Tag Archives: chili

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew

Ma-Po Eggplant Tofu Stew

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew, served with a fresh Japanese Turnip Pickle

It started with the turnips. Japanese turnips, fresh from the garden. This inspired me to use the fermented black beans, which I picked up at an Asian grocery store on a whim one (+) year ago. Sometimes my food-association astounds me. The fermented black beans led me to the question: “What do I do with these?”. Apparently not a whole lot that I could find. It is however the main ingredient of Doubanjiang, a Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce. Doubanjiang is also the star ingredient for Ma Po Tofu, a spicy wok tofu dish from the Sichuan province. And thus the dish was born! To add to the difficulty, I could not find a recipe for Doubanjiang, as apparently it is much more sane common to use the pre-made sauce. Doubanjiang is also called toban djan, lado ban jiang, or Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce. After much searching, I found a base recipe that looked to match the ingredient label of a common pre-made sauce. The end result of this inspiration was a spicy hot-and-sour soup alternative that is addictive and delicious. Sometimes my crazy food-association games turn out better than even I could dream of!

As I do not own a wok, I didn’t want to compromise my first Ma Po Tofu experience with sub-par equipment, so I turned the concept into a stew. To help this I added eggplant and bok choy, with the final result of a spicy hot and sour soup type dish. The results were amazing. It will warm your soul, tickle your taste buds, and clear your sinuses. The soft tofu is almost unnoticeable (a concern for me and my texture issues). The eggplant and dried mushrooms add some texture, the greens colour, and the consommé (fancy word for clear broth) is absolutely divine. It will trick anybody into thinking that you slaved over a hot stove for hours building complex flavour, instead of the 45min. that it takes. I served the stew with a quick turnip pickle, to highlight the turnip inspiration. The robust flavour is due to the homemade Doubanjiang, and the fermented black beans. Of course, you can use the bought sauce – I’m sure it’d be just as delicious, and perhaps even more true to the Ma Po Tofu inspiration.

The Doubanjiang took less than 15min. to make, and most of that was rinsing the black beans. The black beans are fermented in salt, and right out of the package they’re like eating a salt lick. Make sure you rinse them very very well! The amount of Thai chilis seem excessive for only 2/3 cup of sauce, but if you think of the sauce as a spicy soy sauce, its more reasonable. I didn’t have the yellow rice wine or the dark rice vinegar, so I googled “appropriate” substitutions more common in my kitchen. Next time I will try to make the recipe as written, but this version was fantastic. The sauce itself was like a spicy vinegar soy sauce which was quite thick. I am not in the habit of having pre-made stir fry sauces on hand, but I am assuming this’d be fantastic with a quick Asian vegetable stir-fry. I tailored the recipe to use the full amount in the stew, and it was perfect!

This dish is sure to impress. Different and exotic, it is one I will be making again!

 

Ma Po Tofu and Eggplant Stew

4 dried flower mushrooms

6 cloves garlic, minced

⅔ cup doubanjiang sauce (lado ban jiang, toban djan; Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce)

4 cups eggplant, diced into ½” cubes (1 med.)

350g. soft tofu, drained and diced into ½” cubes

4+ cups water

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

3 cups bok choy, chopped

2 tbsp. Sriracha

4 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced

Directions:

1) In small bowl, cover dried mushrooms with 1” boiling water. Let soak for 30min., until soft.

2) In large pot, sauté garlic in 2 tbsp. of water on high, stirring frequently. Sauté until garlic slightly brown.

3) Stir in doubanjiang. Sauté for 1min.

4) Add the eggplant, stir. Cover and sauté until eggplant begins to get soft, approx. 5min. Add water as necessary to prevent sticking.

5) Add tofu and water. Stir very gently, so as to not break the tofu. Bring to a low boil.

6) Drain the mushrooms and slice into bite-sized pieces.

7) Add the sliced mushrooms and rice vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook until eggplant tender, approx. 10min.

