Tuesday, August 9, 2011

secret special sauce

Maybe it's just me and maybe I've just heard one too many nasty rumors about the "cooks" in fast food restaurants, but does anyone else get skeeved out when they see "Chef So-and-So's Special Sauce" listed on a menu?  My brain just goes right to, "No, thank you!"  Yes, even in fancy restaurants with real chefs.

Anyway, I'm going to share tonight's dinner tale first, since it's relevant to the title, then we'll backtrack to last night's meal and activities.  My goal, both when I bought my groceries and even as I set out to start my chopping and cooking and whatnot tonight was to make Panang Cucumber Curry from the hallowed pages of the September Vegetarian Times magazine.  As I was going along, though, I realized that I made so many tweaks that what I made didn't actually resemble the recipe at all, aside from that they both involved cucumbers and the end result was a delicious curry.

Since I departed so far from the original recipe that I didn't actually consult the magazine at all once I started cooking, I feel completely clear to give you my easier, pared down recipe:

Tofu-Veggie Curry with Special Sauce
makes 4-6 servings (4, if you're piggy like me and Mister)

1 cup basmati rice
1 3/4 cups water

14 oz extra firm tofu, cubed and drained
1 large hothouse cucumber, cubed
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced thinly lengthwise
1 Tbsp peanut oil
2 Tbsp tamari, divided
15 oz jar of prepared curry cooking sauce*

Boil water in a 2.5-qt saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.  Stir in basmati rice and cover, reducing heat to its lowest setting.  Steam for 20-25 minutes then turn off heat and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes, preferably 10.

Meanwhile, cube the tofu into 1" pieces and allow to drain on a towel.  [Alternately, you could press it for an hour, but my main goal here was a quick and easy meal.]  Heat the peanut oil and 1 Tbsp tamari in a saute pan or large, deep skillet until the tamari starts to bubble a bit.  Add the tofu and stir, gently but thoroughly, to coat all tofu with the tamari-oil mixture.  Cover and saute on medium heat 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, while you prep the pepper and cucumber.

About 5 minutes into the tofu sauteing time, lay bell pepper slices over top of the tofu and replace cover. Dice your cucumber, then stir the cucumber in with the pepper slices and tofu; at the same time, stir in the prepared curry sauce and the remaining 1 Tbsp tamari.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently 3-5 minutes, just until the sauce and cucumber are warmed through.

To serve, plate a bed of basmati and then spoon the curry over top of it.  You could garnish with a thai basil leaf if you want to be fancy.  I didn't.

* I used Patak's Original Jalfrezi Curry Cooking Sauce for our dinner and I quite liked how it came out.  It was not terribly spicy at all, so if you're looking for that aspect, you may want to also stir in any spare harissa or sambal oelek you have lying around.  Patak's has a whole line of curry cooking sauces, but be sure to check the ingredients - this one is vegan, but others use real cream.

Anyway, when I got home from work last night, my home was dark.  How many times have I started a Leftovers story like that?  Does anyone have the next line memorized?  I'll give you one hint.

So, since Mister was unconscious and slightly delirious and taking up the whole bed, I decided to try to "enhance" what was left of our totally anticlimactic Orecchiette con Broccoli.

I started out by heating some olive oil and white wine together in a skillet.  I added the last of the leftovers and sprinkled everything generously with my Mediterranean sea salt, but then I decided to also add some tamari.  There are very few things in the realm of stove-top cooking that I don't think would be improved by the addition of tamari.

Fortunately for me, this was definitely one of those things!  It was so tasty I was disappointed there was so little left!  In the end, though, it left more room for dessert: Soy Delicious Fruit-sweetened Chocolate Almond "ice cream."

My internet connection crapped out before I could come on here and babble, but that gave me a great excuse to do two things I'd been meaning to do for a while: I mended a hole in my bathrobe and a whole mess of socks while watching "Pretty Woman" for the first time in at least a year (that's a long time for me to go without!).

Did someone say Pretty Woman?

Purely by coincidence, there just happens to be a new post up on Pretty Woman in an Ugly World.  It's not about the Whole Foods experience, rather, I take on an even bigger giant - the Starpower of Starbucks.  Check it out if you have a chance!

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