Black Pepper Tofu or Intermission

I don’t know about you, but I need a break-an intermission, so to speak, from turkey and cranberries and pumpkin. A break from stuffing and mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Ditto for the sweet potatoes. And the pies. Well, we didn’t do pies this year…   I know all will come back as Christmas is not over, but right now-I need a break. And I’m not talking about a cookie break. (Though I do admit, I can always eat a cookie.)

No, I need my Asian fix. I need something spicy and garlicky and I want my house to smell like being outside of a Chinese restaurant. You know what I mean, right? How many times do you find yourself  in some nondescript strip mall and all of a sudden there is that smell. That “oh, that smells so good”, smell; you know what I’m talking about right? Well, it is usually some nondescript Chinese restaurant that is emitting that garlic oil perfume into the surrounding air, right when  you walk by. No, this is not a phenomena-it is true! And trust me, if you are Jewish and it is Christmas Day and you don’t feel like cooking, you can always find a Chinese restaurant open. Just follow your nose-that smell will guide the way.

Anyway…our Arctic blast arrived and brought snow with it, so if you haven’t made your ski vacation plans yet-now is the time. The mountains are being pummeled and I am here, secure at my little desk, watching the snow fall. It is white and soft and makes the world sound quiet. I like that.

 And I like this. Black pepper, garlic, onions, butter; what a great combo. This dish is one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes from his book Plenty. It is plastered all over the Internet. It should be. It is good and spicy and keeps you warm on an Arctic blast day. It is loaded with pepper and even Manservant who got used to eating very spicy food in China, said it could be toned down a bit. I agree. I love that it uses butter which gives this classic Chinese dish a Vietnamese slant. You know I love Vietnamese, so this is like the best of both worlds. 

This dish will totally take your mind off of turkey. It will keep your insides warm. It will make you want to curl up on the couch and watch “Breaking Bad”. I have my brother and sister in law to thank for this vice. We just discovered it on NetFlix this past weekend. I mentioned to Manservant that my brother said it was a good show. Now you know Manservant and I are most definitely not trendy. Therefore it took us 5 seasons to discover this show. I am still trying to figure out how a guy with lung cancer survives 5 seasons…  This show is so bizarre, but yet it isn’t. I am very hooked, which is fitting, given the subject of the series. I can not wait for tonight. I think I am in love with Walter…

But I am also in love with this dish. I need my Asian fix. I need that garlic smell. I need an intermission! At least until the next round of holiday food!

 What do you crave after your turkey day is over?

Black Pepper Tofu Serves 4 (From Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty)
Serves: 4
1 3/4 lbs of firm tofu
vegetable oil for frying
cornstarch to dust the tofu
9-11 T butter
8-12 small shallots
8 fresh  mild red chiles, thinly sliced 
12 crushed garlic cloves
3 T chopped fresh ginger
3 T sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
3 T light soy sauce
2 T sugar (use brown for a more Vietnamese flavor)
5 T coarsely crushed black peppercorns (I would suggest no more than three)
16 small green onions, cut on the diagonal into 1″ segments
Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok to come 1/4″ up the sides and heat. Cut the tofu into 1″ cubes and dust with cornstarch. Shake off excess. Add to hot oil. (You will probably need to do this in batches.) Fry until they are golden all over and have a thin crust. Transfer them to a paper towel lined sheet.

Remove oil and sediment from pan. Melt the butter. (You can use less, but this helps create the sauce.) Add the shallots, chilies, garlic and ginger and saute on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the ingredients have turned shiny and are totally soft. Add the soy sauces and sugar and stir, then add the crushed peppercorns. (OK. I admit to adding some Szechuan peppercorns, too.)

Add the tofu and warm it in the sauce for about one minute. Finally, stir in the green onions. Serve hot with steamed rice. 

Now go check out Breaking Bad…

December Treats:
Gingerbread Waffles
German Apple Pancake
Belgian Liege Waffles

Cranberry Chipotle Wonton Cups
Mushroom Lover’s Pastry
Onion Dip
3 Ingredient Artichoke Dip
Smoked Trout Pate
Savory Sweet Potato Latkes
Not My Mama’s Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken, Artichoke, Mushroom Casserole
Porcini Mushroom Lasagna
My Mother’s Brisket
Boneless Rib Roast and Baked Rice
Hot Brown Sandwich
Sweet and Hot Green Onion Mustard
Frozen Cranberry Salad
Fresh Cranberry and Apple Salad

Shortbread Nut Bars
Spritz Cookies
Fool’s Toffee
World Peace Cookies
Chocolate Icebox Toffee Cookies
Shortbread Cookie Cut Outs
Double Chocolate Mocha Macadamia Bark
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites
Chocolate Krantz Cake or Babka

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    December 8, 2013 at 5:32 am

    I need to steal … er .. borrow this page from your cookbook, Abbe. I've no problem ordering a tofu dish when I'm out but rarely, if ever, cook with it. This recipe that you've shared today sounds absolutely delicious. And with it so frigid outside, who wants to go to a restaurant? I'll be sure to try this in the weeks ahead, once I brave the outdoors to buy some tofu. 🙂

  • SuperCutePetContest
    December 7, 2013 at 2:56 am

    That garlicky smell is the best! It gets me every time. Who can resist though?

