[Recipe: Fried Rice with Tofu and Vegetables]
Witnessed: One of my fellow co-op members giving away her onions. And not because she was in the mood for sharing, for being charitable. It had nothing to do with that and everything to do with the fact that, as she proclaimed loud and proud, she and her entire family are solidly not in the onion-loving camp.
Poor left-out, picked-out and despised onions. It’s so unfortunate, don’t you think, this bad rap that onions are always and forever getting? Not unfortunate for the onions, necessarily, because, much as they can make us cry, they don’t have feelings of their own. They probably don’t notice the routine snubs, the fact that they’re always the shunned ones, the kids in the back who, competent though they may be, are never picked for dodge ball just because they may smell a little funny.
So while the onions don’t mind, the humans who are repulsed by them, gently or not, are the ones who are missing out. Now, if you’re one of those onion maligners, please know that I’m not exactly here to talk you into onions (I wouldn’t appreciate anyone trying to talk me into chicken). But I would like to make my case that onions are not just pungent and piquant solo artists. In fact, they’re often at they’re very best when joining their particular talents with those of other ingredients. Take the layered flavors of risotto or soup or stir fry, for example. They often start with that pariah, the onion.
That’s how I use an onion in this fried rice. It’s probably the most surreptitious offering of onions in my repertoire – when chopped and mixed with rice, tofu, eggs and vegetables, nobody even suspects the onion is there. Not my younger sister, who is visiting for the summer, and not my girls, who have been known to refuse a meal solely on the basis of what they perceived as a strong onion presence.
Fried Rice with Tofu & Vegetables
Brian used to make a version of this for me in our early days. I’ve since refined and codified it (sort of), so that now – onions notwithstanding – it’s a family favorite. It’s a super-easy dish that can come together in the flash that often represents weeknight dinner prep time. It can also be made at a more leisurely pace, step by step, while flipping through the Pottery Barn catalog and waiting for your diners to arrive home, then assembling it all just before serving.
1 C short-grain brown rice, cooked
1 med. onion, chopped
1 block extra-firm tofu, drained and sliced or cubed
3 cups steamed-but-firm vegetables (Leftovers are great, but this also works well with whatever’s in your frozen stash. Try any or all of the following: broccoli, peas, snow peas, mushrooms and peppers.)
4 to 6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/8 C soy sauce, plus extra for serving
Fish sauce (optional)
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
In a very large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté gently until soft. Add tofu, along with more oil if your pan requires. Raise the heat to medium high and cook tofu, stirring only occasionally to allow browning. Lower the heat to medium, pushing the tofu mixture to one side of the pan or removing from pan entirely. When pan is cool enough, add the eggs. Stir eggs until curdles begin to form. Add cooked vegetables, rice and tofu mixture to pan, stirring eggs into the other ingredients until cooked. Finish with a couple drops of sesame oil and fish sauce (if using), soy sauce and a tablespoon or so of sesame seeds. Serve with additional soy sauce on the side.