Curry Coconut Tofu

One summer when I was around 14-years-old, my mother, perhaps sick of hearing complaints about what she’d choose to make for dinner after a long day at work, suddenly declared that I’d be responsible for making at least one meal per week. Undaunted, I eagerly started searching through cookbooks for recipe ideas. Perhaps my mother intended to shut me up about my whining, but the plan backfired– not only did my desire to try things that sounded intensely tasty outweigh my fear about following complicated recipes but since most of my favorite recipes came from Moosewood cookbooks, I decided to become a vegetarian, meaning even more adolescent exasperated sighs of disgust when my mother would try to offer a quick-cooking, meaty stir fry for dinner.

One Moosewood recipe I instantly fell in love with was wedges of fried tofu, sitting on top of a bed of fresh spinach leaves and hot, steamed rice, then topped with a spicy, citrusy soy sauce. I’d eat that all the time if it weren’t for how irritating it can be to fry tofu, its moist interior causing oil to spatter and spray while it sits in an open frying pan. It took a conversation with a vegan friend of mine to turn the lightbulb on in my head– I have a deep fryer now. Why not use that to fry tofu? Sure there’s the hassle of cleaning out the oil afterwards, but here was the potential to have crunchy pieces of tofu without fear of getting burned.

So when My Kitchen, My World made Indonesia the destination for June, I used that treasured Moosewood recipe as a jumping off point for my own ideas on how to increase the complexity and variety of flavors in this simple dish. I took pieces of pressed, firm tofu and thinly sliced rounds of shallot and tossed them in a mix of cornstarch, coconut flour, finely shredded coconut, curry powder, some cayenne for heat, and ground coriander. Into the deep fryer they went and they came out beautifully golden, light and airy. While the tofu fried up, I cooked some brown rice and tossed the spinach leaves and some crisp cucumber in a mix of rice vinegar, canola oil, salt and pepper. Lastly, the magical sauce for drizzling on the tofu: tamari soy sauce, lime juice, chopped jalapeno, green onions, cilantro, and some maple syrup for sweetness. I can’t say that this is Indonesian, but it’s inspired by how Indonesian food balances sweet, sour, spice, and salt. It’s so light and vibrant, basically a vegan summer meal that meat eaters will love too.

Note: To keep this totally gluten-free, use gluten-free soy sauce in place of the tamari. You can also feel free to cut out the steamed rice and make this a salad instead.

  • 5-6 cups canola oil for frying, plus 5 tablespoons divided for spinach dressing and finishing sauce
  • 16 oz firm tofu, cut into 1 inch triangles
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/8 cup finely shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 3 large shallots, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 4 cups spinach leaves, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced crosswise 1/8 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • pinch each of sugar, salt, and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 large lime
  • 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons each chopped green onion and fresh cilantro
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup

About 1/2 an hour before you start cooking, remove the tofu block from its package and drain of excess water. Sandwich the tofu between two plates and top with a bowl of water. Let this sit for half an hour then pour out the water that was squeezed out. Cut the tofu into 1 inch squares then cut those squares in half on a diagonal so you have triangles.

Add as much oil to your deep fryer as required by package directions and heat to 350 degrees.

On a large plate, mix together the cornstarch, coconut flour, shredded coconut, curry powder, coriander, and cayenne. Add 1/3 of the tofu and toss to coat then add to the fryer. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until tofu is golden and crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and repeat process two more times. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Toss the shallot rings in the remaining cornstarch mixture and fry until golden– about 3-4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towel lined plate.

While tofu cooks, whisk together the rice vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Toss the spinach and cucumber in the dressing and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, lime juice, canola and sesame oils, green onion, cilantro, jalapeno, and syrup.

To serve: plate some rice, top with the spinach and cucumber mixture, pieces of tofu and a sprinkle of extra green onion and cilantro. Let your diners drizzle the soy sauce mixture on top to taste.

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Curry Tofu & Mango Summer Rolls

A few weeks ago, my refrigerator was about half full of cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers and regular cucumbers– the CSA was sending them in bulk, and boy was I sad about them. I wasn’t in the mood for tzatziki, salads just don’t excite me, and I might be a relatively new fan of pickles, but that applies to pickled onions, radishes, green beans, and jalapenos, not your average cucumber. I suppose the only thing left to consider was drinking a ton of cucumber gin martinis.

Except for one thing: cucumber garnishes will not get you far in consuming 16 cucumbers… oh, and I suppose that this would be bad on our livers. Luckily, a friend who also gets CSA shares from the same farm, mentioned that she was planning on making summer rolls for our get together. Summer rolls! Genius!

I decided to try making some of my own. After all, we had plenty of other summer roll ingredients from the CSA including cilantro, lettuce, and carrots. It’s like summer rolls were my CSA destiny.

