Class was back in session last night at the Natural Gourmet Institute after a two-week break. We had A la Carte 2. As with A la Carte 1, the object of the class was to work our way around three stations to make three different entrees. The idea is to get a feel for what it’s like working at different stations in a restaurant.
The three entrees were Pan-Roasted Chicken with Mushroom Sauce, with mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini and yellow squash; pan-seared Tempeh with Curried Coconut Sauce and Grilled Pineapple Chutney, with black rice; and Quick Tofu Teriyaki (stir fry), with basmati rice.
We broke up into three groups and each group did the mis en place for one station. Then
we all rotated and worked each station. And we continued rotating until we ran out of food and time. When we completed each dish, we presented it to the instructor for evaluation. Overall, I did well, with the exception of a few issues with my sauces (the mushroom sauce needed to reduce a little more; there was too much coconut-curry sauce for the tempeh; my second round of stir fry needed a little more sauce).
Everything was delicious. The mushroom sauce was incredibly flavorful, as was the coconut curry sauce (although I’m not a huge fan of curry). My favorite overall dish was the Tofu Teriyaki, and if I took only one thing away from this class, it’s that I’ve finally learned how to make a good stir fry. When I’ve made stir fries in the past, the flavor always seemed flat, and whenever I’ve added tofu, it always broke up into crumbles, which then dispersed throughout the vegetables, creating a very unappetizing dish. I now know that there are two elements to a good stir fry: 1) a sauce and 2) marinating and cooking the tofu before putting it into the stir fry.
When I say “sauce,” I don’t mean sesame seed oil or shoyu (although those went in the stir fry, too). I’m talking about a brown sauce made by combing the tofu marinade with some kuzu to thicken it. It gave the vegetables a more complex flavor and depth that just shoyu and sesame seed oil alone don’t. As for the tofu, that was marinated, cubed, and pan fried until golden brown.
The first A la Carte class was a little hectic for me because I was flustered. This time, I was more at ease and was able to enjoy the process more. And best of all, I have leftovers. Today for lunch, I had some that delicious stir fry. And because I was so happy with it, I’m sharing the recipe. Enjoy.
Quick Tofu Teriyaki
Copyright © Natural Gourmet Institute (with modifications)
Yield: 4 servings
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from 1/4 cup peeled, grated ginger
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp shoyu
1 tbsp umeboshi paste
1/2 cup apple juice
1 lb firm or extra firm tofu, pressed
1/4 – 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp kuzu
1/4 cup vegetable oil
cup julienned red pepper
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup julienned carrot
1 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup shoyu
2 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1. In blender, combine first 6 ingredients with 1/2 cup water. Blend until smooth.
2. Slice tofu into 4 slabs of equal thickness.
3. in a medium saucepan, combine tofu with marinade. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
4. Drain tofu (reserving marinade) and blot iwth paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
5. In medium skillet, heat oi land pan fry tofu over medium-high heat until golden on both sides.
6. After tofu is cooked, drain any excess oil out of pan and place tofu in warm oven.
7. Place marinade in blender with kuzu and process until smooth.
8. To cook 2 servings at a time: In a wok or pan, heat 2 tbsp of the vegetable oil; add half the red pepper, half the onion, half the carrot, and half the celery. Stir fry until vegetables start to brown. Add half the cubed tofu, half the shoyu shoyu, and a tbsp of sesame seed oil. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
9. Serve over rice. Garnish with scallions.