Homestyle Sichuan Tofu

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Sichuan chili bean paste is my most used condiment in the fridge these days. Made from fermented broad beans, soybeans, salt, rice, and spices, doubanjiang is spicy, salty and packs a punch — a delicious, warming punch. It’s perfect stir-fried with all manner of ingredients (seriously). It’s essential in this easy, warming dish of tofu and a healthy amount of alliums. Add a bowl of rice and you’re all set.

Homestyle Sichuan tofu

Ingredients:

1 block of firm tofu (about 1 pound)
Vegetable oil for shallow-frying
2 tablespoons chili bean paste
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 inches ginger, sliced
2 leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally
1 1/3 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons cold water

1. Cut the tofu into square slices 2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick.

2. Heat oil for shallow-frying to a high temperature. Add the tofu slices in batches and fry for a few minutes until golden (they should still be tender and white on the inside). Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3. In the same wok, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over moderate heat. Add the chili bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is red and fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

4. Add the chicken stock and tofu and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, season with sugar and soy sauce, and simmer for 4 minutes until the liquid is reduced and the tofu has absorbed some of the sauce. Add the leeks and stir briefly until just cooked. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the wok, stir until the sauce thickens, and turn out onto a serving platter.

Mixed Vegetable and Yogurt Pachadi

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This “salad” of sorts is actually a pachadi, or a south Indian yogurt-based side dish not unlike raita, its north Indian counterpart. This pachadi is endlessly adaptable — feel free to use more or less of whichever vegetable depending on your preference. Easy to prepare, this makes a perfect accompaniment alongside rice.

Also, please ignore the awful lighting in this photo. I mean, sometimes you just gotta eat the pachadi and there’s no time for perfect lighting, amirite?

Mixed vegetable curd salad

Ingredients:

1 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 green chili, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 cups yogurt
salt, to taste
2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon urad dal
1 teaspoon chana dal (yellow split peas)
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder
1 red chili, halved lengthwise
1 sprig curry leaves

1. In a bowl, mix the cucumber, tomato, onion, green chili, and cilantro leaves with the yogurt, adding salt to taste.

2. Heat oil in a small skillet and add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal, chana dal, asafoetida powder, red chili, and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds begin to sputter, add this mixture to the yogurt and mix thoroughly. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Iranian Lentil Soup (Adassi)

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This recipe is greater than the sum of its parts. With only seven ingredients, it’s easy to overlook, but don’t be fooled. One spoonful of adasi and I’m instantly transported back to my childhood summer visits to Tehran. I can almost taste the freshly-picked and hand-dried angelica seeds and the bright, tart Persian limes that are so difficult to come by in the U.S.

I’ve substituted Meyer lemons here but the golpar, or angelica powder is essential to this hearty soup. You can find angelica powder at Iranian and some Middle Eastern grocers.

After the gluttony of the holidays, adassi is simple, comforting, and exactly what I’m craving in the new year.

Adassi

Ingredients:

2 cups lentils, cleaned and washed
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon angelica powder
1 lime, halved

1. Place lentils in a saucepan and add 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally; adding more water if needed.

2. In a skillet, fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until golden brown. Add it to the lentils, season with salt and pepper, and let simmer over low heat for another 45 minutes.

3. Add angelica powder and lime juice to taste and remove from heat. Serve hot.

Chicken Slivers with Flowering Chives

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This recipe is malleable to say the least. Originally a Sichuan recipe of pork with yellow chives, I’ve adapted it to make it less, uh, porky. But I also swapped out the chives. Chinese yellow chives have been grown under cover without exposure to sunlight, and were originally called for here. They’re similar to the more commonly found Chinese chives, or jiu cai, but more delicate in flavor. There are also flowering chives, which are just as delicious and crunchier.

I love them all. But I can’t always find yellow chives or flowering chives, so feel free to use them interchangeably here. Just don’t use regular ol’ supermarket chives. It’s just not the same.

Slivered chicken with garlic chives

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
3/4 pound flowering chives (or yellow chives or garlic chives), washed and trimmed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine
2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch or potato flour
1 teaspoon soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon black Chinese vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock

1. Slice the chicken into fine strips, about 2 inches long. Place them in a bowl, add the salt, rice wine, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 teaspoons water, and mix. Let stand for 15 minutes.

2. Cut the chives into 2-inch lengths. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch, and chicken stock in a bowl and set aside.

3. Add oil to a wok over high heat. Add the chicken slivers and stir-fry to separate them, about 2 minutes until the meat is just about cooked, then add the chives. Continue to stir-fry until the chives are tender, then add the sauce to the wok. Cook for a minute longer, until the sauce has thickened, then turn onto a serving platter.

Kadalai (Chickpea) Curry

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This chickpea curry is popular not only in Sri Lanka but in South India as well. In this version, a Jaffna-style curry powder gives the dish its spicy, complex flavor. It’s worth making your curry powder — the store-bought version doesn’t compare. Use the leftover curry powder in other dishes. It’ll go quickly, trust me.

This easy weeknight curry is perfect with rice or flatbread alongside Iranian torshi or Sri Lankan sambol.

Kadala curry

Ingredients:

4 ounces dry red chiles
8 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
1/2 cup water
1-inch piece ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/4 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
4 sprigs curry leaves
1 tomato, diced
salt, to taste
1 teaspoon garam masala
juice of 1 lemon

1. Make the Jaffna-style curry powder: Place chiles, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and 2 sprigs of the curry leaves in a pan and dry roast until curry leaves are crisp. Roast fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and fenugreek seeds until golden brown. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of turmeric. Mix all ingredients together and grind in a spice grinder. Set aside.

2. Boil potato in salted water for 4 minutes and drain.

3. Grind 1/4 cup of the chickpeas, water, ginger, garlic, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon turmeric in a food processor.

4. Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Saute onions and remaining 2 sprigs of curry leaves until onions are translucent. Add 1 heaping teaspoon of Jaffna-style curry powder and mix for 1 minute. (Place unused curry powder in a glass jar and store in the fridge, reserving for other uses.) Add remaining chickpeas, potato, chickpea puree, tomato, and salt to taste. Simmer until mixture is thick and creamy, about 15 minutes.

5. Add garam masala and lemon juice, stir to mix thoroughly, and serve warm.