Palak “Paneer” aka silken tofu

I’ve had this recipe in draft mode for months because I can’t seem to get a picture that makes it look as appealing as it truly is.  So now I’m going to be okay with the photo, and just let you know that it’s so good – it’s vegan comfort food.

Paneer is a fresh cheese you can make at home with milk and lemon – the silken tofu does a great job of representing the creamy, almost melty texture of paneer.  Tofu will also satisfy your umami cravings – umami is known as the fifth or savoury taste, which is often satisfied by meat.  Tofu also contains the compounds that the taste buds register to satisfy the savoury cravings.  Maybe that’s why this one seems like comfort food to me.

You need:

2 red onions

1 garlic clove

3 small green chillies

2 cm piece of ginger, grated

5 tablespoons vegetable oil (butter if you eat dairy)

500g/2 bunches spinach

1 teaspoon cornstarch or tapioca starch

1 block soft silken tofu (the “paneer”)

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 or more cups plain yogurt

salt to taste

What you do:

1.  This is great served on Brown Basmati Coconut Rice, so you’ll want to start that first.  White rice won’t take as long, so if you’re using that you don’t need to start it yet.

2.  Put onions, garlic, chillies and ginger in food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.  You may need to add a little water.

3.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil/butter in a large frying pan, then cook the spices on medium heat until fragrant.  Add the other 3 tablespoons of oil/butter and the onion paste,  cooking for about 10 minutes.

4.  Cook the spinach until wilted and add to the food processor along with the cornstarch and puree it.  Add the spinach, along with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, to the paste. Bring it to a boil and cook for about two minutes.  At this time have a taste and see if it needs more salt; it probably will.

6.  Cut the tofu into squares and add it to the pan to heat it.  Once it is hot, stir in the yogurt carefully so the tofu doesn’t break too much, and serve right away.

I enjoy this one for leftovers too!

You can substitute the spinach with swiss chard if you like.

Tofu Ricotta Pasta Filling – Dairy free

This dairy-free faux ricotta can be used in many pasta dishes – homemade tortellini, lasanga, stuffed shells… great to experiment with!   It’s a treat for people who can’t eat dairy, but I’ve also served it to the lactose tolerant to rave reviews.

What you need:

350 grams extra-firm tofu

3 cloves garlic, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 bunch fresh/box frozen spinach

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

1/4 cup vegan parmesan (or lactose free)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

What you do:

1.  Combine tofu, garlic, olive oil, chopped garlic, and salt in food processor and blend until the tofu is finely ground.

2.  If you are using fresh spinach, you can wilt it in a frying pan, let it cool, and squeeze out the excess moisture.  If you are using frozen it should be thawed, and then you can squeeze the moisture out.

3.  Add parmesan, bread crumbs and pepper to the tofu mixture, and mix in well.

4.  Add spinach and mix in well.

5.  Now you can adjust the seasonings to taste, and use it to fill your pasta.

I have used this to:

-fill large brown rice pasta shells, then cover with tomato sauce and bake

-use as a layer in a lasagna with tomato sauce and vegan pesto

-fill homemade tortellini and top with either parmesan or tomato sauce

-you can also use this recipe without the spinach, bread crumbs and cheese as a substitute for ricotta

Here’s what it look like if you puree the spinach rather than mixing it in at the end: