Thom Christopher may have walked away with an Emmy for his role as drug kingpin Carlo Hesser on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, but he says his mother, Nancy, swept the awards when it came to talent in the kitchen. "My mother was the most incredible Italian cook," recalls Christopher (who was transformed into jewel expert Mortimer Bern on the ABC show after his character Carlo was murdered). "What's always fascinated me about my mom is that she could work and come home and unexpectedly make meals for 20 people and upward." Which is exactly what she did one evening in 1961 for Christopher and a group of actors who had been rehearsing all afternoon: "Everyone said, 'What are we going to do with a party of 24?' I called home and said, 'Mom, I'd like to bring the company home for dinner', and she said, 'How many?' I said, 'About 24.' By the time we got home, she had made chicken with tomato sauce, shells in tomato sauce, stuffed braciola, chicken soup with escarole. To this day, we all remember that awesome meal."
Christopher's mom passed on her passion for cooking. The actor now enjoys his own elaborate dinner parties with his wife, Judy, in their Manhattan town house. Judy creates the entrees while Christopher whips up the appetizers and desserts - from tuna-fish specialties to banana trifle.
His recipe for sauteed tofu and vegetables - which can be served as an appetizer or a side dish - reflects his cooking philosophy. "I believe in economy in the kitchen," he says. "You can eat very nicely without spending the kitchen sink."
Coat the cooking area of a wok or deep frying pan with sesame oil and heat until very hot. First, saute broccoli, asparagus, and carrots for a few minutes. Then add zucchini, snow peas, and peppers and cook for another minute or two. Add tofu and scallions last. Saute everything in sesame oil for 2 more minutes. Then add tamari or soy sauce to taste and cook a little longer, until vegetables are tender but not overcooked. Vegetables should be stirred frequently and cooking time should not exceed 20 minutes.