Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spicy Thai Coconut Quinoa

I've stumbled across this recipe several times over the past few years and it's a shame it has taken me so long to finally make it. Though the flurries of snow we got this week might indicate differently, it is in fact spring, and spring cleaning at my house includes the fridge, freezer, and pantry. Fortunately for me, this recipe's list of ingredients happened to be perfectly suited to helping me clean out the fridge, and I'm quite glad that happy accident brought me to these fantastic results.

I'm typically making big batches of grains to portion and freeze for an as-yet-unknown use, so they usually just get cooked in water with a pinch of salt. It's recipes like this that remind me how much better grains are when they're cooked in a flavorful liquid. Don't get me wrong, I like quinoa just fine as it is, but when it soaks up flavorful stock and rich coconut milk, it becomes worlds better. Even better, making the quinoa extra-creamy and luxurious makes the fresh and crunchy vegetables, crispy tofu, and spicy peanut sauce pop even more in contrast. All of the elements blend beautifully together, while still retaining their own distinct flavor and texture, creating a meal that is harmonious, but far from monotonous.

Although I eat a primarily plant-based diet, I'm far from an herbivore, and I realize that tofu isn't for everyone. I don't eat it as a substitute for meat, but as a protein all its own, though chicken would make a fine alternative here if tofu isn't your thing.

This recipe might have helped to clean out the fridge, but it also gave back to freezer, portioned into several work week lunches after feeding me so well for dinner. Save the garnishes for when you reheat your meal, but this comes out of the freezer nearly as perfect as when it went in.

Spicy Thai Coconut Quinoa
adapted from CHOW 
serves 4 to 6, heartily, or 6 to 8 for smaller appetites

For the dressing:
1 2/3 cups fresh cilantro (from about 1/2 bunch), long, thick stems removed
3/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
1/3 cup Sriracha hot sauce
2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest (from about 3 medium limes)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3 medium limes)
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
2 medium garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the quinoa:
2 cups quinoa, any color or variety
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/3 cups vegetable stock or low-sodium vegetable broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm tofu
2 medium carrots (about 8 ounces)
1 medium broccoli head (about 1 pound)
4 medium scallions
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Optional garnishes:
Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Coarsely chopped roasted, unsalted peanuts
Thinly sliced scallions

For the dressing:
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 1 minute; set aside. (Alternatively, use a high-quality store bought sauce. I like San-J Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce.)

For the quinoa:
1. Rinse the quinoa in a strainer under cold water until the water runs clear. Place in a large saucepan; add the coconut milk, vegetable broth, and measured salt; and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the white outer casings on the quinoa have popped, revealing translucent little beads, about 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, line a large plate with several layers of paper towels. Drain the tofu, cut it into large dice, and place it in a single layer on the paper-towel-lined plate; set aside. Trim the carrots and cut them into 1/8-inch-thick rounds; set aside. Trim the stem of the broccoli to 1/2 inch and cut the head into 1-inch florets; set aside. Thinly slice the white and light green parts of the scallions; set aside.

3. When the quinoa is ready, remove it to a large serving bowl and set aside. Wash the saucepan, fill it with water, and season generously with salt. Cover with a tightfitting lid and bring to a boil over high heat.

4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the tofu and cook without stirring until the bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes. (While the tofu is cooking, line the plate you drained it on with fresh paper towels.) Flip and cook until the other sides are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, remove to the paper-towel-lined plate and season with salt; set aside.

5. Add the carrots to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove them to the bowl with the quinoa. Return the water to a boil, add the broccoli, and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and place in the bowl with the quinoa and carrots.

(Alternatively, add a bit more oil, if necessary, and stir-fry the carrots and broccoli in the pan that the tofu was just cooked in.)

6. Add the cooked tofu, dressing, and scallions to the bowl and stir to combine. Garnish with additional cilantro, peanuts, and scallions before serving.

No comments:

Post a Comment