Friday, October 19, 2012

Recipe: Pan Seared Pineapple Tofu Stir-fry

I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants. – A. Whitney Brown

Caramelized pineapple makes this a standout.
Related recipes:
and of course Phad Thai

We had a friend over for dinner the other evening that we hadn’t seen for too long a time.

Making tofu. Kattebelleetje, Flickr ccl
She had never had tofu before. The “jelly-like stuff” she saw in Chinese restaurants always turned her off. Little did she know tofu was on the menu… We surprised her, in a good way. We actually made a tofu convert.

Tofu is one of my favourite ingredients to cook with. It takes flavour so easily. That’s the trick – to use it in dishes with high flavour. 

I have made marinated tofu “steaks” (wide flat slices of tofu) with a miso sauce. The tofu was marinated in olive oil, garlic and soy and then grilled. Amazing.

I have used tofu as a substitute for chicken in parmigiana. That is a revelation. It’s almost better than the chicken version.

And of course there’s tofu as the main protein in stir fries. The world is your oyster with stir fries. Throw anything in that you want…within reason.

There are ingredients that make things Italian; there are ingredients that make things French; and there are ingredients that make things Chinese. So I picked up green onions, finger peppers, and ginger for something Chinese style.

Oh, and a can of pineapple rings. The rest of the ingredients I had hanging around at home.

I made this recipe up in my head on my walk to the grocery store. I thought I had seen pineapple on sale (they were – at Sobeys) but I was at the wrong grocery chain. My spouse is teaching me to squeeze a penny so there was no way I was paying $5 for a pineapple when they were $2.50 somewhere else.

If possible, use fresh pineapple. Photo: kshillcut, Flickr ccl
I opted—since I was already there—for a can of pineapple rings. Fresh would have been much better, but I was able to get the juice and slices together for $2. I would have had to purchase juice separately if I bought a whole pineapple.

I always toss my tofu with cornstarch and fry it to golden brown when making a stir fry. It adds a nice texture that wouldn’t be present if I didn’t.

It occurred to me there was no reason at all why the pineapple rings couldn’t be fried as well. The surface would caramelize and add an intriguing layer of flavour to the dish. I did, and they do.

All in all, I believe I fed the three of us for about $7.00 in total. There is very little in the way of protein that costs less than tofu, if anything, and since it's plant protein the fat content is better than animal fat. But don’t let anyone tell you tofu has no fat. It does.

So not only did we introduce a new culinary ingredient to our friend, but we had a delicious filling meal that didn’t break the bank. Not everything that’s good has to be expensive.

Pan Seared Pineapple Tofu Stir-fry
Prep: 20 min  |  Cook: 10 min  |  Serves 4
oil for shallow frying (I used soy oil)
1/4 cup cornstarch
salt and pepper
1 lb extra firm tofu, cubed
19 oz can pineapple rings, with juice*
1 medium onion, chopped large
1-1/2 tbsp chopped ginger
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 hot finger peppers, diced with seeds (or to taste)
1 large red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch green onions, in 1" pieces
1 cup pineapple juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tsp white sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 package rice stick vermicelli

Mix the cornstarch with some salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Cube the tofu into about 3/4” pieces. Toss the tofu in the cornstarch mixture to coat.

Heat about 1/2” of oil in a wok until drops of water will dance on the surface. Add 1/3 of the tofu pieces and fry until golden. Repeat with the remaining tofu.

Drain the juice from the canned pineapple and reserve. It should be about 1 cup. If not add water. To the juice add the soy, hoisin and white sugar. Mix well.

Add more oil to the wok if necessary and fry the pineapple rings until browned and caramelized on both sides. Repeat until all the rings are fried. Stack and cut into quarters.

Remove all the oil in the wok except for about 1 tablespoon. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and finger peppers and sauté until fragrant. Then add the red pepper and sauté for 1 minute. 

Remove about 1 tablespoon of the pineapple juice mixture and mix with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.

Add the pineapple juice to the wok and then the juice/cornstarch. Let simmer until thickened. Then  add the tofu and chopped green onion. Toss well, let heat through, and set to low.

Cook the rice stick vermicelli (usually boil for 3-4 minutes) and then serve with the seared pineapple tofu.

* You can substitute 8 slices of fresh pineapple and 1 cup of pineapple juice, but the can is so much easier…but fresh would be best.


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