Panang Curry with Tofu & Vegetables

I don’t know about you but when I am in the kitchen cooking, I listen to music. Usually, it is Deep Purple or Pink Floyd but I also mix it up and simply put shuffle on Pandora. Music makes the cooking experience even better because it is like food for the mind. You find yourself singing as you chop vegetables or dancing while you are mixing. I sporadically break into song, not caring what I sound like or whether my husband is covering his ears and grimacing. The only time there is silence is when I am cooking or baking something challenging or that I have never tried before and I need to concentrate.

After a week and a half of staying with my parents in Virginia while my mom was recovering, I returned home, exhausted but happy that she was getting better. The next day, you would think I should have been sleeping all day, sitting in front of the TV or reading but noooo! I went straight to the kitchen and started cooking and baking. Going on websites, looking for recipes, reading about food, grocery shopping, prepping the ingredients and cooking/baking is to me, very relaxing. I know it might sound crazy to some; however, it gives me a sense of calm and curiosity. It is a constant learning experience, and sometimes a disappointment but always fun!

So, that day, I was craving Thai food and decided to make a good tofu curry. Don’t let the number of ingredients worry you, because it is an easy, beautiful, colorful dish to make. It tastes really good–a tad sweet and a good amount of spice. It is healthy and you can experiment with it every time you make it and use different vegetables.

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Don’t forget to drain the water from the tofu. Simply put it on a plate on top of several paper towels. Cover it with several paper towels and place something heavy-don’t grab 20 pound weights or a one-year old Panda-on top. I usually put a small pan with dried beans or 3 pound weights. Leave it in the fridge for half an hour or until you start cooking. I used extra-firm tofu even though the recipe called for firm. Either kind works. I did not have kaffir lime leaves so I added some Thai basil. Thai basil is different from regular basil–it has a distinct, pleasant smell. Try it and see for yourself. I used creamy peanut butter instead of almond butter. Feel free to use what you like.

Even though you do not see red curry paste above or in the recipe, I happen to love that stuff so I used the entire bottle. Use half if you prefer your curry to be mildly spicy or omit it altogether if you want to follow the recipe. It is a small bottle and you can find it at Whole Foods or other grocery stores. Okay, I know this is misleading and I apologize but I omitted the ground cumin and turmeric because red curry paste already has cumin seeds (and probably kaffir leaves).

Now, sadly, I don’t remember if I added turmeric but it would turn out great either way. If you have time and are willing, make your own red curry paste 🙂 You don’t always have to follow a recipe. It is good to veer off the tracks once in a while. For some specific recipes, which require certain ingredients and methods, you should probably stick to what they say 🙂

Recipe taken from in my bowl

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoons coconut oil
½  cup shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup water
14 oz light coconut milk
3 kaffir lime leaves
½  tablespoon coconut sugar or agave
14 oz (about 1 package) firm tofu, drained and cup into small cubes
3 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 ½  cups broccoli florets (feel free to use frozen)
Juice of 1 lime

DIRECTIONS:

Heat coconut oil in a heavy skillet (I use cast iron) over medium high heat. Add shallots, ginger and garlic and sauté, continuously stirring until soft and beginning to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Be sure to scrape bottom periodically.

Add almond butter and spices and stir to combine until very aromatic. Then, whisk water, coconut milk, the lime leaves and sugar. Bring the ingredients to a simmer, then carefully add the tofu and vegetables.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are soft and fork tender, stirring periodically. Remove from heat, remove lime leaves, and squeeze lime juice over entire dish.

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