Cooking with My Mentees, part 1

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to post this!  I need to make a New Year’s resolution to be a more timely blogger…

As part of the work I do, I serve as a mentor for students in the Service Scholar program.  Early in the fall semester (in September, I think?), I got together with three of my mentees to cook and share a meal together.  I’ve had several students ask me if I would teach them to cook a particular dish and this was my first foray into cooking instruction.  The only request was tofu (my kind of request!) so I made a menu that was fun and diverse, if a bit ambitious.  Before the girls came over, I set out the ingredients in different stations:

White bean dip served with sliced red peppers

Tofu two ways: BBQ and honey glazed

Spicy Baked Macaroni (I made few changes to the Giada DeLaurentis recipe.)

The first thing we did was get cute aprons on all the cooks.  Then we got to work, picking eggplant, sautéing garlic, blending up bean dip, seasoning tofu, cooking veggies for the macaroni, grating cheese, and generally having a great time while we prepped the meal.

Marisa and Abby picking eggplant from Artie's garden
Amy sautéing garlic in the tiny skillet with the tiny spatula
Marisa seasoning the BBQ tofu


Abby adding the sauteed veggies to the pasta for the macaroni
Tasting the white bean dip with the tiny spoons

The finished product was excellent:

Don’t think that I forgot dessert!  This post already had so many pictures, I thought I would break it into two parts.  Check back tomorrow for part two and see what delicious confection we made for dessert  (a tasty, fruity treat that looks like it took forever to make, but it was a snap!).

Eggplant and Tofu Stir Fry

Back in college, Jill’s favorite food was broccoli. As noted in a previous post, Jill’s current favorite food is eggplant. This current favorite is followed closely by tofu. In honor of these favorite foods, I created this stir fry.

The Ingredients

To make this stir-fry, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, diced into small cubes
  • 14 oz extra firm tofu, drained, patted dry with paper towels, and diced into small cubes
  • 6 oz broccoli florets
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh Basil
  • Fresh Cilantro (optional)
  • Lemongrass (optional)
  • Cashews
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Vegetable oil
Extra Firm Tofu
Extra Firm Tofu

Although I have a well seasoned wok, I always have better luck cooking tofu in a non-stick pan, so I made this stir-fry in a large non-stick pan instead of a wok.

To make this stir-fry, first cook the the tofu: heat 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add four cloves of minced garlic and about 1/4 teaspoon of finely chopped lemongrass stalk. I added the fresh lemongrass because I have it growing in my garden, but it can be left out of this recipe. Let the garlic and lemongrass infuse flavor into the oil for a minute or two, then, with a slotted spoon, remove the garlic and lemongrass from the oil and set aside in a small bowl.  Gently sauté the tofu cubes in the flavor-infused oil until they turn golden brown.  Once golden brown in color, remove the tofu from the skillet and set aside.

Golden Brown Tofu
Golden Brown Tofu

Add the broccoli florets to the pan and stir-fry for about two minutes.  Add the eggplant and cook together for about three minutes before adding the yellow pepper. Stir-fry the broccoli, eggplant, and yellow pepper together for another two minutes until the vegetables are cooked but the broccoli and pepper are still slightly crispy. Add the garlic and lemongrass mixture and the tofu to the vegetable mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine three teaspoons of Sriracha sauce, six teaspoons of low sodium soy sauce, six teaspoons of water, and one teaspoon of sesame oil. Add the sauce to the stir-fry mixture and stir gently to combine.  Top with a chiffonade of basil and cilantro and cook until the sauce is absorbed, about two or three minutes.

Stir Fry
Stir-fried vegetables and tofu

Serve the stir-fry over brown rice and garnish with cashews, basil, and sriracha sauce. Since the sriracha sauce is somewhat spicy, I added a little more to mine than I did to Jill’s.

Eggplant and Tofu Stir Fry
Eggplant and Tofu Stir Fry