Monday, February 7, 2011

Marvelous Meatless Meals - Potato and Tofu Vindaloo

It seems I have a little problem....

I have a thing for exotic spices in neat little resealable plastic bags....

Especially when the company that sells them offers free Madagascar Vanilla Beans with your order one month, then free Applewood Smoked Sea Salt the next. And when said company also happens to stock exotic or unusual items like Jalapeno Powder, Za'atar, Honey Powder and numerous varieties of curry powders, cinnamon, and cocoa, all reasonably priced and available in a variety of sizes, free shipping over $40....well, I just can't resist!

And so began my love affair with I think it's the "free shipping for orders over $40" that gets me. Regular shipping charges are pretty reasonable to begin with, but when I just need one more little nudge to buy items I gaze lovingly at on-line, that's usually the clincher for me!

And unlike some other promotions, I don't feel suckered when I do it (although, I have been on my BEST behavior lately - I refuse to buy anything new until I've opened at least a few more packages of spices!) I have actually delved into my stash and tried many new things, although a few of the more exotics have kind of scared me a little.

Since some of this stuff is a little "out there" for me, I've been kind winging it to find uses for some of these spices. So tonight, inspired by the "Meatless Mondays" craze (and the fact that my Meat-and-Potatoes husband, whose idea of spices is "salt" - not Kosher, not sea, and certainly not applewood smoked....just "salt") is not home tonight, I decided to open my overflowing spice cupboard and use whatever item fell out as part of a meatless meal....and the winner is:

Vindaloo Curry Spice! A fragrant blend of coriander, cumin, red pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and turmeric.

I had heard of the term Vindaloo before - I think in an interview with Bon Appetit, actor Sir Anthony Hopkins listed his favorite dish as Chicken Vindaloo, an Indian dish but with the influence of those worldy sea-faring Portuguese. From Wikipedia: "The name Vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese dish "Carne de Vinha d' Alhos", which is a dish of meat, usually pork, with wine and garlic. The dish was originally modified in Mumbai by the substitution of vinegar for the wine, and the addition of red Kashmir chillies (not as spicy but abundant in colour). The dish evolved into the vindaloo curry dish in Goa, with the addition of plentiful amounts of traditional spice and using palm vinegar instead of red wine. Alternate terms are vindalho or vindallo."

I think there's so many reasons why even just the name appeals to me - Sir Anthony Hopkins is one of my favorite actors. Howard's End, World's Fastest Indian, Remains of The Day, Legends of The Fall...all movies I could watch over and over again. He's been in TWO movies that also starred a certain actor I (sigh) admire, Benicio Del Toro. Celebrity stalking (in my dreams) aside, I've always been intrigued by India, probably since my Dad served in the China-Burma-India theater of WWII. And Portugal has always been another obsession of mine - the food, the country, the culture, the music, the people....wrap all those things together and it seems only natural that the vindaloo curry powder would be the one to jump out at me!

So, after browsing around on-line, here's what I came up with for tonight's Marvelous Meatless Meal....

Potato and Tofu Vindaloo

Inspired by THIS recipe, here's the one I came up with, and it was wonderful! I made some changes based on what I had on hand as well as healthier, Weight Watchers-friendly substitutions and a weeknight-friendly process.

1 14 oz. package firm or extra firm tofu
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp canola oil, separated
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
5 cloves garlic
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp Vindaloo Curry Spice
About 2 tsp water plus 1 cup water
4 tbsp white vinegar
1 large sweet potato (about 1 1/2 c, diced small)
1 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed if using canned
1 cup tomato sauce

Slice block of tofu horizontally. Press between paper towels to remove excess liquid. (I place a pan on it for about 20 minutes to help squeeze the liquid out.) Cut into cubes. Mix garlic and onion powder with flour; toss with tofu cubes. Set aside.

In large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. oil. Add onions, garlic and ginger and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove to a blender or small food processor. Add pepper, salt, brown sugar and curry powder with about 2 tsp water. Blend into a paste. Add vinegar and set aside.

Add remaining tbsp of oil to skillet and increase heat to medium-high. Stir fry tofu until browned, about 5 minutes. Add diced sweet potatoes and cook another 4 or 5 minutes. Stir in vindaloo paste, tomato sauce, 1 cup water and garbanzo beans. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until potatoes are thoroughly cooked.

Recipe notes:

First, this is not a "true" vindaloo paste - for authenticity, use whole spice seeds, toast them in a pan and grind yourself (MySpiceSage has a lot of whole spices and seeds, too!) Then cook the paste mixture with the tomato sauce and additional oil until fragrant and reduced. But for a quick weeknight meal, I'm all for shortcuts!

This could be served with rice...but I'm saving my carbs for things like chocolate cake or brownies. So I opted to serve mine over steamed spinach. As is, the above recipe is more like 4 servings, but over spinach I can get 6 servings out of one skillet, at only 6 PointsPlus per serving (far anyone following Weight Watchers).

The Verdict: This was delicious! And very mild, as far as curries go. The Vindaloo Curry Spice is more along the lines of Garam Masala - fragrant, warm, exotic, with just a hint of heat, really. I could totally see myself adding some dried chili powder to this to make it more of a traditional spicy vindaloo. And I'm a wimp when it comes to spiciness!


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