Sunday, January 27, 2013

Black Bottom Tofu with Cashew Coconut Rice

Every few months, I suddenly become aware of how I must eat a lot of protein and these days, that thought is  on my mind more than ever.
With this consciousness comes the realization of how very limited my options of getting sufficient protein are.
While we argue that beans and legumes are an optimal source of protein, many argue, they are not a 'pure' source of protein, like meat.
Well, that door is closed where I am concerned. 
What are my options then?
Having grown up eating Varan-bhaat, poli - bhaji (Daal-chaval, roti-subzi- typical meal in a Marathi- Kannadiga home)  everyday, beans and legumes are still my favored source. 
And much as I dislike it, I must acknowledge, so is Tofu.
My dislike for Tofu is second to  that of my dislike for eggplant. While I do not even consider eating the eggplant , tofu occasionally does make it's way in. 
I have used tofu before, and while that was necessary at that point of time, I had vowed not to eat it again. Nevertheless, the husband is *very* health conscious and turns up his nose at 'the usual' made at home and I put my foot down to bringing any alternate and pure source of protein at home, let alone make it and eat it.
Of late, I have also realized that I have a textural preference for food and some foods, therefore do not  appeal to me. 
To put it crudely, some foods make me queasy.
What a hopeless situation! But I must get tofu to amp up the protein. So every  few weeks, we drive to the local KoMart ( Asian store) and buy ourselves 4 (four) blocks of Tofu and come home. 
I groan inwardly, every time. 

I know that I need some really good  recipes for making tofu and a good place to start is the library and other blogs. I raided the library last week and came home, armed with Vegetarian Times: Fast and Easy cookbook
The result, right before your eyes!

Do the prep, drain  the tofu, and set it on a plate and weigh down with  some weight ( like a Pyrex bowl and a can or 2 in it) and drain the tofu of any excess water.


3/4 cup  Basmati Rice
1/3 cup Raw Cashew Pieces
2 Tbsp. Shredded Dry Coconut ( unsweetened)
2 Tbsp Avocado or Vegetable Oil ( I used Canola)
1 Tsp. Minced Peeled Ginger
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
   1/4 tsp. Turmeric powder
   1/4 tsp. Salt


1 can (15 oz) Pineapple chunks in unsweetened juice
2 Tbsp Tamari or low sodium  Soy Sauce
1Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Oil
1 pound Firm Tofu cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup Diced Carrot
1/4 cup Diced Red Bell Pepper
1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro to garnish
1 tsp Sesame seeds to garnish.

Wash the rice in several changes of water. Drain and set aside
To make the rice, put all the ingredients in a large saucepan.  over medium heat for 4 minutes  or until fragrant, stirring constantly.

For stove-top method:
Add 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat  to medium low  and simmer 15 minutes or until water is absorbed

My method:
Add the rice to the electric rice cooker , add water and set to cook. Done

As the rice cooks, make the black bottomed pineapple Tofu.
Drain the chunks and reserve the juice.
Combine the juice, tamari, vinegar,oil in a large non-stick pan/ skillet.
Add the tofu cubes in a single layer and bring to a boil over high heat.
Continue boiling without turning the tofu cubes (that is the key)-9 minutes or until liquid becomes thick and tofu cubes are dark brown on the bottom.
Add the pineapple chunks and the diced veges between the tofu cubes, reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for 4 minutes or until the pineapple begins to brown. remove from heat and toss the ingredients with a spatula.

Fluff rice with a fork and spoon onto one side of the dish.Transfer tofu mixture to the other side.
sprinkle with Cilantro and sesame seeds and serve.

To me, the most difficult part is to get any kind of flavor into the Tofu. It just feels so blah! and *so* chewy.
The way tofu is cooked in this recipe helps me overcome that hurdle. I need to let it blacken more.

The bonus is the pineapple and veges which add to the over all taste and make it very appetizing!

