Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Culinary Smackdown - Battle Tofu?

Boxer is hostessing this month's Culinary Smackdown and she has named the theme - TOFU!   I'm actually Okay with this. Part of the reason we have the smackdowns is to use ingredients we may not normally use or try recipes we've never done. Tofu fits both of these criteria. 
I never bought or cooked tofu before. And, as I soon discovered, there really aren't that many recipes that feature tofu. And to complicate things, I need to find some way to get The Mrs. to eat it. Those of you who follow me know that finding something The Mrs. will eat is - a challenge.

Then I had an epiphany. But a back story first. A neighbor on the street owns an Asian Fusion restaurant that's right out side of our development. The food is very good and we try to frequent it as often as we can. A couple of months ago, The Mrs. and one of her friends went there for a girl's-night-out dinner. She told me about an outstanding soup that they had recently been added to the menu. It was a crab and asparagus soup - and it had tofu in it too. I remembered this story because The Mrs. doesn't like asparagus and I've never known her to eat tofu.  So I set out to find a similar recipe. The best I could do was Chinese Shrimp and Tofu Soup.   I substituted asparagus in for the peas (because The Mrs. won't eat peas either).  

So here's another back story to show what influences my cooking.  The day I wanted to make the soup I discovered a hole in the fascia board behind the gutter on the 2nd floor roof.  The Boy had been hearing something in the ceiling/wall of his room.  I set out snap traps a couple of nights before and caught 2 mice, but decided to get the binoculars out and do a perimeter check of the roof (good maintenance tip for those of you with a 2nd floor) when I found the hole.  I then discovered that my extension ladder was too short to reach the area of repair and none of my buddies had a longer one.  So I had to run out to a rental store, rent the ladder, and it needed to be back by 3:00PM or they'd charge me an extra day - and it was lunch time. 

I got The Boy to help (mostly steadying the ladder), went up the ladder, pulled the gutter back, discovered the hole was rotted wood with no evidence of teeth or claw marks, and proceeded to cut out the rotted wood with my sawzall (I love that sawzall).  Then I did about another 30 trips up and down the ladder, cutting pieces of wood, getting tools and screws and caulk and aluminum flashing and slapping it all together so it was watertight and rodent proof.  I got the ladder back to the rental place at 3:10PM and fortunately, the guys were still there.  This whole thing felt like the final scene from Goodfellas where Henry Hill is doing coke, cooking the veal, stirring sauce and being chased by a helicopter.  That's how I feel every day.

What does all of that have to do with cooking?  I didn't have time to go shopping for ingredients.  The Mrs. volunteered.   And she actually got me all the ingredients I needed, including pre-diced tofu.  Who knew there was such a thing?

Here's all of the ingredients including the stuff The Mrs. bought.  That's the pre-diced tofu in the strainer - straining.

Here's a closeup of the tofu. 

The garlic, shrimp and ginger.  Another thing The Mrs. did right - pre-shelled and veined shrimp.

The chicken stock with asparagus.

The Mrs. made a salad to go with the soup.  She actually hard-boiled some eggs - HARD-BOILED!

The finished soup.

The Verdict. The Pudge and I liked it a lot. I may have gotten a little heavy-handed with the ginger, but it had a good flavor and the tofu was an interesting, spongy texture. I don't thing the tofu really brought any flavor to the soup, rather, it was an absorber of flavor. The Mrs. - didn't like it. When I explained how I was trying to replicate the soup from our neighbor's restaurant, she started telling me all of the difference between that soup and mine. The asparagus was sliced paper thin, there was a hint of soy and there was not that much ginger (in fact, don't ever put ginger in my food again). These were things I would have liked to have known when I asked her to read the recipe. I'll have to try the neighbor's soup to see if it's all that (it probably is - he makes great food).


Sharon Rudd said...

That soup is gorgeous. I'd eat it in a heartbeat. And huzzah for back stories, asparagus (you and Moi are still not going to blogger jinx me), and straining and draining the tofu.

moi said...

This looks delicious! I agree that tofu seems to be nothing but a carrier of flavor, but I suppose it's also a great way for vegetarians to get their protein in.

I also have to say, dude, it's 6:30 in the morning and already I'm EXHAUSTED by your description of your roof story! But you really are all-around handy, ain't cha?

GrumpyGranny said...

Oh my goodness, that looks wonderful! I,too, would dig right in. And yes, who knew there was such a thing as pre-diced tofu! Great job!


Jenny said...

