Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Work That Creativity! 

I love when I cook by smell and feel. It's the best feeling, to make up a recipe from scratch, based on years of experience as both a cook and a consumer. Anyway, this recipe isn't an especially innovative one, it's really just an old standby, but with a couple twists. For it, you'll need:

Collard greens* - 1 bunch
Tofu - 1 block
Udon noodles, fresh - 3 or 4 packs.
Butternut squash - 1 small one (the one I used was about 1.5lbs)
olive oil - some
soy sauce - lots
ginger - 1 shitload
garlic - 1 shitload

Now if, like me, you live in a barren wasteland where collard greens are incredibly hard to find, you can easily substitute another dark green, bitter, leafy vegetable (I would recommend chard, then kale. I don't think spinach would work). I actually came across collard greens this weekend, which is where the inspiration for the recipe came from, so I got to use them. w00t.

Basically, I had my standard stir-fry recipe in mind, but the only vegetable that was going in was the greens. I needed to add something, but I wasn't sure what. As I wandered the aisles of the grocery store, my eyes fell on the squash. "Mmmmm, squash," I thought to myself, "I should make something with that.
"Heeeyy," it suddenly dawned on me. "What if I put some squash in my stirfry?" I didn't have a moment of doubt. Squash it was. So I bought the squash and was on my merry way.

Here's what you do:

Step 1 - Marinade the tofu (nice, but not entirely necessary):
- chop up about an inch cubed of ginger so that it's super small. Fill a small saucepan with water, add the ginger and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer for a while (10 minutes or so, I dunno, until it smells strongly gingery and the water is vaguely coloured).
- dice the tofu. You can even cut it into smaller pieces (1/2 cm on a side).
- put the chopped up tofu into a bowl (preferably one with a lid) , pour a few tablespoons of soy sauce over the tofu and toss (or, if your bowl has a lid, close the lid and shake) until all the pieces are coated.
- pour your ginger water (with the ginger pieces still in there) into the bowl until the tofu is covered. Stir. Let sit anywhere from 30min to 24hrs, but not longer.

Step 2 - Everything else (very necessary):
- peel, core, and dice the squash. Bring a large pot of water to boil and parboil the squash for not more than 5-7 minutes. It should be not-quite done.
- wash the greens and tear them into reasonably-sized pieces.
- mince a shitload of ginger and garlic
- heat some olive oil in a wok or very large frying pan until it's warm but not too hot.
- add your shitloads of ginger and garlic and stir until they start to cook, but try not to let them brown.
- pour the marinading tofu into a strainer to get rid of the water, then add the tofu to the pan. Stir for a bit.
- Drain the squash and add it and the greens. Stir more.
- There should be some liquid in the bottom of the pan. If there isn't, add some water. Now add your noodles. Stir, fold, etc, rather vigorously until the noodles separate. Feel free to add oil, etc, as you see fit.
- Add a whole whack more soy sauce. Keep stirring (they don't call it stir-fry for nothin', folks).
- turn the heat down, cover, let sit for a few minutes.
- TA DA!!

This served three hungry people as the only dish, with enough leftovers for me to have it for lunch today. And it was super-yummy. When I started cooking I had a few doubts about how well squash would fit in. I worried the other ingredients would mock it and exclude it, but they all got along really well.

* I hereby ban the words lard, chitlins, and any other words to do with pig fat, or animal fat, from the comments. Yes, we all know that cooking collard greens without lard is as evil as sucking off GWB himself (or worse, voting for him!). Every single collard greens recipe I've seen has either contained lard, or has been accompanied by 35 indignant comments to the effect that "it would be/is so much better when fried in lard." Well, believe it or not, even us wacky wacky vegetarians know how good lard tastes. No one (well, almost) is vegetarian because they don't know about the wonderful world of meat out there just waiting to be discovered. So please respect my choice not to use it and keep your traps shut about it.

That is all.

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