Trouble With Toast

Recipe: Southwestern Salmon Cakes with Cilantro-Lime Mayo

June 2, 2010

I am always looking for new and interesting ways to get fish into my husband’s diet.  He doesn’t like whole fish, or even skin-on filets – basically, he doesn’t want any reminders that the fish was once alive.  With few exceptions, the better disguised the fish is, the more he enjoys the dish.

These salmon cakes aren’t as healthy as steamed fish, of course, but they sure are tasty.  I used light mayo and sour cream to better manage the calories and fat, and no one noticed a difference.  The cakes were so moist and flavorful, with a nice crust on the outside from a quick pan-fry.  You could probably substitute another oily fish if salmon isn’t your thing or isn’t available, but I think it worked really well.  This is a delicious way to get those omega-3 fatty acids!

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon grated zest and 4 teaspoons juice from 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound skinless salmon filet, chopped fine
  • 1 4-ounce can whole green chiles, drained and chopped fine
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Whisk mayo, sour cream, lime zest, line juice, and cilantro in small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

Place 3/4 cup panko in shallow dish.  Combine salmon, chiles, scallions, 3 tablespoons mayo mixture, remaining panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl.  Form salmon mixture into four 3 1/2 inch patties.  Dredge patties in panko, pressing to adhere.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add patties to skillet and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.  Serve with remaining mayo mixture.

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Recipe: Crisp-Skinned Bourbon Chicken

April 28, 2010
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Whenever chicken goes on sale at the local supermarkets, my mom and I tend to go into apocalypse mode and start stocking up.  Thus, we wind up with a freezer full of the stuff, and we struggle to find new and interesting ways to use it.

This recipe moved to the top of my stack due to my need to use up some bone-in chicken breasts.  Well, you know what they say about necessity and invention – even though I didn’t create this recipe, I am so glad I made it.  The dish was bursting with flavor, and fairly simple to prepare.  A couple of tips: 1) Don’t freak out like I did when you read that you’re supposed to leave the chicken (skin down) in the skillet for 15-20 minutes.  Be patient – waiting to flip the chicken until that point will result in the fantastic, crispy skin that makes this dish so awesome.  2) Make extra sauce.  It is that good.  I used it on leftover chicken, and then I made more to ladle over pork loin.  3) Use decent bourbon, or you’ll get more of an alcohol flavor than you want.

I wish I had a photo to share, as the browned chicken skin was really beautiful.  Oh, well – you’ll just have to make this dish to find out how lovely and yummy it is!

  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp cornstarch
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on, trimmed of excess fat (note: I used bone-in, skin-on breasts, since that’s what I had on hand)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Whisk bourbon, sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, Cajun seasoning, garlic, cornstarch, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl until sugar has dissolved.

Pat chicken dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken, skin-side down, until skin is well browned and crisp, 15-20 minutes. Carefully turn chicken skin-side up and cook over medium heat until meat registers 175 degrees, 5-8 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter.

Pour off excess fat from skillet and add bourbon mixture, simmering until thickened, about 2 minutes.

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Recipe: Shrimp, Pink Grapefruit, and Avocado Salad

March 24, 2010

I was pretty excited to post about this salad, but then on Monday night in Salt Lake City, I had the best salad of recent memory (at Bambara, recently voted the best restaurant and best chef of SLC).  It was a roasted beet salad, which isn’t really noteworthy on its own – I mean, come on, everyone and their brother has a beet salad on the menu these days – but the dish was striking in that each and every element was perfectly executed.  The red and yellow beets were impeccably roasted, the goat cheese was beyond creamy and decadent, the greens were fresh, the blood orange vinaigrette was really nicely seasoned (and the salad wasn’t dripping with it), the orange supremes were a delicious citrusy touch, and the toasted hazelnuts on top delivered a much-appreciated crunch and nuttiness.  The salad was also beautifully plated, which I’ve come to appreciate even more after attending a recent food styling workshop.  Anyway, it was quite impressive, especially since I don’t normally get excited about restaurant salads.

Back to MY salad…I made this a couple of weeks ago, when I saw avocados on sale and was determined to find a way to use them.  The dish isn’t a culinary inspiration like my salad at Bambara, but it’s a satisfying and healthy meal (and definitely substantial enough to serve as a main-course dinner, as it did for me).  The crunch of the hearts of palm balances out the soft avocados and grapefruit, and the flavors are nice and balanced (though my hubs said he wanted some sort of spicy element in the dish).  It’s easy to make and tasty to eat, so give it a go!

