Yesterday around 6:30 A.M., just as the Spanish Orange sun was unveiling itself through the branches of the trees, I stepped out on the deck to listen to God. The roar of the traffic drowned out His whispers. Back inside my peaceful home and kitchen, I thanked God for the refuge of my home.
I’m listening to beautiful piano music as I work on this. In fact, it is RuthAnn’s CD. She has chosen a tasteful mix of popular, sacred and classical favorites that are imaginatively melded together. As I say below, surround yourself with beautiful things and some of the creativity will rub off. It was RuthAnn who asked me to do something with tofu, and I came up with this.
I think you will want to try this flavorful, protein and calcium rich vegetable preparation. It makes a great main dish for a vegetarian dinner or lunch. It also works well as a side dish.
You will need:
1 16 oz. package Firm Tofu Canola Oil
1 cup dry Sherry 1 large handful Snow Peas
1/2 cup Soy Sauce 4 Green Onions
1/4 teaspoon Red pepper Flakes Cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
Boiling Water 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 oz. Dried Shitake Mushrooms (Usually 1 package)
2 teaspoons Five Spice powder 1 Red Bell Pepper
1. Open the package of tofu, pour off the water and cut the large chunk tofu horizontally into three slices.
2. Lay the slices on one end of a clean terrycloth bath towel. Fold the other end on top and press gently to eliminate the excess water.
3. Cut the three slices into cubes.
4. Prepare a marinade by mixing in a bowl: sherry, soy sauce, Five Spice powder, garlic powder and red pepper flakes.(Make it a big 1/4 teaspoon red pepper, if you want to.)
5. Add the tofu and marinate for two hours or more at room temperature. I also tested this by marinating the tofu overnight in the refrigerator but noticed little difference. Do what fits your schedule.
6. Boil a kettle of water.
7. While the water is boiling, break the stems off the dried mushrooms and discard the stems. Then break the mushroom caps into bite-sized pieces and place them in a bowl. Cover the mushrooms with boiling water and rehydrate until you are ready to cook them.
8. Dice 1/4 red bell pepper into 1/2 inch cubes.
9. Cut the scallions, both white and green parts, into 1/2 inch lengths. This is for the garnish.
10. Sprinkle a dinner plate with cornstarch.
11. After the tofu has marinated sufficiently, take it out of the marinade (Save the marinade.) with a slotted spoon and place it on the dinner plate with the cornstarch. Sprinkle the top with more corn starch. Set the tofu aside.
1. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large saute pan or wok, if you have one, and saute (1/2 power) the snow peas for about one minute. Grab the mushrooms with your hand and squeeze the water from them. Save the water. Saute the mushrooms with the peas for another minute. Throw in the diced red bell pepper and saute only until you begin to smell their fragrance; perhaps a few seconds. Take all of the vegetables out of the pan and set them aside.
2. Mix 1 Tablespoon cornstarch with 1/2 cup of the now cool water in which you had the mushrooms. Set this(It’s called a slurry.) aside.
3. Pour enough canola oil into the pan to a depth that will cover the tofu half way. Turn up the heat to 3/4 power (medium high) and heat the oil until very hot. Fry the tofu until brown on the bottom, then turn the cubes over to brown the top half. Remove the tofu from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour all of the oil out of the pan.
4. Pour the reserved marinade into the pan and boil for one minute.
5. Turn the heat to medium-low: 1/4 power.
6. Add the two tablespoons of brown sugar and two tablespoons of tomato paste to the marinade and stir until thoroughly dissolved and mixed.
7. Add the slurry and cook until the sauce has thickened.
8. Taste the sauce and make any seasoning adjustments that you would prefer. Have you asked yourself why I didn’t call for salt? Did the tomato paste and brown sugar sweeten the sauce enough? This is not supposed to be a blazing peppery hot concoction, but what about more red pepper flakes? Is there a small “kick” to it or does it need more? Make the adjustments until you are satisfied.
9. Fold in the tofu and vegetables. If the mixture needs more moisture, add a little water.
1. Divide the “Kiangsu Tofu” between the serving plates and sprinkle the chopped scallions on top.
2. Serve with noodles and our “Green Fruit Salad with Mint.”
Expanding our Understanding:
The Creative You
Everyone has the potential to be creative. It’s part of being made in the image of God. Now some people are more creative than others. They can’t help but be that way. It’s their nature. But there are abundant proofs to indicate that you can become an artist too. To unlock the creative energy that is written within you, you need two things: a teacher and the determination to work hard. Start with the following ideas:
Creative Principle #1: Visualize what does not already exist.
The architect sees the building that he wants in his mind before he starts with his T square and triangles. The composer first hears the melody in his head, then he sets those black dots on the staff, and the writer already has the story idea in bloom long before she sits down to type.
The same is true in culinary art. When you look at raw food in the grocery store, make your mind see what it could become. Imagine flavors, textures and aromas that would spring forth after you have worked with it. Use photographs to educate your brain as to what could be sitting on your dining table. Visualize the possibilities.
Creative Principle #2: Practice your technique.
Creativity becomes an after thought when you are struggling with knife skills. Practice until you can mince, dice, julienne and chop with finesse. When slicing, tell yourself to push FORWARD and down, FORWARD and down.
The pianist can never hope to execute an expressive phrase until she has learned to play a scale properly. You must learn to saute, roast, braise and know what effect each has on your food. If a painter wants to paint misty, moody mountain scenes he has to learn wet in wet techniques, wet on dry brush skills and when to use each. The culinary artist’s task is to study what heat does to protein, to carbohydrates and to fat. (Coagulate, disintegrate and melt if you want to know right now.)
Creative Principle #3; Surround yourself with beautiful things.
Beautiful paintings, great music, finely crafted furniture and nice clothes can be a big help in encouraging your creative spirit because much inspiration can be absorbed from what other designers have already done. If you can trick your husband into taking you to the ballet, go! But beauty exists in areas other than the fine arts if you look for it.
Grasp a handmade bamboo fly rod, feel its strength and its flexibility. Go to an air show and gawk at the sleek, aerodynamic lines of the smaller jets parked on the tarmac. Plant a garden. Date pretty girls!
Most importantly, revel in God’s creativity. Take a hike in the mountains; climb atop a fourteener, raise your hands and face to the sun and shout: THIS IS MY FATHER’S WORLD! When you are exhausted, dangle your feet in a cool stream, then spread yourself over a meadow lush with green grass and summer blossoms. While you’re lying there, if you are fortunate enough to spot an eagle, trace its path as it soars toward the face of the One who formed it. Be still and eavesdrop on what the breeze whispers to the pines and blue spruce.
I have to admit, it seems God has concentrated his creativity in Colorado, but it’s all around you, wherever you live. God is the source of your creativity and there is no greater teacher.
There are more creative principles; more techniques to learn. We will explore them in the future and I promise you, if you follow us on this blog, you will become the creative culinary artist you have always wanted to be.
Food for Thought:
“Praise the Lord, you highest heavens, and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:4-5).
God’s creativity is far over and above man’s ability to create, and yet we are made in God’s image. In the Bible the first thing we learn about God is that He is a Creator. As his offspring we are subcreators, given the privilege and delight of creating wholeheartedly to the glory of God.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23 NIV)