Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Grilled Curried Tofu with Tamarind Lentils

I couldn't resist trying one more recipe out of Veganomicon before putting it into regular cookbook rotation. Okay, so this is technically two recipes. But it's all part of one meal, so it's not really cheating.

This is a pretty self-explanatory Indian-themed meal so I don't even know how to blog about it; I just wanted to share that it was awesome. If you happen to own Veganomicon, you should give it a try.

I did have a bugger of a time finding tamarind paste. I've heard that it is difficult to find a vegan tamarind paste, as they apparently often contain fish oils. I couldn't find any at all, vegan or otherwise. And of course the week I decide to make these lentils the Asian grocer two doors down from the clinic where I work decides to close its doors.

I did find it eventually, although it says right on it that after it's been opened it expires after 7 days. I'm about to test this theory, however, since I don't plan on using it all up during that tiny window of time and I refuse to throw out a $6.00 jar of spicy paste after only using it once. I wonder if I can freeze it?

Anyway, these are the best lentils I've ever had, and I have loved me some lentils in my day. Small but mighty, their nutritional value cannot be understated - they are full of dietary fiber, have iron levels that are fun to throw in vegan naysayer's faces and just one cup of them contains 90% of your suggested daily folate intake (and believe me, you'll eat more than one cup of these tamarind lentils). Whatever you do though, buy dried lentils and cook them up. It only takes about 20 minutes and they are so much more flavourful than the canned variety.

The tofu that I made alongside the lentils highlights one of my favourite things about Veganomicon. It's not just a book of recipes, but also serves as a vegan cooking textbook, offering advice and guidance as you move about your kitchen. This can be very useful for folks who aren't accustomed to working with certain vegan staples, like tofu.

Tofu is versatile, which is why we love it, but its flexibility is precisely what makes it a bit overwhelming sometimes. A lot of newbie veg*ns are intimidated by tofu (pressing, marinating, grilling, baking, stir frying, broiling, poaching - who's not going to be a smidge intimidated?) and the authors of this cookbook do what they can to present you with very thorough options for preparing your tofu.

My personal favourite way to cook tofu is via the grill. The BBQ is great, but I lived in an apartment for a few years before moving into a house and thus have learned to love the Foreman grill too. Sometimes I love it even more than the BBQ because it's a lot less work to warm a Foreman and clean it afterwards.

If you're grilling tofu I highly recommend freezing it first, letting it thaw completely, pressing it (very important - you want as much water out of the tofu so the marinade can seep in) and then marinating it for at least an hour, flipping often. I don't understand the science behind it, but freezing tofu gives it a much spongier/chewier texture, which I prefer, especially when grilling. It is also a bit firmer and less likely to crumble, which is perfect for grilling whole pieces of tofu like those pictured above.

And don't you dare throw out that marinade (or any marinade) when you're done. You can always spoon a little extra onto your tofu at the very end for an extra boost of flavour, or save it for the next time you do a stir fry. The curry marinade used for this dish made the perfect sauce for the steamed broccoli I paired with kidney beans and garlic at lunchtime today.


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