January 7, 2015

Thai Vegetable Stir Fry

It's only January 7, but I'm willing to bet there's a lot of people already struggling with their new years' resolutions. It's definitely difficult to maintain them when, let's say, you decide to eat healthy (again) but all the recipes out there have random expensive ingredients that don't even sound that good and take hours to make. Luckily, I have a few that won't kill your savings or your taste buds, including this one for a stir fry with eggplant, bell peppers, and tofu and/or meat tossed in a savory sauce.

To prep the eggplant, I cut it into slabs, salt it, and press it for 30 minutes to draw out the bitterness and reduce the moisture. I cube it after I press it so I end up with perfectly uniform pieces that don't get squished in the process and soak up all the delicious sauce when I cook them. The peppers and onions require even less prep; just slice them thinly and they're ready to cook.

Healthy veggie dishes aren't that healthy if they don't fill you up and you end up eating another meal 30 minutes later. That's why I throw in some tofu, which needs to be pressed as well to remove all the extra moisture. If tofu's not really your favorite, you can replace half or all of it with a lean protein like ground or sliced turkey or chicken breast. If you're a little short on time, I'd recommend buying a rotisserie chicken, cutting it into bite-sized pieces, and tossing them in when the dish is almost done cooking. You still get your protein, but you don't have to spend hours slaving over the stove.

I combine everything by first cooking the eggplant cubes in batches. Even my largest skillet isn't big enough to brown all of them at the same time, and this dish tastes so much better when everything is browned properly. I do the same with the tofu, then I cook the peppers and onions together. When they are almost done, I stir the eggplant and tofu (and/or the meat) in as well as the sauce, which is hoisin, soy sauce, a little sweet chili sauce, and some cornstarch to thicken it. It's perfectly salty and savory with a little hint of spice from the chili sauce, which of course you can increase to your liking. You can also play around with different combinations of vegetables and proteins; one of the reasons stir fry is so great is because it's so easy to adjust the ingredients.

2 14 oz Blocks Firm Tofu*
1 Eggplant
2 Bell Peppers
1 Yellow Onion
1/4 Cup Hoisin Sauce
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1 T Sweet Chili Sauce
2 tsp Cornstarch
*Or use 14 oz tofu and 1 lb ground or sliced meat

Cut the eggplant into 3/4" thick slabs. Sprinkle with salt and place between a few layers of paper towels. Place a cutting board or other weight on top and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse and cut into cubes.

Cut the tofu into 3/4" thick slabs and pat with paper towels until most of the water is absorbed. Cut into cubes. Slice the bell peppers thinly. Cut the onion pole to pole and slice thinly.

Whisk the hoisin, soy sauce, chili sauce, and cornstarch together until smooth.

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Add half the eggplant cubes, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until browned. Remove from the skillet and repeat with the remaining eggplant. Repeat with the tofu cubes.

Add some more oil to the skillet and add the bell peppers and onions. Cook, stirring often, until almost tender. Stir in the eggplant, tofu, and soy sauce mixture and cook for 3 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Serves 6
Recipe Adapted from Vegetarian Gastronomy

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