Monday, December 23, 2013

A fruitcake recipe for people who dislike fruitcake

A fruitcake recipe for people who dislike fruitcake

The thing about fruitcake is, you have to keep an open mind.
Keep reading. This story has a happy ending.

Mashed persimmons add moisture, color and sweetness to the batter. 
Decorate as you like; green cherry not required

My name is Roxana, and I love fruitcake. I didn’t always love fruitcake but, in time, I learned to love it profoundly. 

If you are among those who dislike fruitcake, I pledge to you to keep an open mind. I believe you when you say you’ve never had one you’ve enjoyed, but I would like to reassure you that, with a few updates and minimal substitutions, the fruitcake of your nightmares could easily become the treat of your dreams.

The fruitcake of my childhood –or Christmas Cake, as it’s also known- was dense and crumbly. The cake batter binding the dehydrated fruits would be completely dried out, so much so that the mere action of attempting to slice it with a knife would make it fall apart. The raisins were so drenched in alcohol they could almost burn your tongue, and the mix of spices was so over the top, I often had to spit out my first morsel of cake while no one was looking. In spite of its deplorable reputation, fruitcake was then, and continues to be, a popular Christmas gift in my family.

My interest in fruitcake grew exponentially a few years later, when I noticed I had an affinity for baking. In my senior year of high school, I decided to make some extra cash selling loaves of fruitcake to my mother and her friends that they could gift each other for Christmas. In preparation, I studied a recipe borrowed from a lady with credentials of having trained as a professional cook in Paris, and made a few adjustments to make the cake more palatable and affordable. I cut back the amounts of rum, spices and dried fruits, and increased the butter, brown sugar and eggs. My first few trials were successful. I liked making it, but more than anything I loved eating it. I sold each loaf for $5 a piece. I can’t remember how I spent my gains, but they must have been good because I continued to sell fruitcakes for another couple of seasons.    

I didn’t bake another fruitcake for years. But once I moved to LA and started to work as a professional baker, I looked back at my recipe and realized that, just as I did before, I needed to make a few adjustments. A “Californication” of my fruitcake was in order. Prunes were replaced by dates, crystallized cherries by dried apricots, and macadamia nuts by almonds and walnuts. I baked a dozen fruitcakes that Christmas and gave them away as gifts. I have never seen a more apathetic reaction in a recipient of a baked good. No one was excited to try it, and most were convinced they wouldn’t like it. The lack of enthusiasm was such, I didn’t bake a single fruitcake for another decade.

A couple of years ago, the time felt right. I read a figgy pudding recipe written by Nancy Silverton -of La Brea Bakery fame and a mentor of mine- in which she added mashed persimmons to add moisture, color and sweetness to the batter. Inspired by this genius modification, I also added dried hachiya persimmons to the mixture of golden raisins, currants and pecans to compliment the fresh ones in the batter. I went for sherry instead of rum, which harmonizes better with the dried fruits. When the cakes came out of the oven I bathed them in a caramel-like sauce spiked with bourbon, instead of in straight up alcohol. I’m very proud of my new and improved fruitcake and I’m glad to share the recipe here hoping someone will make it and learn to love fruitcake as much as I do.

Hot tip: the batter can be baked as a traditional loaves, but it’s best if you bake it in two 6-inch cake pan. You may also use a muffin tin, which will allow you to make multiple mini gifts. Happy holidays!

Fruitcake for people who dislike fruitcake

Makes two 6-inch round fruitcakes or 20 mini fruitcakes


For the Cake Batter:
7 ounces dried hachiya persimmons, stems and seeds removed, diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup currants
1 tablespoon orange zest, minced
1/2 cup sherry
4 ounces unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups mashed ripe hachiya persimmons, stems and seeds removed
1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped

For the Caramel Bourbon Sauce:
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup 
2 tablespoons bourbon


Combine all the dried fruits with the orange zest in a non-reactive, medium-sized bowl. Add the sherry and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Lightly coat the pans of your choice with non-stick spray. If using cake or loaf pans, line each one with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan. 

Let's make the cake batter. In the stand up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the brown sugar. Add the eggs one by one. Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and add in three batches to the butter mixture alternating with the mashed persimmons. Stop the mixer. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom of the bowl and mix for another minute. By hand, fold the pecans and dried fruit mix into the cake batter. Distribute the batter evenly into the two cake pans; or alternatively into the individual muffin tins. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes (or 30 minutes for the muffin size cakes).

While cakes are baking, make the caramel bourbon sauce. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat, add the cream, sugar and corn syrup and bring up to a boil stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and add the bourbon. Set aside in a warmish spot in the kitchen.

Remove the cakes from the oven and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Carefully invert each cake onto a plate, and spoon them generously with the caramel bourbon sauce. Let cool completely and serve. To enjoy later on, wrap the cakes tightly with plastic film, and keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Easiest Pie Crust You Will Ever Make...yeah, you're welcome!

There is one single question I get asked a lot this time of year. And here's the answer. For all my friends and customers who have asked for our pie dough recipe, here it is. It's a hybrid of many recipes I've used over the years. It's everything you look for in a pie crust: easy to make, flaky, tender, tasty, versatile (yes, works with savory pies too), and it has a great shelf life. Give it a try, love it, and thank me later. And if you still don't feel like making your own, there's still time to order a pie (or two) from our Thanksgiving To Go menu on our website at

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


P.S. Follow me and Cooks County on Instagram @roxanajullapat and @cookscounty to see some awesome pics of our lovely pies! 

The Easiest Pie Crust You Will Ever Make

Makes two 9-inch pie shells or one 9-inch double-crusted pie

8 ounces pastry flour (1 3/4 cups)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 ounces unsalted butter (3/4 cup), cold, cubed into ½-1 inch cubes
6 ounces cream cheese (3/4 cup), cold, cubed into ½-1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons iced water 

Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl and toss the cubed butter and cream cheese into the flour. Use a pastry cutter (or your fingertips) to cut the fat into pieces the size of a dime into the flour. Make a well in the center and pour the iced water. Mix gently with your hands until the mixture resembles a raggedy dough; don’t worry if chunks of butter or cream cheese are still visible. Flatten the dough into a disc and wrap tightly with plastic film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 48 hours.

Set the oven rack on the middle position and preheat the oven to 350ºF.

To make two 9-inch pie shells:
Roll out the pie dough on a floured surface flat enough to cut two rounds between 10 and 11 inches in diameter and about 1/4-inch thick. Pick one of the rounds by rolling it onto the rolling pin, and lay it on a 9-inch pie pan. Gently press the dough onto the bottom of the pan, leaving a lip on the edge. Trim the excess dough with kitchen scissors just to the border of the pie pan. Crimp the edges together or gently press them with a fork. Repeat with the other round. You may refrigerate or freeze your pie shell at this point. It will bake better if you allow it to chill for at least 20 minutes before blind baking it. Blind baking is a technique in which you line the unbaked pie shell with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights (available in kitchen supply stores) or dried beans before baking it to ensure that it doesn't puff up in the oven. Put the pie shell lined with parchment paper and filled with pie weights on a cookie tray, place in the oven and bake all the way. Depending on oven performance this may take 20 to 30 minutes. When the shell is done, take out of the oven, let cool completely, remove the pie weights and fill as desired. 

To make a 9-inch double-crusted pie:
Roll out the pie dough on a floured surface flat enough to cut two rounds between 10 and 11 inches in diameter and about 1/4-inch thick. Pick one of the rounds by rolling it onto the rolling pin, and lay it on a 9-inch pie pan. Gently press the dough onto the bottom of the pan, leaving a lip on the edge. Carefully fill the pie pan with the filling of your choice trying to form a mound in the center. Pick the other round of dough just like you did before and lay it on top of the pie. Trim the excess dough with kitchen scissors just to the border of the pie pan. Crimp the edges together or gently press them with a fork. With a pairing knife, cut four 2-inch slits on top of the pie to let steam out while baking. Brush the top with a beaten egg and sprinkle it generously with sugar (optional). Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. The pie is ready when the top is a rich, golden brown and the filling starts to bubble. Remove from the oven and let it cool for at least one hour before serving.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Warm Pear featured on today's Good Food on KCRW

