Hi, everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend! Despite having received a good amount of snow over the weekend in Indiana, my calendar indicates that it is officially spring! For me, spring represents that warmer weather is on its way (Yeah baby), flowers will be blooming again, March Madness is in full swing, and it's the season for asparagus to shine. All of these things make this household very happy!
And while I could talk about college basketball for hours and try to figure out who is going to win this year's championship game, let's turn to asparagus. This veggie is so versatile. It's divine in salads, soups, sandwiches, omelettes, casseroles, as a roasted side dish - and the list goes on and on!
These green stalks are also a fabulous addition to a stir-fry! While my vegan, gluten-free stir-fry contains a variety of delicious vegetables - like onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, mushrooms, red bell peppers, scallions, and cilantro - the asparagus and Napa cabbage are definitely a dynamic duo in this plant-based dish! And topped with the mixture of spicy, crispy dry-rubbed tofu and a mustard soy sauce combo, this stir-fry is so satisfying! Plus you can prep the vegetables the night before you cook the stir-fry to make life easier! To read more about asparagus, click here. Oh, and if you prefer to use meat in this stir-fry, you can use 1 pound of chicken in place of the extra-firm tofu.
And speaking of tofu, I've typically turned to this block of soybean curds when preparing some vegetarian sauces and a vegan dessert - which have turned out to be delicious. So naturally, it was time to create a stir-fry that contains this plant protein! In honor of texture and flavor, I pressed this extra-firm tofu for at least 20 minutes to remove some of the moisture that it contained (Click here to watch a video on how to press tofu). Since extra-firm tofu is typically packed in water, pressing it removes this moisture - which then enables the tofu to absorb the flavors of the ingredients that it's paired with - and makes it more capable of developing a crispier exterior. After pressing the tofu, I sliced it into 1-inch cubes and lightly dusted the cubes with a spicy dry rub consisting of red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and ground ginger. Yummo! Below is what the dry-rubbed tofu looked like before I pan-fried it.
After seasoning the tofu with this dry rub, I lightly browned it on all sides in a flat-bottomed non-stick skillet for about 10 minutes. The result? Crispy, spicy tofu goodness! These spicy tofu cubes pair beautifully with the stir-fried vegetables and mustard soy sauce combo. Colin and I really enjoy this stir-fry on a bed of jasmine rice. But feel free to experiment! You could always try using udon noodles or quinoa in place of rice.
Before I wrap this up, I'll add that it's really helpful to have all of the vegetables chopped and ready to go - before starting to cook any stir-fry - including this one! Also, in order to avoid crowding the vegetables (Overcrowding them will cause them to steam and become soft), it's a good idea to cook the vegetables in batches. The stir-fried vegetables should offer a crisp, yet barely tender texture (Adjust cooking time as needed). It's also helpful to have the stir-fry sauce cooked and slightly thickened just before you start cooking your stir-fry so that you can focus on cooking your veggies to perfection. Happy cooking and eating!
Yield: 4-6 servings of stir-fry (Allow yourself to listen to your hunger/fullness cues)
Spicy Dry-rubbed Tofu:
1 14-ounce box extra-firm tofu, pressed, dried, and sliced into 1-inch cubes
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
5 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce (Or tamari for a gluten-free version)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch dissolved in 1 1/2 teaspoons of cold water
1 tablespoon canola oil (Or another oil with a high smoke point, like grapeseed oil)
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped (2 cups)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin 1-2 inch long strips (Around 1 cup)
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch long pieces (Around 2 1/2 to 3 cups)
8 ounces sliced mushrooms of your choice
2 tablespoons garlic, minced (6 cloves)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
6 cups Napa cabbage, chopped into strips that are a few inches wide and as thick or as thin as you prefer (Click here to watch this video on how to easily chop Napa cabbage)
3/4 cup scallions, sliced, green part
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1. Prep the tofu. After opening the package of extra-firm tofu, drain the liquid from the package. Next, press the tofu for at least 20 minutes (While the tofu is being pressed, make the dry rub for the tofu. Finish chopping any remaining vegetables that need to be prepped. If you're serving your stir-fry on a bed of rice, this could be a good time to cook the rice). To make the dry rub, combine the red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and ground ginger in a small bowl. Once the tofu has been pressed, pat it dry and slice the tofu into 1-inch cubes. Next, lightly coat the tofu cubes with the dry rub, followed by placing them on a clean plate. If you need more time to prep the vegetables, cover the plate of dry-rubbed tofu and store in the refrigerator.
2. Pan-fry the dry-rubbed tofu (While the tofu is frying, in between flipping the cubes, you can start making the stir-fry sauce by whisking the vegetable broth, soy sauce, and mustard in a small bowl. Just keep a close eye on the tofu so that you don't burn it). To pan-fry the tofu, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large oiled non-stick skillet using the medium-heat setting. When the oil is hot (If you see smoke coming from the skillet turn the heat down slightly - it should not be smoking), place the dry-rubbed tofu in the skillet. It should sizzle when you place the tofu in the skillet. Fry the tofu on one side until it's lightly browned (Around 2-3 minutes). Then flip the tofu and continue to cook until all sides are lightly browned and the exterior is crispy - taking care to avoid burning the tofu (This took about 7 minutes on my stove). Place the cooked, crispy tofu on a clean plate and set aside.
3. Make the sauce for the stir-fry. In a small bowl, whisk the vegetable broth and soy sauce together. Next, add the Dijon mustard to the vegetable broth/soy sauce mixture and whisk until well combined. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, followed by whisking it a few times. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for four minutes. While the mixture is simmering, in a small bowl, dissolve the 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch in 1 1/2 teaspoons of cold water (It's important to have a 1:1 ratio. Using more than 1 1/2 teaspoons of corn starch makes this sauce too thick). Stir the cornstarch until it's completely dissolved in the water. After simmering the vegetable broth/soy sauce/mustard mixture for 4 minutes, add the corn starch slurry to the saucepan and whisk a few times until the mixture is well combined. Simmer for another minute and remove the lid, stirring the mixture a few times. Keep the sauce on low heat to keep it warm while you cook the stir-fry, stirring it every now and then.
4. It's time to stir-fry the vegetables! Using a large flat-bottomed non-stick skillet with high sides, heat 1 tablespoon of oil using the medium-heat setting. When the oil is hot, pour the onions into the skillet and stir constantly for 1 minute. Then add the shredded carrots and red bell peppers to the same skillet - stirring continuously for another 1-2 minutes (Until they have a crisp/barely tender texture). Transfer the cooked onions, carrots, and bell peppers to a large clean plate. If needed, add more oil to the non-stick skillet. Next, pour the asparagus and mushrooms into the non-stick skillet, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute - stirring continuously so that the garlic doesn't burn. Transfer the asparagus, mushrooms and garlic to the clean plate containing the onions and carrots. If needed, add more oil to the skillet. Then toss the ginger into the skillet, stirring constantly for 15 seconds so that the ginger does not burn. Next, add the Napa cabbage to the skillet and stir continuously for up to 2 minutes or until the leaves are wilted. Turn the heat off. Add all of the vegetables back to the skillet and stir a few times. Next, add the pan-fried tofu to the stir-fry to warm it through - stirring it 2-3 times. Then pour the scallions, cilantro, and stir-fry sauce into the stir-fry. Stir the mixture a few times, and serve immediately on a bed of rice, noodles, or quinoa. Enjoy!