SUNDAY DINNER was always a simple meal. During the late ’50s and early ’60s in Pakistan, it was our cook’s day off.
Mom planned that meal along with the rest of the week’s menus, when she sat with Manu at the dining table for their start-of-the-week meeting to discuss ideas and recipes. On Sundays, we would have ‘left-overs’ or cold cuts or my mother’s favorite easy meal ~ the same one she remembered fondly from her girlhood growing up in Singapore with her missionary parents ~ a fried egg served over white steamed rice with sliced tomatoes all splashed with salty, sharply pungent, soy sauce.
I remember Sunday dinners as fun ’cause we helped Mom get the meal on the table. Without our household staff, there was no cook to prepare ingredients and cook the meal, no bearer to set the table or to serve us dinner, and no one to clean up afterward. It was all up to us following Mom’s example with her clear direction, and efficient leadership.
Sunday dinner prep seemed almost as fun as making cakes from those ‘precious as gold’ packaged cake mixes Mom stored in the pantry for special occasions. I know. Seems a story-telling embellishment to those of us, who now struggle with deciding what we’re even in the mood to eat… let alone plan for, prep, cook, and clean-up. But when cooking is a once-a-week effort or necessary only when one is prompted by a creative culinary muse, then it really is FUN! (True confessions of a some times reluctant cook.)
After becoming a lacto-vegetarian (which includes eating dairy foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, and cream), eggs were no longer part of our diet. Firm tofu makes a good substitute for the fried eggs in this meal. I prefer a very firm organic tofu. Well made tofu has a subtle sweet aftertaste I enjoy even when it’s eaten plain. Tofu’s extremely high in protein plus is a versatile food that absorbs the flavors of your seasonings.
We rarely eat it plain. Most often, we sauté tofu along with onions, garlic and other veggies, which can be varied by season, your preferences, or with the seasonings you use.
Cool weather vegetables are the stars at the local farm markets now. Like Bri used to, the rest of us prefer to buy local and eat seasonally as much as possible.
In late October we spotted some beautiful purple broccoli. Had to bring some home to eat, but only after it had been properly photographed to share with the rest of you! The frosts now hovering round our gardens and growers fields are a bit late this year, so farm market shoppers can still find plenty of beautiful peppers, sweet and hot; fat luscious tomatoes; and a cornucopia of root vegetables to choose from.
I decided to make a variation of my Mom’s easy meal by quickly sautéing onions, exotic specialty Georgian Crystal Garlic, along with the purple broccoli in olive oil. The ‘purple’ dusky violet pigments in broccoli, brussel sprouts, and fresh beans can be fugitive…vanishing entirely during cooking or turning a mucky unattractive gray. Naturally, all of us would love the purpleness to become even more so, before we sit down to eat it. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find this broccoli’s purple accents turned a rich black, while being sautéed.
You may take these basic ingredients in different culinary directions depending on your mood, preferences, and inspiration. Toasted sesame oil could be substituted for olive oil. A true tamari soy sauce might be added rather than the Braggs Liquid Aminos we most often use. Or you could use a homemade or store bought stir-fry sauce. You might take it in a sweet-and-sour direction with rice wine vinegar and some pineapple chunks, or make it more authentically Chinese with bok-choi, sliced celery, sweet peppers, and snow peas; or even give the veggie-tofu combo an Indian or Mexican nuance.
I kept it simple. After the onions and garlic started to turn translucent, I added the firm tofu cut into bite-size chunks and splashed everything with Braggs’s Liquid Aminos. Continued the sauté stir-fry until the onions & garlic began to brown and caramelize.
In the meantime, rice was cooking in another pot. The enticing aroma of hot basmati rice wafted upstairs along with yummy onion & garlic smells. And in just a few minutes, less than 30 minutes start-to-finish, it was ready! The veggies may be served spooned over or put beside the steamed rice. Sliced fresh tomatoes may be put on the rice and veggies or eaten alongside. Seasonings may be dashed over top or added in the sautéing process. (I added coarse ground black pepper at the end.)
Give it a try. Experiment. And come back to share your favorite variations, so we can try them, too.