Charred tofu stir-fry + magic soup
Cooking order is key here. When it works, you get great charred tofu and nice crisp-tender vegetables. When it doesn’t, you get mush. Magic soup is indeed magic — try it next time you have a head cold, as warm and spicy as you can tolerate.
2 scallions (trimmed and sliced in little disks) or 1 large red onion (peeled and sliced in thin smiles). Save peels or tops.
1 piece ginger, about length of thumb, peeled and slivered. Save peels.
1 package firm tofu (or 3 small pieces loose from Chinatown), in thick slices
2 rolls (of four in package) of soba noodles
3 large heads baby bok choy. Separate greens from stalk. Wash each well — chop stalk into coins and tear leaves in half
4 carrots, washed, trimmed, peeled and cut on diagonal into coins, well dried
light oil, such as light peanut, grapeseed, canola or cooking-grade olive
dark sesame oil
good fermented soy
rice vinegar (or white balsamic)
2 stalks celery, washed, trimmed and cut on diagonal into coins, well dried (add with carrots)
1 red pepper, washed, seeds removed, cut into slivers, well dried (add with carrots)
.5lb snow and/or sugar snap peas, washed and trimmed, well dried (add with bok choy)
Set 6 cups of water to boil in soup pot with half the ginger and half the scallions or onions. Add scallion tops, onion peels and/or ginger peels in a colander, set in water. When water hits rolling boil, stir in 1T each of soy sauce and vinegar. Cover pot halfways and set to simmer.
Press tofu slices with your hand and pat dry with paper towel. Heat cast iron skillet until water skates, then heat 1T light oil until nearly smoking. Add tofu slices. Let rest on one side for about 4 minutes, until well charred but not burnt. Flip and repeat. When both sides are charred, remove tofu and let dry on plate covered in a paper towel.
Add remainder of ginger and scallions or onions to skillet. Lower flame and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring only every few minutes, until onions are brown and glistening but not blackened.
Now add carrots and bok choy stalks and saute for a few minutes. Stir in 1T each of soy and vinegar, plus a a large ladle of broth. Raise flame, add bok choy greens and put tofu pieces on top. Cover and let cook about 3 minutes, until tofu is warm and bok choy greens are wilted. Serve in deep dinner plate, with extra soy and vinegar and Sriracha to taste.
Remove colander from soup pot and add noodles. Put 1t miso in bottom of two soup bowls and stir in a small ladle of broth. Noodles are done after 2 or 3 minutes. To serve, ladle more broth and noodles in each bowl and season to taste with soy, vinegar and Sriracha. Top with a dash of sesame oil.