May 9, 2008

Random Cutting! Blind Cookery!

If you've ever watched old samurai movies, maybe you were a fan of Zatoichi, the masseur turned blind swordsman.  You might remember the trailers for Zatoichi films, which at least in English contained bizarre exclamations like this post's title.  If you haven't watched any old samurai movies, well, this is a cooking blog so we'll discuss your cinematic shortcomings some other time.  The point here is that, although often emphasis is placed on cutting vegetables into nice, even, regular pieces, sometimes it's good to go the other way.  Early experiments with chopping vegetables "blind" did not go well, but fortunately you can achieve the desired effect with your eyes open.  Essentially an extremely course mincing, I think this was key to getting the eggplant just so in tonight's dinner: Vegetables in peanut sauce with lime-ginger tofu.

(Photo with my camera; the colours aren't as good, but Phil wasn't home.  It's better than the webcam, anyway.)

Tonight I decided to do a little blind cooking, that is, start carrying ingredients to the work area and come up with something on the way.  I had half a yam and some broccoli stems to use up, so those were in the first trip, and I snagged the egglant 'cause that doesn't keep so well.  I figured a stir fry was the only way to use those three things together, so I grabbed some stuff to make a (to be fair, somewhat pedestrian) peanut sauce.  Finally, I cheated a little - I'd gotten a couple of limes and some ginger with the specific idea that I was going to marinate tofu with it, so I brought all that out.  I marinated and fried the tofu separately, with chili paste and black pepper, and only mixed it with everything else after the heat was off.

The yam I cut pretty neatly into sticks and threw it into the wok with about two full bulbs worth of finely minced garlic, which was nicely toasted when the broccoli stems were peeled and cut up.  Then the "random" cutting of the eggplant - I almost always cut as I go - and straight in, along with a splash of soy sauce.  The peanut butter (I told you it was pedestrian) and my remaining chili paste go in as soon as the eggplant seems done, the heat is off as soon as the sauce is distributed, and then finally the tofu is stirred in quickly.  The results were excellent.

Regularly shaped pieces of eggplant have their merits, in a parmesan say, and there is the argument that if they are too differently sized they won't cook uniformly, but the eggplant tonight came out beautifully and it wasn't uniformly cut at all, ranging from long and thin to almost cubes.  I did ensure it was within certain limits by cutting it into circles about three or four centimeters thick first, and then "mincing" that, but you couldn't really tell by looking at the end result.  This was also about the fastest way of cutting up eggplant for a stir fry I've found that gave such good results.

Coming soon: Comfort food only I find comforting, and another report from Dangerous agents in the field.

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