Adapted from This Can't Be Tofu: 75 Recipes to Cook Something You Never Thought You Would - and Love Every Bite, by Deborah Madison.
Easy, fast, and beguiling. Serve with rice or a baked sweet potato.
1. Drain the tofu. Cut it crosswise into slabs about 1/2 inch wide. Cut each slab in half lengthwise, then cut into triangles. Blot well with paper towels. Cut the bell pepper in half lengthwise, remove the veins and seeds, then cut each half into three long strips. Cut each strip into triangles. Tip and tail the beans and cut them into 2-inch lengths. Toast the Szechuan peppercorns in a dry skillet until aromatic, then grind to a powder and set aside.
2. Combine the next five ingredients in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wide nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook, without disturbing, until firm, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook the second side. The tofu should be golden, but still tender to the touch. Remove and set aside.
4. Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan and, when hot, add the green beans. Stir-fry over high heat for 2 minutes, then add the bell pepper and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Return the tofu to the pan and season with a few pinches of salt and the Szechuan peppercorns.
5. Pour in the soy-sauce mixture and cook, moving the pan back and forth rapidly to coat the tofu and peppers. Turn off the heat before it reduces too much. Top with cashews, and serve over rice.
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.