Even though I’ve cooked more in the last 3 1/2 years of my life than I did in the previous 25, I still pretty much stick to recipes. I try all sorts of recipes of varying degrees, but it’s rare that I really go out on my own and try something drastically different from what the book says. There’s even a rule in our house that the first time we make any recipe, we have to have all the ingredients on hand, no substitutes, so that way we know what it’s supposed to taste like before we start experimenting.
The other night, I started with a wicked Pineapple-Ginseng sauce recipe from Secrets from a Healthy Asian Kitchen. The recipe suggested using the sauce to top seafood or beef. Instead, I made the sauce (as directed, of course, since it was the first time we tried it) and then dropped in half a package of extra firm tofu I had chopped into cubes and let it marinate in the fridge while I cooked some brown rice.
When the rice was nearly finished, I decided to follow some advice I read in This Can’t Be Tofu! about the best way to infuse tofu with flavor. I added a little oil to a pan and fried the tofu chunks until they were golden brown. Then I poured some of the sauce on top of them and cooked them until the sauce started to break down. I topped the rice with the tofu chunks and then poured on the remaining sauce from the pan and some from the original marinade. It was simply excellent… the sauce gave the rice a nice, rich creaminess and the tofu chunks were nicely coated and somewhat infused with the pineapple-ginseng flavor. Really good stuff. And it received the stamp of approval from the wife. We added this to “the restaurant list,” a list of recipes I’ll serve when I open up my fantasy restaurant in the future.
I’m going to formalize the recipe and post it soon, but the point of this story is that sometimes the best recipes are the loose adaptations and creative re-working from unexpected places.