  • kumars kitchen
    December 6, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    certainly a spicy,delicious and lip smacking good way of taking a break….we often take a break by doing just the opposite…making pies,cookies,cakes and stuffing…get to savor Asian food all the time…so others form a part of fond intermission 🙂

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 7, 2013 at 3:10 am

      Kind of funny, huh? the differences in cuisine! I wonder what Italians do. Thanks for visiting Kumars!

  • Sharon D
    December 7, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Oh..I am with you, Abbe ♥ All this festive eating has made me feel like I need a break! I'm thinking of plain fruits and vegetables the next couple of days 😉

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 7, 2013 at 3:11 am

      I should do the same, Sharon. I actually have quite a few in my fridge to use! But our fruit this time of year is definitely not like yours!

  • Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl
    December 6, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    It goes from freezing to not freezing the last few days, the weather is a tad confusing right now. This recipe looks delicious, would be a hit at our dinner table!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 7, 2013 at 3:08 am

      I think our weather is coming your way-so get ready. It has been so cold and we aren't supposed to be above freezing until late next week. It is sunny, though! Enjoy!

  • Monet
    December 6, 2013 at 4:22 am

    You read my mind! We actually just picked up some tofu because we're so sick of holiday fare! This looks delicious. We'll be trying it tomorrow night!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 7, 2013 at 3:07 am

      Good deal, Monet. Let me know what you think!

  • Winnie
    December 5, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    I'm a vegetarian and I happen to looooooooove tofu 🙂
    Wonderful looking dish, which I really want to try
    Thanks for the recipe!!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 7, 2013 at 3:06 am

      I'd love some more recipes, Winnie! I really enjoyed this dish as did Manservant. Just watch the pepper!

  • Laura Dembowski
    December 5, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    I've never eaten tofu, but this recipe could probably convince me! I love to eat all different kinds of food – I have to mix it up a lot.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 5, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      You should give it a try, Laura. It tastes just like you flavor it. And the firm tofu really has a nice texture after it has been fried. But then so do French fries!

  • Shirley Tay
    December 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Hey Abbe, that's such a quick & easy dish! I love it! Looking fwd to sharing our love for food!

  • Zoe
    December 5, 2013 at 4:29 am

    Being Asian, for some reasons we are never sick of Asian food… Yes that we can't have turkey everyday :p

    Your black pepper tofu looks yummy!


    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 5, 2013 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks Zoe! Did you have a good trip?

  • Angie Schneider
    December 5, 2013 at 4:09 am

    I am a tofu fan! Love the combo of flavours.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Then you will love this, Angie. Would be great with that clementine salad!

  • Shelley @ Two Healthy Kitchens
    December 5, 2013 at 3:13 am

    Mmmmmm … spicy and garlicky! Yes – I could totally take an intermission for that! And the "oh that smells so good" smell?1?! I totally get it!!!! This looks delicious – what a fantastic tofu recipe! Really, pretty much anything with kecap manis is gonna be good … add in some garlic and ginger and there's magic at work, no doubt! Thanks, Abbe! 😀

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      It's the garlic that does it! Right, Shelley?

  • Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
    December 5, 2013 at 2:21 am

    This post makes me smile. My daughter-in-law is from Taiwan and if she doesn't have rice or Chinese food every few days she's not worth being around. 🙂

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm

      Well, they say Jewish folks have some Chinese in them! I know I need my Asian fix every so often. But then I need an Italian and a Mexican fix, too!

  • Liz Berg
    December 5, 2013 at 1:22 am

    I'm heading to Denver tomorrow…and sure wish it was a lot warmer!!! I'm ready for a break from turkey…but don't think tofu will fly around here. This would be excellent with chicken, though 🙂

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 5, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      You are right. this would be great with chicken! Hope you made it in OK! And that your folks are well!

  • Kitchen Riffs
    December 4, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    I'm in the mood for Asian too. I actually used some leftover Brussels sprouts and turkey in fried rice – pretty good. This dish looks better, though. We're currently enjoying 60 degree temperatures, but it's going to get much, much colder starting tomorrow, with an excellent chance of snow. Our first of the year! Always exciting. 😉 Good recipe – thanks.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 5, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      I love fried rice but I never think to make the rice ahead and chill it! We aren't supposed to be above freezing for a week and today it hasn't even hit 15. BUT-the sun is shining! Thanks, John!

  • Biz
    December 4, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Abbe, this recipe is right up my alley! Love it! Except you can keep your nasty green onions – I'll sub in some asparagus!


    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 5, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      Asparagi would be perfecto! Tony would eat this?

  • Nazneen Hamilton
    December 4, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Aren't you just loving this weather? I'm out and about picking ip kids, it's finally 10 degrees 🙂 I'm hungry and your pepper tofu looks sooo good. It's cold in the car as I wait, wish I had some. I'm making garlicky Indian pulao tonight and eating it by the fire. Brrr! Keep warm!!! Ok, off I go to bare the elements…

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 5, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      Love your dinner idea, Nazneen. Got to admit I miss my kids but I sure don't miss carpool!

  • Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    December 4, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Well Abbe – I could use a break too and Asian sounds perfect. Send some snow to Virginia please – I miss the quiet muffled sounds of a good snow!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 5, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      I believe it is heading your way, Tricia! Love the hibernation of snow-as long as my fridge is full!