Tandoori Tofu… a delicious twist from the traditional chicken tandoori.

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Too captivated by the season finale of “So You Think You Can Dance” that I can’t even focus on writing a blog post.  The competitors this season are all so phenomenal!  Have you been watching this show?  If so, who do you want to win?  I’m voting for Melanie!

I hope you enjoy the tofu recipe… it was a delicious alternative to the traditional chicken tandoori.

Tofu Tandoori

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon sweet (not hot) paprika
1 cup non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
2.5 tablespoons lemon juice
4 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12 ounce) box extra firm tofu, cubed

Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat, then cook the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, garam masala and paprika, stirring often, until fragrant (approximately 2-3 minutes). Let cool completely.

Whisk in the cooled spice-oil mixture into the yogurt, then mix in the lemon juice, garlic, salt and ginger.

Coat the tofu in the marinade, cover and chill for at least two hours.

Prepare your grill so that one side is quite hot over direct heat, the other side cooler, not over direct heat. If using charcoal, leave one side of the grill without coals, so you have a hot side and a cooler side. If you are using a gas grill, just turn on one-half of the burners. Use tongs to wipe the grill grates with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil. Take the tofu out of the marinade and shake off the excess. You want the tofu coated, but not gloppy. Skewer the tofu and put it on the hot side of the grill and cover.  Cook 2-3 minutes before checking.  Turn the tofu so it is brown (even a little bit charred) on all sides.

Conversely, you can also cook this in your oven.  Preheat the oven to 550 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place tofu onto baking sheet, and put into the oven.  Bake for about 5 to 10 minutes.  Turn on the broiler, and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes to char the tofu a little bit more.

Serve with lemon wedges, and grilled sliced onions.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Mixed Veggie Korma

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We just came back from a week of pure gluttony.  OMG.  We went to Guerneville (aka, Wine Country) last week for a little R&R.  It was the perfect vacation which involved lots of wine wine tasting, kayaking, shopping, and eating.  We really outdid ourselves on this vacation with the amounts of food that we consumed.  We ate like we were eating for eight people.  It was ridiculous… ridiculously good!  Our diets just went straight out the window as we drove to our destination.  In fact, it was as if our diet never existed.

When we settled back into reality, we decided to weigh ourselves to see the damage that was done.  It wasn’t pretty.  We were mortified by the numbers.  We were hoping it was just water weight, but to our dismay, we really did put on the lbs.  Eek!  So our goal for the next two weeks is to detox and lose the weight to get back on track with our weight loss plan with vegan/vegetarian foods.

So to kick off our goal, I decided to make a healthy, low-fat Indian fare.

Mixed Veggie Korma

3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1 1/2-inch-wide florets
2 cups fresh sugar snap peas, cut in halves
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon tumeric
2 small roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons plain soy yogurt
1 cup roasted cashews
1/2 cup golden raisins

Heat water in a large stockpot over high heat. Once water starts to boil, place carrots, sugar snap peas, and cauliflower into the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Mash the ginger, garlic, and 3 tablespoons water with a mortar and pestle until it is relatively smooth and incorporated.

Heat vegetable oil in a wide saute pan over high heat. When the oil starts to smoke, saute the raisins and cashews for one minute, then add the onion and cumin seeds. Saute the onions and cumin seeds for about 3 minutes or until the onion starts to brown.  Pour in the garlic/ginger paste, garam masala, tumeric, ground coriander, and ground cumin, and saute for another minute. Put in the chopped tomatoes plus tomato sauce and cook for about two minutes.

Add the cayenne, coconut milk, and salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and cook until the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the vegetables and soy yogurt, and simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened.

Serve with basmati rice and naan.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Saag paneer (aka, palak paneer), and my latest epiphany.

I realized something about myself while cooking Indian food. Music and me don’t mesh well together. The kitchen is where I’m in my zen space. Not my bedroom. Not the shower. Not even the couch. [You'd think it's the couch from all the posts about sitting on my couch watching endless hours of trashy reality TV shows!] It’s the kitchen. I think most of you foodies can relate.

So why was the music even on? My partner was helping me cook and she wanted some music. I didn’t oppose. I thought I’d be nice to have a little background music. She put on some Feist, which I love on any other given day. But not that day. It sounded like someone running their fingernails down a chalkboard. That’s what it felt like. I had a hard time concentrating on what I was doing. I couldn’t think to myself. Every thought was drowned out by the screeching voice of Feist. Ugh. I started to get irritated. I wasn’t enjoying the process anymore. I was also being really short with my partner (which I felt horrible for). I just had it. I walked over to her laptop, and turned off the music. Finally. There was some peace and quiet.

The only sounds in the kitchen was the sizzling of the paneer browning in the skillet and the chopping of the tomatoes. It was music to my ears (no pun intended). Ahh, I was finally back to my tranquil place, as I thought to myself.

How do you like to cook? With music? With the TV on? Or none of the above?

Saag Paneer (aka, Palak Paneer)

6 cups of fresh spinach, rinsed and drained
1/3 pound paneer, cubed
1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, seeded, and pureed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 green chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
Salt, to taste

Boil spinach in a big pot of water until cooked. Place spinach into a food process or blender, and blend until pureed with smooth consistency.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil and saute cubed paneer until they become golden and browned on all sides. Remove from heat, and set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the ginger, garlic, chile peppers, coriander powder, and turmeric powder together to make a paste.

Using the same nonstick skillet, heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil. When oil is hot, add cumins, and saute for a minute. Add onions, and saute until translucent. Add the ginger-garlic paste and garam masala, and saute for another two to three minutes. Next, add the pureed spinach and tomato. Mix well. Cook until the spinach mixture has thickened, and the liquid from the tomato is cooked. Reduce heat to medium low, and continue to cook for five to ten minutes covered. If you think the curry is too thick, add a little water until the desired consistency. Adjust seasoning with salt. Before turning off the heat, add the paneer cubes. Mix them into the spinach, and simmer for two to three minutes, and then turn off the heat. Add greek yogurt, and mix thoroughly.

