We're all busy, right?! I know I am. So anytime I can make something work for me in different ways I do! I especially like working with leftovers and consider them somewhat of a personal challenge.
That said, let me fill you in on my kitchen adventures today. The Spicy Raw Tomato Sauce that I made yesterday was a truly fabulous dressing for my raw kale salad. Exactly what I was looking for yesterday. Today I wanted to change it up and it was easy to do considering the recipe makes 5 abundant cups of raw goodness. When I packed things up yesterday I split the leftovers into 2 containers, each holding just shy of 2.5 cups of raw sauce. I knabbed one of those bad boys around lunch time today and used it to make a warm sauce for my take on Palak Paneer. Traditioanlly made with pureed spinach and firm mild cottage style dairy cheese cubes, Palak Paneer is fragrant, spicy, creamy and delicious. Making it vegan isn't much of a challenge so I encourage you to give this a try. Don't let the tofu deter you even if you don't normally like it. In this recipe the tofu is fried and crispy and it is enveloped by the luscious coconut milk enhanced tomato sauce.
Sarah's Vegan Tofu Palak Paneer
(makes 1 serving of tofu, enough sauce 5 servings)
|raw spinach topped with warm coconut tomato sauce and crispy tofu
1/4 block firm tofu*
1/4 cup olive oil for frying the tofu
2.5 cups Raw Spicy Tomato Sauce
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp tamarind paste
1 cup coconut milk (canned, fresh or made from coconut creme concentrate)
Let's start by pouring the coconut milk and tamarind paste into a saucepan. Begin warming the mixture over low heat. As you do so, take a wooden spoon and mash the tamarind paste into the coconut milk until it is incorporated. Most tamarind paste has pulpy bits, and that's okay. Just do your best to blend the paste into the coconut milk so we avoid a bit of pungent paste.
Once the paste is incorporated go ahead and add the raw tomato sauce, ground cumin and chili powder. If you are not a big fan of spicy heat this is the time to make your own adjustments and cut down or cut out the chili powder. The raw tomato sauce is a bit spicy, but the cooking process mellows it considerably so I like punching up the heat with chili powder. You might not... know that you won't hurt my feelings at all if you don't... I think making recipes your own is exactly what you should do. You have permission to experiment.
Whisk the sauce over medium heat and enjoy the delightful aroma in the air around you. This is not a pot that you need to watch or whisk constantly, so after that first few minutes go ahead and turn the heat down and leave things to simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes. You're going to taste the sauce at that point and decide if the onion and garlic are cooked and mellow or if they still have their bite. If you like where you are, shut off the heat and move on to the tofu. If you don't... well, keep simmering until you get it there!
Onto the tofu: I heat up my oil in a very small saucepan since I am using so little oil and frying so few pieces of tofu. Get your oil heating up over medium heat while you prep the tofu. 1/4 of a block of tofu works out to about 2 slices off the block that are 1/2 inch thick and maybe 3 inches long. I slice each of the slices in half and then into 8 cubes so I end up with 16 cute little cubes of tofu. It is very important to dry the tofu before you fry it. Mark my words, DRY BEFORE YOU FRY or you'll regret it! Splatter city baby... no lie. Ouch! My recommendation is to place the cubes on a clean kitchen towel and press them a bit to push out some of the water from the packaging.
When your oil is hot and your tofu is cubed and dry go ahead and drop one cube into the oil. Hear sizzling and see bubbles around the cube? If you do you are good to go! If not, bump up the heat a little and wait a minute. Once you're at a hot temp go ahead and drop in your cubes 4 at a time. Any more than 4 and you are going to cool the oil and create soggy tofu. So, take your time and fry these guys 4 at a time, turning them with a slotted metal spoon so they brown a little and get crisp on all 4 sides before you pull them out. Rescue your tofu and transfer it to a cooling rack to drain or set the little cuties onto paper towel or a clean brown paper bag while you continue the process until all of your tofu is fried.
Time for the spinach. Palak Paneer is traditionally made with a pureed, almost creamed spinach. I prefer raw elements in my meals so keeping the spinach raw is a no-b rainer! Grab a few handfuls of raw baby spinach and give it a quick wash and spin in the salad spinner. Run your knife through the leaves to chop them up a bit and them pile them in your serving bowl. Top with about 1/2 cup of sauce and the warm, crispy tofu cubes. Grab your fork and dig in!
|this is how I get into it... no shame in mixing it up!
*Note about TOFU: I buy non-GMO organic tofu. Because soybeans are such a heavily modified crop, the non-GMO designation is really important. Genetically modified food creeps me out, frankly. I'd rather not eat something that's been messed with at a cellular level. Now, in the case of tofu, I choose organic as well when I can because it is also a processed food... it definitely doesn't look like a soybean anymore! Since I wasn't able to judge the quality of the beans that went into the product, I at least want to know that they were pesticide free and as natural as possible.