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I finally caved. I bought a new camera + lens.

I was *so* overdue. My previous set-up (a Canon Rebel XT + an 18-55mm lens) lasted me a solid seven years, which is awesome. It helped me progress; it challenged me to learn proper angles and lighting scenarios; it taught me how to look at food. Unfortunately it’s limitations were becoming more and more obvious, and I knew I’d progressed as far as I could with it. (Let’s not overlook the fact that it was a fossil, and had a strip of electrical tape holding the battery door shut).

After much research + some great advice from Lisa at The Viet Vegan, I decided on the Canon 70D + a 50mm lens.

Friends, I can’t even begin to explain the difference I’ve felt already. I almost cried real actual salty tears. I feel like I’m so much closer to where I aspire to be as far as food photography goes, and my experience with this camera + lens so far has been life-giving.

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About this recipe.

Considering I just posted these Grilled Chipotle + Lime Tofu Fajitas last week, I guess you could say I’m on a bit of a tofu kick.

It’s just so good.

This time, rather than grill the tofu, I pan-fried it to a golden crisp and it is beyond swoon-worthy.

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The trick in getting a golden crisp on your tofu, aside from the obvious pressing to rid of the excess water, is corn starch. Corn starch is magical.

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For my marinade, I played with a recipe that my girl Justine (JustineCelina.com) rocked in her mouth-watering Carrot Cashew With Crispy Sesame Tofu dish. I made a few alterations to better suit my dish and play off of the chopped peanuts, but I’m looking forward to giving her version a whirl sometime; you can’t go wrong with a sesame marinade, after all.

I’ll have you know that I could *not* stop munching on tofu bits as I took these photos.

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Crispy Peanut Tofu + Oyster Mushrooms With Coconut Rice is customizable.

Beyond the crispy tofu and oyster mushrooms, which you don’t want to skip out on, things are pretty flexible. You can typically find oyster mushrooms at Whole Foods or your local Asian market, but if you absolutely cannot get your hands on any, go for baby bella, portobello or cremini. You want a nice meat-y and earthy mushroom.
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As far as the rest goes, get creative.

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Get the Recipe:

Crispy Peanut Tofu + Oyster Mushrooms With Coconut Rice

Cozy enough to curl up with on a chilly fall day fall, but brightly flavored enough to feel invigorated. This is comfort food that won’t weight you down. Prep time varies due to tofu pressing + marinating. Please see notes and directions prior to planning for this meal.

Ingredients

For the rice:

  • 1 cup of Basmati or Jasmine rice, prepared as per packages instructions, but with coconut milk instead of water

For the tofu + marinade:

  • 16 oz extra firm tofu, see notes, pressed + cut into 1/2 x 1/2 inch cubes.
  • 2 tablespoons Kikkoman soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 teaspoons Sambal oelek, can omit if you don't like spiciness
  • 2 teaspoons organic honey
  • 2 teaspoons natural peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

For the vegetables:

  • 1 Baby bok choy, chopped
  • 4 oz Oyster mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 6 oz yellow pepper, julienned
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Kikkoman soy sauce

For garnish:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • Sesame seeds
  • Microgreens, optional

Instructions 

Preparing the tofu + marinade:

  • Drain and remove the tofu from it's packaging, and press (see notes). This will be 30 minutes of idle time.
  • In the meantime, prep the marinade: place the marinade ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Once the tofu is good to go, cut into cubes and toss into a freezer bag with marinade.
  • Let marinade for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Rice:

  • Cook the rice as per the packages instructions, in coconut milk. Once ready, stir in the frozen peas, cover and set aside.

Tofu:

  • Remove the tofu cubes from their original freezer bag (reserve what marinade is left) and place into a new freezer bag or a large container with a lid.
  • Spoon the corn starch over the cubes and shake/toss until all cubes are evenly coated. Add more corn starch if necessary.
  • Heat coconut oil in a skillet over moderate heat.
  • Place the tofu cubes into the skillet and fry until they are golden brown and crispy on each side — approx. 2 minutes per side.
  • Transfer the tofu to a bowl and drizzle the remainder of the marinade over the tofu.
  • Toss to coat.

Vegetables:

  • Using the same skillet you used for the tofu, heat sesame oil and soy sauce over moderate-low heat.
  • Add the oyster mushrooms, bok choy and bell peppers.
  • Cook until tender — approx. 5-7 minutes.
  • Remove from heat.

Assembly:

  • Spoon coconut rice into bowls or onto plates.
  • Top with veggies, crispy tofu, sesame seeds, scallions, chopped peanuts and (optional) microgreens.

Notes

Tofu acts as a sponge and, since it's been sitting in water, it's full of water. You need to press out the water in order to let other liquids in — like your marinade. If you skip this step, you'll end up with a flavorless tofu. Pressing tofu is easy peasy, you just need to sort of plan a head — but just a bit! !Pressing the tofu: Slice the package of tofu open and drain out all of the water. Cut the block of tofu, length-wise, into 1/2 inch thick slices. You should get 6-7 of them. Place a dish towel on a flat surface, such as a cutting board, cookie sheet or tray. Set down a few paper towels on top of the towel. Place the tofu slices on top of the towels and add more paper towels on top. Set some heavy objects on top of the tofu. The best way to go about this is to set another cookie sheet on top, and then set heavy things on top of the cookie sheet — such as a heavy pot or canned goods. Let it be for at least 30 minutes or up to a few hours.