Welcome to SAVEUR’s column on how to cook local produce according to our test kitchen manager, Fatima Khawaja. This is where you’ll find creative, unfussy meal ideas plus plenty of cooking advice—like what to do with that bumper crop of zucchini or how to store delicate heirloom tomatoes. Every other week, Fatima hits the farmers market and chooses a peak-season ingredient to explore in depth. Follow along, and you’ll learn how to turn the season’s bounty into easy plant-based meals that’ll be on the table in under an hour.
My daughter has loved tofu since before she could talk. For her, I keep things simple: drain, slice, pan-fry, serve. But when I’m cooking for myself, I like things saucier: Using her leftovers, I like to make an easy vegetarian stir-fry with bell peppers, Thai basil, and plenty of ginger and garlic. If you’re a sucker for sauce like me, you’ll love the sweet and salty flavors in this recipe—and may even want to double the sauce ingredients.
Most cooks know their way around a bell pepper—after all, it’s the bedrock of countless cuisines. One potentially life-changing trick for removing those pesky seeds is to use the tip of a knife to cut around the stem: Simply pull up, and you’ll have a seed-free pepper to work with. Another method is to use your thumb to push on the stem until the whole seeded core pops inside. Shake out the pepper, and you’re good to go.
Any color of bell pepper will do in this recipe. If you can’t find Thai basil, use the standard Italian stuff, or substitute cilantro or scallions. With leftover peppers, consider making this tart from Mallorca that’s great for a crowd, or this ragu from Abruzzo made with ground lamb, tomatoes and a pop of sweetness from the peppers.
- 1 lb. firm tofu
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ cup vegetable oil, divided
- 2 medium bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thick slices
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp. finely grated ginger
- 1 cup torn Thai basil leaves
- 1 Tbsp. chili crisp (optional)
- 2 tsp. toasted white sesame seeds
- Steamed jasmine rice (optional)