My only issue was, there is no chili ( mirchi) in the recipe. To overcome the lack of heat, I simply use Siracha sauce. I love Siracha. It saves the day, many a times. 

I try to get  Quinoa in my meals. Tofu occasionally. Beans , legumes are of course mostly used.
So how do you all fix your meals around proteins? Leave a comment and do share your ideas and suggestions.
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mini (Quinoa and Bean) Burgers in Pita Pockets

All these years we avoided getting cable TV. It is addicting.
And then we succumbed. We included TV in our Internet and wireless account, it was a 'bundle plan'.
Finally, about 2 weeks ago, the technician came home, installed  everything and left us with a new remote control, that now controls us.
Little S sips his morning milk watching cartoons ( he actually thinks the TV exists only for him and must play cartoons).
M comes home, demands the remote, gets it after a small struggle and threats of taking Little S to the Doctor to give 'kadu aushadh' (bitter medicine) as a cure for watching too much TV. After winning, he switches to his news channels.
And now we come to yours truly, my addiction is limited to  the Food Network, Cooking channel  and HGTV.
When I can ( read: when the boys are away), I plonk myself in front of the TV and peacefully watch what I want, no  endless chants for "Mummaaaa, cartoon. Mummaaaa cartooooooon" or Jim Cramer being mad like a...... madman and loud! 
Just the pure harmony of ingredients being mixed in the kitchens of my dreams or house hunters looking for homes of their dreams as I egg them on to buy the one that I favor.
Last Sunday, by sheer coincidence, both the boys were in their respective bathrooms, one singing tunelessly and the other telling stories to the walls and I grabbed the remote! 
And what was after the time I saw Jeff Mauro being crowned the Next Food Network Star, I saw him in his own show as the Sandwich king.
I liked how at ease he was on screen and more importantly, I liked what he was making! Veggie Mini Burger Pita with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce. 

I knew I had to make these! I love veggie burgers, I love Pita, I love yogurt cucumber combination, I mean, what's not to love?
And more importantly, it was something I could make easily, with items I had in the pantry and fridge and needed maybe just one small trip to the stores.
I have made Pita earlier and I was comfortable making them again.

The good part is,  it is healthy ( if you discount the pita part as a one time thing) and filling. Makes a wonderful lunch option or even can be a great picnic food option, pack everything carefully and separately, assemble when you are ready to eat.

Here is how you make 'em

You need :

1/4 cup Quinoa
1 Can - Cannellini Beans
1/2 cup Frozen Corn, thawed
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the burgers:
 Rinse the quinoa in several changes of water. This is important, quinoa has a bitter taste if not washed thoroughly.
Boil 1/2 cup of water and add the rinsed quinoa. Cover and cook on low heat until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fully cooked. Spread it on a plate to cool.
Throw the liquid in the bean can and rinse the beans thoroughly. Roughly puree the can of cannellini in the food processor (the S'wich king purees half the beans and leaves the other half for later, a little chunky). Add the cooked quinoa, the cannellini puree, corn, panko, cilantro, salt, chili powder, cumin, garlic, pepper and lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix until it all comes together. Form 8 small patties, or smaller if you want. I made  really small patties as my Pitas were the size of  a large puri. Refrigerate the patties for 15 minutes to firm up.
Heat the oil in a large Cast iron / nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties until golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes per side.

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup English cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt ( I used regular home made yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons tahini *
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • Hot sauce, for sprinkling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix the cucumbers, yogurt, lemon juice, tahini, sugar, garlic in a small bowl. Sprinkle with hot sauce, salt and pepper.
* I made the Tahini at home, since it is such a small quantity. Toast sesame seeds until light brown, cool. Grind to a paste adding some oil ( I added approximately 2 glugs). Tahini is ready. 
Place 2 patties inside each pita, top with a dollop of Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, some lettuce and tomato. 

The Burgers can be enjoyed by themselves, just spear some lettuce leaves (torn) and tomato slice on a toothpick with a burger in the middle.


