Monday, February 11, 2008

M--'s Wonderful Thai-ish Wonderful Stew

As I said last week, my friend M-- is a great cook. I didn't say that she is also a wonderful person, but aren't they linked? All the people who I know who are great cooks are also enjoyable people. Food lovers are fun. This friend also has a great sense of humor, makes pysanky like nobody's business, and has there for me for a couple of decades. In that time, we have discussed food constantly--tamari or soy sauce; molecular gastronomy; caramel cake.... And, so if you see a recipe posted through by M-- in my blog not only know that it was originated by a great cook but also a great friend.

M--'s Thai-ish Tofu Stew...Vegan!!!
1 block firm tofu, frozen, defrosted, drained, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 a butternut squash
1 sweet potato
12 shitake mushrooms
3 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
3 tbs oil
1 can premium coconut milk
cilantro, washed and chopped - maybe 1/4 cup?
1 lime, quartered
6 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 inch galangal
2 stalks lemongrass
10 lime leaves
1 tbsp oil

1) Grate garlic, ginger, and galangal. Add to a medium pot with oil. Fry gently on medium low heat.

2) Chop sweet potato and squash into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces. Chop mushrooms into quarters (I like to remove the stems and chop them finely). Add vegetables to pot. Add water to cover, and add lemongrass (cut each stalk into about 4 pieces and split down the middle if you like...makes it harder to pick out when serving but gets more flavour out) and lime leaves. Simmer until vegetables are tender, adding more water if necessary to keep them covered.

3) Heat oil to medium heat in a good frying pan. Dry tofu thoroughly with dishcloth or paper towels. Fry tofu chunks until nice and golden, turning over once. It will probably take 2 or 3 batched to fry all the tofu successfully. Add more oil if necessary. After draining, sprinkle tamari over fried tofu.

4) Add tofu to the stew, and pour in the coconut milk. If you've bought a lovely, rich, premium brand, it may be mostly solid in the jar. Scrape it out - it will melt in the stew. Add cilantro. Cook the stew for a few minutes longer to make sure it is all hot and the flavours are beautifully blended.

5) Serve over broad rice noodles or jasmine rice with lime wedges and cilantro garnish. If you're feeding guests or children, pick out the lemongrass and lime leaves - neither is fun to bite into. If you aren't vegetarian, you might like to season the stew with fish sauce, although I didn't. This recipe made enough stew for dinner for two, and about 5 lunches. Personally, I would double the tofu next time, because I love it so dearly, and I wanted more of its chewy goodness in each serving. Enjoy!!!

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