Falsetti: Tofu, eggs and umami-laden mushrooms
A couple of weeks ago, the doorbell rang. When I went to the door, the mail lady was standing there with a large envelope in her hand, asking for a signature.
My heart dropped. From 30 years of experience battling New York City landlords, I learned that nothing good came in the mail that required a signature. I took a deep breath and signed.
I took the envelope inside and opened it. Much to my surprise, it was three packs of dried shiitake mushrooms sent by my friend in Japan.
I love mushrooms in all shapes and forms. Publishers Clearing House knocking on the door couldn’t have made me happier.
With many options to choose from, I decided to use my mushrooms in a simple, homestyle Japanese dish. Tofu with vegetables and eggs is full of flavor but not heavy on sauce, so it is a perfect midsummer meal. With a side of rice, it makes a filling dinner.
Although the shiitakes are not the main ingredient of the dish, they are certainly the star. Fresh shiitakes are quite unlike the mundane button mushrooms found in the typical salad bar. Their deep umami flavor adds a punch to any savory dish. When dried, this meaty essence is intensified.
Dried shiitakes are versatile. They can be added to soups, stews and sauces. They will keep virtually forever.
I haven’t canvassed every supermarket in the area, but for sure they are available at the Asian grocery, Food Mart, on the corner of the Penn Street Market in York City.
Tofu with Vegetables and Eggs
5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound green beans
1 container firm or extra firm tofu
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 scallion, minced
1 tablespoon sake, dry sherry or dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Beat the eggs lightly and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a frying pan and make soft scrambled eggs. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Simmer the mushrooms in 1 cup water for 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve the mushroom liquid. Cut the mushrooms into narrow strips.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the green beans. Boil for 2 minutes and then drain and immediately rinse with cold water. Then cut them in half on the diagonal.
Dice the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Blanch for a minute in boiling water. Then drain and let cool.
In the same frying pan you used to cook the eggs, add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil. When hot, add the carrots, green beans, mushrooms and scallions. Stir fry for 2 or 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat and add the sake, sugar, salt, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir once or twice and then add the eggs and tofu, stirring gently. Continue to cook until all the liquid is absorbed. If mixture seems dry, add some of the mushroom liquid.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at email@example.com.