Tofu. The very thought of consuming it sends many a Westerner running for the hills. I'm not sure how tofu earned itself such a bad name, but consider this: someone who has never consumed meat products might experience the same reaction when confronted with a bowl or wormy, bright-red ground beef. It all comes down to familiarity and the proper preparation of ingredients. I'm all for tofu--when it's treated as "TOFU." None of this masquerading as scrambled eggs or faux meat business (that's all fine and dandy, but I suspect it's bad experiences with these types of creations that has scared people off from trying tofu).
Here's a very tasty soup that pays proper respect to the humble hero of the protein world. Based on Chinese hot and sour soup, it's packed with flavor--and tons of veggies. The ingredients list looks long, but I promise you this is a very quick dish to put together. Normally I would make a soup like this with baby bok choy instead of the sugar snap peas, but the baby boks were looking pretty sad and wilted the day I went shopping. And why the carrot flowers? Well...why the heck not? They're a really cute addition to the soup, and the scraps leftover from cutting make tasty snacks for the chef!
Hot & Sour Tofu Soup (Yields: 4 main /8 soup course servings)
Adapted from 365 Vegetarian Soups by Gregg Gillespie
3 Tbl. olive oil
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
¾ cup diced red bell pepper (about 1 small)
1½ cups chopped green onions (about 8 or 9)
½ cup sliced carrots
1 quart vegetable broth
3 Tbl. soy sauce
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbl. cornstarch
3 Tbl. water
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
½ lb. sugar snap peas or baby bok choy, sliced
14 oz. pkg. extra firm tofu, diced
handful of chopped cilantro (optional)
Heat the oil in a soup kettle or Dutch oven, and sauté mushrooms until their liquid has been released and evaporated. Add diced red bell peppers, green onions and carrots, and sauté until tender. Add vegetable broth, soy sauce and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover lightly, and cook for about 5 minutes.
Blend the cornstarch with 3 Tablespoons of water. Blend in vinegar and sesame oil. Stir into the hot soup until incorporated, and then add the tofu and snap peas. Again cover, and cook for about 5 minutes or until thick and bubbly.
Turn off the heat. Add cilantro, if using. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.