8) Add the bok choy and Sriracha. Stir and bring to a simmer.

9) Turn off heat, stir in scallions.

10) Serve with rice or Asian noodles of choice.

 

Doubanjiang Sauce (Lado Ban Jiang, Toban Djan; Sichuan Chili Bean Sauce)

10 fresh red Thai chilis, minced

⅓ cup fermented black beans

1 tbsp. yellow rice wine (sub: gin, white wine; I used rice vinegar)

2 tsp. dark rice vinegar (sub: balsamic vinegar)

½ tsp. Sucanet

Directions:

1) With a fine mesh strainer, rinse the black beans really well, to remove all excess salt.

2) In small saucepan, sauté chilis and black beans in 2 tbsp. water on medium-low until fragrant, approx. 2-3min.

3) Add rice wine and rice vinegar. Simmer 3min. Add water as necessary for consistency.

4) Stir in Sucanet and remove from heat. Let cool completely

5) Store in mason jar in fridge: will keep for 3 weeks

Makes ⅔ cups of sauce


Masala Two Ways: Edamame Masala and Jackfruit Masala

Edamame Masala: The edamame adds protein, and they look like precious gems nestled in the curry!

Edamame Masala: The edamame adds protein, and they look like precious gems nestled in the curry!

Jackfruit Masala: More exotic with the jackfruit, but just as delicious!

Jackfruit Masala: More exotic with the jackfruit, but just as delicious!

I am forever amazed and astounded at the sheer volume and variety of Indian curries. I tend to love the tomato-based, fiery curry versions and will only occasionally stray to the coconut-based. Tomato curries are generally from Northern India, while their coconut cousins tend to be from the South. One such tomato curry that recently piqued my interest is the Masala curry. I tried to find ‘rules’ as to what makes the Masala curry a ‘Masala’, but could find no general guidelines. Thus, I created two versions of a Masala – one with edamame (to replace the peas) and one with jackfruit (because experimenting with jackfruit is delicious! Cases in point: Thai Jackfruit Curry and Ethiopian Jackfruit W’et).

The recipe formula is below. For the Edamame Masala I used Edamame, and for the Jackfruit Masala I replaced the edamame with one 19oz. can young jackfruit (in brine). I also omitted the mushrooms, because I used the last of them in the Edamame Masala. Being an engineer, I did a side-by-side comparpison to evaluate the results. First, the flavour profile. As the base of the Masala did not change between the two, the final taste didn’t change as well. The spice mix is subtly spicy, but with a tangy kick at the end from the asofetida. The Sucanet takes the edge off the spice, but the curry doesn’t taste sweet at all – a relief to this spice lover! The garam masala adds a savoury element to the curry, and the veggies and greens soak up the flavour wonderfully. The real difference (obviously) is in the edamame/jackfruit. While I prefer the edamame for the protein profile, it’s the jackfruit version that really shines. The jackfruit and the eggplant lend some texture to the dish, and the jackfruit gets saturated with all that lovely spice during the simmer. The results of my taste test? I love them both! I leave it up to you to choose between the two – or even your own version! The curry sauce is worth making regardless of the added veggies, as a different tomato curry offering that is subtly spicy, tangy, and savoury – a delectable curry sure to please!

Masala Curry

1 (16oz.) bag frozen edamame, thawed (or 1 (19oz.) can young jackfruit (in brine), drained and cut into bite-sized pieces)

1 (28oz.) can diced tomatoes, or 2 cups diced

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. red chili powder

1 tbsp. ginger, minced

½ tsp. ground coriander

2 green chilis, minced

1 tsp. canola oil

½ tsp. cumin seeds

Pinch of asafetida (hing)

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp. grounder coriander

½ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. turmeric

½ tsp. Sucanet

1 lb. eggplant, cubed

1 green bell pepper, cubed

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 small zucchini, cut into ½ moons

4 cups greens, chiffonade

2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

¼ tsp. garam masala

Directions:

1) In food processor, puree tomatoes, salt chili powder, ginger, ½ tsp. ground coriander, and green chilis

2) In large pot, heat oil on medium-high and add cumin seeds. Sauté until seeds begin to crack.

