I mentioned early this month that I was resolved to learn Chinese cooking this year. At our local fruteria, very fresh looking green beans were cheap (I'm telling you, live in an ethnic neighborhood if you cook), and I figured a Szechwan (or Sichuan, if you prefer) green bean-type dish would be a fine place to start. Maybe I'd add a little tofu for extra protein.
I'd recently used the aluminum top to a wok an ex-girlfriend had abandoned at my apartment years ago in her haste to get free of me. I wouldn't have minded her ditching the wok so much, but I'd given it to her as a present. Oh well, at least I had a wok (I thought).
I cut up my tofu, prepared a quick improvised marinade, went to get the wok and... And there was no wok. Only the top remained to be used to cover large skillets that had no top of their own. I'd forgotten that I'd thrown the rest of the wok and its gadgetry away months ago when I got a good look at it in my new cooking phase. It was made of cheap aluminum, and was not the sort of thing you'd want to use to make food for yourself or someone you liked.
But I did have a big old non-nonstick pot I'd bought from Amazon a month or two ago on special for next to nothing. It was huge, would stand up to high heat, and was made from an anodized aluminum so it should be safer to cook in than untreated aluminum. (Next time, it'll be a steel wok!)
I think the final dish turned out pretty well, especially for a first cut. I've cut the soy sauce back in the recipe here because the Redhead found it too salty and a little too spicy. I think she's right on the salt, but I like spicy so I'll tell you the straight story on what I used there.
Changes for the future: I will use Barbara's suggestion (from Tigers and Strawberries) to add some cornstarch or maybe some honey or molasses to the marinade next time and marinade the green beans too so the sauce sticks to the veggies. The tofu absorbed the marinade beautifully as is, but the beans felt under-sauced sometimes.
The big Calphalon pot worked great for this task. I will be doing some wok shopping soon, but until I do I think I have a decent enough substitute.
Spicy Green Beans and Tofu "Stir Fry"
1 1/2 pounds washed string green beans, tops and tails removed.
1 pound extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons soy sauce plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons mirin
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
3 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoon sriracha "Rooster" hot garlic sauce
2 onions, sliced into long thin half moons
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Press the tofu on top of paper towels under a modest weight to press the water out of it, about 15 minutes. Put paper towels between the weight and the top of the tofu so water can be absorbed through top as well as out the bottom of the block.
Cut the pressed tofu into 1/2" cubes and place them in a tupperware-type container. Add 2 tablespoons of soy, the mirin, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the garlic cloves, ginger, and hot sauce to the container. Close it up and shake gently until the tofu is completely covered with a well mixed marinade. Set aside and let soak for 20 minutes.
Put a tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a large non-non-stick pot or wok. Let it heat until touching the edge of an onion to the oil makes it sizzle violently.
Add the tofu and onions and stir well. Fry over high heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the green beans, lemon juice and soy and stir and toss well. Cover.
Let cook on high for 10 minutes, checking in every few minutes and stirring the pot. If it seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of water and keep cooking it covered to steam the beans.
After ten minutes take the beans and tofu mix off the heat and serve immediately.
Good as a main dish for 2-3 or as a side dish for 4-6.