For my summer rolls, I decided to add some protein with some marinated, baked tofu. Similar to the tofu I’ve used in banh mi, this one had an added kick thanks to a little yellow curry powder and five spice powder. For a touch of sweetness, not to mention some more bright colors, I added strips of mango and some mint and Thai basil leaves from our garden. Julienned serrano peppers added an underlying heat.

With all those ingredients were rolled up in the soft, slightly chewy rice paper, this was a perfect little package. Crunchy vegetables and so cool and refreshing while prickling with heat and spice from the marinated tofu and serrano pepper. Thanks Michelle for the inspiration!

Note: You can put anything you want in a summer roll, be it grilled meats, soft rice noodles, shrimp, etc.– all of those would be delicious with these neutral and sweet vegetables. I ended up with a total of 8 rolls, which you could cut in half and feed up to 16 people. Tired of rolling them up on your own? This can be a fast and light supper if you lay out the ingredients and let your guests roll up their own picking and choosing ingredients of their choice. For dipping sauce, I mixed together sweet Thai chili sauce with some Vietnamese hot sauce. Alternatively, you could dip these in peanut sauce or a mix of vegetarian hoisin sauce and peanut butter.

  • 16 oz firm tofu, pressed between weighted plates to drain of excess water
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon Tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian Five Spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 smashed garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper
  • cooking spray
  • 8 lettuce leaves
  • 1 medium orange carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1 medium mango, peeled and julienned
  • 2 serrano peppers, julienned
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and julienned
  • 1/4 cup each: fresh cilantro, mint, and Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 8 rice paper wrappers plus water for soaking

In a baking dish or large ziplock bag, add the canola oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, syrup, curry powder, five spice powder, ground coriander, smashed garlic, and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch thick rectangles and add to the marinade. Let this sit at room temperature for about 30-40 minutes, agitating every now and then to make sure that all the tofu pieces are coated.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Add tofu in a single layer and bake for a total of 30-40 minutes, or until tofu is brown and crisp at edges, flipping tofu pieces over half way through cooking time. Let tofu cool while you cut your vegetables. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Soak rice paper sheets according to package directions– mine said to submerge a single sheet at a time in lukewarm water for 30 seconds, but I found that it took more like 1 to 1.5 minutes before they were truly pliable. When your rice wrapper is ready, lay down a lettuce leaf on top of the sheet. Top with a couple of pieces each of the mango, cucumber, carrot, serrano pepper and cooked tofu. Place a small pile of basil, cilantro, and mint on top, then fold in the sides and roll from the bottom up. Cut on a bias in half and serve with dipping sauce of your choice.

CSA Count: 4

Lettuce, carrot, cucumber, cilantro

Garden Count: 2

Thai basil, mint

 

 

Eggplant, Chard, & Pistachio Stir Fry

I shall write out on a chalkboard this sentence at least 300 times: I will never doubt my CSA again.

Only 2 weeks into this year’s CSA delivery season, and we got an email apologizing that due to the cold, damp spring, there would be no week 3 delivery with promises to make up for it later on in future deliveries. The rather small amount of vegetables we’d received in the first 2 weeks made me nervous that this would be one of those loss rather than gain years that you risk when buying a CSA share, but oh have I been proven wrong. These last two weeks have seen the height and variety of previous years’ peak, late summer share boxes. I’ve had produce drawers overflowing with veggies and have been struggling to not waste a single thing.

In particular, we’ve been hard hit with peas, as usual. I love fresh shell peas and the sweet crunch of sugar snaps, but the pounds of snow peas fill me with anxiety. I just don’t know what to do with them other than put them in stir fries or chop them and eat them raw in salads. Any new ideas– you are totally welcome to leave them in the comments.

So the challenge for me is to keep the stir fries and salads interesting. In this case, I was inspired by one of my favorite food blogger’s twitter feed. She’d post what else she ate during the week, how she’d use leftover ingredients from things she had posted about. A semi-frequent tweeted dinner idea was a stir fry but with ingredients I normally don’t see in stir fries, things like swiss chard and sweet potatoes. With a bunch of bright and beautiful rainbow chard (and still working our way through 2.75 lbs of snow peas) from the CSA and tofu bought on sale, I knew that a stir fry would be on the dinner menu. This one would mix some traditional ingredients (snow peas, tofu, ginger, eggplant) with nontraditional ones (rainbow chard, pistachios, and dill.)

I marinated the tofu in a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, curry powder, coriander, and cinnamon then baked the pieces until they were crispy on the edges. I loved how the curry and cinnamon paired with the nutty crunch of pistachios and brought out that sweet green flavor of the chard. Plus, this stir fry, with its mix of purple, green, yellow, and pink colors was so beautiful to look at. A summery feast for the eyes and for the otherwise stir-fry-weary palate.