3) Add asafetida and bay leaves. Stir and sauté approx. 30s.

4) Add tomato puree and remaining spiced. Stir and bring to a simmer.

5) Add eggplant, edamame, and water to adjust for thickness. Simmer approx. 5 min.

6) Add bell pepper, mushrooms, and zucchini. Simmer until eggplant is tender, approx. 15min.

7) Add greens, cilantro, and garam masala. Stir and cover. Cook until greens bright green and wilted, approx. 2min.

8) Remove from heat and let sit covered approx. 2 min.

9) Serve with naan, roti, and/or rice.


Khao Soi Thai Curry

Khao Soi Thai Curry

Khao Soi Thai Curry is a dish that hails from Chiang Mai, Thailand. It is completely different from all other Thai curries I have tried in the past, and completely delicious. Traditionally it is a noodle dish, with a spicy coconut-based curry sauce drenching the noodles. With some crunchy noodles to top off the dish. What intrigued me about this dish was the use of picked sour mustard greens, which I picked up at my local grocery store because I had never heard of them. The other curiosity was the method of the curry paste. Instead of the traditional ginger/lemongrass/herbs/fresh chilies, this one uses roasted dried red chillies ground into a paste with some ginger, shallot, garlic, coriander, and turmeric. I had only seen that technique before with Indian curries, so I knew I had to try this out!

I took inspiration from this recipe found here: Herbivoracious – Khao Soi Thai Curry Noodles. However, I was more in the mood for a vegetable based curry, so I made some significant additions to the recipe. A brief moment of panic near the end of my creation – I had forgotten about the noodles! The dish as I made it however was superb. The curry paste has so much flavour – it definitely packs a wallop even for this spice lover! The vegetables were a lovely counter balance to the tofu, giving the dish different textures. For serving, I chiffonade the picked sour mustard greens and added them to the curry pot. Their tang added that extra dimension to the curry sauce, making it a well-rounded bowl of bliss. Unique and different, this curry is definitely a go-to recipe in the future. Maybe next time I’ll even remember the noodles!

Khao Soi Thai Curry

Curry Paste:

5 large, whole dried red chilis (pasilla, ancho, New Mexico), stemmed

½ cup shallot, diced

2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

½ tsp. garlic, minced

½ tsp. coriander seeds

1 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. garam masala

Directions:

1) In large pot (save on dishes!) dry roast chilis on medium for 2min.

2) Add shallot, ginger, and garlic. Stir continuously and cook until chilis very fragrant

3) Add coriander, turmeric, and garam masala. Stir to combine.

4) Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

5) Puree mixture in blender with ¼ cup water until thick paste forms. *NOTE* This mixture stained my blender. To let it rest, I highly suggest pouring it into a bowl. Unless you don’t mind turmeric-stained blenders 🙂

Curry:

3 (13.8oz.) cans coconut milk (5¼ cups) OR almond milk

¼ cup light soy sauce

2 tsp. Sucanet

1 (454g.) package firm tofu, cut into ½” cubes

Salt, to taste

1 cup (+) water

Juice of 4 limes

¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 cup Chinese pickled mustard greens OR 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage tossed in ¼ cup white vinegar

Optional additional vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, bok choy (or other Asian greens), cherry tomatoes

Version depicted above: 2 chinese eggplants, cut into ½” moons

2 small zucchini, cut into ½” moons

1 cup cherry tomatoes

4 cups fresh spinach

Directions:

1) In large pot pour 1 can coconut milk (1¾ cup). Simmer on medium until milk begins to separate

2) Stir in half of the curry paste, soy sauce, and Sucanet. Simmer until thick enough to coat back of spoon, approx. 10min.

3) Add tofu and optional vegetables. Simmer 10min.

4) Add remaining chili paste, coconut milk, and water. Simmer approx. 5min.

