Vegan MoFo Day 30: carnival squash, tofu & green bean Thai curry!

Vegan MoFo 2010!

Welcome to the last day of Vegan MoFo 2010! It is also Milwaukee’s first day of snow. It is also new “One Tree Hill” night, YES. (Spoiler alert: a monster truck runs over a wedding cake made of corn cobs in the first sequence. That is for real. Also this.*) I’m looking forward to catching up on everyone’s blogs, which have been languishing in my Google Reader for a couple of weeks. Get ready for some random late commenting, y’all. I’m about to be wintered into my house for six months.
Recently, I picked up a carnival squash — a type of acorn squash — at the local farmers market. It was too cute and colorful to deny. So when B. said that Thai food sounded good for dinner tonight, I thought I’d try to make a dish I hear everyone rave about that I’ve never tried: squash curry. I’ve never cooked or eaten any kind of squash before, so this was something of a challenge!

The first thing I can report is that the inside of a carnival squash smells like a wet dog. The scent is warm and alive and kind of sodden, which I guess might be a good thing to some people, but not people who don’t like the smell of wet dog. As I recently discovered, the inside of pumpkin still just smells like Halloween, totally innocuous.
The second thing I can report is that peeling an acorn squash is basically the worst kitchen task ever, and you should reassign it to someone else. Sure, I hate zesting citrus, scrubbing potatoes, and chopping broccoli (all those little nubs! :twitch:), but these mundane tasks are dwarfed by the quarter-hour of pain and frustration I experienced trying to remove the peel from half of an acorn squash. With an eight-inch chef’s knife. I would strongly recommend against EVER peeling acorn squash if you, like me, suffer from the degree of carpal tunnel syndrome that leaves your hands wrenched into claws after you take ten minutes to write your rent mortgage check. I had to take a break halfway through peeling the squash. Don’t hate.

peeeeeeeeeeling carnival squash

» 2 tbsp canola oil, divided
» 1/2 lb yellow or extra-firm pressed tofu, cut into strips
» 1/2 acorn squash, seeded & peeled (about 2 c)
» 1 c green beans, trimmed
» 1 tbsp red curry paste
» 2-3 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
» 2 cloves garlic, minced
» 1 tbsp ginger, minced
» 1 can coconut milk
» 1 tsp brown sugar, packed
» 2 tbsp vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce
» 1-2 tsp Golden Mountain sauce (optional)
» 1 tbsp lime juice
» garnishes: lime slices, chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts, toasted cashews

Chop squash into 3/4-inch cubes. Half of a carnival squash yielded me 2 cups, chopped.

2 cups = 1/2 peeled & seeded carnival squash

Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat and fry tofu until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes each side. Set tofu aside on paper towels to drain.
In a tall frying pan, heat remaining vegetable oil over medium heat, add red curry paste, and fry for 3-4 minutes.
Add garlic and kaffir lime leaves. Fry for about 30 seconds.
Add coconut milk, brown sugar, and vegetarian fish sauce/soy sauce. Whisk or stir to combine well, and bring mixture to a boil. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the pan to get all the good stuff.
Add squash and mix to ensure that it’s covered with sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
Add tofu and green beans. Simmer for another 15 minutes, until squash is tender and green beans are cooked through. Stir in lime juice about a minute before serving.
Top with garnishes, if desired. Serve over jasmine rice.

curry sauce simmering

The third thing and final thing I can report about cooking with carnival squash is that curried carnival squash tasted just like… curry. It had the approximate texture of a potato and next to no discernible taste beneath the delicious flaming hot sauce. I guess that’s a good thing!
I’ll be using the other half of the squash in another type of cuisine later this week in hopes of bringing out some of the flavor. See you then, and viva MoFo!

carnival squash, tofu & green bean Thai curry!

*Actual screenshot from tonight's episode of One Tree Hill.  Dan, who apparently works at a diner these days, is explaining to Quinn what she needs to murder someone.

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Vegan MoFo Day 19: Thai red curry stir-fry with spinach and tofu!

Vegan MoFo 2010!

I am still sick. It has been an exhausting week. Here is what we had for dinner: noodles in a Thai red curry peanut sauce, spinach, tofu. Zzzzzzzzzz

Thai red curry stir-fry with spinach and tofu!

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Vegan MoFo Challenge #3: volcano “chicken” soy knots with carrots, broccoli, & jasmine rice!

Vegan MoFo 2010!

As previously mentioned, I’m going to challenge myself to cook and eat as many new foods as possible, during MoFo and beyond. For each challenge, I’ll have a Q&A for people who are equally unfamiliar with the ingredient used.

Today’s ingredient was…

soy knots!

soy knots, out of the bag

To put it lightly, there is not a lot of information online about soy knots. The only recipes I found that used them were The Vegan Ronin’s General Tso’s Tofu and Homestyle Vegan Chicken Fingers, Chow Vegan’s Baked Vegan Cajun Chicken Fingers, and Cupcake Punk’s ‘Chicken’ and Broccoli in Black Bean Sauce. Upon further research, I found out that these are usually called “bean curd knots” and “bean curd stick,” but I first heard of them as “soy knots,” so my Google search was initially limited to the aforementioned links. The soy/bean curd knots I found at our local Asian market were fresh, not dried, but I soaked them in stock anyway, hoping to get a bit of extra flavor.
Since there was so little information available to work with, I didn’t really put together a proper Q&A, so this will just be more of a casual tale of cooking experimentation than an educational venture exploring the fundamental merits and flaws of soy knots.