Serve with naan or pulao.

Ghee that made me glee!

I hadn’t cooked in over a week and a half and I was feigning like a heroin addict looking for his next fix.  It was 8:00 a.m. and I was desperate.  I didn’t have much in the refrigerator or pantry that would satisfy my need, my craving.  I almost grabbed my keys and headed to the grocery store for a quick fix.  I didn’t even know what I wanted to make, nonetheless what to eat.  So I dug around the refrigerator some more hoping to find something, and there it was.  Light emanating from a box in the back of the refrigerator, just like in the movies, only it’s not butter.  And it clicked… ghee.  I felt inspired.  Indian food.  Something that I had been wanting to make for so long, but was too intimidated.  Especially after my several failed attempts at making Thai food.  I knew that ghee was the perfect place to start.  It would also serve as a sign.  If I successfully made ghee, then I was going to set out to make Indian food that day.  If I failed, well, then I wasn’t destined to make Indian food.

So guess what?  I made ghee, and it turned out wonderful :)

Ghee

2 sticks good quality unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch squares
Coffee filter

Bring butter to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat. [Make sure it's not boiling violently because you'll burn the butter.] The butter will begin to foam. Move some of the foam aside with a spoon to see the bottom layer. The butter should become transparent in the middle layer, while the top layer is foamy and the bottom layer has protein curds that have settled. The butter will be bubbling and make a snapple, crackle, pop noise. [It was music to my ears.]

After about twenty minutes, the foam will thin out and the noise will subside. Pay close attention from this point on because it can go from a nutty aroma so fragrant to a burnt butter smell very quickly.

The milk solids on the bottom of the pan will begin to brown, and the middle layer will turn a deep golden to amber gold. The top layer will also begin to brown. Remove the saucepan from the heat when the milk solids have turned a deep reddish brown. Pour the clarified butter into a coffee filter-lined container to to strain out solids. [Don't use a cheesecloth. I did and ended up having to restrain it because there were micro solids floating around.]

Store in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 3 to 6 months.

You’ll find many uses with ghee… you’ll want to dip everything into it. Even apples. Okay, maybe not apples. But you get the point :)

How to make paneer, and a quick tip on OTC pain-relieving medications.

My dad’s knee was hurting a few weeks ago.  It hurt him so bad that he had to cancel the one thing that he enjoys most… golfing with my mom on their only day off of the week.  I asked if he took some Tylenol, but said it didn’t work.  To which I responded with trying Advil.  He said that he didn’t like Advil, and used Motrin instead, which helped alleviate some of his pain.  I sighed, and mentioned to him that those were the exact same medications.  My dad stared at me confused.  So I sat down and explained to him the similarities or differences between the OTC analgesic (aka, pain-relieving) medications.

When I first started working in the emergency department, I felt sort of disconnected from the retail world of pharmacy.  Patients would come in with medications that were completely foreign to me because they were the latest and greatest drugs.  Working in a hospital setting, we don’t have the luxury of stocking the newest drugs on the market mainly because of cost.  So I felt like I needed more experience and exposure to those new drugs, so I picked up a second job as a per diem pharmacist at a local retail pharmacy chain.

I actually enjoyed working there from time-to-time because I felt like I had more contact with the patients.  It was a great opportunity to improve my patient consultation skills.  One question that I often received aside from cold and cough preparations, was over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relieving medications.  And more often than not, a lot of the patients I spoke with didn’t know there was not a difference between the majority of those types of medications.  But why would they know?  It’s confusing when you have a whole aisle of OTC analgesic medications to choose from.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s true.  Motrin = Advil = Ibuprofen.  Aleve = Naproxen.  Tylenol = Acetaminophen.  Aspirin = St. John’s = Bayers.  And I’m sure there are many other different names out there that I’m forgetting or have never come across.

You see, it’s all the different drug manufacturing companies trying to vie for the market shares over the next drug manufacturing company.  So you have the brands versus the generics, and the brands versus the brands.  It’s too confusing for the consumers.  And it may also lead to unnecessary overmedicating.  All drugs carry risks for side effects, even the OTC medications.

So before you buy an OTC drug product, make sure to double check the active ingredients so you aren’t buying duplicate therapies.  Or speak to your local pharmacist who can help clarify any questions and/or confusion.  Hey, that’s what we’re here for… we’re the legal drug dealers (and experts)! :)

Did you know there was not a difference between many of these OTC analgesic medications?

Paneer

1 gallon whole milk (not 2%, 1%, or nonfat milk… gotta use the real thing)
6 tablespoons lemon juice
Cheese cloth

Line a colander with a double layer of cheese cloth. Place colander in a bowl large enough to fit.

Boil milk in a thick bottom pan. Stir it from time to time to keep it from sticking at the bottom. Once the milk is boiling, add the lemon juice. Simmer for another two to three minutes until the milk has completely curdled. Continue stirring.

Remove from heat, and pour the contents of the pan into the cheese cloth-lined colander.

Once the whey has completely drained out, wrap the cheesecloth over the paneer. Place some heavy weights over this to make a firm block of paneer. First, place a plate over it so that it gets uniformly pressed down. Follow that with a heavy pan, and then add what ever weights you can think of to weigh it down from your kitchen pantry. Or, use a few foil-lined bricks placed on top of the plate.

Leave the weights on for about two to three hours. Remove the weights, and plate. You are now left with a beautiful block of fresh paneer. [Yum.] Refrigerate the block of paneer for one to two hours, before cubing.

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