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Recipe: A classic spicy Chinese vegetable and tofu stir-fry is easy enough for teens to make

Spicy Chinese Vegetable-Tofu Stir-Fry
Spicy Chinese Vegetable-Tofu Stir-FrySally Pasley Vargas

Serves 4

I revised the traditional Chinese stir-fry I've served my family for many years to make it accessible for the young women I've mentored this summer as part of LEAP for Education, a non-profit North Shore program that helps underserved and first-generation students. I taught them this dish, which uses baked tofu instead of meat, and broccoli cut into florets. You can buy the tofu already baked (packages may say "teriyaki" or "Asian-flavored" and they usually contain two small squares); if you cannot find it, follow the instructions in the note at the end of the recipe. The heat in the stir-fry comes from chile paste, which you can omit, if you don't like spicy food. You need fresh ginger and garlic, which you peel and chop, and Chinese black vinegar, or substitute Worcestershire sauce. Have all the ingredients chopped and near a large skillet or wok (at least 12-inches) because everything goes into the pan quickly. Put on a pot of brown rice about half an hour before you start the stir-fry (the rice takes 40 minutes to cook). If you like the recipe, you can make it again, using other vegetables such as green beans and snow peas.

RICE

1cup long-grain brown rice
cups water
teaspoon olive oil
1teaspoon salt

1. Have on hand a medium heavy-based saucepan.

1. In the saucepan, combine the rice, water, olive oil, and salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Simmer for 40 minutes, or until craters appear on the surface, and the grains are tender when you taste them.

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat, fluff the rice with a fork, and recover the pan. Let the rice stand for 5 minutes.

VEGETABLES

1pound broccoli, cut into 2-inch florets
½cup water
tablespoons soy sauce
2tablespoons sugar
1teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
teaspoons cornstarch
4tablespoons olive oil
2packages (7 ounces each) teriyaki or Asian-flavored baked tofu, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices and and blotted dry with paper towels
1 orange or red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3cloves garlic, finely chopped
1piece (1 inch) fresh ginger, finely chopped
1teaspoon hot chile paste, or to taste
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1. Have on hand a medium saucepan and a 12-inch skillet or wok.

2. Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook for 3 minutes, or until the florets are tender but still crisp. Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water. Drain again.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup water, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, Chinese vinegar or Worcestershire, and cornstarch.

4. Line a plate with a double thickness of paper towels. Set the skillet or wok over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Arrange the tofu slices in the pan in one layer. Cook, turning once, for 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Tip the oil out of the skillet; wipe out the skillet.

5. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. When it is hot, add the bell pepper, garlic, ginger, chile paste, and 1 tablespoon of the scallions (the remaining go in later). Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the peppers are slightly tender.

6. Add the soy sauce mixture to the skillet and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the tofu and broccoli. Cook, stirring, until they are evenly coated with sauce.

7. Spoon the rice into wide bowls and add vegetables to each one. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions.

8. Note: If baked tofu is not available, use 1 square (about 14 ounces) very firm tofu. Halve horizontally into 2 thinner squares. Wrap in a double thickness of paper towels, set on a plate, and put a heavy skillet on top; press for 30 minutes. In a baking dish, rub the tofu with 3 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon chopped garlic. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Add the tofu to the skillet or wok as directed above in Step 4.

Nina Simonds

Serves 4

I revised the traditional Chinese stir-fry I've served my family for many years to make it accessible for the young women I've mentored this summer as part of LEAP for Education, a non-profit North Shore program that helps underserved and first-generation students. I taught them this dish, which uses baked tofu instead of meat, and broccoli cut into florets. You can buy the tofu already baked (packages may say "teriyaki" or "Asian-flavored" and they usually contain two small squares); if you cannot find it, follow the instructions in the note at the end of the recipe. The heat in the stir-fry comes from chile paste, which you can omit, if you don't like spicy food. You need fresh ginger and garlic, which you peel and chop, and Chinese black vinegar, or substitute Worcestershire sauce. Have all the ingredients chopped and near a large skillet or wok (at least 12-inches) because everything goes into the pan quickly. Put on a pot of brown rice about half an hour before you start the stir-fry (the rice takes 40 minutes to cook). If you like the recipe, you can make it again, using other vegetables such as green beans and snow peas.

RICE

1cup long-grain brown rice
cups water
teaspoon olive oil
1teaspoon salt

1. Have on hand a medium heavy-based saucepan.

1. In the saucepan, combine the rice, water, olive oil, and salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Simmer for 40 minutes, or until craters appear on the surface, and the grains are tender when you taste them.

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat, fluff the rice with a fork, and recover the pan. Let the rice stand for 5 minutes.

VEGETABLES

1pound broccoli, cut into 2-inch florets
½cup water
tablespoons soy sauce
2tablespoons sugar
1teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1tablespoon Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
teaspoons cornstarch
4tablespoons olive oil
2packages (7 ounces each) teriyaki or Asian-flavored baked tofu, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices and and blotted dry with paper towels
1 orange or red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3cloves garlic, finely chopped
1piece (1 inch) fresh ginger, finely chopped
1teaspoon hot chile paste, or to taste
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1. Have on hand a medium saucepan and a 12-inch skillet or wok.

2. Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook for 3 minutes, or until the florets are tender but still crisp. Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water. Drain again.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup water, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, Chinese vinegar or Worcestershire, and cornstarch.

4. Line a plate with a double thickness of paper towels. Set the skillet or wok over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Arrange the tofu slices in the pan in one layer. Cook, turning once, for 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Tip the oil out of the skillet; wipe out the skillet.

5. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. When it is hot, add the bell pepper, garlic, ginger, chile paste, and 1 tablespoon of the scallions (the remaining go in later). Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the peppers are slightly tender.

6. Add the soy sauce mixture to the skillet and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the tofu and broccoli. Cook, stirring, until they are evenly coated with sauce.

7. Spoon the rice into wide bowls and add vegetables to each one. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions.

8. Note: If baked tofu is not available, use 1 square (about 14 ounces) very firm tofu. Halve horizontally into 2 thinner squares. Wrap in a double thickness of paper towels, set on a plate, and put a heavy skillet on top; press for 30 minutes. In a baking dish, rub the tofu with 3 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon chopped garlic. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Add the tofu to the skillet or wok as directed above in Step 4.Nina Simonds