Enjoy with some Siracha Sauce for dipping.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

TGIF, Folks! Enjoy the weekend!
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Monday, January 14, 2013

Mexican Pizza

I like Taco Bell, but do not frequent it very often. And when I do, I usually pick up the 7 layer Burrito and that's it. I hardly bothered with  trying new tastes, an occasional chalupa (?) maybe.
That said, I do like Mexican food but I am not too keen on going out to eat, why? because it makes me suspicious. Huh? It has familiar ingredients. Yes, but what if lard is used in anything? Years ago, I read a post by a blogger ( her blog is private now) who mentioned the free use of lard as a cooking medium. I could not digest that and now I am more comfortable eating at Indian restaurants and trying some recipes (non Indian), that I like, at home.

My friend, Sonali, taught me this recipe ( among others, which will soon be featured on AC@H- I think I will call it the Sonali Trilogy!!).
Her son, though 2 years older than my boy, is a good companion to little S, playing, teaching and occasionally grumbling. The kids and the Mom's get along well! 
Now Sonali is a working woman and on her weekly off days, she is bustling about in her kitchen making all the things her son enjoys eating and we all benefit from that ;)

One such weekly off day, she made Mexican Pizza and invited me over. As a result, the first recipe of the year comes to you, from Sonali's kitchen and reproduced in mine and over to you! 

There are a couple of variations to the original recipe (Taco Bell)  and still more made in my kitchen.
This 'pizza' is very filling and a one dish meal.
The ingredient list is a bit long, involving getting a lot from the stores, but the end product is so worth it! 

Arm yourself with :

Tortillas ( Flour Tortillas recommended, but for healthier version, choose wheat, be prepared for change in taste) I used 6 inch 
1 can Refried Beans ( my friend Vandana, tells me that most refried beans are made with bacon, so make sure if you are a vegetarian, to select a 100% vegetarian can of refried beans, read the label / ingredient list, carefully).
Taco Sauce ( I got Taco Bell brand, available at most grocery stores)
Mexican Blend Cheese
Chopped Bell Pepper
Chopped Green Onions / Scallions (green and white )
Chopped Tomato
Jalapeno (optional) 
Cilantro to garnish

I empty the refried beans in a non stick sauce pan and gently re-heat them. I also added some chili flakes and cumin and garlic powder, adding any spices is purely optional.

Pre heat the oven to 400 deg. F.

There are 2 ways you can go about making this pizza.

This involves deep frying the Tortillas in oil (prick the tortilla using a fork or else it will puff up, like a puri)
Drain the tortillas on tissue paper (2 tortillas to a pizza)

Take one tortilla, Spoon  about  1/3 cup ( or less) of the refried beans evenly on top. If you are using Salsa, spread 1 tbsp of it over the beans.
Place the second tortilla over the first.
Spread  some Taco Sauce over the second tortilla.
Top with shredded cheese, and the chopped vegetables.
Place the assembled pizza on a baking tray and place inside the oven and bake  for about 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted 
Cut, using a pizza cutter and serve immediately.


Spray the Tortillas with oil, on both sides and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the tortilla has golden spots on it and the edges are crispy golden brown.

Remove from the oven and follow the procedure as mentioned in ASSEMBLY

Deep fried Tortillas  are super crunchy and tasty, as most deep fried things are. I prefer the baked version with minimal oil. The tortillas crisp up beautifully in the oven and make it a relatively guilt free indulgence.

These are best eaten as soon as they are made. The refried beans make the tortillas soggy, if kept longer. But  in case you do have some left overs, try toasting them in a toaster oven  for a few minutes and serve.

I used 6 inch Flour Tortillas and found one pizza quite filling.

Additional toppings suggestions : Avocado slices/ cubes and sour cream.

I'd like to try whole wheat Tortillas next time.If you try WW Tortillas, do drop me a comment and let me know how you like 'em.

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