Do you remember last week when I told you about the absolutely dreamy birthday meal I shared with friends? The food was so good it inspired both lust and envy in me; two deadly sins from one plate is quite an accomplishment!
The creator of these temptations was chef of dreaminess Tommy of the blog Verdant San Francisco. It only took about two bites of Tommy’s amazing tofu tikka masala before I leaned over and whispered to him, “Will you write a guest post for my blog?” Tommy is one of those awesome people who have an interest – Indian food, say, or Afrikaans, the language spoken in South Africa – and immerse themselves in it fully. His cooking reflects his dedication to learning Indian cuisine, and his bilingual blog, written in both English and Afrikaans, is a reflection of the dedication he has put into mastering a new language. He’s also incredibly considerate – making this recipe with tofu, rather than seitan, was something Tommy did just for lil’ ol’ wheat-allergic me.
Without further ado, here is Tommy’s post and a recipe I know I’ll be making for years to come…
Indian cuisine has been my comfort food of choice for about a decade. I was first introduced to it in college, but it took a few years before I got serious about cooking it for myself. My initial attempts consisted of tossing curry powder on things while wondering why nothing tasted like the food in Indian restaurants. Luckily I had an Indian friend, Nikita, who set me on the right path. She took me on my first tour of an Indian grocery store, then pointed me to websites like http://www.SanjeevKapoor.com and http://www.TarlaDalal.com for ideas on what to do with the bevy of new ingredients in my pantry.
Years later, I got the best seal of approval I could hope for. I brought homemade undhiyo (a Gujarati specialty of curried vegetables with chickpea fritters filled with fenugreek leaves) to a potluck with several South Asian acquaintances, including the host. The host’s mother was also in attendance and delighted in inspecting all the dishes. When she got to the undhiyo, she remarked loudly, “okay, whose mother or grandmother made this?!”
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with vegetarian versions of chicken tikka masala, one of the most popular Anglo-Indian dishes in the UK. Seitan is usually my go-to ingredient for vegifying a chicken recipe. However, here’s a vegan, wheat-free take on this dish based on the traditional vegetarian alternative, paneer tikka masala.
Tofu Tikka Masala
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cayenne
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp black pepper
1 can coconut milk
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
2 lbs extra firm tofu* cut into 1/2 thick slabs
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 can coconut milk
4 large tomatoes (or 2 cups pasta sauce, which I usually end up using, since I’m far more likely to have that on hand)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grind A together and split in half. Add the first half of A to the liquid ingredients of B and mix well. Marinate the tofu in the mixture for at least an hour, though overnight is best. Preheat the oven to 425F. If you’re using a cast iron grill pan, preheat this in the oven as, well. Scrape off the marinade (set it aside as a tasty addition for dal), spread the tofu in a single layer, and grill on each side for 20 minutes. Cut into cubes and set aside.
Sauté C for a minute, then turn the heat to low and add the second half of A. Stir well, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, which will start to stick. After a few seconds, add D and mix well. Add the tofu cubes, simmer for 10 minutes, remove the bay leaves, and garnish with cilantro.
* The brand I used for this recipe is Westwood Extra Firm tofu. It’s firm enough that it doesn’t need to be pressed ahead of time.
Find more amazing recipes and posts at Tommy’s blog, Verdant San Francisco!