Recently, O and I took my mom, a longtime environmentalist who recycled way before it was “cool”, to see an IMAX all about baby polar bears being eaten by grown men polar bears.
That’s what I thought it was about, at least.
O seemed to think it was about the melting of the polar ice caps and the destruction of an entire ecosystem and boring stuff like that, so he got riled up after the film and declared we are going to fix it. He really said, “I mean, what can we do to fix this?”
I’ve been vegetarian or vegan on and off for nearly fifteen years now, though I can never seem to make it stick. After about a year of being a super perfect vegetarian, I start obsessing about a perfectly seared, thick filet mignon drenched in butter, stuffed with homemade boursin. It’s like this, but with meat:
It weighs on me heavily until I cave; I simply cannot forget about the impossibly tender, juicy hunk of meat revolving before my eyes. And then there’s just no going back, until a few months, maybe a year, maybe a few years later, when I decide to give up meat again. This, dear readers, is what we call a vicious cycle. Refer to www.babewalker.com for more #whitegirlproblems.
The point is, O wanted to fix the environmental crisis, but I pretty easily convinced him we ought to just try to not add to it. I casually mentioned eating less red meat, and his eyes got big with the prospect of having to validate his conflicting desire to slow down the drowning of coastal cities and his other, quite strong desire to eat steak when he wants.
And so we had the methane gas talk. O had no idea what I was even talking about, and I, feeling particularly ladylike that day, tried several times to explain the issue without outright saying “cow farts”. Then I remembered O is in no way subtle and outright said “cow farts”. We were on the way to lunch at the time, and he went on to order a steak burrito, but agreed to eat less meat in general from now on.
This was a killer dish to start with–the tofu is marinated in a perfectly savory combination of ginger, garlic, and miso paste and quickly pan-fried over high heat. The broth is light but flavorful and feels comforting; the noodles give you that oomph of carbs that’s so devilishly appealing. The bok choy, a favorite of mine, is not a favorite of O’s. It’s a more “advanced” vegetable, one might say, and O is still working on genuinely loving things that grow from the ground, instead of in cardboard boxes with glossy pictures on the front. If you or yours is a veg neophyte, try sliced napa cabbage or even spinach, in place of the bok choy.
You can base quite a lot off this dish, adding more ginger if that’s how you like it, or salmon if that’s how you like it, or soba if that’s how you like it.. Any way you spin it, it’s a stellar dish.
Seared Tofu over Udon in Ginger-Garlic Miso Broth with Bok Choy
- 2 tablespoons garlic-ginger paste (available at Asian markets, Indian markets, and some good grocery stores)
- 2 tablespoons white miso (see above note)
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce, or Bragg’s liquid amino acids
- Splash of white wine
- Splash of rice vinegar
- 5 cups water
- 5 teaspoons dashi (see above availability note)
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 5 slices ginger
- 1 teaspoon sambal olek (or Sriracha)
- 2 green onions, sliced–loosely divided into white parts and green parts
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid amino acids
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- Half a block tofu in water, cut to 1/2″ slices
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- Two heads baby bok choy, washed, and root ends sliced off, pulled apart gently
- Two bundles udon, or two servings
1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. Coat tofu with marinade well and let marinade for at least 30 minutes, turning once to ensure total coverage.
2. Meanwhile, pour 5 cups water into a pot on the stove over high heat and stir in dashi until dissolved. Add in garlic, ginger, sambal olek, green onions, and soy sauce or Bragg’s, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until ready to ladle over noodles.
3. Cook noodles according to package. Don’t worry about timing them to the last minute; they’ll reheat easily in the broth.
4. Heat one tablespoon vegetable oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sear tofu, about five minutes on each side, until thoroughly heated and with brown spots for that totally rustic look. Remove from pan with spatula or tongs when satisfied.
5. Heat the other tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir fry very quickly, about ten seconds. Add in bok choy and stir fry quickly, about thirty seconds. Pour in water and wine and cover! Let cook for about five minutes, or until wilted to your liking.
6. Strain garlic, ginger, and onions out of broth with handheld strainer.
7. Use chopsticks to portion udon into individual bowls. Ladle broth over, top with bok choy, then tofu. Sprinkle green parts of green onions and serve.