One warm night in Jamaica when I was a little girl, my Dad and I couldn’t sleep. So we went quietly to the kitchen. He didn’t turn on the kitchen light. Instead, he turned on the gas burner. In the blue light, I watched him pour two inches of coconut oil into a heavy skillet and when it was hot, he tossed in a handful of colorful plastic-like disks that immediately puffed up into pale pink, white, and green chips that smelled vaguely of shrimp. They were warm and crunchy and salty. When I was growing up in Jamaica, coconut oil was not marketed for its health benefits. It was cheap and we bought it in huge cans. Coconut oil eventually fell into disrepute but it is now enjoying an expensive comeback as a healthy fat. At Whole Foods in New York City it is sold by the jar, the cheapest being $7.99. Instead of the oil that I remembered, it is a solid resembling Crisco all vegetable shortening, and has a light coconut aroma.
Taranee’s Golden Tofu and Stir-Fried Kale in Coconut Oil
1 package (14 1/2 ounces) firm tofu, drained, cut crosswise into 6 slabs 3/4 inch wide), each slab halved horizontally and cut into triangles
1 1/2 pounds kale
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
2-4 teaspoons canola oil
1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon wasabi paste (optional)
1. To prepare the kale, fold each leaf in half and using a sharp knife, remove the main rib and stem and discard. Arrange tofu in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with several layers of paper towels. Top with more paper towels and another baking sheet; weight with canned goods. Let tofu drain, about 20 minutes.
2. Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a skillet. Fry tofu triangles in a single layer. You may need to do this in batches. Fry until golden brown on one side; flip and fry. Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, add 2 remaining teaspoons canola oil in a large skillet. Toss kale in oil until just wilted and bright green. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add red pepper flakes, if desired. Spoon on the coconut oil and heat through until melted.
4. Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, sugar (if using) and wasabi paste (if using); set aside.
5. Serve tofu and kale with hot cooked brown rice and the dipping sauce on the side.