5) Add lime juice, cilantro, and Chinese picked mustard greens. Stir and remove from heat.

6) Serve with noodles.


Red Posole Vegetable Chili

Red Posole Chili

I have an addiction to buying dried beans. The stranger they look the better. Of course I have my staples: lentils (green and red), chickpeas, black eyed peas, black beans, and mung beans to name a few. This chili was born upon the realization that I just purchased El Salvadorian Red Beans and I needed to use them. Now. I vaguely recalled a recipe called “Red Beans and Rice” in Viva Vegan by Terry Hope Romero, but I wasn’t feeling the rice and bean vibe. When I was closing the book, it naturally fell open to a recipe called “Quick Red Posole”, which looked slightly more promising. But by this time other beans in the arsenal were calling my name, so the Red Posole was bookmarked for another day. But this quick flip through got the creative juices flowing, and with a quick inventory in my fridge this fiery Red Posole Vegetable Chili was born!

The mixture of beans is totally up to your discretion: add more variety or less – it’s up to you! The vegetables are also infinitely adaptable, making this the perfect on-a-whim I-need-chili-NOW recipe. This first variation used leftover mushrooms for chewiness and bell pepper, zucchini, and spinach for colour. I roasted the dried chilis old school: dry toast them in a pan on your stove, pressing down with a spatula. Turn over when they start to blacken (or smoke), and remove from heat quickly. The whole process takes less than 2 min., and the roasted dried chilis add such depth to the chili it would be remiss without. However, if this sounds like a recipe for disaster, by all means you can skip this step for the safety of your kitchen! This chili was absolutely delicious, and tasted even better as leftovers. So without further ado, I present to you Yet Another Chili recipe!

 

Red Posole Vegetable Chili

½ cup dried black beans (1½ cups cooked)
½ cup dried black eyed peas (1½ cups cooked)
½ cup dried red beans (1½ cups cooked)
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. garlic, minced
¾ cup onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
2 dried ancho chilis, roasted and chopped
1½ cup bell pepper, diced
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
1¾ cup zucchini, cut into ½” half moons
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 ½ tsp. dried oregano
3 ½ cup tomatoes, diced OR 1 (32oz.) can diced tomatoes
4 cups water
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3 cups fresh spinach
1 tbsp. lime juice
salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

Directions:
1) If required, cook beans
2) In large pot, sauté garlic in oil on medium-high until brown, ~30s.
3) Add onions. Saute until soft, ~3-4min.
4) Add jalapenos, roasted dried chilis, and bell pepper. Saute until soft,~3min.
5) Add mushrooms, zucchini, and spices. Stir. Add ~2 cups water and cook until zucchini slightly soft, ~5min.
6) Add cooked beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, and 4 cups water. Stir, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook ~35 min, stirring occasionally.
7) Add spinach in batches; stir and cook until bright green and wilted.
8) Add lime juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne (to taste). Stir.
9) Turn off heat and let sit ~5 min. before serving to let the flavours meld.


Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Chili

Brussels Sprout and Sweet Potato Chili

 (Apologies for the poor picture: I am in the process of moving across the country and only had capabilities for the point-and-shoot no-edit)

The title says it all. Brussels sprouts and sweet potato meet together in a fiery hot chili that has been the side dish for more than one festive meal. Brussels sprouts generally have a bad reputation – I did not have my first sprout until my late 20’s, on account of family ‘brussels sprout issues’. Perhaps I wouldn’t like them so much if I was force-fed them growing up (like tomato soup), but these little vegetables are cute versions of cabbage and taste faintly of broccoli. As an extra bonus, they hold their shape in soups and stews, so you have something firm to chew on instead of wilted leaves or random specks of broccoli florets. They are especially decadent shaved thin and roasted until very brown (some would say burnt); every bushel of brussels sprouts that make it to my kitchen have at least one dish prepared this way! But not everybody has been charmed by these cute little cabbages, so to bring them over to the dark side I present to you this chili.

