Dear SOS: My favorite thing at Akasaka Hanten, a Chinese restaurant in Little Tokyo, is Grandma's tofu. I've tried to prepare it at home but don't come close. Can you help?
Dear Jerry: What a nutritious, slimming entree to start the New Year out on the right foot.
AKASAKA GRANDMA'S TOFU
1 tablespoon oil
1 4 pound ground pork
1 2 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 teaspoon minced ginger root
1 2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili paste
1 4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 2 cup chicken broth
1 (19-ounce) package tofu, cut into 1x3 4-inch pieces
2 1 2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 1 2 cups water
1 small green onion, white part chopped into 1 4-inch pieces; green part into 1 2-inch pieces
1 2 teaspoon sesame oil
Heat oil in wok or skillet. Add ground pork and stir-fry 20 to 25 seconds or until pork turns light brown. Add ginger, garlic and chili paste and stir 10 to 15 seconds. Add soy sauce, sugar and chicken broth.
Add tofu and cook 3 minutes, pushing tofu carefully around pan to prevent it breaking up. Adjust seasoning, adding more chili paste, if desired.
Mix cornstarch with water until smooth. Stir into tofu mixture carefully. Add green onion. Cook and stir 10 seconds longer until sauce is shiny. Add sesame oil. Cook 5 seconds longer. Makes 4 servings.
Note: Chile paste can be obtained at Chinese markets.
Dear SOS: During our stay in Calgary, Alberta, we were KO'd by the delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake with Nut-Crumb Topping served at the Delta Bow Valley Inn. The item was a special. Any chance?
Dear Jerry: Good use of leftover canned pumpkin pie filling from holiday baking, if any. Otherwise, this unusual cheesecake has good flavor and interesting texture.
1 3 4 cups crushed walnuts
1 2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 4 cup melted butter
Combine walnuts, brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs and butter. Set aside 1 2 cup crumbs for topping. Pat remaining crumbs onto bottom and sides of 9-inch spring-form pan. Chill until firm. Pour Cheese Filling into chilled crust. Bake at 350 degrees 1 1 2 to 1 3 4 hours or until wood pick inserted near center comes out clean.
4 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3 4 cup sugar
1 2 cup canned pumpkin pie filling
1 1 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 3 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar and beat 4 to 5 minutes. Beat in pumpkin pie filling, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in whipping cream and vanilla.
Dear SOS: How about publishing a meatless meat loaf or patty in lieu of hamburger patties?
Dear Ethel: A good after-holiday dish to remember throughout the year. The recipe is from Ratner's, a Jewish dairy restaurant on Delancy Street in New York, and it's wonderful.
VEGETARIAN BURGERS OR LOAF
3 medium potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
3 mushrooms, chopped
1 (8-ounce) can diced carrots, drained
1 (8-ounce) can green beans, drained
1 (8-ounce) can peas, drained
Matzo meal, about 1 cup
Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, then peel and mash. Melt butter and saute onion and mushrooms until golden.
Pour mushroom mixture into bowl with mashed potatoes. Stir in carrots, green beans, peas and 1 egg and mix well. Add enough matzo meal to allow mixture to be shaped into patties. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Shape into 6 large patties or pack into greased 8- or 9-inch loaf pan. Beat remaining egg and brush patties on both sides, or top of loaf, coating well. Place patties on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes for patties or 45 to 60 minutes for loaf until lightly browned. Serve topped with Vegetable Gravy.
2 tablespoons butter
1 2 onion, chopped
1 2 carrot diced
1 2 cup chopped celery
1 2 green pepper, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomatoes, drained
1 1 2 cups Mushroom Water
2 tablespoons mushroom powder, optional
2 tablespoons flour
Melt butter and add onion, carrot, celery, green pepper and garlic. Saute until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, Mushroom Water and mushroom powder to make paste. Stir into saucepan until sauce bubbles and thickens. Season to taste with salt, pepper and paprika.
Note: Mushroom powder is available at some gourmet food markets of health food stores.
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
2 cups water
Combine mushrooms and water in large saucepan and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Strain broth and chill until ready to use, reserving remaining mushrooms for other use. Makes 1 1 2 cups.
Dear SOS: About a year ago you printed a recipe for Gorky's Beet Cake from Gorky's restaurant in Los Angeles. It had shredded beets and a sauce made with cream cheese. My youngest son loved it and I want to send him one in Korea.
Dear Rita: Now you've got it.
GORKY'S BEET CAKE