When Olive Oil & Salt Aren’t the Answer

 

“Just sauté in olive oil, season with salt and enjoy!” I say this a lot. Sometimes it’s true but sometimes it’s really not what’s needed. Tonight I had a large turnip, 1 leek and some yellowing stalks of celery. Luckily I also had a little knob of fresh ginger and some garlic and a few tangerines and my pantry always has sesame oil and soy sauce. And I had a block of tofu! And pretty much every time I’m at the store I buy a bunch of scallions and cilantro so there was that. It’s a habit that makes many meals so much better and why you see this usual greenery as I’ve come to call it in so many of my recipes. The mint in my garden has withstood the freezing temps and is still thriving so I also tossed in some mint. So I made up a sort of teriyaki tofu with turnips, leeks and celery and served that over rice. It was great. My kid who “hates” turnips ate all the vegetables and I enjoyed it much more than I would have a pan of sautéed vegetables with nothing but salt and olive oil.

 

It’s really not that most people don’t like vegetables. It’s just that preparation matters. It’s fun to prepare vegetables in ways that makes the most of the situation–the ingredients and the proclivities of the eater! No, we don’t always or even often have the bandwidth for any of this but sometimes the soy sauce, sesame oil, plenty of ginger and the usual greenery-formula is just what we need!

 

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Teriyaki-ish Tofu with Random Vegetables

 

1 block (usually about 8 ounces) firm tofu, briefly pressed between plates to remove some of the liquid, then cut into cubes

2 tablespoons oil

1 large turnip or 3 cups of whatever vegetables you have (carrots, peas, green beans broccoli, cauliflower, etc), finely chopped

1 leek or 1/2 onion, sliced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced (optional)

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sesame seeds toasted for about 2 minutes in a dry skillet (optional)

Rice for serving

Marinade

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon or more, favorite chili sauce like Sriracha

1 tablespoon ginger, grated on a microplane or very finely chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced or grated on microplane

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/3 cup orange juice

 

Cook rice.

 

Mix together all ingredients for the marinade. Put the tofu cubes in a baking dish and gently toss with half the marinade, making sure they’re in one layer.

 

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over high heat and add tofu and cook for 5-7 minutes or until browning in spots. Remove tofu from pan and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon oil and saute turnip, celery and leek or whatever vegetables you’re using, stirring often for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are just softening. Add the remainder of the marinade to the vegetables and mix well and cook for another minute or two. Serve vegetables and tofu over rice and garnish with herbs and scallions and toasted sesame seeds, if you’d like.

 

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