For a quick, low-cal, healthy meal, try tofu

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Frank Chulmsky

One of our favorite meals at home when we're trying to eat light is my version of a simple dish of glazed, smooth tofu, long ago discovered in a Chinese restaurant, called bean curd in oyster sauce.

Bean curd, more popularly known as tofu, is a protein-rich, cheese-like food made from curdled soybean milk that is often disparaged for its blandness, a characteristic I find to be one of its more appealing features. Tofu's neutral flavor allows it to take on and absorb the flavor of the food it's cooked with, making it both interesting and versatile.

Easy to digest, low in calories and high in protein (it has all eight essential amino acids), tofu is sometimes called the potato of the Orient. It can be sliced, diced or mashed, baked, boiled or fried, and can be used in all sorts of imaginative ways in soups, salads, salad dressings, sauces and stir-fries. Unlike the potato, tofu has no rotten black spots or dirty peels.

There are two main varieties of tofu: firm tofu, which has a texture resembling cheese and is well suited for dishes that require a consistency that will hold together, such as kebabs or other mock meats; and soft (silken) tofu, which has a custard-like consistency that is best used in soups, sauces and desserts.

Silken tofu actually comes in various degrees of firmness, from soft to extra firm, and is sold (ultra-pasteurized) in convenient foil packages that can be stored, unopened, in the refridgerator or on the shelf for up to eight months. This is the one I always keep on hand in my kitchen and it's the one I use in this mouthwatering recipe. The scallions give this dish a wonderful taste and aroma.

This is a satisfying meal that can be made in less than 20 minutes. Just right for winter's end. And lighter eating.

Tofu with scallions in oyster sauce

1 package extra firm silken tofu

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1
tablespoon cold water

2 tablespoons oyster sauce*, available in Asian stores or the Asian section of the

supermarket

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 whole scallions, shredded in 1 1/2 inch lengths

Cut the square of tofu in half; then cut each half in slices 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

Place the pieces in a bowl, cover with hot water and soak for 10 minutes.

Heat a large heavy skillet over high heat for about 30 seconds.

Add the peanut oil and heat until oil shimmers

Scatter in the ginger and stir.

Drain the tofu slices and quickly but gently add to the skillet, evening them out with a spatula.

Add the soy sauce and chicken stock.

Bring the liquid to a boil, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the dissolved cornstarch and gently stir until the liquid thickens.

Add the oyster sauce and sesame oil and stir in gently.

Pour the tofu into a bowl or serving dish and scatter the shredded scallions on top.

Serve with steamed white rice

*Note: There are numerous brands of oyster sauce, but the best one, Lee Kum Kee, is available at most Asian markets. Store it indefinitely in the refrigerator.

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