  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 1 teaspoon grated zest and 1 tablespoon juice from 1 orange
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 14-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, rinsed, and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted, skinned, and sliced thin
  • 2 heads Bibb lettuce, leaves separated

Cut ends from grapefruit.  Slice off rind and white pith by cutting from top to bottom of fruit.  Holding grapefruit over bowl to catch juices, cut between membrane and pulp of each segment.  Set aside segments and transfer 3 tablespoons juice to large bowl.

Add orange zest, orange juice, shallots, and cumin to large bowl with grapefruit juice.  Slowly whisk in oil until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.

Season shrimp with salt and pepper and saute in olive oil over medium high heat.  They cook quickly, so pay attention!

Add shrimp, hearts of palm, avocado, grapefruit sections, and lettuce to bowl with dressing and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange salad on individual plates and top with remaining ingredients.

Recipe: Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Shallots

February 23, 2010
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There’s really not a story to go along with this dish – it’s just a tasty, easy dinner to throw together on a weeknight.  The quick rosemary-shallot saute is so flavorful that it makes the dish seem much more complex and slow-cooked.  If you portion this properly (and use no more than 6 ounces of chicken per serving) and serve it with a salad or a green vegetable, you’ll have a really delicious and healthy meal.

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (each 6 ounces)
  • 4 shallots, sliced into thin rings
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary

Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, 14 to 16 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water, drain the sweet potatoes, and return them to the pot. Mash with the reserved cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes per side; transfer to plates.

Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, rosemary, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until the shallots are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve the chicken with the potatoes and drizzle with the shallot mixture.

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Recipe: Pan-Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Balsamic Vinegar

February 10, 2010
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It is well-documented that I love roasted chicken and potatoes.  After all, the crispy skin of the chicken and the satisfying crunch of the potatoes are so very satisfying.  However, sometimes I don’t want to wait the 1-2 hours that it takes to cook such things – and by “sometimes,” I mean pretty much any weeknight.

This recipe allowed me to savor some of the flavors and textures of roasting while still making sure that everything was on the table in about 30 minutes.  The first time-saver is the use of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts rather than a whole bird (and for those of you who freak out about anything other than boneless/skinless, relax…you don’t have to eat the skin if you don’t want to, and the bone doesn’t have any nutritional impact one way or another).  Also, browing the breasts in a hot skillet before roasting gives the skin a great color and texture that usually takes a lot more time.  Softening the potatoes in the microwave prior to pan- and oven-roasting them also shaves time off your prep and ensures that the spuds will be cooked all the way through.

The balsamic sauce really takes this dish over the edge – it was super duper robust and flavorful.  If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you should DEFINITELY invest in one – but in the meantime, just relocate the potatoes and chicken from the skillet to a roasting pan before putting them in the oven.  Voila!

  • 1.5 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts (about 3 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450.  Combine potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Microwave, covered, until potatoes begin to soften, about 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat additional 1 tablespoon oil in large oven-safe skillet over medium high heat until just smoking.  Cook chicken until well browned, about 5 minutes per side; transfer to plate.  Add potatoes to skillet and cook until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.  Arrange chicken, skin side up, on top of potatoes.  Roast until chicken registers 160 degrees and potatoes are completely tender, about 12-15 minutes.

Whisk vinegar, garlic, thyme, pepper flakes, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle vinegar mixture over chicken and potatoes. 

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Recipe: Parmesan Chicken Cutlets with Tomato Salad

February 8, 2010
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Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved chicken parmesan.  When I was a kid and my grandmother would come visit, we’d always go to the neighborhood “red-sauce Italian” restaurant (usually Olive Garden), and I would ALWAYS order the same thing.  When I grew up and learned how to cook, I experimented with various versions of the classic, trying to find the best replication of those fabulous childhood flavors.

Unfortunately, the biggest downside to traditional chicken parmesan is that it’s quite heavy.  I mean, cheese-covered fried meat is great and all, but sometimes it’s just a little too much for the tummy to handle.  Enter this dish, which manages to capture some of the familiarity of chicken parmesan in a much lighter, fresher-tasting incarnation.  The parmesan crust on the chicken provides cheesy goodness without loads of fat and calories, and the tomato salad brings to the table the acidity and brightness of a good marinara sauce.  A nice benefit of the lack of sauce was that the chicken’s crust stayed nice and crisp.  The dish wasn’t exactly what I remembered from my youth, but it still triggered some nice memories and didn’t require an extra trip to the gym.

