Thursday, March 23, 2006
POMEGRANATE TOFU RE-VISITED
This what we had for dinner last night. It's a very simplified, lower-fat, vegan version of fesenjan, a famous, rich, and elegant Persian poultry or game dish, which usually contains lots of walnuts and more spices. I hadn’t made this recipe in a long, long time, but came across my review of the book it came from and thought it was worth repeating, since I didn't have much time to cook and had all the ingredients. I had my notes of the changes I made from the first time I made it, so followed those. I almost doubled the pomegranate molasses!
It's very good in a subtle kind of way, and pretty quick to make. It wasn't Brian's favorite, though. I think I will try to work out my own version of fesenjan someday.
SWEET & SOUR POMEGRANATE TOFU
Adapted from “The Bold Vegetarian” by Bharti Kirchner (my changes in parentheses). (See my review of this from Vegetarian Times magazine.)
2 tablespoons canola oil (I used 1 Tbsp. olive oil)
1 cup chopped onions
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced gingeroot (I grate it)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup walnuts, ground to a coarse powder (or you could use all or part pecans)
1/2 cup water ( + 1/4 cup more water to rinse out the blender—add that into the mixture)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons pomegranate syrup (pomegranate molasses—I used 4 tsp.—see below)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used 3/4 tsp.)
Ground red pepper to taste (you could use paprika, or cayenne—I used Aleppo pepper, a Turkish blend—substitute 4 parts paprika mixed with 1 part ancho chile powder)
1/ 16 oz. package firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes (I made 1/2” cubes and only used 14 oz.)
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas, defrosted (I used 1 1/2 cups baby peas)
(I added 2 roasted red peppers from a jar, rinsed and chopped)
Chopped fresh cilantro (I used fresh basil because Brian doesn’t like cilantro)
Red bell pepper strips
1. Saute onion in hot oil in large skillet until richly browned, but not burned, 8 to 12 minutes, stirring often. (If necessary sprinkle a little water to keep the onions from burning.) Stir in garlic and gingerroot. Add turmeric, cumin and the 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Process onion-garlic mixture, walnuts, and the 1/2 cup water in a food processor until thick and creamy, adding a little extra water if mixture is too thick. Remove to a medium bowl (rinse the blender with the extra 1/4 cup water and add that to the mixture-- BCG) and add sugar, pomegranate syrup, salt, and red pepper. Mix well and transfer to the same skillet.
3. Bring mixture to a simmer. Add tofu (and roasted red pepper, if using-- BCG) and peas. Simmer, covered, 5 to 7 minutes. During this time, uncover once and gently turn the tofu pieces. Taste and adjust the salt and cayenne. Serve garnished with cilantro.
Best served with plain steamed basmati rice—- it was also good in a tortilla or Arabic flatbread wrap!
ABOUT POMEGRANATE MOLASSES (known as nasrahab in Georgian and dibs rumman in Arabic) is an essential Middle Eastern ingredient. It has a wonderful flavor and heady aroma, and keeps in the refrigerator after opening almost indefinitely. The Iranian kind tends to be sweeter and thinner than the Lebanese brands.
The uses for this thick, tangy, piquant syrup are many. It blends well with walnuts, adds a tart and pungent flavor to beans and other savory dishes, and gives an astringent edge to salads and vegetables. It is delicious in glazes and marinades and it can even be diluted and used for sharp drinks and tart sorbets.
This should not be confused with grenadine syrup, which is made from the same base but has sugar and other other flavorings added.