Crispy Sesame Tofu and Mushroom Stir-fry

Right now, I'm a big fan of food I'm reading about from "across the pond". Not Great Britain (though I've been reading about some hot-spots popping up over there as well) but Australia by way of Donna Hay I just love her - and her new book, "Simple Dinners."

Additionally, I'm in love with Katie Quinn Davies (another Aussie) of the fabulous What Katie Ate blog. I finally tracked down her new book and can't WAIT to start cooking from it.

Katie and Donna have similar food styling. I believe that's what attracts me first to their food, but I also am drawn to the uniqueness of their dishes. They are proponents of taking a well-known dish and transforming it into something new by using different and exciting ingredients.

It also doesn't hurt that Donna's recipes are heavily Asian-inspired and, well, you know me ... :)

We'll leave Katie and her beautiful blog and book for another post. For now, I'd love to share a recipe from Donna's Feb/March magazine that has found it's way into my Meatless Monday recipe pile. But lest you think Donna is all about veg, my next post will be her Sukiyaki Hot Pot which features ground pork and shrimp meatballs - yum!

My Momma was born in Oklahoma and grew up farming. She was a meat-n-taters gal and that's what we grew up eating. Meals at our house were hearty and satisfying. We ate together, at the table, and it's one of the things I love and miss about my childhood. Dinners consisted of meat, potatoes and a vegetable. Better by far than fast-food and take-out, but not necessarily in the proper proportions: meat was the star attraction, potatoes ALWAYS made an appearance, but the vegetables usually took up the least amount of space on our plates.

I don't have a brood to look after these days, but I'm trying to be better about making Veg being what I eat the most of each meal. This could explain why I'm gravitating toward Japanese cooking lately (I've been experimenting with Yakitori but it's not quite ready for the blog yet). Meat is considered more of an accent or accompaniment to vegetables. I recently made a new friend from Japan. Wataru is visiting the United States for a year or so and naturally I bombarded him with questions about food; what he misses from home and what he finds absolutely crazy over here.

Wataru does not shy away from new things and during the week I spent with him, he bravely tried pretty much everything we were eating, but he admitted that what he really craves is "rabbit food". He totally said that, too! What he meant, of course, was fresh vegetables.

I want to be more like my friend Wataru. This is a personal thing, but I feel my body has to work harder at getting what it needs when I try to process more meat than vegetables. I'm guessing there's a study out there that proves that :). I like to eat meat, but if I eat less of it, I think my body will thank me and maybe we can start to change how we process animals for eating. If we're eating less of it, we can be more selective about how it's delivered to us.

So here is Donna's recipe for Crispy Sesame Tofu and Mushroom Stir-fry. It's absolutely loaded with the deep, umami flavors, which is really what we love about meat - but there's no meat! Deep, earthy mushrooms (mmmm, meaty!) -  oyster sauce (so meaty!) - chewy buckwheat noodles (noodles that have a flavor!) - protein packed tofu fried up crisp with sesame seeds ... I just ate but I'm hungry again.

Crispy Sesame Tofu and Mushroom Stir-Fry

From: Donna Hay Magazine - Feb/March '13 issue

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tablespoons rice flour

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes (or kosher salt)

1 pound (one package) firm tofu, sliced

vegetable oil for shallow frying

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 pound mixed Asian mushrooms (I used baby bellas quartered)

1/4 cup premium soy sauce

1/4 cup oyster sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 cup water

4 cups cooked Soba noodles, cooked as per packet instructions

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions

Combine the rice flour, sesame seeds and salt. Press the tofu slices into the sesame mixture to coat. Heat vegetable oil (I went with 1 tablespoon to start out with) in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the tofu and cook, in batches, for 1-2 minutes each side or until golden. Drain on absorbent paper. Set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a wok over high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until golden. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Add the soy, oyster sauce, sugar and water and cook for 1-2 minutes or until slightly reduced and thickened. Divide the noodles and the tofu between plates and spoon over the mushrooms. Top with the green onions.