Sunday, June 15, 2008

Addendum: Spicy Sichuan Beef

Tonight I had a BBQ at my parent's house in honor of my friend Lyn and her husband Adam who are visiting from New Hampshire. I meant to take lots of pictures. Made sure to put my camera in my bag and pulled it out when I got to the house. But alas, somehow the whole evening passed without my taking even one shot. I probably should have remembered to bring my camera outside with me if I was planning on taking pictures.

Anyway, aside from being bummed that I didn't get any pictures of their kids, or even of us, I'm also bummed because I had meant to take a picture of one of the items I prepared. I decided to BBQ kebabs, and found a couple of recipes online that looked good. But thinking back on one of my last posts, I also really wanted to try grilling steak with the Hoisin sauce from the Spicy Sichuan Beef

I ended up trying it out on a steak kebab. I don't really have a recipe, because I just worked off of the sauce from the Sichuan Beef post. I used jalapenos this time, but totally cut out the spice by removing the ribbing and seeds (my parents have been frustrated with me of late because they claim everything I cook is too spicy for them to eat). I finely chopped the peppers and sauteed them in a little bit of oil with some grated ginger and finely minced garlic. After about 5 minutes I added approximately 1/3 c. Hoisin Sauce, mixed well, and let it cook for a few minutes more. I then let it cool. I cut the steak into cubes and about an hour before I wanted to put it on the grill I mixed it with the Hoisin sauce in a Ziploc bag. Before grilling I slid the meat onto skewers and then grilled 'til done. Everyone loved them. Very tasty. So I definitely recommend this method of preparation. You could easily add some veggies to the kebab (any kind of pepper would be good). Last note, I didn't use the Sichuan salt and pepper because I didn't want the mouth-numbing flavor. If you like that taste and have some of that mix lying around, I'd recommend sprinkling it on the kebabs when they come off the grill.

Carry Me Back to Old Virginny

At the beginning of May, my sister and I traveled back to Virginia for the Richmond NASCAR race. It was a great weekend, because although I lived in Virginia for over 2 years, I never spent any time in Richmond.

As we learned over the weekend, Richmond is a great city to explore. It has a rich history, vibrant cultural life, wonderful restaurants and beautiful old neighborhoods. For many years now, as various members of my family have lived or traveled on the East Coast, we have loved exploring Civil War battlefields and sites. Richmond, of course, played an integral role in the South throughout the Civil War, so it was very interesting to visit Civil War sites within the city. I finally visited the White House of the Confederacy, where a quite burly man decked out in General Stonewall Jackson gear intimidated me just a little. We drove Monument Avenue, where I snapped the below pic of the statue commemorating the great Confederate Calvary general JEB Stuart. We visited the brand new Civil War museum, built at the Tredegar Iron Works on the banks of the James River (I highly recommend the museum if you ever find yourself in Richmond).

However, the one element that made the weekend particularly entertaining, considering our reason for being in Richmond, was meeting other NASCAR fans and crews as we wandered the city. At the Civil War Museum we even met a couple of pit crew guys for the 83 Red Bull Toyota. To my everlasting regret, I did not get a picture with them. Maybe next time. That lesson has definitely been learned.

And of course, we went racing. The crowd in Virginia was decidedly different from the crowd we encountered in California when we went to the race in Fontana last fall. There were more than a few moments when we kind of caught ourselves asking how we ended up at a NASCAR race in the heart of tobacco country surrounded by, hmmm, not-so-gentlemanly types wearing, I'll be honest, offensive t-shirts. Thank goodness that was just Friday night. Saturday we had a blast. Everyone around us was great, with the exception of the man behind me who, oh so kindly, offered me a pinch of his snuff. If I didn't believe wholeheartedly that he was mocking me (I don't know, maybe my Trader Joes Oriental Rice Cracker mix and bottled water gave me away as an a-typical NASCAR fan) I might have warmer feelings for even him.

Anyway, what does all this have to do with today's recipe? Well, today's dish is something I have craved since I moved to Utah last year. When I was living in Virginia someone, I don't remember who, introduced me to Endo Sushi, a little Sushi place in McLean. I loved that place. I'll admit that I'm really not much of a sushi connoisseur. I like it, but I'm not super-educated or super-adventurous when it comes to sushi. I love going for sushi with people who really know sushi. I can have them order, and I always love what I get. But when I go alone I tend to stick to the few things I feel really comfortable with.

I loved Endo not for their sushi, which I do like, but instead because they served a cold tofu salad with lunch. It had a wonderfully tangy dressing and I loved it. I've actually thought about it a lot since I left Virginia but really had no clue how to go about trying to recreate it. Then, right before I left for Virginia I made a recipe one night for my brother and sister-in-law that sounded like it might fit the bill. Although it was good, it really didn't come close to imitating the salad I remembered. I thought about Endo, and this salad in particular, the whole weekend I was in Virginia, but unfortunately never had a chance to make it there for lunch. When I got home I decided to give the salad another go, and was finally able to work out a version that comes pretty darn close to the salad I remember. I'd gladly serve this salad to anyone. I actually did serve it to my parents, who thought it far too spicy, and yet I still caught my Dad going for seconds. I think its a great way to introduce tofu to the uninitiated so give it a try and let me know what you think.

Chilled Tofu Salad with Spicy Dressing

1 package Silken tofu, chilled - I like the kind you find in the refrigerated section, packed in water

3 T. light soy sauce
2 T. finely chopped cilantro stems - If you can find cilantro with the roots still on, chop those too
1 1/2 T. grated/minced ginger - I use my Microplane for grating ginger (see above photo). This is quite possibly my favorite kitchen tool.
4 green onions, finely chopped - use white/light green section only
2 T. Kecap Manis - This is a sweetened soy sauce you can find in Asian grocers
1 1/2 T. rice vinegar
1/2 t. chili oil
1/2 t. sesame oil
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 T. sugar
1/8 t. salt

Combine all dressing ingredients and whisk until well blended. Drain the tofu, and cut into slices. Carefully invert tofu into serving bowl. Silken tofu breaks up really easily so you want to be as gentle as possible with it. Pour dressing over tofu. Serve.