DEMOCRACY, putting scratch kitchens back in schools, and why cast iron reigns supreme
I was connected with today’s guest on Food, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet via the now-almost-defunct-Twitter; I saw that he’d done a podcast about TikTok and its threat to national security — let’s just all become Luddites! — and at the end he talked about his favorite tofu recipe. Friends, that recipe was from How to Cook Everything.
Turns out, Michael is a fan, and that goes both ways, especially after our conversation with him. He — like his good friend, and mine, Senator Cory Booker — is a champion of good food and food access. Before being appointed to the Senate in 2009, Michael was Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, where he saw firsthand just how much poverty and food access — or lack thereof — can affect a child’s life. The fire was stoked.
Since then, he has tirelessly fought for SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which we sometimes call food stamps — and for school and summer meals. Think about it: What are kids who get free meals during the school year supposed to do during the summer? Hm.
Michael has also fought on behalf of farmers, and for a good and just Farm Bill, and more. We talk about all those things. You can see why I’m a fan. He also happens to be an extremely personable and funny and kind guy; we start out a bit serious, I admit, but we get more lighthearted as we go on.
Thank you for listening. The recipe featured on today’s episode, Stir-Fried Tofu with Snow Peas or Sugar Snap Peas, is below.
Stir-Fried Tofu with Snow Peas or Sugar Snap Peas
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes
The best way to learn to love tofu is to cook it with lots of crisp vegetables. A ton of ginger and garlic help too. You can serve this with white or brown rice, of course. I also like it tossed with wide rice noodles. Whatever accompaniment you choose, get it ready before you start the stir-fry; this goes super-fast.
Other vegetables you can use: broccoli florets, chopped bok choy or asparagus, sliced carrots.
1½ to 2 pounds firm or extra-firm tofu, frozen, squeezed, or just patted dry
1 pound snow peas or sugar snap peas, trimmed
3 tablespoons good-quality vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger (optional)
2 small dried chiles (optional)
2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1. Cut the tofu into cubes no bigger than 1-inch. Slice the peas in half lengthwise if you like (pretty, but not necessary). Trim and slice the scallions, keeping the white and green parts separate.
2. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the tofu in a single layer, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, undisturbed, until the pieces brown on the bottom and release from the pan, about 5 minutes. Scrape them up with a spatula, toss, and let the tofu sizzle until they’re crisp in places, just a couple of minutes more; transfer to a plate.
3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and return it to high heat. Immediately add the scallion whites, garlic, and the ginger and chiles if you’re using them and cook, stirring, for about 10 seconds. Add the peas and 1⁄2 cup water. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until the peas turn bright green and most of the water has bubbled away, just a minute or 2. Add the tofu and soy sauce and remove from the heat. Stir in the scallion greens and the sesame seeds, if you’re using them. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.