Braised Curried Tofu With Peas
July 30, 2010
Tofu. I know. The meat of a vegetarian diet and for others, the squishy bland block that gets passed over at the grocery store in lieu of something with actual flavor. But stay with me. Don’t stop reading just yet. I was a vegetarian for seven years and the first time I tried tofu I was like, “Nice try soybeans.” But as my palette evolved and I began to teach myself how to cook, I grew to love its unpretentious style. It is a glass half full.
Around this time I also discovered Deborah Madison, the best vegetarian cookbook author ever. For real. She herself is not a vegetarian, which I think is part of her charm as her recipes are never attempting to replace meat, their point is simply to showcase delicious ingredients. Sort of like vegetarian Indian food at its finest; when you have team players such as spinach and paneer simmering in a thick sauce of onion, ginger, cumin and cardamom, you’re not wishing for a chicken wing at that moment.
The other part of her appeal, to me, is that her cookbooks are never preachy or political. They’re just about good food and the idea that cooking can be incredibly satisfying and anyone can do it with a few skills up their sleeve. Personally, I’m not such a fan of guilt and rules when it comes to eating. I met a vegetarian once whose only vice was bacon. No judgement, I get it. Taste and nourishment are of equal importance to me too. And we’re talking bacon here. Enough said.
But I am not here to deliver a sermon on Vegetarians vs. Omnivores. No, all I am here to do is to tell you that this recipe I’m about to give you is delicious, with a capital D. And if you and tofu are not feeling the love, just replace it with chicken or shrimp. Hmm, shrimp. That version might find its way to our table this weekend.
Also, this recipe comes from her cookbook titled “This Can’t Be Tofu!,” which is lovely. The other one I highly recommend, with a capital H, is “Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone.” It’s a vegetable bible filled with cooking techniques and easy, delicious recipes. When I first checked it out of the library I thought I’d just browse through it for a few weeks. But then, 12 weeks later, after cooking from it almost every night, I forgot that I was not actually the cookbook’s rightful owner and I’d maxed out my renewals. So I figure it’s high time it finds itself a permanent home in my collection.
Braised Curried Tofu With Peas
Preparation time: about 20 minutes
Cooking time: about 15 minutes
Serves: 3 to 4
1 carton firm tofu
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 heaping tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, seeded and diced (or a pinch of red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 cup coconut milk
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
5 green cardamom pods, whole
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1. Drain the tofu, then wrap in a towel and press. Meanwhile, assemble the rest of the ingredients.
2. Heat oil in a 10-inch sauté pan. Add onion and cook over medium heat, stirring ocassionally, until onion is limp and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chile, turmeric, and curry powder, cook for 2 minutes, then add the coconut milk, spices,cilantro and salt. Lower the heat and simmer gently while you return to the tofu.
3. Slice the tofu crosswise into slabs about 3/8 inch thick. Slice each slab diagonally into triangles. Give the sauce a stir and taste it for salt. Gently lay the tofu pieces in the pan and spoon the sauce over them. Raise the heat a little and cook until the tofu is heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the peas and cook for a few more minutes until they’re hot as well.
4. Spoon the tofu and sauce over rice and spoon with a spoonful of yogurt and chutney (I didn’t have either of these condiments and it was still impecable).