Menu of the Week: Chinese Influence, California Style

Clockwise from top center: Long Grain Brown Rice with Peas, Mixed Vegetable Stir Fry, Tofu with Black Bean-Ginger Sauce, Napa Cabbage Pickle

When I conceived this week’s menu, I was thinking Asian, probably more Chinese than anything else and I wanted to acknowledge that we are in the middle of spring, with light and quickly-cooked vegetables.  The main dish is Tofu with Black-Bean Ginger Sauce: extra-firm tofu, pressed, cut into triangles and deep fried.  If making this at home, you’ll likely want to start with already fried and seasoned tofu. For the sauce I sautéed onions and lots of ginger which I chopped in a food processor, then added water, soy sauce, mirin and prepared black bean sauce.  Once this had simmered a bit, I thickened it with corn starch dissolved in water.  Chopped green onions garnished.  For the Mixed Vegetable Stir Fry, I first prepped onions, garlic, cabbage, long beans, carrots, sugar snap peas and broccolini and added them to the wok in that order.  Seasonings were salt and pepper, mirin and toasted sesame oil.  I created a light glaze by tossing in a slurry of corn starch and water.  The Napa Cabbage Pickle I admit is more of a cross between a quick, light pickle and a salad. Today’s sous chef, Paul Schmitt, cut the Napa cabbage finely and added grated carrot and chopped kumquats.  Seasonings were lemon juice, salt and pepper. Kumquats add a surprising sweet/tartness to salads like this, and  you can  eat the whole thing, seeds, skin, everything. There’re too small to treat any other way. The Long Grain Brown Rice with Peas was just organic rice cooked on the stove top, with thawed organic frozen peas mixed in before serving. A soup, Mushroom Broth with Rice Noodles and Veggies, served as a first course. I used two types of mushrooms for the broth.  First I briefly simmered already sliced, dried shiitake mushrooms in water.  In addition, I sliced crimini mushrooms, tossed them in mirin, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, then roasted them.  Then I combined the roasted criminis with the shiitakes, some additional water and soy sauce to finish the broth. For the vegetables, we julienned onions, carrots, daikon, and sautéed them with minced garlic and ginger, then added these to the broth and simmered  briefly, along with rice noodles we had soaked and cut into two-inch lengths. A few minutes before serving, we added finely sliced bok choy and whole bean sprouts.  Seasonings were: salt and pepper, soy sauce, mirin, toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar, with sliced green onions as the garnish.

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