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.

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.

Spinach Borani

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No Iranian meal is complete without a yogurt-based side dish of some sort. The cucumber and mint-flecked mast-o khiar is most common (and a close cousin to Indian raita and Greek tzatziki). Spinach borani flies under the radar, despite it being just as delicious.

More substantial than its cucumber counterpart, spinach borani is a simple but perfect side dish alongside an Iranian khoresh but it’s just at home next to curry (and if you’re like me, straight out of the bowl as a standalone snack). Borani keeps for a few days in the fridge, so it’s perfect with leftovers.

Spinach borani

Ingredients:

1 pound spinach (about 1 bunch), washed
2 to 3 cups Persian or Greek-style yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

1. Blanch the spinach: bring a pot of water to a boil; add spinach, and blanch for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and drain spinach in a colander, rinsing under cold water. Squeeze spinach to remove excess liquid and coarsely chop.

2. In a serving bowl, thoroughly mix yogurt, spinach, garlic, adding salt and pepper to taste.

3. Chill the bowl in the refrigerator for at least half an hour before serving, allowing the flavors to set. Serve cold or at room temperature.