Spring means asparagus has finally come into season. If you try to plan your meals around ingredients that can only be obtained locally, you probably already know that the actual harvest season for asparagus is very short, about eight weeks. Sure, in today’s big agribusiness world we can find asparagus all year round in chain supermarkets, but nothing beats the sweet, honest, tender stalks of a locally picked, in-season asparagus.
This is a spring-celebration stir-fry. As with all stir-fries, the secret to flawless execution is to chop, slice and prepare all the ingredients prior to turning on the burner. Start by compiling the sauce, then cut all the vegetables and tofu to spec. You can throw the chopped green onions, garlic, asparagus, ginger and red pepper flakes into a single bowl because they will be added to the hot pan at the same time. Start cooking by first pan-frying the tofu. Once you’ve finished the tofu, the actual stir-fry will literally take five minutes to cook.
Asparagus Stir-Fry with Tofu and Almonds
a Ginger and Berries creation, but originally inspired by a recipe in Cook 1.0 by Heidi Swanson
Serves 2-3 (with steamed brown rice)
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sriracha (or other similar hot sauce)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
dash white pepper
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound thin asparagus, bias cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and minced
4 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (use half for less heat)
3/4 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
6 tablespoons of the stir-fry sauce above
1 handful fresh basil (about 25 medium leaves), slivered
1 handful fresh mint (about 40 medium leaves), slivered
- Combine all the sauce ingredients in a deep bowl and stir using a wire whisk until all the ingredients have been thoroughly combined into a smooth mixture. Taste and adjust the flavors. You’re looking for a balance between slightly sweet, spicy and salty.
- Heat the oil in a large (10-12” diameter) non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil just begins to shimmer, add half the tofu. Be careful. Excess water in the tofu will spatter upon contact with the oil. Season with a sprinkling of salt. Cook without stirring for 3 minutes, until the tofu is golden brown on the bottom. Stir to flip the tofu pieces and allow to cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove the tofu from the pan and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Cook the remaining tofu in the same manner as the first batch then transfer to the paper-towel lined plate to drain.
- Add an additional splash of oil to the still hot pan if necessary. Turn up the heat to high. When the oil is shimmering, add the asparagus, garlic, ginger, green onions and chili pepper flakes. Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes. Err on the low end of the time spectrum and keep stirring to avoid burning the garlic and overcooking the asparagus.
- Add the almonds to the pan and continue to stir for another minute.
- Add the pan-fried tofu, lime zest and juice, and 6 tablespoons of the stir-fry sauce. Cook and stir for an additional 1-2 minutes. Aim for a tender but slightly crunchy asparagus.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil and mint. Adjust the flavors by adding salt and/or more stir-fry sauce.
- Serve over steamed brown or jasmine rice. Pass the leftover sauce around the table for an additional flavor boost.