  • 16 oz firm tofu, pressed between two plates weighted down to squeeze out excess water and sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup low sodium tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for stir fry
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for stir fry
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced and divided (yields about 2 teaspoons)
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 lb snow pea pods, trimmed
  • 1 small eggplant, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, stems and leaves chopped
  • 5 small green onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each of the following: mint leaves, dill, basil, and cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • steamed rice or noodles

In a baking dish, mix together soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon canola oil, curry, cinnamon, ground coriander, maple syrup, and 1 minced garlic clove. Add the tofu pieces and let marinate for at least 20 minutes, flipping the pieces over halfway through marinating time to ensure both sides are coated.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Reserving the marinade, spread the tofu over the baking sheet and bake for a total of 30-35 minutes, flipping pieces over halfway through cooking time. Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat 1/4 cup of canola oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When oil is rippling, add the eggplant, stirring immediately to ensure that each piece gets coated with oil. Cook until eggplant is shiny and brown on flesh side, about 7-8 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add remaining garlic, ginger, green onions, and another teaspoon or 2 of sesame oil. Cook for another 30 seconds before adding the rainbow chard and snow pea pods. Cook until chard leaves wilt and pea pods turn bright green, about 3-4 minutes. Add the tofu and the reserved marinade, stirring to ensure that all the vegetables get coated with the marinade. Reserving about 1 tablespoon each of the chopped pistachios and the mixed herbs, stir in the rest of the pistachios and herbs. Spoon stir fry on top of steamed rice or cooked noodles then sprinkle plated stir fry with reserved nuts and herbs.

CSA Count: 5

Rainbow chard, snow pea pods, green onions, dill, basil

Garden Count: 1

Mint

Tofu Avocado Banh Mi

carrotscukesMy brother was the one who first introduced me to banh mi, or “Vietnamese hoagies.” He lives in Philadelphia, ostensibly near the Italian market, but it’s a multicultural area since there are also Vietnamese and Mexican restaurants within walking distance from his house. Despite the French colonial overtones of the sandwich, I instantly fell in love with it, given the crisp, toasted baguette, the slather of garlicky mayo, savory barbecued meat, crunchy pickled vegetables, heat from the hot peppers, and the refreshing verdant splendor of fresh cilantro, basil and other herbs.

Perhaps another important aspect of banh mi that makes them so enjoyable is how cheap they are. Indeed, they became a staple for me back here in Seattle while in law school: my 1L summer was spent working at a nonprofit that was then based in the International District so sandwiches were a readily available and cheap $2 lunch, and because of that general price, it seemed like almost every student organization would regularly rotate them through the lunchtime event/meeting menu. Yet I’d never tire of them, perhaps because of all that variety in flavor.

maplesoytofuSo perhaps it’s sacrilege to ever consider making an upscale version of these sandwiches? That’s what a local restaurant chain does, including using kurabota pork, roasted lamb, and (pleasurable shudder) spicy chunks of fried chicken. The crazy liberal in me who screams that I shouldn’t be paying 3 times more than your average banh mi price is quickly silenced by the yuppie foodie when I take my first bite of one of their delicious sandwiches, preferably with a side of their hand cut, fresh fried truffle fries.

One of their sandwiches combines crispy, coconut braised tofu and avocado– coconut? avocado? SOLD! After seeing that on the menu, I became obsessed with wanting to make a tofu bahn mi with avocado of my own. That, combined with a lingering dissatisfaction with the marinade for a previous tofu dish drove me to make this sandwich. This time, I took a tip from my friend Heather and tried adding maple syrup to the marinade before baking the tofu. The result was fabulous: the tofu crisped up with a bit of caramelization from the sugars in the syrup blending beautifully with all those other sour, acid, spicy yet herbaceous flavors that I love from Vietnamese food. The avocado gave a buttery, creamy mouth feel, a perfect contrast to the crunch of the sweet, pickled vegetables. Really, with this sandwich, you just get the perfect bite every time!

  • tofuavocadobahnmi1 16oz package, extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp grade A maple syrup
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice blend
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and julienned
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • water
  • 1/2 an avocado, sliced
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (or keep it vegan with some soy mayo)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Thai chili, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, julienned
  • cilantro, mint, basil
  • baguette sandwich rolls
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • hoisin and Siriacha (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix together the rice wine vinegar and sugar. Add the carrots and cucumber then add enough warm water to submerge all the vegetables. Let sit in your refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Drain the water from the tofu and press between two plates weighted down with a bowl of water for at least 1 hour, pouring out the water and flipping over the tofu about half way through. Slice into 1/2 inch thick rectangles. In a baking dish, combine the soy sauce, syrup, sesame oil, five spice powder and a little salt and pepper. Place the tofu slices in the marinade and let it soak for at least 20 minutes, flipping the pieces over about half way through.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. On a foil lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray, place your tofu slices and bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping over half way through, until brown and slightly crispy. While the tofu is baking, mix the mayo, garlic, and Thai chili. Toast your baguettes. (hehehe… not sure why that sounds funny.)

