Spring Asparagus Stir Fry

This is the first weekend in two months that isn’t dominated by something pressing.  Our hardwood floors are now refinished. The furniture is moved back in, the books finally back on bookshelves, and the china in the china cabinet. Our nine-hour drive to visit my grandmother in central Kansas is over. We’ve spent a few days with my parents on the other side of the state. And then Jeff’s folks came. Not to mention, work has been INSANE juggling end-of-school-year stories and breaking news in urban education.

On Saturday, Gabi and I went to the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market and stocked up on asparagus.  Every spring Jeff and I crave green veggies so much that we nearly overdose on asparagus. We’re headed in that direction once again. Last weekend, I made stir-fried asparagus with oyster sauce for Jeff’s parents, and it was as delish as ever. Last night, I revisited this incredible asparagus stir fry I’d found on Heidi Swanson’s foodblog, 101cookbooks.com, and first tried three weeks ago. If you haven’t been to her site, it’s wonderful. So is her new cookbook, Super Natural Every Day. More on that later this week.

This stir fry has a little of everything as far as flavor goes. The asparagus and tofu dominate. Then you have heat from the ginger and crushed red pepper flakes, sweetness from the hoison sauce, tang from the lime zest and juice. Cashews provide texture, and mint and basil round it out. Hoison, by the way, is a thick sweet sauce widely used in Chinese cooking.

There are many things I love about Heidi Swanson’s recipes. The first is that they always make me feel good. The second is that you can easily mix and match ingredients without being too worried about it.

At the market, I bought a few handfuls of this tatsoi, with the intention of using it instead of chard or spinach. Tatsoi is a mild Asian green. It looks like a cross between bok choy and spinach, and works really well in stir fries.

Like most stir fries, this one moves quickly. It’s very important to have everything prepped before you start cooking. Another thing to keep in mind: toasted sesame oil has a low smoke point, so use medium heat. You’ll love this one. Tofu and cashews round out the dish nicely in terms of texture and protein. If you happen to have basil and mint, adding a small handful of each at the end adds a nice herbal dimension. If you have one but not the other, or don’t have either, don’t sweat it. This will still be great.

We ate ours with brown rice. It was perfect.

Spring Asparagus Stir Fry
adapted from 101cookbooks.com

Splash of toasted sesame oil
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into slices thick as a pencil
4 green onions, thinly sliced
scant 1 tablespoon peeled minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch of asparagus (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
a couple pinches of salt
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 big handful of toasted cashews, chopped up a bit
a few handfuls of chopped greens, such as spinach, tatsoi, kale or chard
zest and juice of one lime
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 small handful fresh mint, leaves torn
1 small handful fresh basil, leaves torn

Have all your ingredients prepped and close to the stove. Heat a splash of sesame oil in a large pan, or well-seasoned wok over medium to medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the tofu, toss or stir a few times, and cook until golden – a few minutes. Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.

Add another (generous) splash of oil to the pan. Once it is hot, add the onions, ginger, red pepper flakes, asparagus, and salt. Stir fry for about a minute, then add the garlic, cashews, and greens and stir-fry for another minute, or until the greens wilts. Return the tofu to the pan. Stir in the lime zest and juice and the hoisin sauce. Cook for another 10-20 seconds, stirring all the while.

Remove from heat and stir in the mint and basil. Taste and add a bit more salt if needed.

Serve with or without cooked brown rice.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side.


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