Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stir Fry with Tofu, Sweet Potatoes, Red Cabbage, and Hoisin

We're getting to that dreaded point of winter. The point where I'm seriously stretching my poor interior brain parts to think of ways to survive on what's left of the winter vegetables.

I've already resigned myself to the fact that most of the available salad greens are coming from California. And there's little hope of finding a bright young sweet pepper that hasn't traveled all the way from Mexico just to hang with the (decidedly pastier) local mushrooms at our little Wisconsin food co-op.

I must admit that we didn't exactly stow away quite enough of the summer harvest to get us through the winter, so I've been anxiously perusing the grocery aisles to see what I can find that's... well... seasonal. Not a ton out there -- but sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised. One of the storage vegetables that we can seem to find from local sources well into February is cabbage. Thank goodness for the lowly petite au choux! I was even more thrilled when I picked up the latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine and found a recipe for a delightful stir fry inside. Not only did it use red cabbage, but it made use of another winter staple -- the sweet potato.
I wasn't convinced that I was in the mood for chicken, which was supposed to be part of the stir-fry, so I turned to a package of tofu from our local soy purveyor, the Simple Soyman. They make THE BEST nigari-style tofu I've ever had, and it's simply perfect when crisped up a bit and thrown into a stir fry. So, we went with that instead.

As I was glancing through our spice cupboard, I found a small jar of Szechuan peppercorns. They looked so lovely and peppery, I poured a few out and gave them a photo op.
Most recognized for the part it plays in Chinese five spice and Japanese seven spice powders, the Szechuan peppercorn is definitely worth seeking out. Really a seed from the prickley ash tree, this "peppercorn" offers both a unique flavor and aroma to any dish in which it is used. Not quite as pungent as black pepper, Szechuan pepper has a floral aroma and slight lemony overtones. Perfect for this dish, if I do say so myself.

We added a bit to the stir-fry to kick it up a notch, and I really liked the flavors it brought forward when paired with the sweetness of the potato. We threw everything on top of some soba noodles and called it dinner.

The whole affair turned out to be quite the lovely dish. The vegetables cooked quickly, which is a bonus on a weeknight. And the flavors warmed our winter bellies quite nicely while giving us a boatload of nutrients to boot.

I'd call that a bonus at this time of the year.

Original Recipe: Chicken Stiry Fry with Yams, Red Cabbage, and Hoisin (Bon Appetit, February 2009)

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  1. That looks so much better than my stir fry w/ tofu that I made last week. Mine was HORRIBLE! No California peppers? I have been able to find them at Whole Foods. I am getting to the point where I am unispired and longing for summer veg again.

  2. Oh my this is quite lovely. The colors are very appetizing and beautiful. Love the sweet potatoes in there.

  3. Holy cow, the colors are so vibrant! I've got to tell you, I am soooo ready for spring to get here. Actually, it's summer that I'm really wanting. I want a fresh tomato like nobody's business!!! (Who made up that phrase?)

  4. I can see you have a passion for colourful food that is delicious to eat both with your mouth and your eyes. thx for sharing :)

  5. The colours in that stir fry are AMAZING!!!

    I've only recently become interested in Stir Frys, and I have to admit I saw them as somewhat "student food" but I got a recipe for Drunkards noodles and can't live without them now!

  6. That looks great - cabbage is one of those veggies that I'm not really excited to buy or prepare, but then you just spend a few minutes at the beginning of the week processing it into shreds and you have the easiest addition to tons of dishes... yum

  7. OK, BURP! totally resonates with my ever-hungry inner being. I've got some red cabbage I was wondering what to do with - now I know! And that Wish cake - I wish I had some right this minute. How creative and yummy looking! I've never seen a cake like that and it's EXACTLY what I want for my next birthday. Can you come to Japan and make it for me? Please please? (BTW, my parents and sister and her family are in Madison - not too far from you!) Oh, another wish of mine - I wish I could eat local here in our little corner of Japan - but there's just not really any agriculture here - too much concrete! Not even a farmers' market - darn it!

  8. BTW, I'm adding you to my blog list!!! Your site ROCKS, Lo!

  9. That looks mad good. I've had a thing of Szechuan peppercorns waiting for me to make kung pao chicken, maybe I need to break them out sooner...

  10. That is some seriously psychadelic color in that dish!

  11. I just recently found a place to get Szechuan peppercorns, and have obsessing about them a lot lately. Uncanny timing on your post!

    I totally hear you about getting tired of the vegetation options this time of year. :\

  12. I came by to thank you for the tomatoes and the rest of the goodies that came with them, but I got totally sidetracked by this wonderful looking stir fry. I have everything including some chicken, so I actually might whip this up for dinner tonight. It sounds wonderful.

    Now, back to the tomatoes. THANK YOU SO MUCH. A box came today and I had no idea (none) what it was or where it came from. It had 6 cans of wonderful looking tomatoes, a funny t-shirt (seriously LOL funny), a hat, a chopping board, a canvas grocery bag and a couple of other odds and ends. Amazing load of stuff!

    Seriously, thank you so much and please thank the tomato people for me. I'm THRILLED beyond words (even though I just rambled for several minutes)!

    I really do appreciate it and am excited to use the tomatoes. Yum, they look so good.

    Warm regards,

  13. You know I saw that same recipe nad thought to myself yuk, red cabbage wants sauerbraten or something German, but this looks quite yummy.

  14. Such beautiful colours. That's a great stir fry!

  15. Mmm, I want to make this just because of how beautiful it is. I have a thing for striking contrasts on the plate (or in the bowl as the case may be. Hence my love affair with beets). I approve of the tofu substitution too!

  16. I made a stir fry with red/purple cabbage the other day, inspired by yours! Drop on by:

  17. One of the easiest and tasty stir fry that I've made! This recipe is just a perfect comfort food for me and my family! I would really cook this again next week for our dinner. Thank you for sharing!

    Easy Stir Fry


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