Friday, October 5, 2018

Tofu Puffs and Bok Choy Pickles

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, stock up on pastured meats from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm and fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm, including plenty of root vegetables, squash, and bok choy.

We had a period last spring when we ate a lot of bok choy while my son was concocting a recipe for a 4J elementary school cooking competition with the theme of "healthy, kid-friendly Asian fusion" and extra points for using brown rice, tofu, bok choy, ginger, and garlic. He decided to hedge his bets and use all of the above. For the tofu, he made a ginger and garlic version of baked tofu cubes from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen Everyday, coated with a soy sauce and cornstarch mixture that gives them a crispy surface, and they were an immediate hit. The first iteration of the bok choy was another matter. He had steamed these until quite soft and served them limply over plain brown rice. His older sister pushed hers around her plate with teenage contempt. My son initially wrote this off to her being a picky eater, but ultimately had to concede that she represented his target audience, who might be equally as picky. So he went back to the drawing board and came up with the idea of making quick pickles with the crunchy bok choy stems. This proved to be much more popular and had the added benefit of providing some sweet and salty pickle brine to drizzle on the brown rice. His recipe was chosen as one of the two representing his grade school in the citywide competition. The big day came when they all prepared their recipes in a cavernous cafeteria. Working with awkward knife guard gloves, abiding by food handling regulations, and producing 50 tasting samples were all challenging, but he stayed cheerful through it all and even came up with an eye catching Dr. Seuss-esque food plating design using denuded bok choy stalks.

Perhaps most rewardingly, his recipes have made their way into our regular family meal rotation, as in this rice bowl with tofu puffs.

Tofu Puffs and Bok Choy Pickles
for the tofu puffs
1 block extra firm tofu
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp diced garlic
2 cloves garlic, diced

for the bok choy pickles
1 head bok choy (or two baby bok choy)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup rice vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Set a pot of brown rice to cook.

3. Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch thick slices, and press between two cutting boards to drain off excess liquid. Cut the slices into 1/2 inch cubes.

4. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, soy sauce, corn starch, garlic, and ginger. Gently fold in the tofu cubes to coat with the soy sauce mixture. Spread them onto the parchment paper coated baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30 or 35 minutes, turning once, until puffy and golden.

5. While the tofu bakes, prepare the quick pickles. Mix the sugar and salt into the hot water to dissolve and then stir in the vinegar. Allow to cool a few minutes.

6. Separate the leaves from the bok choy head and rinse well. Cut the white stems from the green leaves and reserve the greens for another use (stir fry or salad). Cut the white stems into 1/2 inch pieces, stir into the pickle brine, and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

7. Serve the tofu puffs with brown rice topped with the pickles and drizzled with some of the pickle brine.

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