Back in college, I used to make a recipe from the Joy of Cooking for Stir-Fried Ginger Chicken, except I was a vegetarian so I used seitan. The sweet and tangy, ketchup-based sauce was pure indulgent comfort, and I craved that dish on cold nights in Michigan. In fact, I would fight the bitter wind to get to the People’s Food Coop for seitan before it closed.
Married, and eating meat, Aaron and I made the dish a few times as written, with chicken, and it is indeed a tasty take-out style stir-fry. But somehow, opening cookbooks and following recipes happens less and less these days. Still, the addictive sauce comes to mind on cold winter nights, and it has morphed into sweet and sour tofu.
I’m not going to claim that this is health food, particularly, although, when the family is eating brown rice and tofu I feel like we’re doing fine. And when you have a recipe you’ve loved so long that it’s become something else, something that cooks in less than ten minutes and makes a strong case for not ordering in, so what if the secret ingredient is a certain ruddy condiment beloved of toddlers?
Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.