I'm the proud mother of four handsome sons (three human, one feline) and two lovely daughters (one canine, one feline). I'm also a graduate student in English with a compulsion for cooking vegan food. I love my family, my partner, my friends, all things Elizabethan, and feeding people while doing my small part to make the world a better place. Everyone's happy! And full!
By now it's pretty much an open secret that coconut milk and I are madly in love - we've been carrying on a torrid affair for awhile now, and the time has come for me to shout it from the mountaintops and proclaim to all the world that - Yes! Say it! - I LOVE COCONUT MILK!!!
Phew! I feel so much better now that's off my chest. The funny thing is that this passion came as a bit of a surprise even to me; as a child, I only ever encountered coconut in sweets, and I never liked the taste of it. I didn't care for German chocolate cake, it invariably lay at the center of the last, neglected, forlorn chocolate in a Valentine's box, and when it made an appearance in a mainstream candy bar like an Almond Joy, it merely served to interfere with the chocolate and almonds, spoiling my joy.
But what a difference a new cuisine can make - the first time I tasted a Thai coconut curry, I basically went out of my mind. From there on, I went on to get all swoony over Cambodian, Vietnamese and Carribbean dishes, and eventually determined that...Hey! Maybe I could make some of this stuff myself! Many cookbooks and web searches later, it is now one of our cupboard staples, and while I still don't care for coconut in sweets (of course, I'm not that crazy about sweets, full stop), I adore, worship and lust after it in savory, spicy dishes.
The recipe below is another curry that started out wanting to be something else, but wound up being massaged to suit the contents of my cupboard. I was running a bit low on vegetables, and I think the inclusion of something green and crunchy (broccoli seems perfect) in the stir-fry would only make it better. Even so, I don't mind saying that this was yummy-sound-inducingly good, and the fried tofu was probably the best I've ever made, which is sayin' summat. But it really is the sauce that makes it special; it may look like a lot of steps and seem a bit time-consuming, but most of that time is spent hanging out in the kitchen listening to music or posting nonsense on Facebook while it simmers. And anyway, trust me: it's totally worth it.
When it comes to coconut milk, I generally use the "lite" variety, sometimes the full-strength, and occasionally, when I want to pull out all the stops, the high test coconut cream, which can make a person gain five pounds just by looking at the unopened can. But so what? Coconut milk adds that ineffably rich, creamy, tropically exotic deliciousness to a recipe that never fails to make your guests - and even your jaded, culinarily-experimented-upon family - say MMMMMMMMMMM. And really, that's what you want them to say, isn't it?
Random Weeknight Coconut Tofu Curry
Ingredients ~ 3 tbsp. garlic, minced ~ 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated ~ 1 large onion, chopped ~ 1 tbsp. yellow curry paste ~ 1 tsp. each: dried lemongrass, coriander, hot sauce (I use Sriracha) ~ 2 tsp. Thai red curry paste ~ 2 tbsp. vegetable oil ~ 1 cup chopped, fresh coriander, including stems ~ 1 15 oz. can of lite coconut milk ~ 3 cups vegetable broth ~ 1 tsp. salt ~ 2 tsp. each: curry powder, sugar ~ 1/4 cup fresh lime juice ~ 2 tsp. cornstarch
Directions ~ Place ingredients from the garlic through the fresh coriander in a food processor, then process to a semi-smooth paste. ~ Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and fry the spice paste on medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently – it should cook slowly, without burning. ~ Add the coconut milk, broth, curry powder, salt, and sugar, then simmer gently for 30 minutes. ~ In a small bowl, mix the lime juice and cornstarch and whisk until smooth. ~ Stir into the curry mixture, combine thoroughly, and cook another 5 minutes or so, until slightly thickened. ~ Remove from heat and set aside.
The Vegetables and Tofu
Ingredients ~ 1 tbsp. canola oil ~ 3 medium size carrots, cut into matchsticks (about 2 cups) ~ 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced ~ 4 large scallions, sliced ~ 3 cups chopped, fresh basil leaves ~ 1 lb. extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed ~ 1/3 cup cornstarch ~ 1 tsp. each: salt, curry powder ~ Extra oil for frying
Directions ~ In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tbsp. of oil, then stir fry the carrots and mushrooms for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. ~ Add the scallions and basil and cook another minute or two. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the pan. ~ In a large zip-loc bag or bowl with a top, combine the cornstarch, salt and curry powder. Add the tofu cubes and toss thoroughly to coat. ~ Pour a few more tablespoons of oil into your skillet and heat it up to medium-high again. Shake off any excess coating, and place the cubes carefully in the hot oil; allow them to cook a few minutes before gently flipping them. (You might need to do this in more than one batch.) ~ When all the cubes are golden brown, remove them from the pan and let them drain a few minutes on paper towels or - even better - an old brown paper grocery bag.
Now... ~ Heat up the curry for a few minutes, then add the cooked vegetables and fried tofu. Once everything is heated through, ladle the curry on top of rice or noodles (short grain brown rice is my favorite), maybe with an extra squeeze of lime juice and/or some chopped peanuts.