» 1 package fresh soy knots
» mushroom stock, for soaking
» cornstarch, for breading
» peanut or canola oil, for frying

Soy knots are just made of tofu. Ingredients: soy bean, water, salt!
To start, we soaked an entire package of fresh soy knots in mushroom stock. After about half an hour, we drained the knots in a colander and tossed them in cornstarch. When all of the knots were coated with cornstarch, we heated up a pot of oil and deep-fried them in small batches, draining them all on paper towel until the next step.

soy knots & mushroom stock

soy knots, soaking

fried soy knots

h/t Simple Comfort Food
» 4 cloves garlic, minced
» 1 c water
» 1/2 c Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Stock
» 1 tbsp palm sugar
» 2 tbsp brown sugar
» 1 tbsp maple syrup
» 3 tbsp soy sauce
» 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
» 1 tsp chili-garlic sauce
» 1 Thai chili, chopped
» 2 Thai chilis, whole

Most of the volcano sauce recipes I found used whiskey, which we’ve literally never had in the house (our standard cooking alcohols: brandy, vodka, red wine, white wine). So rather than hit it up with a different kind of booze, we veganized this volcano sauce recipe, boiling all of the ingredients until it was thick and syrupy. It took about half an hour for the sauce to reduce.
Coincidentally, the sauce recipe we used was inspired by the volcano sauce of a local Thai restaurant, the King & I. In no way should this be considered a King & I endorsement! Indeed, the only time I went there, I was told by the waitstaff that not a single dish could be prepared vegan or vegetarian, as they all contained fish sauce or shrimp paste. All. I ended up paying $2 for a side of plain rice, which I doused in Kikkoman. Oh, what a dinner it was! Dear everyone who doesn’t eat dead animals: Sorry, no substitutions here. I’ll never know if the waiter was telling the truth or just blowing me off because he didn’t want to deal with another annoying vegan, because after that, I’ll never go back. Everyone wins!

To bring it all together, we brought out our indispensable 3-cup Walgreens rice cooker and made jasmine rice. We fried carrot coins and chopped broccoli in canola oil until they were a bit charred to get an extra-special smoky, seared flavor. Finally, we added the pre-fried and drained “chicken” soy knots, stir-fried for a couple of minutes to reheat, and poured the sauce over everything. (Yes, we have an electric stove. No, we do not want to have an electric stove. It was here when we moved in, and we’re going to have to pay someone to run a gas line to the kitchen from the basement in addition to buying a new stove, and this fact is the bane of our respective existences.)

soy knot stir-fry

This was… pretty good. To be honest, I really didn’t care for the soy knots at all. I don’t know if we just prepared them wrong or what, but they were so ridiculously chewy that they were difficult to eat. My jaw started to hurt after the first 4 or 5 knots! The sauce was missing a little something, too — some kind of savory smokiness that neither of us could imagine how to recreate. I won’t be buying soy knots again.

soy knot stir-fry

So, like, soy knots? Not so much.

In happier news, here are my favorite MoFos from today, Day 6:
» Nether Ending Story: Vegan Chicken and Dumplings
» Unhealthy Vegan: Vegan Nachos
» The Airy Way: baby pattypan squash and vegetable pancake
» Miso for Breakfast: stuffed baked artichokes
» Ste Martaen: Chicago vegan food truck, week one
» Your Mom’s A Vegan: Brussels sprout love
» OMGVeg!: Crispy Fried Tofu & Ramen Noodles
» Go Vegan Meow: Chow Mein and Fried Rice
» Vegan Good Things: Korean Take-Out
» Home Sweet Vegan Home: Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles
» Brittany’s Veg Kitchen: Peruvian Quinoa Soup
» Vegan Brew: Hoppy Habanero Inferno Sauce & Tofu Rice Bowl
» Scrap. Eat. World.: Japanese food: Edamame, Avocado & Cucumber Maki, Onigiri, Ochazuke, Yakitori, Gyoza, and Tofu Udon Stir-Fry!

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Thai red curry with tofu, carrots, broccoli & green jasmine rice

Thai red curry with tofu, carrots, broccoli & green jasmine rice
» 1/2 block of extra-firm or firm tofu, sliced & pressed
» 1 c unsweetened coconut milk
» 2 tbsp oil
» 1 clove garlic, minced
» 1 tsp ginger, peeled & minced
» 1 stalk lemongrass, peeled & minced
» 1 medium-sized head of broccoli, chopped
» 1 large or 2 small carrots, scrubbed or peeled & sliced into thin coins
» 2 tbsp red curry paste, or to taste (I use Thai Kitchen)
» 2 tbsp soy sauce, or to taste
» 1/2-1 tsp Sambal Oelek, to taste

Heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.
Fry tofu until golden brown (about 3 minutes per side or 5-6 minutes total), remove, drain over paper towels, and set aside.
fried Simple Soyman tofu
Use remaining oil to fry garlic, ginger, and lemongrass for 30 seconds-1 minute, until aromatic, stirring constantly to prevent burning and sticking.
Add carrots and fry for 2-3 minutes.
Add broccoli and fry for 2-3 minutes, until bright green.
Add fried tofu and heat for 1-2 minutes.
Thai red curry
Add coconut milk, red curry paste, soy sauce, and Sambal Oelek, heat to boiling, then turn down and simmer for 5-6 minutes, until flavors are blended and everything is heated through.
Thai red curry

h/t Bon Appétit
» 1/2 c cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
» 1/2 c unsweetened coconut milk
» 1 tbsp lime juice
» 1 tsp ginger, peeled & minced
» 1 clove garlic, smashed

Puree all ingredients in food processor or blender, spoon as desired over prepared jasmine rice, and mix well. It’s super-herbaceous and fresh-tasting.

cilantro & coconut milk, blended

» lime wedges
» chopped cilantro
» chopped peanuts
» shredded unsweetened coconut
» fresh mung bean sprouts

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