Beans, Tofu and Veggie Stir Fry in under 30 minutes

This has been one of the fastest, easiest, and i *think* tastiest dishes I have made since I ended up in my understocked kitchen. I got the inspiration from Heidi Swanson and her “Lemony Chickpea Stirfry”. I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients she called for, but I had others, so I thought why not?
The beauty about this recipe is that it packs a good nutritional punch, it’s delicious, and lends itself to endless variations. I’ll give you my take on it, and I’d love to hear back from you with some of your own variations.

Ingredients:
One cup cooked pinto beans (if you need instructions on how to cook dry pinto beans, see here)
One red onion
One capsicum (bell pepper)
8 oz firm tofu (flavored or plain)
olive oil
salt
juice of one lemon
dried basil
oregano
chili flakes, if you like your food spicy
one tomato

Method:
Add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt to your frying pan and toss in the onions and pinto beans.
Saute until the onions are browned and the beans get a light crust.
Add lemon juice, and basil and oregano to taste
Add capsicum and tofu, and allow capsicum to cook through, but not until they lose their crunch.
Make sure the tofu browns evenly on all the sides.
Toss with chili flakes. If you want it more spicy, add the chili flakes at the beginning with the oil.
After everything is cooked, add diced tomatoes as garnish.

I plan on serving it plain, perhaps with some plain yogurt. Any other serving suggestions?

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Tofu-Tomato Stew, Indian Style

I’m one of those people who is tempted by food names and can’t really handle food that doesn’t sound like it’s going to taste good. So this post is definitely an exception for me, mostly because I can’t think of a better name for this. Ragout, perhaps. Most people don’t really know what that means though so i’ll stick with stew for now. If any of you readers can think of a better name, you should let me know.

Today has been kind of a long day. I have a case of the mondays, had a long weekend (see here for details), went to the gym, and tried to study. Also, I have exams coming up, which means less cooking, and I also had ingredients hanging out in my fridge with no apparent purpose. I figured if i didn’t use them today, there was a pretty good chance I wouldn’t get to use them at all. I had a few almost-overripe tomatoes, a cucumber, and a block of tofu. I scrounged and found an onion which is about to grow a new onion, and I thought to myself, this has the makings for an interesting meal. In typical fashion, I went through the probable nutritional facts in my head and was satisfied with the protein proportion and went ahead with my strange idea.

Tofu in India has a funny taste to it, to which I prefer the tastelessness of American tofu. Imported tofu is actually available here, but I can’t justify paying that amount for it just because I think the alternative kind of smells a little weird. I found out though, as I was explaining to my friend Lalita today, that if you come up with a good marinade for the tofu, it absorbs tastes beautifully, turning into a sort of palette for whatever picture you want to paint for the day. I took a page from Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks for this particular marinade and I really liked the results. I might experiment with some different types later, and I’ll be sure to keep you folks in the loop.

Ingredients

Extra-firm tofu, washed, drained and cubed

For the marinade

4 tablespoons of thick yogurt
3/4 teaspoon Sabzi masala or garam masala
salt to taste
a teaspoon of olive oil 

Whisk these ingredients together, and toss the tofu in with them. Set it aside, covered, while you make the rest of the stew. If you can, set the tofu to marinate the previous night – it will give you better flavor.

For the stew

4 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
1 large white onion (or 2 small purple onions)
salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste 
1 teaspoon sabzi masala
2 chili peppers, chopped, or 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
a splash of olive oil

Method

1. Chop the onions finely and brown them with the ginger-garlic paste in the olive oil. Add the salt and masala to this mixture and let it all brown together, but it shouldn’t burn. Make sure that the paste doesn’t have that sharp, raw smell anymore. 

2. Add the tomatoes and let them cook in their own juice, but not until they’re too mushy. You don’t want to end up with tomato sauce instead. 

3. While the tomatoes and onions are cooking, brown the tofu in a skillet. You don’t need to add any more olive oil since your marinade already has enough.

4. When the tofu is evenly browned, add it to the tomato mixture and let it all cook together. Add the peppers or pepper, whichever you’ve chosen to use, at the end, stir for two more minutes, and remove from heat.

I served this stew with white rice, but I’m sure you could try brown rice, brown bread, naan, focaccia, chapati, anything really. 

High in protein, vitamin A and lycopenes, and easy to make, I think this is going to be repeated some time, with a few variations. If you guys come up with any interesting variations, let me know. Enjoy!

10-minute Spicy Tofu Veggie Stir Fry with Vermicelli

Life is constantly a struggle against the clock. And as the day goes along, energy definitely gets to an all-time low by about 5 pm, which is when I have to decide whether I’m going to eat the never-changing, always-boring, super-greasy, not-so-healthy canteen food, or if I’m going to make myself something inspired, healthy, and inspiring. About 90% of the time – you guessed it – I go to the canteen and eat whatever slop is on my plate. About 100% of the time, I wish I didn’t. The problem is less about the time it takes to cook and mostly about the energy it takes, and the dishes I’ll have to wash instead of doing whatever I’m actually supposed to be doing.

The other day I decided to look through my refrigerator and my pantry and see what I could throw together in a minimal number of dishes and next to no time. I found tofu, vermicelli, peanut butter, chili flakes, carrots and bok choy. Yeah, I know. It sounds absurd. But I threw them all together and ended up with a lovely – healthy – stir fry.

N’s Notes
Make sure you wash and drain your tofu before you start cooking with it.

Ingredients

12 oz. firm tofu
vermicelli (more if you like your noodles in oodles, less if you like it more veggie-heavy)
4 small sized carrots
2 bunches baby bok choy
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons chili flakes
a splash of olive or sesame oil
salt to taste

Equipment
stovetop
a trusty skillet with slightly higher rims

Method

1. Cut your tofu into small strips, about 1/2 inch thick, 1 inch wide, 2 inches long.
2. Heat a splash of your cooking oil of choice in the skillet.
3. After the oil is heated enough, toss in the tofu strips. Let them brown a little. Make sure you turn them and flip them so they brown evenly.
4. Use a vegetable peeler on your carrots and make ribbons.
5. Chop the bok choy into edible pieces.
6. Fry the vermicelli in the oil when the tofu is just about done. Leave the tofu in while you fry the vermicelli. This will take about 30 seconds. Don’t burn the noodles!
7. Toss the vegetables, with about 2 spoons of water, in with the noodles and tofu.
8. Cover and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes.
9. While your skillet is cooking, whisk together the peanut butter and chili flakes with a tablespoon of water.
10. Add salt to taste.
11. Pour your sauce into the skillet and toss until everything is coated. Let it cook for 1-2 more minutes.
12. Voila! A 10-minute masterpiece!

What I particularly enjoyed about this dish was that I only had one dish to wash afterward. And if you want to save even more dish time, you can just eat straight out of the pan – great for college students and others who are strapped for time.

This dish is also packed with protein from the tofu and the peanut butter, and plenty of vitamins like your B-complex and carotenes, from the veggies.

Variations:
If I had access to basil, I would tear about 10 leaves into 2 or 3 pieces and toss them in with the veggies to accentuate the taste. I’d love to hear any other variations you guys have in mind. Comments welcome!

edit: Joelen from Joelen’s Culinary Adventures has posted her own adaptation to this recipe. Try it out!