After a brief pause while we moved house, I’m back! And I come bearing stir-fry. With pomegranate.
Nobody who has ever moved came through the process while singing and dancing the whole time. I have moved a lot, as is the fate of the academic type family that flits from program to fellowship to job site to job site before landing a permanent gig. I guess this is the fate of most of us nowadays – who has a permanent gig anymore, besides tenured professors? It’s a crazy world full of change, and I’m not great at change.
Needless to say, I do not move house gracefully.
Having said this, I moved right before the holiday, unpacked in a flash so as to host family for said holiday, and made good food for us all. And then collapsed in a heap, ate a lot of carbs, and caught the flu. Oh well.
This recipe is my attempt to get to know my new kitchen and play around a bit (pomegranates! in stir fry!), while also moving into the it’s-Winter-let’s-look-after-ourselves fare. Healthy, filling, tasty food. Vitamins. Bolster and ballast, not necessarily in the stick-to-your-ribs kind of way (though there is plenty of room for that as well), but more in the anchoring, get you through the Christmas planning, the trips to Lowe’s & Home Depot for plumbing parts and light bulbs, the grading final exams.
And in this case, we start with a quick 15-minute press of some tofu:
Pressing tofu before you cook it, even if you can only do a 15 minute version while you chop the other veggies, is so so worth it. I was not always a tofu fan, as the texture can be somewhat off-putting to the uninitiated, and plain, uncooked tofu cubes can be a lot of spongy squidge. However. If you press some of the water out of a block of firm tofu, then cube it and sear as many sides as you have patience for, the thing is transformed. From here you can simply eat it as is (I love this option – seriously, as is with a bit of salt and pepper), or you can really go for gold and braise the cubes, now possessing of a pleasantly chewy exterior crust and a custardy interior, in some delicious liquid. Either way you get yumminess and complexity and some of the real pleasure of cooking tofu comes out to say hello.
I recognize that many of you non-tofu-ers will still hesitate to use tofu, perhaps subbing some other protein in here. And this works fine. What I really want to share with you, what is really great here, as in many a stir-fry, is the sauce. This one has lemongrass, orange, and Sriracha. It is bright. It is bold. It is wintry and refreshing. I want to make this again and again. My secret was buying a tube of lemongrass paste from the fridge section of my supermarket’s veggie section. Have you seen these tubes of ginger, garlic, etc.? I confess that I had not tried any of them until my recent yellow Thai curry paste experiment, for which I bought a tube of lemongrass paste for the first time. And now that I know easy lemongrass is in the door of my fridge, I want to put it in everything.
Just in case you’re wondering: the leftovers re-heated beautifully, and it wasn’t weird to microwave the pomegranate arils. They were just as juicy and crunchy as ever. Here’s to more fun experiments at bright kitchen home base!
- 2 tablespoons of prepared lemongrass paste from a tube
- juice of ½ a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- zest and juice of 2 tangerines
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- ½ cup water
- 1 sweet potato, spiralized into noodles
- 1 block of firm tofu
- 1 bunch of curly kale, de-stemmed and washed
- a handful of pomegranate arils
- a few mint leaves, chopped fine
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Press the tofu: place the block on one of it's short sides and slice the entire block down the middle. You should have two flat rectangles - see pics above. Place the rectangles next to each other but not touching on a cutting board. cover the rectangles with paper towels and place a heavy object on top of the paper towels. If possible, use an object big enough to cover both rectangles - a frying pan or skillet with other heavy things inside of it is ideal. Let the tofu press for 15 mins or more, then remove the weights and slice the tofu into cubes. Salt and pepper the tofu. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and fry the tofu over medium-high heat, turning the cubes until all sides are browned.
- Make the sauce: combine the lemongrass paste, lemon juice, tangerine juice & zest, soy sauce, Sriracha, and corn starch in a bowl.
- Make the sweet potato noodles, if you have a spiralizer. Otherwise, simply use supermarket version or cook other noodles according to package directions. If using sweet potato noodles, fry in about a tablespoon of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper for no more than 5 minutes. You want the noodles to remain crispy.
- Remove the noodles to a bowl, top with tofu, and wipe out the frying pan. Add a bit of oil and stir fry the kale until it begins to wilt. Add the sauce, and stir fry again. The sauce should thicken considerably and cling to the kale. Add the ½ cup of water to loosen everything, then pour the saucy kale over the noodles and tofu.
- Top with pomegranate arils and mint.