Hot damn, I love tofu. I am not sure how this happened. I am certain I never ate it growing up and I know many people have (or think they have) an aversion to the stuff but not me. No sir.
For my birthday, I received several beautiful gifts from my very generous friends, one of which was PLENTY. This is a wickedly awesome cookbook that I have been coveting ever since I spied it in Sara's kitchen years ago (back when I was working at Vij's). And now it is miiiiine.
This book is packed with delicious and gorgeous vegetarian fare. Con said it is the most rustic thing he has ever seen.
And yet, the first recipe I am choosing to share with you is not that rustic. Mouth-watering but not really on par with the rustic-ness level of most of the book. I present to you...
BLACK PEPPER TOFU
1 & 3/4 lbs firm tofu
Vegetable oil for frying
Cornstarch to dust the tofu
11 Tbsp butter (or Earth Balance for the veegs)
12 small shallots, thinly sliced
8 fresh red chiles (mild), thinly sliced
12 garlic cloves, crushed
3 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
3 Tbsp sweet soy sauce (...that's one!)
3 Tbsp light soy sauce (...that's two!)
4 tsp dark soy sauce (...that's three!)
2 Tbsp sugar
5 Tbsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns - use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder (or the back of a wooden spoon and a cutting board/rough surface)
16 small and thin green onions, cut into 1 & 1/4 inch segments
Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok to come to 1/4 up the sides and heat.
Cut the tofu into large cubes, approximately 1 inch x 1 inch. Toss them in some cornstarch and shake off the excess, then add tofu to the hot oil. You will need to fry the tofu pieces in a few batches so they don't stew in the pan. Fry, turning them around as you go until they are golden all over and have a thin crust. As they are cooked, transfer them onto paper towels.
Remove the oil and any sediment from the pan then put the butter inside and melt it. Add the shallots, chiles, garlic, and ginger. Saute on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients have turned shiny and are totally soft. Next, add the soy sauces and sugar and stir. Add the crushed black pepper.
Add the tofu to warm it up in the sauce for about a minute. Finally, stir in the green onions. Serve hot, with steamed rice.
I am just going to mention here that if the tofu prep seems beyond what you want to do for this dish after you already bought 3 kinds of soy sauce, you can pick up extra firm tofu in the grocery store that has already been fried. It absolutely will not be in the same league but I am just saying that product does exist.
Images from Google Images. Recipe from Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi (Chronicle Books, 2010).