Yields: 2 servings
Time: 45 minutes
It occurred to me the other day that it's been almost nine years ago this month since we moved to Boston from the southern part of the US. I will never forget my first trip into downtown Boston: everything seemed so big, so overwhelming and so fast. Everything and everybody seemed to be on a singular mission to move forward, no matter who or what was around them. It took a little time to get used to this intense flow of movement around me, but I now love being a part of it whenever I make my way into the city.
As fall approaches, I especially want to savor every aspect of it, from the clean feel and crisp scent of the air, to the crunch of leaves under my feet, and the relief that the oppressive heat of summer will soon be forgotten. With the changes going on outside, my kitchen also goes through its own transformation. It ceases to be a humid space that I simply tolerate to one that draws me in, whispering requests to bake bread, babysit soup and layer casseroles, and offers complex aromas and cozy warmth in return.
Although we have a few weeks to go until the chillier weather is here to stay, I've been enjoying making fall-friendly dishes like this one on the cooler days. This viscous sauce offers a medley of colors and textures, leaving behind a clean and spicy finish. Dragging the tofu through the sauce is heavenly, and this recipe yields plenty to mop up with noodles or rice at the end.
for the sauce
1 TB sesame oil
1 TB finely minced ginger
2 TB finely minced garlic
1/2 cup mirin
3 TB soy sauce
1 TB rice vinegar
3 TB raw agave syrup
1 TB sriracha (optional)
1 TB cornstarch, dissolved in 3 TB cold water
for the tofu
1 block firm tofu
1 TB vegetable or canola oil
1 large carrot, sliced on a mandoline slicer
soba noodles or rice, for serving
black and white sesame seeds
Place the sesame oil, minced ginger and garlic into a small saucepan and soften over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Do not allow it to brown. Add in the rest of the sauce ingredients, except for the cornstarch and water slurry. Allow it to come to a small simmer, then remove from the heat.
Cut the tofu into 4 thick slabs, then cut each slab in half to make 8 squares.
Place a large circular non-stick, flat bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the oil into the pan, then fan the tofu around the edges of the pan in a single layer (like the petals on a daisy), leaving the center area open. Place a lid over the top and allow the tofu to caramelize for about 10 minutes, undisturbed. It will pop and sputter due to the high heat and moisture in the tofu.
After the initial 10 minute caramelization is complete, lift the lid straight up carefully (if you tilt the lid, the collected condensation in the lip will drip into the pan, causing more sputtering, so use caution.) Carefully flip the tofu (it will pop and sizzle), cover and allow to caramelize on the other side undisturbed for about 3 minutes. Remove the lid again by pulling it straight up. By this time, most of the water should be expressed/absorbed, so you can now leave the lid off. Continue to monitor the tofu until the desired level of caramelization is achieved on both sides.
Add the cornstarch slurry to the saucepan, stir well, then pour it into a pan with the tofu. Keep everything moving around with a rubber spatula to avoid any scorching of the sauce. It will thicken after a minute or two. Remove from the heat, then sprinkle with the carrot slices and stir to combine.
Serve immediately with rice or noodles, and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.