Miso-Ginger Stir-Fry

I have a confession: I actually made this recipe months ago. I wanted to post it then. But it was hot out. I mean, really hot. And I kept thinking that no one in their right mind would want to make stir-fry in the middle of July. At a time when other bloggers were posting salads and grilled vegetables, I was making stir-fry. And so, as much as I was in love with this dish, I decided to sit on it and wait for a time when this recipe was a bit more suited to the weather.

You’ll notice that for a stir-fry, this recipe uses very little oil. Again, it was July when I made this. My parents had just returned from the vegetarian summerfest and were influenced by the many doctors and health experts singing the praises of a low-fat vegan diet. I learned that wine is a great cooking tool for braising or making sauces, as it adds a lot of flavor without added fat. For me, this is especially true in stir-fries. My mom took a Chinese cooking class when I was younger at an amazing Chinese restaurant my family still frequents. One of the revelations from that experience was that almost every stir-fry sauce at that restaurant utilized white cooking wine, lots of garlic and very little if any soy sauce. True Hong Kong style Chinese sauces are light and clear, not thick and brown, as is so common in Americanized Chinese places would have us believe. (For those interested in eating at the best Chinese Restaurant, in my opinion, in North America: Harvey Lo’s Yummy House in Windsor Ontario. It’s divine).

Of course, with the addition of miso, this is more of a Japanese-Chinese fusion dish. I love miso for flavor in dressings and sauces. It makes a really great stir-fry here — tangy, almost sweet and salty combination of flavors. And finally, it’s that time of year where I can make this without losing 5 pounds of sweat in the process. Hooray for fall!

Serves: 3-4 with rice

Low Fat Miso-Ginger Stir Fry:

My new secret to a good stir-fry is to bake the tofu before adding it to the rest of the dish. It tends to get crispy on the outside, but remains intact, rather than crumbling like tofu so often does when its cooked in a skillet or wok.

2 tablespoons refrigerated white miso OR 3 tablespoons white shiro miso (not refrigerated)

¼ cup white wine

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons arrowroot + 2 tablespoons water, whisked together

2 tablespoons vegetable broth

1 head broccoli florets, chopped

1 red bell pepper, julienned

4 shiitake caps, sliced

½ yellow onion, sliced

Baked Tofu:

¼ teaspoon sesame oil (omit oil and use some veggie broth for an oil-free baked tofu option)

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari

1 block firm or extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry. Sliced or cubed.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together sesame oil and tamari in a shallow bowl. Dip slices of tofu into mixture and and then lay flat on non-stick or silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together miso, wine, tamari, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Set aside.

3. In a very hot wok, add broccoli, bell pepper, onion and vegetable broth. Stir over high heat until broth evaporates and vegetables begin to soften. Add in shiitakes and pre-made sauce. Stir until sauce reduces by about 1/2 and vegetables are softened but still crisp. Add in arrowroot and water mixture and pre-baked tofu. Stir until sauce is thickened. Serve immediately.

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Tofu Broccoli Stir-Fry

While I like to consider myself a healthy person, this classification is occasionally challenged as I learn about the food philosophy of some of my blogging peers, read a report on the potential dangers of an ingredient I’m frequently using, or listen to someone else’s take on what we should be putting into our bodies. While healthy debate and ongoing curiosity about our ideal dietary choices is probably a good thing, at times the information can be downright confusing. Depending on who you listen to, either fat, carbs, protein, soy, sugar, cooked food or processed food is the enemy.

I am not a doctor, a nutritionist or a scientist. Maybe this is the reason I’m not firmly committed to any one philosophy. I stopped eating animals because I learned the backstory of what happens to them before they’re our food (though I’m also fairly skeptical of the healthiness of many animal products). I stopped eating gluten and sugar because bloodwork results told me these were two of the reasons I was constantly sick. Pretty much everything else is (almost) fair game.

That said, I do adhere to some personal — albeit somewhat loose — rules for what to eat. They are as follows:

1. Too much of any one thing is probably not a good thing.If I eat a carb-loaded breakfast or lunch, I’ll go with salad for dinner. If soy has been a constant presence for the day, I make sure to ease off of it for awhile. While fruit is full of vitamins and often fiber, it can also be high in sugar, so I eat it much less often than I would actually like. This “rule” could probably re-stated as follows: much like one’s investments, one should diversify her diet.

2. Whole food is almost certainly better than processed.But I won’t kill myself over the occassional processed ingredient, because I’m fairly sure that it’s not going to kill me.

3. Listen to your body.I stopped eating kiwi when I was about five years old because it made my throat itch like crazy. I was not yet reading full books or doing fractions, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out when something’s not right. Your body is smart. Listen to it.

4. Have an open mind.

My final rule — to be open-minded — sort of indirectly inspired this stir-fry. Over Thanksgiving, my uncle loaned my mom this book called Eat to Beat Cancer*. The book lays out a general diet plan for cancer prevention, along with individual sections aimed at preventing specific types of cancers. But the primary focus of the book seems to be on the list of super cancer-fighting foods from different foods groups, along with a few common foods to avoid (dairy being the main culprit). Some might scoff at a book that professes to help prevent a disease that has preyed on many seemingly healthy, active, health-conscious people. But my take is that there’s really no harm in making a point to eat more of at least some of the foods on the list, many of which are indisputably healthy in their own right. And if it helps to prevent cancer, well, hooray! If not, what did I really lose?

Of the foods that jumped out to me from the book were broccoli, soy and sesame seeds (now do you see where this stir-fry comes into play?) Still, you can basically choose any protein or vegetables you wish for your stir-fry. The sauce is really the star here, and will probably bring any combination of other ingredients to life. I’ve been trying out stir-fry sauces for seemingly as long as I can remember, and have never been completely happy with how they turned out. Whether they were too salty, too sweet or too sour, I’ve just been somewhat unimpressed until I tried this recipe the other night. It’s not necessarily adapted from any recipe in particular, though it’s probably inspired by many of those I’ve seen over time. Just the perfect sauce to help get more broccoli, tofu and sesame into my diet — whether I really need it or not!

* Bonus fact about the author: according to Amazon.com, he received his doctoral degree in environmental toxicology from my alma matter, The University of Michigan (so this book must be legit).

Serves: about 4

As far as I know, pretty much every ingredient for this stir-fry can be purchased at Trader Joes or at your local grocery store. I love when that happens; when a recipe is accessible to just about everyone.

Stir-Fry Sauce

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

3 tablespoons wheat-free tamari (of course, non gluten-free folks can use regular soy sauce)

3/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 teaspoons cornstarch (or arrowroot starch)

2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

You will also need:

15 oz. extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry, cubed

1 tablespoon cooking oil (I used grapeseed)

1 head broccoli florets, roughly chopped (about 4 cups)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Whisk together all ingredients for stir-fry sauce. Set aside.

2. Heat oil* in a large (preferably non-stick) skillet. Add tofu and saute over high heat, stirring occassionally, until all sides are lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add broccoli and stir-fry sauce and toss until broccoli has softened and sauce has reduced by about half, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sesame seeds. Serve over brown rice or with rice noodles.

* I also saw on Dr. Oz that tossing your food in the oil before cooking instead of heating the oil in your skillet helps to preserve the benefits of whatever oil you’re using. I didn’t do this (I forgot), but you could always toss your tofu in the oil first if you wish to do so.

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