Assemble your sandwiches by slathering some of the mayo mix in each toasted baguette, laying down about 4 tofu slices (enough to cover the length of your roll) and topping with some of the pickled vegetables, sliced jalapeno and mix of cilantro, basil, and mint. Drizzle with hoisin and Siriacha if you want, but if you’re like me and did not seed the jalapeno, that might be enough heat for you!

CSA Count: 3

Cucumber, carrots, fresh garlic

Baked Tofu Stir Fry

It’s Wednesday which means tomorrow a new batch of CSA goodies will arrive so I must do the best I can in getting rid of last week’s crop. We’ve been inundated this year with snow peas– 1.5 lbs each week so far, which means, lord help me, we’ve consumed 4.5 lbs and expect another 1.5 tomorrow (unless they turn out to be sugar snaps.) I honestly don’t have any good ideas about how to use them except in stir fries and once I added a handful, chopped into bite-sized pieces to a salad, but found it kind of boring. So far we’ve had them stir fried with shrimp, beef, and last week as a side dish mixed with carrots, almonds, and garlic scapes (that was my favorite so far). Tofu was on sale so I thought I’d try that as the protein for what has become a weekly staple meal.
Most carnivores I know don’t like tofu. It weirds them out texturally or they complain that it has no taste. I love it, but of course, I love it best when it’s fried. In fact my favorite tofu dish is pan fried triangles of tofu then top with a mix of soy sauce, hot peppers, cilantro, garlic and lime juice on a bed of raw spinach from the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook.

But as much as I love fried tofu, I hate making it– the spatter of the oil no matter how much I try to squeeze the water out of it always leaves me irritated and feeling like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. I still wanted some of that crisp edge for a crunch to go with the vegetables so I thought I’d try marinating the tofu and baking it at a high temp. I then aimed to mix the cooked tofu with snow peas, carrots, and shitaki mushrooms that were glazed with Tamari soy sauce and sesame oil, the mixture that I’ve loved the most for the nutty taste that contrasts with the sweetness of the peas and carrots.

This one was a little bit of a downer though- I’m not entirely sure what to do to improve it, but I think overall it was a bit too sour. The tofu sure smelled good while baking though. The five spice, particularly the star anise, made my nose tingly in anticipation. I think if I did this again, I’d try adding some brown sugar to the marinade and maybe some more five spice powder. We’ll see.

Marinade
1 tbsp Hoisin sauce
2-3 tbsp Tamari soy sauce
2 small garlic cloves (or 1 medium), rough chopped
1 tsp ginger, rough chopped
2 tsp Siriacha (“Vietnamese” hot sauce as I recently learned that it’s like chop suey and is actually American)
3 dashes of 5 spice– probably equivalent to 1/2 tsp– I’d up it to a full.
1 tsp sesame oil
little bit of salt and some pepper
Protein & Vegetables
1 16 oz block of firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes. (If it’s packed in water, place it between two plates and put a bowl of water on top to press out the water first.)
1 lb snow peas, unzipped (you know– remove the tough stringy part on the size of the pod where the peas are attached)
1 small sweet onion, sliced in half and thinly sliced in half moons
2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced ginger (blech)
3 small carrots, sliced on the diagonal
8 oz shitaki mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 tbsp Tamari soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil, divided
1 tbsp canola oil
a little bit of salt and some pepper
steamed rice

Mix the marinade together and toss in the tofu. Stir it around and let it marinade for at least an hour. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread the tofu out on a baking sheet and cook for 20-30 minutes, mixing them around for even cooking about half way through. Heat the canola oil and 1 tsp of sesame oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, toss in the garlic and ginger and stir around for 30 seconds until you can smell it, careful not to burn the garlic. Throw in the onions and stir fry until soft and slightly translucent. Next, add the mushrooms and cook until shiny. Finally, add the carrots and snow peas and cook for another 3-4 minutes until they’re a vibrant orange and green color– that way they’re still crisp. I also sprinkled a pinch of sugar over the vegetables to bring out their sweetness. Pour around the soy sauce and remaining sesame oil then stir around so they glaze the vegetables. Put the tofu in the mix then stir it around and serve on rice.

CSA Count: 4
fresh garlic, those damn snow peas, sweet onion, and carrots