ORANGE TOFU BALLS: Tender and Tangy!

Sometimes all it takes for a recipe to go from ‘meh’ to marvelous is one thing. This is usually an ingredient. But, every now and then, it’s a technique. With my Orange Tofu Balls: it was both.

In developing a new recipe, I generally start with a recipe that catches my eye. I make the recipe as written, then tweak it to suit my taste. In this case, I started with Moosewood Cookbook’s Buddha’s Jewels – Asian style tofu balls.

The recipe instructed to drain the tofu by sandwiching it between 2 plates and pressing out as much liquid as would come. After chopping the drained tofu and mixing it with the remaining ingredients, I formed golf-ball sized balls and baked. However, the uncooked balls were never really firm and had to be dealt with gingerly or they’d fall apart. During the baking process they sank into a mound rather than remain in a tight ball.

It finally came to my attention that there was too much moisture in the tofu. The plate pressing was not enough – I had to squeeze chopped tofu in a tea towel to properly extract the water. Then, I added some flour for good measure. Success!

ORANGE TOFU BALLS – makes about 15

Balls:

  • 397 g (14 oz) extra firm tofu
  • 2 T peanut butter (I use creamy)
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 scallions, white and green part, sliced thin
  • 60 g (1/2 cup) red pepper, chopped fine
  • 111 g (4 oz) mushrooms (I’ve used shiitakes & white common – both worked)
  • 61 g (1/2 cup) water chestnuts, chopped fine
  • 33 g (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour

Orange Sauce

  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 T water
  • 200 ml (3/4 cup) orange juice
  • 2 T pure maple syrup
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 garlic, pressed or minced

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit (190° Celsius).

The first thing to do is extract as much water as you can from the tofu. You can either begin by sandwiching the tofu block between two plates to get it started (you can use this time to chop the remaining ingredients), or go straight to squeezing it in a tea towel. Either way works.

Chop the tofu block (drained or not) into very small pieces. Spoon a fistful onto a clean tea towel.

Wrap the towel around the tofu, forming a sack, and twist to extract as much liquid as you can. (Do this in small batches – if there’s too much, it’s harder to twist out the water.) Empty tofu onto a bread board. Continue until all tofu has been squeezed.

Use a potato masher to smash the drained tofu.

In an empty mixing bowl, add the peanut butter, soy sauce, scallions, red pepper, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and flour – blend well.

Add in the mashed tofu and blend well.

Oil a rimmed cookie sheet with a very light coating of oil. Form about 14-15 compact balls with the tofu mixture and place on sheet spaced well apart to get good heat circulation. (A 3-T scoop, packed tightly, forms just the right size.)

Bake in preheated 375° F (190° C) oven for 45 minutes.

As the tofu balls are baking, prepare the orange sauce: In a small bowl combine the 1 T cornstarch with 1 T water to form a slurry. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, 2 T soy sauce, and garlic. Bring to a boil.

When the liquid begins to boil, drizzle in the slurry – stirring as you pour. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

When the Tofu Balls are darkened, serve immediately with the warmed orange sauce. I like to serve it over rice.

VEGETARIAN MOO SHU: Do NOT Be Afraid!

moo shu textLet me say right off the bat, this is an EXTREMELY easy recipe. Honestly! Yes, it involves making those ultra thin pancakes that wrap the stir-fry, but I promise, you can do it!!!

As a devoted from-scratch cook, I’m always up for a new challenge. While I’ve been making flour tortillas for years, I was a little nervous about these thin moo shu pancakes. How can I roll them so thin and still be able to handle them with tearing? America’s Test Kitchen to the rescue! They came up with an ingenious method that truly works.

The filling can be altered to suit your taste – I used shiitake mushrooms, scrambled eggs, asparagus, and cabbage.

VEGETARIAN MOO SHU – makes 12

Pancakes

  • 7½ oz (or 1+2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1½ T sesame oil
  • 1 T vegetable oil

Mix flour and boiling water together in the food processor (or, by hand if you don’t own one) until smooth – about 30 seconds. Let dough rest, covered, for 30 minutes.moo shu10 On a well-floured board, roll dough into a 12″ log. moo shu11Slice into 12 pieces. moo shu12Using floured fingers, pat each piece into a 3″ disc. moo shu13Generously brush 6 of the discs with the sesame oil (you may have some left over).moo shu14 Place each dry disc on top of an oiled one, creating a kind of sandwich. moo shu15Roll each of these into a 6″-ish circle. (To save time and counter space, while one pancake sandwich is cooking, I’m rolling out the next – but this is pretty hectic.)moo shu16 Heat 1/2 tsp vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium/low. Place one dough circle in skillet and cook on medium/low for 1 minute. Flip and cook other side for 1 minute. moo shu17Remove to a tea towel to let cool a few seconds. Then, carefully split apart the pancakes. moo shu18Stack them, oiled side up. Carry on with the remaining circles. (You may not need to oil the pan with each new pancake, depending on the non-stick ability of your skillet – I put in a little vegetable oil every other one.) Keep warm in the wrapped tea towel until ready to use.moo shu19

Filling

  • 8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 T Mirin sweet rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger or 1 tsp fresh, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 T + 1 tsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 2/3 cup scallions (about 6 scallions), sliced
  • 7 asparagus stalks, sliced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 8 oz can bamboo shoots, cut into matchsticks – see photo:hot & sour9
  • 3 cups Napa cabbage or bok choy, sliced thin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce (recipe below, or purchased)

In a bowl, combine the shiitakes and 1/2 cup water. Let soak while you prepare the rest. (You’ll be using some this flavored water in the moo shu.)moo shu2Prepare teriyaki sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the Mirin and cornstarch, smooshing out any lumps. teriyake sauce1Add in the soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Set aside. noodle bowl3Note:  You only need 1/4 cup of the teriyaki sauce for the Moo Shu. Store remainder in refrigerator.

In a nonstick 12″ skillet, heat 1 T vegetable oil over high heat. Add in the scallions, asparagus, and bamboo shoots. Sauté on high for 2 minutes.moo shu7 Drain the mushrooms over a container.moo shu3 Add 1/3 cup of this mushroom water to the skillet, along with the cabbage and drained mushrooms. Cook on high for another 2 minutes.moo shu9 Pour all of the stir-fry mixture into a colander or sieve, discarding the drained liquid.

Put 1 tsp vegetable oil in the now-empty skillet and heat over medium/high. Lightly beat eggs, and cook them in skillet for about 20 seconds, until they’re cooked, but soft. (They’ll continue to cook when the hot vegetables are added.)moo shu5Add in the drained veggies and the 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce. Blend together and heat through.

Place a spoonful of filling on a each pancake. Fold up pancake in half (like a taco), moo shu20 then fold in sides.moo shu21If you like, dip in plum or hoisin sauce as you eat.