STAR ANISE BRAISED CELERY AND SHIITAKES with Smoked Tofu, Beets and Walnuts

By • March 9, 2012 • 0 Comments



Author Notes: A star anise soy sauce braise can make anything taste great without masking its inherent flavors.It does just that with this braised celery dish. I wanted a complementary assortment of flavors , textures and colors and so I added in shiitakes, smoked tofu, and buttercup squash or beets, finally matching the crunch of the celery below with that of the toasted walnuts on top.

If you do some Asian cooking, these ingredients are probably all in your pantry. But if not, the only ones that might require an Asian market trip are the szechuan peppercorns, star anise, and smoked tofu, and all of these items can also often be found at natural foods markets.
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Serves 2

Preparing Shiitakes and Celery

  • 8 stalks celery, peeled and cut on extreme diagonal into 1/3“ chevrons
  • 6 each chinese dried shiitake mushroom caps, poached in simmering water ,covered,til tender( about 20-30 minutes),drained and sliced thinly
  • 2-4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
  • 2 teaspoons szechuan peppercorns, rubbed between your palms to release perfume
  • 2 star anise, pulled apart
  • 1/4 cup chinese soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry cocktail sherry
  • 2 teaspoons Japanese sesame oil (Kadoya preferred)
  • 4 ounces smoked tofu at room temperature, cut into 1/3" cubes
  1. In a small bowl, combine ginger through star anise; in second bowl combine soy sauce through sherry.
  2. Over highest heat, place small wok or heavy skillet (not non-stick) til almost smoking. Add oil, heat a few seconds til smoking, quickly add celery and shiitakes and stir fry 1 minute. Stir up sugar in soy mixture; quickly add to pan and stir (stand back from fumes and spatter) and turn down heat to simmer. Partially cover and stir occasionally til celery is tender, about 5-10 minutes, adding tofu in the last 2 minutes, stirring well. Remove from heat and cool. This can be done a day ahead.

Preparing Beets(or Squash) and Walnuts; Plating Dish

  • 5 ounces peeled beets (or peeled buttercup squash)
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons japanese sesame oil, Kadoya preferred
  • 2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, chopped roughly
  • 1 teaspoon microplaned orange zest(if using beets)
  1. Cut beets or buttercup squash into 2-3" pieces .Toss with drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, s and p,and roast on a sheetpan at 475 degrees F til easily pierced with a skewer. Cool and cut into 1/4 “ cubes. This can be done a day ahead as well.
  2. Just before serving, toss beets or squash with celery mixture, arrange on plates. Sprinkle walnuts (and zest ,if using beets) on celery mixture and around it on the plate.
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