Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On a Different Tropic

Having a refrigerator full of good local produce is a wonderful thing. I come home at lunch or after work, choose a vegetable, and whip up something simple that showcases that food's flavor and freshness.

Of course, some days I crave something a little more complex, something that combines flavors, often in unusual ways, and makes me sit up and think, "Wow!"

With a pound of tofu nestled amidst the vegetables and rapidly approaching its sell-by date, I thought perhaps it should become part of a more elaborate dish. I had originally planned to make the BBQ Pomegranate Tofu found in Vegan With a Vengeance, but after a talk with the fair Titania last evening and a persistent curry craving, I opted for something slightly different and a little more tropical.

I knew I still wanted to use my pomegranate molasses, but I wanted to add some rich and savory spices as well. At Titania's suggestion, I added a banana to the sauce as well as the tomato I had already planned to use, and I steamed some green beans to throw in with the baked tofu before adding the sauce and slipping it into the oven.

But I knew I wanted just a little something more to go with all that, and since I have an abundance of zucchini in the house at the moment, I decided to make a variation on my favorite zucchini-feta pancakes, whipping up something more like latkes only with curry seasoning.

So there you have it... a zucchini fritter topped with a sweet and savory tofu curry that draws both from the Indian subcontinent and the West Indies, loaded with good fresh vegetables and happiness. The flavors and textures melded together beautifully, causing me to help myself to seconds (a rare occurrence) as well as want to lick the plate.

You might want to vary this a little bit: I would have liked to use sautéed greens as the base for the presentation, but I used the last of my kale over lunch. And other green vegetables might work well in baking with the tofu, though something with a bit of crunch would provide the best contrast.

But no matter how you slice it, this dish definitely merits a "Wow!"


Tropical Tofu Curry with Zucchini Fritters

The inspiration from the sauce came from Vegan With a Vengeance, though of course I couldn't resist varying it wildly. Don't be intimidated by the length of the recipe. You can bake the tofu the day before, and if you really want, you can make the fritters the day before and reheat them in the oven. (Or you can simply serve the tofu and vegetables over sautéed greens, which can be done while the tofu bakes.) Aside from baking the tofu, I had this all done in about one hour, and the resulting meal made that time extremely well spent.

Baked Tofu:
1 lb tofu, drained, sliced, and pressed
2 T vegetable oil
1 T tamari

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 9 x 13 nonreactive baking dish, turn tofu in the oil and tamari mixture to coat both sides. Bake for 15 minutes, flip the slices, and bake for 15 more minutes. Set aside; you can refrigerate this overnight.

Sauce:
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tomato, minced
1 banana, thinly sliced
2 T pomegranate molasses
2 T ketchup or tomato paste
1 T tamari
1 c vegetable stock
1/2 tsp maple syrup
2 c green beans, trimmed and washed

Heat olive oil in skillet. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Add curry powder, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and sauté another minute to allow flavors to meld. Add tomato and banana and sauté briefly, then add pomegranate molasses, ketchup, and tamari and stir to mix. Pour in vegetable stock and allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Stir in maple syrup to sweeten to taste.

Steam green beans until crisp-tender. Add to baking dish with tofu, and pour sauce over top. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.

Fritters:
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 egg
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 to 1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 c unbleached flour
Oil for frying

Mix together fritter ingredients in medium bowl. Heat oil in skillet. Drop approximately 1/4 cup batter per fritter into skillet and allow to brown thoroughly on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

To serve, lay one fritter on each plate and top with 1 or 2 slices of tofu and a generous helping of sauce and beans. Serve with a fruity white wine or a tasty sweet lassi. Revel in the compliments for your cooking!

Serves 4

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