As soon as my friend Kate forwarded me this kale recipe from the New York Times, I knew I had to make this simply because it was a challenge. Let us rewind the proverbial clock and return to a time when my feeble attempt to cook with tofu resulted in a pile of stringy mess. A previous attempt at wilted spinach gave me vertigo as I discovered that I loathe wilted, cooked vegetables. Simply put, mush is not my bag.
However, the tofu looked firm, kale tends to hold its texture, and quite frankly it would be criminal to abandon a kale recipe. Admittedly, I had my trepidations (the mush! the mush!) but my sweet friend @lizamonroy reminded me that nothing could go wrong with food as beautiful as this. Inspired by Liza’s infectious energy, I fell under the kale spell and marveled over the cacophony of color.
A note to the wise, read through the recipe as there is quite a bit of dancing in the kitchen in terms of food prep. Have everything chopped up and minced. Make sure your wok (in this case, my PAN) is searing hot, and don’t be afraid to improvise. After 15 minutes in the kitchen, Liza and I feasted on this DELICIOUS dish.
And it is UNBELIEVABLY, UNEQUIVOCALLY (INSERT MORE ADVERBS HERE) DELICIOUS. From the deep, enveloping sesame oil and soy sauce mixture, to the rice wine bite to the palate cleansing ginger, every bite proved flavorful and unexpected. As we helped ourselves to the whole large bowl, we thought of iterations (Southwestern-style with corn and beans, chopped chicken or fresh shrimp), and it put me to thinking that I’d love to assemble a little homemade book of kale recipes because this is the vegetable which has awakened my heart.
Spicy Stir-Fried Tofu With Kale and Red Pepper, courtesy of The New York Times, with modifications
1 bunch curly kale (about 10 ounces), stemmed and washed
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or dry sherry
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, preferably white pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon safflower (or canola) oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 red bell pepper, cut in 2-inch julienne
1/2 cup edamame pods
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, add the kale and blanch 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and place in a bowl near your wok.
Cut the tofu into dominos and place them on paper towels. Place another paper towel on top and prepare the remaining ingredients.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, stock and cornstarch. Combine the salt, pepper and sugar in another small bowl. Have all the ingredients within arm’s length of your wok.
It’s likely that you’ll find frozen edamame in your market, so drop 1 1/2 cups of edamame (1/2 the bag) into a pot of boiling salted water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the pods float to the surface of the water. Drain, remove the pods and set aside in a small bowl.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch steel skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in the safflower oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan, then add the tofu. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, until it begins to color. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for no more than 10 seconds.
Add the red pepper and edamame and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the kale, salt, pepper and sugar and toss together. Add the soy sauce mixture and the sesame oil. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from the heat and serve with grains or noodles.
Yield: 4 servings.
Advance preparation: This is a last-minute preparation, but the blanched kale will keep for about 4 days in the refrigerator.
Nutritional information per serving (sans edamame): 194 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 5 grams polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 14 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 283 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 12 grams protein