Stir-Fried Tofu with Bell Peppers or Other Vegetables

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 30 minutes

As with any stir-fry, this one is infinitely variable: You pull what you have out of the refrigerator, and not long afterward you’re ready to eat. If you make the main recipe, then the variations, you’ll soon be combining at will, without much more than a glance at these pages.

Shaoxing wine is named for a specific region in China where it originated, though it’s made throughout the country now. It’s fermented from rice, sometimes with other grains added; the better ones are said to be aged for a hundred years. The cooking types aren’t of this quality, of course, and aren’t much good for drinking anyway since they’re often salted. But the sherrylike flavor benefits almost any stir-fry.

11/2 to 2 pounds firm to extra-firm tofu, prepared by any of the methods in The Basics of Tofu or simply blotted dry

3 tablespoons peanut oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 large onion, halved and sliced

1 each green, yellow, and red bell pepper, or any combination, cored, seeded, and sliced

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger

1/4 cup Shaoxing wine, sherry, sake, white wine, or water

1/3 cup vegetable stock or water

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup roughly chopped scallion

Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch or slightly larger cubes. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet or wok, preferably nonstick, over high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, a couple of minutes. Add the peppers and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until both onions and peppers are crisp-tender and a little charred at the edges, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside for a moment.

Add the remaining oil, then the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring, for about 10 seconds. Add the tofu and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, a couple of minutes. Add the wine and stock and cook, stirring, until about half of it evaporates; return the pepper-onion mix to the pan and cook, stirring, for a minute or so to reheat.

Add the soy sauce and scallion and cook, stirring, until the scallion becomes glossy, about 30 seconds. Serve immediately.

Variations

Stir-Fried Tofu with Peas, Snow Peas, or Snap Peas. Use these singly or in combination: In Step 1, the onion is optional. In place of the peppers, add 2 cups peas (frozen are fine, but they should be defrosted first if at all possible) and cook until bright green and just beginning to brown; snow peas and snap peas should not soften too much. Remove and proceed with the recipe.

Stir-Fried Tofu with Shiitake Mushrooms. You can use any mushrooms, of course, but shiitakes (including dried ones) seem to have been made for this: In Step 1, use the onion; you can also use 1 bell pepper if you like. After scooping both out of the pan, cook 2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (stems are good for stock only) in a tablespoon of oil over high heat, stirring, until browned and almost crisp. Remove them with a slotted spoon, then add a tablespoon of oil and proceed with the recipe.

Stir-Fried Tofu with Broccoli or Cauliflower. Parboiling isn’t absolutely necessary but actually saves time and effort: In Step 1, in place of the peppers, use 2 cups bite-sized pieces of broccoli and/or cauliflower that have been parboiled for just a minute or two. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not soft. Remove and proceed with the recipe.

Stir-Fried Tofu with Cabbage, Kale, Collards, or Other Greens. If you use no stems thicker than 1/8 inch or so, no parboiling is necessary: In Step 1, the onion is optional. Add 3 cups shredded or chopped cabbage, kale, collard, or other greens (mustard, turnip, cress whatever you like); cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Remove and proceed with the recipe.