Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lettuce Cups con Tofu

One of the things I brought home from the Farmer's Mkt this weekend was a huge, amazing head of Bibb lettuce Like I'd never seen. It was almost fungal in texture, and the lightest, most delicious thing ever. And it was 2 dollas.

Usually when I order Lettuce Cups (alas, there's only one place in CLT to get it, and that's Fu Lin on Independence) I know what I'm gonna get, lechuga-wise - boring ol' Iceburg. Which makes sense - structurally, it's sturdy enough to allow for rolling your tofu, veggies, sauce burrito style and holds up to multiple chomps. But when you've got a huge head of lettuce in your fridge that defies the Lettuce Cup gods, sometimes you gotta take a chance, and we did. It was a mess. But delicious.

Tofu Lettuce Cups

You'll need:

1 block firm tofu, sliced into 6-8 cakes, crosswise
2 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
Handful of bean sprouts
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Lettuce, 6-8 leaves
Rice noodles, 1 package
1/2 cup frozen or fresh edamame
6 mushrooms, diced
8oz can of water chestnuts, diced
2 scallions, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
5 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce (available at any large asian market)
4 tablespoons soy sauce
Oil for frying rice noodles

To serve: vegetarian Hoisin sauce and Chinese mustard

Do eeet:

Marinate your tofu in 2 tablespoons of Oyster sauce plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce, mixed with half a cup of water.

Heat your oil for frying in a large, deep pot to very hot, but not smoking. You'll know it's there when you drop a noodle in and it sizzles, floating to the surface and curling up a bit. Break your noodles into three portions (easily done in a shopping bag to contain the mess) and put them in the oil bath for 10-12 seconds, until they puff up and stop sizzling. Lay on a paper towel to dry, and repeat until all your noodles are cooked.

In an iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pan, heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil until hot but not smoking. Lay your tofu into the pan, and swirl the pan to get oil under each cake. Press down and cover with a lid. Cook until somewhat brown, loosening each carefully with your spatula to flip. Brown a bit on the other side, then pour the marinade into the pan, letting it reduce rapidly. Cut of the heat and let the marinade finish coating the tofu. Dice and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil and 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a wok until hot but not smoking. Add your carrots and celery, stir for 1 minute. Add your ginger, garlic, mushrooms, water chestnuts and pine nuts and stir fry 3 minutes. Add your tofu, scallions, edamame, bean sprouts, oyster sauce and soy sauce, and continue cooking until the sauce thickens up a bit and your mushrooms have cooked through.

To serve, pile your fried noodles on a large plate and spoon the stir-fry over. Core your lettuce if you're using Iceburg (the Bibb lettuce just falls apart, so doesn't require this step) and carefully peel the leaves apart, keeping the cups intact as much as possible. Don't fret if you break them, that just means smaller 'ritos! Make sure to have Hoisin and mustard out for serving. And plenty of napkins!

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