  • ½ cup AP flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 ¼ cups shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 thin-cut chicken cutlets, 3 to 4 ounces each
  • 7 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered, or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (my grocer was out, so I used about ½ tablespoon of dried)

Spread flour in shallow dish.  Beat eggs in second shallow dish.  Combine panko and cheese in third shallow dish.  Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  One at a time, dredge cutlets in flour, dip in eggs, and coat with panko/cheese mixture, pressing to adhere.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Cook two cutlets until golden brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Transfer to plate lined with paper towels.  Repeat with 3 tablespoons more oil and remaining cutlets. 

Combine tomatoes, garlic, basil, and remaining oil in a large bowl and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer cutlets to individual plates and top with tomato mixture.


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Recipes: Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes and Whiskey Sauce

February 4, 2010
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I haven’t had great luck when it comes to cooking with alcohol.

Okay, let me clarify – when I say “cooking with alcohol,” I don’t mean drinking a glass of wine while preparing dinner.  That I do just fine, thank you very much.  Rather, I haven’t mastered the art of using booze in my dishes.  Sure, I can use white wine when making my famous risotto, but anything more advanced than that has given me trouble.  My red-wine braises taste too winey, my attempt at bananas foster went horribly awry, and my recent batch of beer bread had a lousy crust.

As a general rule, I’ll just stick to drinking the hooch rather than cooking with it.  But this recipe manages to incorporate whiskey in an unintimidating way, and the dish turned out to be pretty simple and tasty.  My parents, who swore they weren’t sweet potato fans, gobbled up the tasty carby goodness.  The whiskey sauce was very tasty, though I wish I had more time to reduce it down a little better.  My only other issue was that the chops got a bit overcooked, probably because I added them back to the pan and then realized I needed to thicken the sauce a little more – so next time I’ll wait to re-add the pork until I’m satisfied with the consistency of everything else.  Overall, though, this was another nice weeknight meal courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen – and also another day when I was too hungry to remember to take a photo.  Enjoy anyway! 

  • 1.5 pounds sweet potatoes (about 5 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 boneless center-cut pork chops, about 1 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • ½ cup whiskey
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Bring potatoes and water to cover by 1 inch to a boil in a large saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain and return to pot.  Add ¼ cup cream and butter and mash until smooth.  Cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat until just smoking.  Brown chops, about 4 minutes per side.  Transfer to plate and tent with foil.

Add shallot and thyme to pan and cook until softened, about 1 minute.  Off heat, stir in whiskey, scraping up any brown bits.  Cook over medium heat until whiskey is syrupy, about 2 minutes.  Add chicken stock and remaining cream and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Return chops and any accumulated juices to pan and cook until sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes.  Serve with potatoes. 

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Recipe: Thai Curry Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Green Beans

January 27, 2010
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Every culture seems to have its own special version (or ten) of “chicken and rice.”  The Spaniards have arroz con pollo and paella, the Creoles have jambalaya, the Italians have risotto, and of course, the Chinese have fried rice.  And that’s really just the broad-brush beginning of the story – there are infinite varieties of chicken (or really any kind of protein) and rice, and I pretty much love ’em all.

This Thai curry was a great version of chicken and rice.  As with all coconut-based curries (in my opinion, anyway), there was a really nice balance of sweet and spicy.  I loved that the veggies each added a unique textural element to the dish – the sweet potatoes were soft and tender, and the green beans added crunch.  The lime juice and basil added at the end kept the whole thing really nice and fresh (I think without them, the meal would have felt a little to heavy and rich).  This recipe doesn’t take a whole lot of time, but the chicken comes out very tender and moist – making this a perfect one-pot weeknight meal.  Enjoy!  Oh, I served this with basmati rice, which was delightful, but it would also work with brown rice or really any other kind you have in the pantry.

  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¾ inch chunks
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices
  • 6 ounces green beans
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ¾ cup chopped fresh basil

Bring coconut milk, stock, fish sauce, curry paste, and sugar to boil in large saucepan over medium high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add potatoes and simmer, covered, until nearly tender, about 8 minutes.  Add chicken and beans to pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and potatoes and beans are tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in lime juice and basil.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Recipe: The Best Blueberry Muffins Ever, Period, End of Story

January 26, 2010

Last weekend was my last truly lazy one for a long time – my triathlon training starts this coming Saturday, so most of my mornings from here on out will involve getting up early to ride and run with the team.  So, taking full advantage of my lack of responsibilities, I spent the past Saturday morning lounging in my jammies and watching cooking shows on public television.