This chili is a warm, hearty stew that is quick to throw together and disappears just as fast. Pinto beans add some protein, however navy beans or chickpeas are also fantastic. Sweet potatoes (always good in a chili!) are the bulk of the dish, and pair well with the tomatoes and chili powder. The brussels sprouts add some colour, a different texture, and a broccoli/cabbage feel to the chili. Brussels haters won’t even know that they are there! In fact, the last time I made this dish for the family, the self-diagnosed ‘brussels sprouts issues’ individuals first tentative spoonful came with an eye roll and a “clearly I’m humouring you” attitude, then proceeded to lick the bowl clean. And then go for seconds, thirds … one small step for the mighty Brussels Sprout!

This recipe is from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Although an excellent cookbook that is a solid standby for quick weeknight dinners, Isa has also posted the recipe for this dish on her website, the PPK. You can find the recipe here: Chipotle Chili with Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprouts. 

*Substitution note: As I never have chipotles hanging about, I substitute normal jalapenos. For chipotle smokiness, a drop or two of liquid smoke may get you the same effect, but I have never tried it.

Embrace the Brussels Sprout! Chili for a holiday meal? Why not, I say! It’s a wonderful change to the maple sugared toothache-inducing ‘traditional’ preparation of both the sweet potato and brussels sprout. The taste will win over even the staunchest brussels sprouts “haters” – a perfect excuse to make more!


Tempeh Tikka Masala with Naan

Doesn't look like much, but it's heaven in a bowl!

Doesn’t look like much, but it’s heaven in a bowl!

Spicy tomato curries are a weakness of mine. I have yet to come across one that I have not immediately pledged my undying love to. Whether it be a vegetable curry, a daal, a veggie-daal combo, or something that gets thrown into the pot because your fridge is conspiring against you, they are all amazing. But this Tempeh Tikka Masala is quite possibly the best curry I have ever had the privledge of eating. Ever. Scooped up with delicious, easy, vegan naan bread and this quite possibly may be my definition of heaven.

Tempeh is one of my favourite protein sources. I rarely buy it, and when I do I let it talk to me. What does it want to be? Braised in a Mexican beer marinade and used as wraps? Sauted with soy sauce and used in a Macro Bowl? Well, this block was telling (demanding) me that it needed to be in a curry. Only a spicy tomato curry would make its life complete, and I was happy to oblige. I have never had ‘real’ Tikka Masala, and so this was a new experience for us both. The recipe is compliments of Vegan Richa (Formerly Hobbies and More), an amazing cook that has a life mission it seems to bring to the world the best that Northern India has to offer. The tempeh is first marinated in a mixture of curry spices and a small amount of yogurt. The curry is then built up with a pureed tomato base of fresh tomatoes, ginger, chili, and garlic. Aromatic Indian spices such as garam masala, paprika, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, asafoetida (hing), and turmeric season the dish, turning the puree into something magical. Kale is added for some greens, although spinach would work as well. The tempeh is cooked seperately to sear the edgesand carmelize the marinade, then it’s all simmered together for as long as you can resist. Creamyness is added to the curry with the addition of yogurt and milk. This was my first time in adding yogurt to a curry to make it creamy, and the results did not dissapoint. I used Amande yogurt, but coconut yogurt would also be delectable here. This dish to me is comfort food to the max, with the right mixture of sauce, spice, and chewiness with the tempeh. Scooped with naan, and its bliss in a bowl.

The Tempeh Tikka Masala recipe can be found here: Vegan Richa – Tempeh Tikka Masala

I must admit, I never realized that naan bread had milk or yogurt in it. When dining at Indian restaurants, I tend to prefer roti or pampads, because those are the two items that I consistently set my oven on fire with when I try to make them. Naan is the soft, fluffy cousin of roti, and a new scooping vessel for me. It would make a great pizza base, or hummus vessel. This recipe is also from Vegan Richa, and my results were nothing short of phenominal. Soft, pillowy naan greeted me from the oven, with nary a lick of flame in sight! It requires a bit more pre-planning than roti because it needs to rise, but its definately worth the effort! This recipe will be used in the future for my next attempt at stuffed breads: Paratha. The verison I made here was the yogurt version (again with Amande), but next time I think I will add some garlic  and whole cumin seeds for a truly decadent naan.

