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This is the nineteenth installment of Sunday Dinners, a biweekly column from our own Tom Hirschfeld featuring his gorgeous photography, stunning Indiana farm, and mouthwatering family meals.

Today: Tom ponders both his sanity and his broken stove, with a Sunday dinner menu of Chicken and Tofu with Celery and Cashews, White Rice, Sort of Jiro-Style, and FrancesRenHuang's Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans.

I have had a lot of visitors lately. It has been fine, I actually like for them to visit.

One of our recent visitors is a repairman, and he has been to the house enough that I am starting to consider him a best friend. He even comes in through the mudroom -- and you know only friends and family come through the mudroom. It is clearly becoming habit for him to stop by for coffee and fix the stove.

I swear my stove is a lemon. Among other problems, about every two years the ignitors burn out, and one or the other ovens -- sometimes both -- won't light. The real issue is that they never break at the same time. If you unknowingly turn on both ovens, one will build up gas until the other ignites the two, causing a rolling wave of flames to climb out the oven door and up about two or three feet above the stovetop. Needless to say, it is not a welcome surprise.

I complained enough when I called -- something about showing them a video on You Tube -- that this time the manufacturers' rep came with the repairman. Long story short, the answer I heard from the rep went something like this: "You know, they don't build these things anymore for people who use their kitchens. They are really only for occasional use." Can you imagine the look I had on my face? I read the literature before I bought and had I read for occasional use only, you can bet I would have taken my business elsewhere.

The answer rattled me.

I get accused of being mildly obsessive about cooking (there are those who might leave out "mildly"). I wondered, have I lost it? Do I need therapy? Am I the out-of-touch-right to the rest of the world's occupy-Wall-Streeters? I had to ask myself: am I the only one who cooks anymore? My stove is on morning, noon, and night -- is that wrong?

We built our kitchen so it is central to the entire house, and we spend most of our time here. The kids do their homework and art projects, and eat at the counter. When we have parties, more often than not everyone congregates around the prep island.

In the kitchen I am always trying something new -- a new cooking method, a cheat, a hack -- and I am always trying or creating new recipes. Cooking is a huge part of my identity, my core. It is who I am, but I am beginning to wonder if I'm nuts.

Tell me for example, is it wrong to watch a movie about the world's greatest sushi chef, observe him making rice, and then start making it that way by putting weights on top of the pot? Or how about growing San Marzano tomatoes and reducing them to an unctuous tomato-y conserva? Or the time I converted a steam table and a fish tank pump into a ghetto sous vide machine? While I am at it, how about making tofu from scratch, sausage, beer, wine, sauerkraut, cordials, Orleans-style red wine vinegar, and a whole host of other things including a pressure cooker? And just so I have it all out there, I grew a specific type of corn this year especially for slaking and making hominy, which then becomes fresh corn masa for corn tortillas.

But it is Sunday. My stove is broken and the parts are on back order. I find my outdoor propane stove that generates a huge number of BTUs -- 120,000 to be exact -- and sounds like a jet engine when it is fired up. I remember that I once heard a cookbook author say in an interview that you can't cook good stir fries at home because American stoves don't have enough BTUs.

I open the fridge and get out the container of homemade tofu. It is a beautiful ivory instead of pure white, feels firm, and smells of fresh soybeans. It is better than the best storebought but not by much -- still, I'll make it again, and see if I can make it better next time. I reach for my Chinese vegetable cleaver and think, "Maybe I am nuts." Then I hear myself whisper, "I'm good with that."

Sunday Menu:

Chicken and Tofu with Celery and Cashews
Serves 4
For the marinade:
2 tablespoons rice wine, sake, or dry sherry
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cup chicken thigh meat, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 pound sprouted firm tofu, or your choice of firm tofu
For the stir fry:
1 cup Chinese celery or regular celery
2/3 cups unsalted cashews
2 cups spinach leaves
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons rice wine, sake or dry sherry
2 teaspoons black vinegar or malt vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons cornstarch
See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

White Rice, Sort of Jiro-Style
Serves 4
2 cups medium grain rice, kapika processed
2 cups water
See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

FrancesRenHuang's Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans
Serves 2
3 handfuls green beans, trimmed
5 dried chilies
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
2 teaspoon green onion, sliced thinly
2 tablespoon Chinese preserved mustard, chopped finely
2 tablespoon ground pork
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
Unflavored oil for frying
See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

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Tags: Tofu