When I saw Chef Michael Smith promoting his new book, he said something that I didn’t mention in the post. He said, most chefs prepare dinner via a menu which is created by them, but not changed night to night (in most cases) while most home cooks have to prepare dinner every night and keep it interesting/healthy/delicious, etc. for their families.
Growing up I had some friends whose mothers would cook the same thing each week on a schedule. This Tuesday-Pizza, Wednesday-Spaghetti way of doing dinner is a) easy to shop for, b) easy to plan (because you only have to do it once) and c) not possible in my house where we cook something we like only once in a while and, for the most part, come up with something new every night because we can’t eat the same thing week in, week out.
Growing up in my parent’s house, my mom cooked comfort food or we ate out. We ate out a lot, and I realize that is a common thing now a days because schedules are crazy, time is limited and who wants to be stuck in the kitchen when they can be eating dinner with their families and colouring on the tablecloth?
I was thinking about this while cooking dinner tonight and started doing some calculations:
There are 365 days in the year.
There are approximately 5 major holidays when you cook a dinner where the menu is probably predetermined by tradition.
You might eat out once every 3 weeks, so about 18 times per year.
You might go to a friend’s house for dinner once every 3 weeks, so about another 18 times per year.
And grandma and grandpa might help for dinner once in a while, let’s cut out another 14 times per year. (These are just estimates).
This means that the average home cook makes dinner (let’s not get into breakfast and lunch for this post) about 310 times in one year. Once I did these calculations, it wasn’t a mystery to me that I, like many people, struggle with that nagging question: “What’s for dinner?” Without even telling my son what we’re having, he says: “I no like it, it yucky.” Thank you son. I dread answering the question when it comes from my husband because it’s almost always followed by a: “argh… I just want something with flavour, and something the kids will eat.” Dinner time has become quite a struggle in our house. I think I’m starting to freak people out because no one is safe from my probing: “so… what do you guys have for dinner.” Some people love to tell me what they eat and some people look at me like I’m crazy. I think I might be.
To set the record straight, we eat dinner at our kitchen table every night and I refuse to follow a “it’s Thursday, that means we’re having tacos” kind of schedule, because even the most loved foods become old, tired and difficult to swallow after a while. I’m working on something that might make this a little easier for us all, and hope to share it with you soon. For now, please enjoy this quick and delicious (I’m not sure about healthy) vegetarian dinner!
- 1 block of firm tofu, cut into 1 cm x 2 cm rectangles
- 1/4 cup Asian Sweet Chilli sauce
- 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger, or more if you like it
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- vegetable oil for frying
- 3-5 baby bok choy
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced fairly thin but not too thin (otherwise it will just burn)
- Cut tofu into small rectangles and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Cover the top of the tofu with more paper-towel. Let sit while you are preparing your other ingredients.
- Make the glaze: combine 1/4 cup Asian Sweet Chilli sauce, 2 Tbsp Soy sauce, 1 tsp freshly grated ginger and 1 tsp corn starch. Whisk together and set aside.
- Chop the stems of the baby bok choy and the leave the tops of the baby bok choy intact. Heat 1-2 Tbsp of the oil in a large fry pan over medium heat and cook the bok choy until softened and starting to colour, about 3-5 minutes. Then add the tops and cook until just wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan and let sit in a colander – water will seep out of it while it sits.
- Add a lot more oil (until bottom of pan is just covered), heat and then add the garlic. Fry until the garlic is just starting to colour (this will be fast so watch it and remove it promptly from the pan once it is done onto a paper-towel lined plate).
- In a large bowl, put the tofu, salt and pepper and cornstarch and toss to coat. Once nicely and evenly coated, add the tofu carefully to the hot oil. Fry until the tofu is golden on all sides. Remove the tofu, drain the oil and place the tofu back in the pan. Add the glaze, allowing to cook for a minute or two until the tofu is coated nicely, then add the bok choy and the garlic. Toss until everything is coated and delicious.
I made jasmine rice beside this dish and served it with sugar snap peas and cucumbers (kids love something on the plate they can eat with their hands). This dish is great because it’s done quickly, it’s really flavourful and it’s something different that the same old, same old. The odd time we order Chinese food, it sort of falls flat for us because now that we make various Asian-flavoured dishes at home that are amazing and fresh and we know everything that is in them.