It just so happened that America’s Test Kitchen was focusing on breakfast items – specifically, French omelets and blueberry muffins.  I was particularly interested in their discussion of blueberry muffins, since they never seem to meet my lofty expectations.  They rarely have enough blueberry flavor, but the ATK pros asserted that simply adding more berries doesn’t solve the problem (since that just weighs the muffins down by adding too much moisture).  Texture-wise, most blueberry breakfast treats are either too dense or too crumbly; the ATK cooks talked a lot about overmixing, and how the formation of too much gluten can really muck up a muffin.  So what were the proposed solutions?  For mega-blueberry flavor without extra moisture or weight, they made a concentrated jam with half of the recipe’s berries and then swirled it into the batter at the end.  To avoid textural problems, the folks at ATK swore up and down that a) beating the egg/sugar mixture at a moderate pace for 80 strokes was the perfect amount of mixing, and b) that folding the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients JUST until the dry ingredients were moistened would avoid any excess gluten.  I was skeptical that these nitpicky suggestions would yield any tangible (or, tasteable) results, but I was determined to give it a go.

The end product?  The best. Blueberry. Muffin. EVER.

I know I can be prone to hyperbole, but that statement is no exaggeration.  The flavor was incredible – very berry-y, and not cloyingly sweet (the citrus kick from the topping was a really nice touch).  The texture was spot-on, with just the right amount of moistness and a perfect ratio of crusty top portion.  I don’t know what else to say, other than that these muffins were the BOMB DIGGITY, and they really only required one or two extra steps.  I guarantee that the minimal additional work will be WELL worth it when you bite into these delicious pastries.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Lemon Sugar Topping

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Zest from one lemon (about 1 ½ teaspoons)


  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 1/8 cups sugar, plus one teaspoon
  • 2 ½ cups AP flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Stir the sugar and zest together until combined; set aside.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick spray.  Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, mashing berries with a spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6-8 minutes.  Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature, 10-15 minutes.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl.  Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds (remember, 80 strokes).  Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined.  Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined.  Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened.  The batter will be very lumpy with spots of dry flour; do not overmix!

Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly).  Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound, pushing it below the surface.  Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure eight motion.  Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, about 17-19 minutes, rotating muffin tin (front to back) halfway through cooking time.  Cool muffins in tin for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool 5 more minutes before serving.

Recipe: Sweet Chili-Glazed Tofu with Cabbage

January 25, 2010

Our current living arrangement has us sharing space with my parents about four nights a week.  Most of the time, this is a fantastic situation for all involved – I get to cook, everyone gets to eat, and we all go to bed happy.  Sometimes, though, my favorite cooking styles and/or ingredients are a little “out there” for my folks.  For example, on the evening I made this particular recipe, my dad called from the office to find out what was for dinner.  My mom’s response?  “Some tofu shit.”  I had my work cut out for me.

Thankfully, this America’s Test Kitchen recipe was a great dish to help turn my parents into tofu lovers.  Some of their hesitation had to do with texture, but draining and dredging the tofu and then pan-frying it over high heat allowed it to develop a crunchy outer crust.  Crisping up the garlic and sprinkling it on top of the finished dish also added a nice textural element (not to mention the fact that it gave the frying oil some extra flavor).  I was a little worried about the cabbage – shockingly, I couldn’t find any bok choy at my local supermarket, so I used a large, yellowish cabbage of unknown origin.  Thankfully, the flavor was pretty mild and it didn’t turn into mush.  The sauce for this dish is killer, with great salty, sweet, and spicy notes.

At the end of dinner, everyone’s plates were licked clean, and my dad even talked about bragging to his cardiologist about his tofu consumption.  I may not be able to sneak tofu into every meal, but it’s nice to know that when cooked properly, it can be a real winner.

  • 1 14 ounce block firm tofu, cut into 1 inch planks
  • ¼ cup chili garlic sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 head cabbage (bok choy is best, but any variety should do the trick)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin

Cut tofu planks and arrange on paper towel-lined plate.  Let drain 15 minutes.  Whisk chili sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and ½ teaspoon cornstarch in bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until just smoking.  Add cabbage and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain in colander.

Add remaining oil and garlic to pan and cook until garlic is golden, about 2 minutes.  Use slotted spoon to transfer garlic to paper towel-lined plate.

Spread remaining cornstarch in shallow plate.  Pat tofu dry and season with salt and pepper.  Dredge in cornstarch, shaking off excess.  Cook tofu in garlic oil, turning occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes.  Pour off oil from pan.  Add chili sauce mixture and drained cabbage to skillet and toss to combine.  Top with garlic chips.

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