Spicy Ketchup-Braised Tofu

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 20 minutes

Vaguely Chinese, more honestly American, this is delicious stuff. It can be served on bread or on top of rice or noodles. Given the ease of preparation, it’s amazing.

1/2 cup peanut oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

11/2 to 2 pounds firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 8 slices and squeezed lightly (see Preparing Tofu)

All-purpose flour for dredging

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon minced garlic

11/2 cups ketchup (to make your own, see Homemade Ketchup)

Cayenne to taste

Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Put about 1/3 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, dredge the tofu slices lightly in the flour and add them, one at a time, to the skillet. Do not crowd: you may have to cook in batches. Sprinkle the tofu with salt and pepper as it cooks. As the pieces brown, turn them and brown the other side; total cooking time per piece will be 4 to 6 minutes. When the pieces are done, transfer them to a plate. Wipe out the skillet.

Add the remaining oil to the skillet over medium heat; immediately add the minced garlic. Cook for a minute or two, until fragrant but not colored, then add the ketchup and some cayenne (start with about 1/4 teaspoon). Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce bubbles, thickens, and starts to caramelize around the edges of the pan. Taste and add salt, pepper, or cayenne as necessary.

Return the tofu to the sauce and turn until evenly coated; add lemon juice to taste, stir, and serve.