texture. In Gowland's recipe, bok choy, bell pepper, and tofu - all essentially quite mild-tasting - become lively with the addition of garlic, green onions, soy sauce, and liquid hot pepper seasoning.

Spicy Bok Choy with Fried Tofu

6 to 8 ounces firm tofu

About 3/4 pound baby bok choy, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon salad oil

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

4 green onions, ends trimmed and thinly sliced

l large (about 1/2 lb.) red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into thin slivers

2 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon liquid hot pepper seasoning

1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed smoothly with 1 tablespoon water

2 cups hot cooked rice

Cut tofu into 1-inch-thick slices. Lay slices on towels and cover with more towels. Set a flat pan on the top towels; put a 1-pound can (such as a can of beans or tomatoes) on the pan. Let tofu drain 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, discard bruised or yellowed bok choy leaves. Cut each head in half lengthwise; if bases of bok choy pieces are thicker than 1 inch, cut portions in half lengthwise.

Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes.

Pour oil into a 12-inch frying pan or a wok over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add tofu. Turn pieces with a spatula as needed until tofu cubes are golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

In pan, mix garlic, onions, red pepper, bok choy, and 2 tablespoons water. Cover and cook, stirring often, until bok choy stems are just tender when pierced, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in tofu, soy sauce, sugar, hot pepper seasoning, and cornstarch mixture. Stir until sauce is boiling. Spoon onto hot cooked rice. Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: 545 cal. (25 percent from fat); 24 g protein; 15 g fat (2.2 g sat.); 81 g carbo.; 1,100 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

In New England, baked beans are standard Saturday night fare, and frugal cooks often present the cold leftover beans for breakfast.

The regional favorite also stars in fund-raising suppers held by churches and grange halls. Recipes vary, but most begin with dried white beans (navy or Great Northern) and include salt pork, brown sugar, molasses, and mustard. In Oregon, far from New England traditionalists, Richard Bogdanski uses red kidney beans and rum (which is, after all, a distillation of molasses, with its dark, exotic flavor but without its sweetness).

Rum Baked Beans

8 thick slices bacon (10 to 12 oz. total), cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 large (8 to 10 oz.) onion, chopped

2 large cans (27 oz. each) reduced-sodium dark red kidney beans

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup catsup

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon crushed dried mint

About 1/2 cup dark rum

1 tablespoon mustard seed

1/2 cup prepared mustard

1/2 teaspoon liquid hot pepper seasoning

In a 5- to 6-quart ovenproof pan, stir bacon occasionally over medium heat until brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.

Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat in pan. Add onion to pan and stir often until onion is limp and faintly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in beans and their liquid, sugar, catsup, vinegar, mint, 1/2 cup rum, mustard seed, prepared mustard, and hot pepper seasoning. Stir well and heat until bubbling. Stir in bacon and cover pan. Bake in a 300 [degrees] oven for 2 hours. Stir well and continue to bake, uncovered, until beans are thick, about 30 minutes, or until they are the consistency you like. Add, to taste, 1 to 3 tablespoons more rum. Serves 6 to 8.

Per serving: 426 cal. (16 percent from fat); 16 g protein; 7.4 g fat (2.3 g sat.): 76 g carbo.; 1,199 mg sodium; 9.6 mg chol.
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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Author:Griffiths, Joan; Dunmire, Richard
Date:May 1, 1995
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