There are two things in life I could never be.
One. A waitress at Hooters.
Two. A vegetarian.
NOTE - I considered putting "rock star" on that list. But you know what? I could totally be a rock star.
To be frank. The whole Hooters thing has nothing to do with my disdain for that fine dining establishment. (What? You mean people don't just go there for the wings?)
And more to do with the fact that they would want nothing to do with me.
Well. You win some, you lose some. I also won't be modeling for Victoria's Secret anytime soon (which really is a shame because then I bet I would get some sweet discounts).
Unless they come out with some kind of "Hey, I don't have implants!" line. Which is why I'm not crossing it off the list entirely. A girl can dream, can't she?
As for this vegetarian business.
I just don't think I could ever part with pulled pork. Or salmon. Both of which I believe are definitely worth exacerbating my carbon footprint for.
Plus I feel like I make up for it in other ways. Like by walking four miles each way to the Farmer's Market on Saturdays instead of taking the bus. (That's not ecologic frugality, Jo. That's craziness.)
By eating locally.
And, of course. By shoving tofu down your throats as often as I think I can before Dave stages some kind of uprising.
This dish comes from a New York Times article on how to accommodate your vegetarian friends at your next dinner party.
Even when your husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy and your kids won't touch anything that isn't beige or hasn't been deep-fried.
A pretty bold endeavor, if you ask me. But honestly. After tasting this Vietnamese caramel sauce, also called Nuoc Mau. I didn't care whether it was served with tofu, pork, or fish. I just wanted to drink it from the saucepan. Unabashedly.
It is deep and dark. Sweet and salty. And deeply satisfying.
And if you really don't like tofu. Go with some white fish or a nice piece of pork. You won't be disappointed.
Braised Tofu in Caramel Sauce
Serves 4, adapted from the New York Times
1 1 lb block of tofu
1 cup sugar
5 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 tbsp soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1 bag baby bok choy (local! from the Farmer's Market!)
1 cup white rice
1. Slice the tofu in half lengthwise. Then slice each portion into two thick slices. Place the slices between paper towels to drain. Put an anatomy textbook (or two) on top of them to really speed the draining process along. (Finally, a USE for all of these textbooks!)
2. Dissolve the sugar in 1/4 cup water and cook in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until small bubbles begin to appear around the edges of the pan. Carefully swirl the solution. But do not stir (I didn't listen to this. I stirred. My bad.) Continue to heat until the solution becomes a golden caramel color, about 20-35 minutes. Carefully add 1/2 cup water to the mixture. Turn off the heat.
3. Transfer the caramel sauce to a wider saucepan, turn the heat to medium and add the shallots, cooking for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir again, cooking for about 1 minute. Stir in the soy sauce. Simmer and stir until the mixture is viscous, about 10 minutes.
4. Set up your rice to be cooked (per package directions). During the last few minutes of cooking, throw in your chopped bok choy so that it gets steamed.
5. Place the tofu in the sauce in a single layer. Simmer uncovered for 7 minutes. Using a spatula turn the pieces over. Simmer for 3 or 4 minutes more. Plate the rice/bok choy mixture. Put the tofu over and pour the sauce over the whole mass of food. Top with freshly ground black pepper.
This is my submission to this month's Regional Recipes, which I am HOSTING! The theme this month is Vietnam, so please send me some fantastic Vietnamese food (to email@example.com) by the end of this month. And check out the Regional Recipes website for ideas and to look at past round-ups!