Warm Pear Charlotte
Our Pear Charlotte is the perfect fall dessert
Warm charlottes are a lot different than their cold or frozen cousins. This warm charlotte consists of a delicious pear filling encased in a buttered shell of sweet bread. The texture of the toasty bread along with the lightly sweetened pears makes an understated yet incredibly satisfying fall dessert. For those of us who are not up to the challenge of rolling and crimping pie shells this holiday season, a warm charlotte is a great alternative. 

Serves 8 to 10 guests


For the pear filling:
8 to 10 large pears, peeled, cored and quartered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scrapped

To assemble the charlotte:
1 ½ to 2 pounds sweet bread such as brioche, challah or Hawaiian bread
8 ounces unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar

1.    Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 300ºF.
2.    To make the pear filling: Toss the pears with the ½ cup of sugar and the vanilla bean –pulp and pod- in a mixing bowl. Transfer to a baking dish, wrap with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool completely. Turn the oven up to 350ºF.
3.    While the pears are roasting, prepare the mold. You may use a 1½-quart soufflé dish or an 8-inch cake pan that is at least 3 inches deep. Melt the butter and brush the dish or pan generously. For easy release, cut two bands about 1-inch wide and 16” long out of parchment paper and press them on the mold forming an X.
4.    Now that the mold is ready, cut the bread into slices about ½-inch thick. You should end up with approximately 20 slices. To line the sides of the mold you are going to need to cut 10 tiles 2-inches wide by 3-inches long out of the sliced bread. Make sure to trim the crust off as you cut the tiles. To make the top and bottom layers, trim the crust off 10 slices of bread and then cut the resulting rectangle into 2 triangles. Now that all your bread parts are cut, line them on a cookie tray. Dip the front side of each and every piece of bread in the melted butter and place them back on the cookie tray buttered side up. Drizzle the remaining ¼ cup of sugar over the buttered bread.
5.    To assemble the charlotte: arrange 10 of the prepared triangles buttered side down on the mold, making sure to cover the entire surface. You may cut the bread pieces into smaller triangles to make them fit into any tricky spaces. Try to use all 10 triangles -the bread should fit snuggly covering the entire bottom of the mold. Next, line the 10 tiles against the sides of the mold –buttered side should be the one touching the mold. Once again, try to use all 10 pieces. Fill the charlotte with the pear filling all the way to the top. Finally, cover the charlotte with the remaining buttered triangles. This time the buttered side should be looking up. Just like before, try to use all the bread pieces and make sure that the entire surface is covered.
6.    Bake the charlotte for 30 minutes or until the top layer turns deep golden. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
7.    To remove from the mold, place a cake plate over the mold. Assertively invert and tap gently to help the charlotte release from the mold. Serve while still warm with a side of fresh cream. Note: Charlotte can be baked a few hours in advance and reheated in a 350ºF oven for 10 minutes right before serving. Enjoy!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Buckwheat Pancakes for Lovers and Skeptics Alike

I'm often asked if I have a favorite ingredient. The person asking the question is probably hoping I would say something like Indian long pepper or single origin, hand-conched chocolate. But to their disappointment, my answer is generally "sugar" because it adopts many forms and covers a very wide range of flavors. Nonetheless, this year I've been intensely interested in buckwheat. So if you were to ask me what my favorite ingredient is today, my answer would be without a doubt, rustic aromatic buckwheat flour. 

