This week, the husband (still weird to say that!) and I are in Indiana, Pennsylvania (yes, I find that confusing, too) while he does a job, and I am drinking crappy hotel coffee (seriously. SO BAD.) and eating out constantly and missing cooking my own food like I never thought I ever would. I’ve only been for-real cooking (as opposed to, like, canned soup, which is fake cooking) for a short while, but already my body is hooked. It wants the veggies. ALL THE VEGGIES. Even Todd declared that he wanted a salad–A SALAD–last night. (My maniacal health plan is working! Bwahahahaha.) So anyway, we are both missing the home cooking this week. Reminisce with me, if you will, about last Monday’s stir-fry.
So Monday night, I decided to plunge into this actually learning to cook thing and made a recipe that included three ingredients I’ve never cooked before: kale, eggplant, and tofu. I do love an adventure!
One thing you should know about my cooking strategy is that I endeavor to become sufficiently tipsy before I do it. I’m not very good at doing things that require tedium or standing up or following directions in general (because I don’t like being told what to do), but I find that if I have some booze in me, these things are suddenly vastly more entertaining. The cooking experience becomes less like the stressful and mysterious food alchemy that it is, and more like fun with knives and heat sources. I put on music and dance around in the kitchen and drink more wine or beer or whatever’s on hand and feel capable and cultured and healthy and like some sort of life-giving earth goddess providing a bounty of sustenance to the worshipful masses (Todd). I throw things onto the stove and don’t particularly worry about the exact quantity and proportion of each, because I’m having FUN!
It also helps me deal better when things go wrong, which they almost inevitably do, because I’m new to cooking. And also drunk. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Safety advisory: Don’t be drunk while cooking.
Have you ever watched My Drunk Kitchen? It’s like that.
Anyways. Now to the cooking.
I found this recipe on a blog I very much like a lot, Kitchen Illiterate. As you can gather from the name, it’s very useful for a person like me. I have no idea what possessed me that I saw this recipe and was like, “Three things I’ve never cooked before? AWESOME.” It probably has something to do with the gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond that we were given as a wedding present, which I immediately went and used on the multitude of kitchen things I didn’t have yet, such as: a salad spinner, a whisk, some spatulas (yes, I didn’t even have spatulas), some other cooking utensil things I don’t know the name for but it seemed like I needed, and a wok. A wok! I was very excited about the wok, and many wok puns were made (wok and roll! wok this way! etc.), and it was so big and nice and new and I wanted to put AS MANY THINGS IN IT AS I COULD. Hence, this recipe.
You can find the original here. I tweaked it a little by leaving out the sun-dried tomatoes (Todd hates them), but I do think they would be a nice addition if you’re into them. I also added some cayenne pepper near the end because the sweet and sour sauce I had (store-bought, not homemade) needed a little more spice. I liked this addition a lot. It still had the sweetness of the sweet and sour, but had an extra little kick. But then again, I add cayenne pepper to almost everything, so take that as you will. Another note: the recipe calls for both eggplant and tofu, but I really don’t think both are necessary. If you don’t like tofu or just don’t want to bother with it, leave it out and the dish will still be very filling and meaty thanks to the eggplant. Or vice versa.
Oh, and a tip: Do not leave the draining of your tofu until you’re half-way through stir-frying because you totally forgot about it in the fridge. You will end up squeezing it over the sink with your hands and some paper towels in a panic. This may have happened. Instead, follow these directions I found here on the lovely Fueled by Vegetables blog: About 20 minutes before you need to use it, drain all the excess water off the (slightly scary-looking) block of tofu, wrap the block in paper towels, wrap the paper-towel-wrapped block in a kitchen towel, and then set something heavy like a big cook book or a kettle half-filled with water on top of it. In about 20 minutes, the kitchen towel will be soaked with the water pressed out of the tofu block, and your tofu will be non-soggy and pleasantly firm. Easy!
So, the recipe:
Tons of sh*t stir-fry
Adapted (only a little bit) from Kitchen Illiteratie’s “Ex-Boyfriend Stir-fry.”
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- cayenne pepper to taste (I used several vigorous shakes)
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1 package tofu, drained (see above tip) and cut into 1-inch cubes
- sweet and sour sauce (a lot of it. I used 2/3rds of a new bottle, but I also put in extra broccoli so Todd would have something to eat, as he doesn’t particularly like adventurous vegetables.)
- 1-2 heads of broccoli (I used 2, but see above note on sweet and sour quantity), cut into florets
- 1 small eggplant, cut into 1-inch cube-ish shapes
- 2 peppers, sliced (I used orange and yellow)
- 1 large plum, sliced
- 1 large bunch of kale, roughly chopped, or torn with your fingers if you’re lazy like me.
- 3 cups cooked rice (I prefer brown, but white is fine)
Heat the peanut oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute a few minutes, enjoying the best smell in the world (am I right?), until the onions are getting soft and transparent. Add the tofu and mix it around until each piece is coated in oil, and then add the sweet and sour sauce and saute for about three minutes. Keep the sweet and sour on hand; you may have to add more later if it starts to look dry.
Add the eggplant next and saute a couple minutes to give it a head start cooking before you add the rest of the vegetables. Next time, I might even add the eggplant and tofu at the same time, because my eggplant was slightly under-cooked in the middle (still pretty sponge-y).
At this point in the original recipe, it says to add the rest of the ingredients in the order of what takes longest to cook. I have no idea what takes longest to cook, but I used common sense and it turned out alright. For me, it went like this: broccoli, peppers, plum, kale. (My plum was already pretty ripe. If yours isn’t, you can add it sooner to ripen it up.) I added the cayenne around the time I added the peppers, and then added a little more at the end cause I thought it needed some extra. Do it as you like it. When you add the kale, it will seem you are adding way too much, but it will cook down a lot. So do not be afraid if your wok is near over-flowing when you first add it, and do not skimp. Cook until the kale is bright green and nicely wilted.
The plum really is a brilliant touch, and it made me feel supremely cooking-savvy because I was cooking FRUIT in a STIR-FRY! (Say WHAT?!) It is possible that the peppers should have been before the broccoli, but whatever, everything turned out well and the broccoli and peppers both still had a nice crunch to them. (You don’t want them all soggy.)
That’s the great thing about stir-fry. It’s pretty hard to completely screw up. And that’s what I really love about it and what makes it a great beginner dish: you just kind of throw everything in the wok or skillet and put some sauce on it, and it never turns out terrible. Even when you’re drinking!