Nicely done! I think you get extra points because of the time spent on mice and EXTRA DOUBLE points for trying to replicate a soup the Mrs. had liked.

I think switching to shrimp is better. Crab doesn't hold up well in soup and I can't agree more about soy; it's there to add some bulk and take on whatever flavor you've put in. I personally think the ginger kicks in the recipe, but it's kind of an acquired taste.

Thanks for participating! I think I'm going to try to make this recipe (with shrimp.)

czar said...

Nice photos, Buzz. I like the well-placed beer among the ingredients.

If I'm not breaking any kind of blogworld protocol, would you please shoot me an email? []


Anonymous said...

Nice dish. I tried to make tofu soup too but it crashed.

LaDivaCucina said...

Well, Buzzy, I'm UBER IMPRESSED with your entry! Tofu?! Asian?! Ginger?! Who knew?! It looks good, love the analogy of Henry Hill in Goodfellas and am glad you and the Pudge liked it. Never expected The Wife to, though! Good luck! I'm up!

Karl said...

Good morning Buzz Kill,

Looks like a fine meal. I would think the asparagus would add more flavor than the peas. Good idea.

The important question: How was the Beer? Forgive me if I'm wrong, but it seems like cooking for the Mrs. could drive one to drink.

Buzz Kill said...

With the Tofu pre-diced and shrimp pre-cleaned, that took away half of the prep work. And I still can't view your blog.

I don't have much of a choice concerning the handy part. My days off are worse than my work days.

Yeah, right - pre-diced. I didn't have to touch it. And I'm having problems viewing your blog too.

The recipe called for 1/2" of fresh ginger. What does that mean? Apparently not what I thought.

The beer was strictly pain killer and did not appear in the soup. I'll shoot you an email but it will be sometime next week because I have to do it from home and I'm camping this weekend.

Crashes can be just as entertaining as successes. Ask Diva.

Finding something The Mrs will eat is the bain of my existence. She did like a fried chicken dish I did the other week, so it's not totally futile.

I'll take asparagus over peas any day of the week. The beer was a Yuengling Light (local to Pennsylvania) and was strickly for the muscle pain (being able to tolerate The Mrs was gravy). I felt that ladder in my legs for 2 days.

Aunty Belle said...

Luvin' the whole back story--thar's somethin' endearin' about a fella who fixes thangs and cooks--jes' a note of reminder on that point to Mrs. BuzzK.

PRE-DICED TOFU? Man, this stuff is really weird. I'se tryin' to finish mah entry. I got my tofu "extra firm"--it sounds like a mattress.

Yore soup looks good--I'd try it.

the thang about tofu? NOBODY ever mentions it in the comfort food category. Jes' sayin'....

Buzz Kill said...

The Mrs. has no idea how good she has it. I keep telling her to ask her friends what their husbands do on the weekend (I know she does this but will never admit it to me). And there's nothing comfortable about tofu. It's like some mutated cream cheese that escaped from a lab. I'm glad we're done with it.

Jenny said...

The winner has been announced and thank you for your entry. This is probably the first receipe I'll try to make. Or, when I say "make" I mean... print and hand to Mr.Boxer. He's the the real cook in our house too!

Sharon Rudd said...

Happy camping, and stay warm, Buzz!

I saw over at Boxer's that you couldn't view my blog. So I tried changing my settings to "pop-up box," as suggested. Hope it works for you whenever you get back and have time to check. I had trouble myself with it at lunchtime Fri. when I tried to view my own blog from work without being logged into blogger. But it seems better tonight . . .

Thanks again for playing! I'll post when GG is up with the theme for next month's Smackdown.

Lori said...

Great idea! Sounds like a tasty combo of flavors. I'm all about being heavy-handed with ginger.

Pam said...

I'm a non-tofu eater and I'd try this soup. It looks lovely! What an interesting challenge. I need to get my chef on board with doing these challenges. So what do you think of those ladders by ?Little Giant???? Maybe that is the name. I see it on QVC or HSN late at night sometimes. Supposed to have quite a long reach but can also double as scaffolding. I have been tempted to purchase.

Buzz Kill said...

If you have someone to cook for you, it tastes all that much better.

I may have a post about the camping trip in the future. Chnaging the setting fixed the problem because I can view your blog now.

I'm not a big ginger user but I do like the flavor. I made a ginger sorbe once that was pretty good.

I know the type of ladder you're talking about but I've never tried one. Never had reason to. The ladder I own I got 2nd hand about 25 years ago and it's always been able to do the job except for this one time. So I'm not going to jump off it's band wagon just yet.