It all began when Sonoko Sakai from Common Grains introduced me to the founder of Anson Mills, Glenn Roberts. Shortly after, I was playing around with buckwheat flours grown and milled by Anson Mills in South Carolina. I made everything from buckwheat bread to chocolate buck cake to buckwheat pancakes. I was fascinated to discover how buckwheat pairs beautifully with chocolate and honey in pastries and desserts, but the personality trait that I appreciate the most about buckwheat is that it is 100% gluten-free...and every baker in this day and age knows that the demand for gluten-free products in on the rise. I'll let the nutrition experts elaborate on the health benefits of incorporating buckwheat into your diet. But as far as its flavor, I can say that buckwheat has a deep earthy -almost dirty- taste. It reminds me of molasses and clove and it smells like beer. Not everybody is a buckwheat lover though, which makes me think that for some, buckwheat is an acquired taste.

This recipe for Buckwheat Pancakes is great for buckwheat lovers and skeptics alike. If you follow a gluten-free diet, you might be surprised to realize that buckwheat flour holds structure better than any other gluten-free grain (in my opinion). For those of you who are new to the world of buckwheat, it's natural to be somewhat afraid of its pronounced flavor and you may want to substitute 1/2 cup of buckwheat flour with 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour.

Buckwheat Pancakes

Makes four 6-inch pancakes

1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons buttermilk
2 eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter, plus a bit extra to pan-fry the pancakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vegetable oil or butter and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the well of dry ingredients and whisk to combine. The mix will be slightly thicker than a regular pancake batter, but if it feels too stiff you may add 1 to 2 tablespoons of buttermilk.

To make the pancakes, preheat a 6-inch skillet over a medium to high flame. Add about 1 teaspoon of butter and a drizzle of oil to the skillet and swirl to coat it. Pour about 1/2 cup of batter and use the back of a spoon to gently spread it over the entire hot surface. Cook over medium heat until you can see little bubbles forming on the top of the pancake and flip with a spatula. Cook for another minute. Make 3 more pancakes with the remaining batter. Alternately, you may use a larger skillet and cook a few smaller pancakes in one swoop. Serve immediately with maple syrup and/or fruit compote.

To learn more about buckwheat and other grains, visit and

Roxana Jullapat

follow: @roxanajullapat

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Judging Pie

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited once again to be a judge at KCRW’s Pie Contest. I always accept the invitation with mixed feelings of excitement and panic. Panic because even though I’ve always taken pride in been able to digest rocks, I still shiver at the thought of tasting blindly massive quantities of pie made by complete strangers in their home kitchens. I did have some leverage this year though: this is my third year as a judge and I knew exactly what I was up against.

In recent years, I’ve made a conscious effort to eat healthily and exercise regularly. But even if you follow a well balanced diet, when it comes to pie judging intense preparation is the name of the game. Starting the Monday prior, I set out to follow 2 rules: eat 3 meals a day free of sugar or refined flour, and exercise at least 30 minutes every day of that week. I used a phone app to keep me on track.

Here’s my exercise and food log:

Work out: 3-mile run in the a.m. and afternoon hike up Beaudry Loop Trail
Breakfast: Coffee with soy milk, 2 scrambled eggs with mushrooms and onions, 1 banana and 2 teaspoons of chia seeds in my Emergen-C
Lunch: Chopped chicken salad and 1 cup of blueberries
Dinner: Bun-less cheeseburger with avocado and 1 gin tonic

Work out: 60 minutes classical pilates at Elevation Fitness
Breakfast: Coffee with soy milk, 2 scrambled eggs with onions and tomatoes, 1 Banana and 2 teaspoons of chia seeds in my Emergen-C
Lunch: Turkey wrapped in romaine with avocado and alfalfa sprouts and ¼ cup trail mix
Dinner: Hummus and raw veggies for dipping and 2 glasses of white wine

Work out: 3-mile brisk walk
Breakfast: Coffee with soy milk, 5 fresh figs, 2 tablespoons raw walnuts and 2 teaspoons of chia seeds in my Emergen-C
Lunch: Bibb lettuce salad with grilled chicken breast and 2 ounces of feta
Dinner: Fried brown rice with veggies with a small salad, 1 tablespoon raw almonds and 1 glass white wine

