Black pepper provides a different kind of heat than chile peppers, but people who are sensitive to spices may still find this too hot. So start with the lesser amount of black pepper and add more to taste. Those of you who like fiery dishes may want to increase the chile sauce, but try not to overpower the black pepper.
TOFU AND SEASONING
1 14 oz package extra-firm tofu
1 Tbs soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
2 Tbs water
2 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 small onion, halved and sliced into thin wedges
1 large bell pepper, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
8 oz kale (about 1 bunch), stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
additional broth or water, as needed
1 1/2 Tbs soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp sriracha or other chile sauce (or to taste)
1/2 to 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 tsp cornstarch
1. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch slices. Gently press each slice between paper towels to remove some of the moisture. Then cut each slice into rectangles. Place into a ziplock bag. Combine tofu seasoning in a small bowl and pour over tofu. Seal bag and gently turn it over until tofu is completely covered in seasoning. (You can do this ahead of time and allow the tofu to marinate for a stronger flavor, but it’s not mandatory.)
2. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet or dish with parchment paper. (A silicon mat will also work, but parchment on a rimmed metal baking sheet yields the crispiest tofu with no sticking.) Place the tofu on the parchment in a single layer along with the marinade. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn gently and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
3. While the tofu is cooking, chop all the vegetables and combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. About 10 minutes before tofu is done, preheat a large, deep non-stick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Spray or rub it with oil if you wish, but this is optional. Have about a half cup of water or broth standing by. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes until it begins to become translucent. Add a tablespoon of water or broth if it starts to stick. Add the bell pepper and stir-fry for another minute. Then add the garlic and mushrooms and cook another two minutes, adding liquid by the tablespoon if needed.
4. Stir in the kale, add about 2 tablespoons of liquid, and cover quickly. After a minute, stir and add liquid if necessary. Cook covered for another minute and then add the asparagus and a little more liquid. Cover and cook until asparagus is tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Add the sauce and cook until it is heated through. Serve the vegetables with tofu on top, or stir the tofu into the vegetables and serve over rice or pasta.
Note: Use whatever green vegetables you like instead of the kale and asparagus. Bok choy and broccoli or green beans are a delicious combination.