Monday, September 21, 2009

moving on with it

lettuce wraps with hoisin
oh goodness,
i'm still so far behind
that i didn't even know
where to start.
with the deviled eggs
that i made for last week's
first game of the season?
with the kugel that i made
in honor of rosh hashanah
for the bring-a-dish-to-work
that-represents-your-heritage day?
or my odd attempt at


even though i've already decided
to skip my favorite corn soup
until next summer and i may come back to
the eggs, kugel and peach, um, puree,
i'm jumping right to the
lettuce wraps.
i've been making them for years
and, well, they are an excellent and
fast excuse for dinner when it's
too hot to turn on the oven,
too late to break out the pots and pans
or too easy and delicious to ignore.

i think this dish was first created on
a night when all three applied,
but since then, it's been on repeat
year round.

there are very few reasons not to make it,
and the most compelling argument
doesn't stand a chance. you see,
i know it's a simple recipe
when my biggest complaint
is the amount of drying that
goes into it.
cubed tofu
because first, you have to blot
the tofu. (yes, it's tofu again.
it is. but, it's also very, very good
and slathered in a flavor-packed
sauce and it's...well, that's it.
it's just worth it. tofu or not.)
so, anyway. you blot the tofu
using one or two or three
paper towels.
then you cut the block into
tiny cubes, lay those
on paper towels, cover with
more paper towels and when
they're soaked through, repeat.

but that's the most time consuming part.
later, you have to wash the lettuce leaves
well, and then again, dry them completely
so that they don't give the tofu extra
moisture or become drippy in your hands.
boston lettuce leaves
but really, what's a little drying
in the scheme of things? especially
considering you don't have to turn
on your oven? (can you tell it's still
a little hot over here in our kitchen?)

so basically,
all you do is take these pieces
of tofu, toss them with the contents
of your fridge - mine is decidedly asian
and mexican. we go asian here - let
them mingle and meld and then
fold the cubes into large leaves of
boston or butter lettuce.

there's one other catch -
if you want to call it that.
i don't measure for this recipe.
it's not worth it to dirty
when you can just squeeze
in a little of this
and a little of that.
scallion, soy and hoisin sauce
instead, i always start
with a few key ingredients
soy sauce
hoisin sauce
and then go from there.
some things in my mind are optional:
water chestnuts.
some things are not:
sesame oil
fish sauce.

(which reminds me:
don't. be. afraid. of. fish. sauce.
it sounds weird and smells worse.
but it adds something delicious
to so many dishes
that would be impossible to
otherwise replicate or achieve.)
tofu in sauce
anyway, once i'm happy with the way
the sauce tastes, i toss in the tofu,
gently mix it all together
and then let it sit until
i think it's ready.

i think a recipe would
only slow us down (and at
this point, that's a luxury
we cannot afford).
tofu and sesame lettuce wraps
sesame tofu lettuce wraps
i'm not giving a real recipe here, just a guideline. i've made this many times and i've never - not even the first time that i made it - not had enough sauce. once the scallions and garlic are in the bowl, add your base of soy sauce and hoisin. whisk them together and go from there. just keep tasting until you're happy - i'm pretty sure that if i gave an actual recipe, that's what would happen, anyway.

1 block firm tofu, drained
2 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
soy sauce
hoisin sauce
siracha, or other hot sauce
fish sauce (really, really a must)
sesame oil
lime, halved
sesame seeds
1 head boston lettuce leaves, separated, washed and dried

chopped jalapeno (add with scallions and garlic)
chopped water chestnuts (add with scallions and garlic)
chopped ginger (add with scallions and garlic)
dicded avocado (add with tofu)

blot tofu several times with several paper towels. cube tofu; place cubes on paper towels. top with paper towels. let sit 1 minute, or until wet. repeat with dry paper towels; discard. place tofu on dry pieces of paper towels. let sit until ready to use (for me, this is sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes an hour and a half, depending on how much time i have).

in bowl, whisk together scallions and garlic. add good amounts of soy sauce and hoisin. squeeze in some siracha (depending on how spicy you like it), add a few healthy shakes of fish sauce, a couple drops of sesame oil and a big squeeze of lime. taste mixture; adjust. when you're happy with it, add the tofu and sesame seeds; gently toss. let sit 20 minutes to 1 hour (or more). let everyone make their own by serving tofu with lettuce leaves, hoisin sauce and siracha.

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