Work out: 3-mile run in the a.m. and 90 minutes hatha yoga
Breakfast: Coffee with soy milk, 2 scrambled eggs with tomatoes and cottage cheese and 2 teaspoons chia seeds in my Emergen-C.
Lunch: ½ cup granola with berries and soy milk and ¼ of an avocado
Dinner: Italian chopped salad with salame, gorgonzola, chick peas and pine nuts and 2 beers on the lighter side

Work out: 3-mile brisk walk
Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with mushrooms and onions, 1 banana and 2 teaspoons of chia seeds in my Emergen-C
Lunch: Kale salad with grilled chicken breast and 1 pear
Dinner: 4 ounces pork tenderloin, ½ cup lentils and grilled radicchio

SATURDAY – The Big Day
Work out: 2-mile run
Breakfast: Coffee with soy milk and 2 teaspoons of chia seeds in my Emergen-C
Lunch: Multiple bites of assorted pies
Dinner: staff meal at Cooks County (salad and pasta)

Would I do it again?

Heck yes! I normally don’t eat so many eggs and by the end of the week I was craving a piece of toast more than anything in the world but I would definitely do it again. I’m glad I was proactive though and I can say that all those salads, 3-mile runs, pilates and yoga paid off. I was able to have a bite out of every pie worth tasting and then went back to the restaurant and worked through service. I did get a tummy ache around 11 p.m. that night but let’s face it: you can’t put your digestive track thru that much pie and expect no consequences.

One last thing about pie…

It was encouraging to see that most of the entries at this year’s competition were pretty good, actually remarkably better than last year’s. And I found myself liking a good percentage of the pies in my category. But there seem to be two common pitfalls among pie bakers: under baked crust and oddball flavor combinations. Luckily both are very easy to troubleshoot. Here’s one unsolicited word of advice for future contestants: exercise restraint when picking your ingredients and bake those suckers until they’re done.

Michelle Mournian, who entered two pies and won in four categories (best savory, best fruit, best crust and best in show), definitely understood that a good pie begins and ends with a good crust, and her fillings were tasty and done with care. Michelle, if you’re ever looking for a job, do not hesitate to call us. Hope to see you all next year!

Peace, Love and Pie,

Roxana Jullapat

To read more KCRW's 4th Annual Pie Contest, visit the Good Food Blog at

Friday, September 14, 2012

Most Requested Recipe: Sweet Corn Soup

This soup is one of the recipes that our customers request the most
Sweet Corn Soup
We've been serving this soup for lunch all summer long, and despite the record high heat we almost can’t seem to make enough to supply the demand. It's a really good way to eat corn, other than grilling it and serving it on the cob or sautéing the kernels in succotash. We add jalapeño and cilantro because they're very friendly with corn even if this move takes the soup to a Tex-Mex kind of place, plus it's exactly what you need to compensate for the sweetness of the corn. Gloria from Tamai Farms gets all the credit for supplying the corn that has made this soup and other corn dishes possible at Cooks County this summer.   

Serves 8

8 ears of white corn, shucked

¼ cup olive oil

3 medium size leeks, washed and sliced in ¼-inch rounds

1 yellow onion, medium diced

2 celery ribs, medium diced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 jalapeño, roasted in a preheated 400ºF oven for 10 minutes

½ cup cilantro, chopped, including stems, plus a few extra leaves for garnish

1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of kosher salt

1 avocado, diced and season with kosher salt (optional)


Carefully cut the corn off of the cobs by holding it straight on a cutting board while you shave off the kernels with a knife. Reserve the corn.
Place the cobs in a large non-reactive pot, cover with 12 cups of water and bring up to a boil at high heat. Reduce temperature to medium and let simmer for 45 minutes. Then strain the liquid into a large container using a colander. You should end up with about 8 cups of corn stock. Discard the cobs.
Heat up a separate pot, add the oil and sweat the leeks, onion and celery with the thyme until soft. Add the reserved corn, cilantro and jalapeño (remove the stem but leave the seeds). Stir to combine, and sauté briefly until the corn is a bit tender, about 5 minutes. Pour over the reserved corn stock. Season with the salt, add the bay leaf and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and carefully purée the soup in a high-speed blender. Keep in mind that you may have to work in batches. For a silkier soup, strain through a fine mesh strainer, although we do not.
Place the puréed soup back in the pot. Check the consistency; if the soup seems too thick, add a cup or two of water to thin it out. Finally, taste and add additional kosher salt if necessary. Serve in soup bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves. If you wish, top each bowl with a few dices of avocado. Enjoy!