This easy, delicious, and sure fire naan recipe can be found here: Vegan Richa – Naan


Million Ingredient Chili

The most delicious “standard” comfort chili around!

Really … the title says it all! The heat wave had broken it was a cloudy, rainy, lazy Sunday, and I celebrated by making a huge vat of chili. Not just any standard vat of chili – but a 12 quart vat of slow cooked chili comfort. Chili is one of those freezer staples that is like putting on your favourite ratty sweatshirt and sweats after a no-good-rotten day. With nothing else to do, I decided to challenge myself and make the Best Chili Ever. Whenever Top Chef has their chili challenges all the chefs’ whine about how chili is an all-nighter and it needs constant attention, so I looked for the most involved, complex, slow-cook recipe I could find while still being able to make it in time for dinner. And I found this recipe with a Million Ingredients (or close to), and I have found my comfort chili recipe.

Compliments of Kathy of Healthy. Happy. Life., this chili won her a chili cook-off. It is everything a standard, non-fusion chili should be. Tons of beans for stick-to-your-ribs goodness, mushrooms for a nice toothy-meaty texture, and a sauce that is half roasted, half simmered, with dark molasses lending a nice rich colour. Half the veggies are tossed in oil, spices, and roasted to add depth. The other half compose of a “Veggie Pot Roast” which is first simmered in a tangy molasses-based sauce and then roasted. The tomato base is simmered throughout the process, and everything is dumped into the one pot and simmered for at least one hour and however much longer you can resist the delicious aroma! All of these steps generate a lot of dishes, but with a lot of downtime in between by dinner you could even have a dishes-free cleanup if you use your time wisely. The end result is a delicious affair that could be served with rice or cornbread, but why waste valuable stomach real estate when you could dig into another bowl? It freezes and reheats exceptionally well, and for a quick lunch serving a bowl of chili on top of a pile of greens cannot be beat. So next time you find yourself having an Eeyore day, make this chili and a smile will be on your face by dinner!

The recipe can be found on Kathy’s webpage Healthy.Happy.Life here: Roasted Vegetable Chili

I made the following changes, due to last-minute planning and pantry constraints:

Part A: Roasted Veggies: I omitted the agave, as I am still not sold on sweet in savoury. Do not skip the cherry tomatoes! Putting these into the chili gave a tomato-duo combination at the end that is as unique as it is delicious.

Part B: Veggie Pot Roast: I used olive oil instead of butter, and used 6 dried shitake mushrooms (reconstituted) instead of the sausage. Personally I thought the meatiness of the sliced reconstituted shitake mushrooms matched the beans better than sausage, but this may be a departure from ‘classic’ chili. I like a toothsome quality to chili. I also used 3 jalapenos instead of the chipotle peppers in adobo, as that is not a pantry staple. Finally, I omitted the corn (personal preference).

Part C:  Tomato Base: Again, more jalapenos instead of chipotle peppers in adobo. This may have made my chili less smoky and more ‘clean’ spicy, but I thought it was still delicious! In an attempt to compensate I threw in a dash of liquid smoke near the end. For the bean mixture I used a mixture of pinto beans, black beans, fava beans, and chickpeas. The more beans the better! After all, you do control the chili pot.

Do not be intimidated by the million ingredient list. The best part of chili is that at the end of the day you can clean out your fridge and use whatever beans you have and it will still be delicious comfort food. The method just seems complex, but there is a lot of down time. Due to pot restrictions (I own one) I had to do the recipe in steps instead of all at once, but this allowed me to prep the next step while the last one was cooking, so it seemed like no time at all! This also helped with dishes control (ups to the dishwasherless!)

Enjoy!


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