Daniel Mattern, Chef/Owner

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Stir-Fry Fridays

Stir-Fry Fridays

We learned as young cooks that if you wanted to keep your crew happy, or mostly happy, one little thing you could do for them is cook them lunch or dinner before their shift starts. Known in the industry as “staff meal” or “family meal,” we believe in feeding ourselves something yummy, substantial and healthy. And while we try to keep it cost effective and utilize as many leftovers and trimmings as possible (we are a business after all), we insist on using ingredients of the same quality that we feed our guests. We even take requests and use staff meal as the time to celebrate birthdays, going aways and good reviews. Ask anybody on our payroll, and they’ll be glad to tell you that we serve the best staff meal in town. And we aim to please; one of our servers went vegan for a couple of months and she had little to no complaints. I mean, if I didn’t work here, I would try to casually stop by to say hi around 5 p.m. a couple times a week.

Our staff meals tend to be somewhat thematic. “Taco nights” score very high and same goes for “Breakfast for dinner,” but without a doubt our most popular is “Stir Fry Fridays” brought to us by none other than our Sous Chef extraordinaire Manuel Mendoza. Manuelito, as we like to call him, trained for many years under Chef Kazuto Matsusaka of Beacon Café fame, and it was under his tutelage that he mastered some pretty mad knife skills as well as a range of tasty Asian dishes we’re lucky to enjoy from time to time. The one thing I learned from watching Manuelito make stir-fry is how little soy sauce is needed to make a tasty dish. As he points out, “A little bit goes a long way and too much can make the whole thing bitter. Plus, only people that don’t know how to cook use too much sauce…" Words to live by!

Here’s the recipe for last Friday’s stir-fry which happened to include tofu, a staple we don’t commonly keep at the restaurant but that I bought on sale at Bangkok Market a few days before, along with some crazy hot Thai chilies. This recipe makes a batch large enough for 15 people. Instead of a wok, we use two large cast-iron skillets. If you’re swift with the knife, you’ll be able to whip this up from start to finish in 20 minutes. We recommended serving on top of rice noodles or with steamed rice.

Manuel’s Tofu and Veggie Stir Fry


½ cup olive oil
2 thumb-size pieces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
8 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
4 spicy chilies, minced
3 onions, sliced
1 cabbage, quarter and then chop coarsely
2 cups carrots, sliced on a bias
2 cups lipstick peppers, sliced
2 cups celery, sliced on a bias
2 cups summer squash, cut into large chunks
2 cups cauliflower, cut into large chunks
2 cups broccoli, blanched and cut into large chunks
2 cups green beans, blanched and cut into 2-inch sticks
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey (optional)
Kosher salt to taste

Stir-Fry Mise en Place

Heat up 2 large skillets over very high heat. Divide olive oil between the 2 skillets, about 2 tablespoons on each one. Make sure to divide the rest of the ingredients in between the 2 skillets somewhat evenly.
Manuel separates ingredients evenly between two large skillets

Wait a minute for the oil to heat up. Start with the ginger, garlic, chilies and onions and sauté while tossing assertively to prevent the garlic from burning. You might feel tempted to lower the heat, but it’s important to stop yourself. The secret to a good stir-fry is screaming hot pans. Add the carrots, cabbage, peppers, celery, squash and cauliflower, and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until the carrots start to feel tender yet crisp. Then add the broccoli and green beans and continue to toss. Add the tofu and toss one last time.
Manuel tosses the stir-fry

Finish with the soy sauce and, if you choose to use it, the honey (Manuel recommends to use honey only if you want to compensate for the heat of the chilies). Season with salt to taste and serve immediately.

~ Roxana Jullapat with Manuel Mendoza