Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Chickpea, Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Curry and the EZ Tofu Press

I love my tofu. My past self (as few as 5 or 6 years ago) would be shocked at how passionate I've become about incorporating it into my diet - growing up, I mocked anything and everything overtly "healthy" or "holistic", preferring to down my weight in three cheese cappelletti, surf n' turf or cheesecake (and laze about on the couch all day). Obviously, those choices didn't treat my body well and it eventually rebelled, creating the person you see today!

Since developing my tofu-love, I've been working to bring others in my family over to trying it out once in a while. Not only is tofu inexpensive compared to meat and fish, but it is so versatile - not to mention it soaks up any and all flavours like a super-sponge, so it's easy to cook with too. The major thing I tell people is that in most cases, you need to (at least) press the tofu. Ideally, depending on what you're making, I suggest freezing and thawing it as well, making it chewier and heartier, but at the very least a good amount of time under a weight squeezes out the excess water and keeps the bean curd from turning into slimy globs or disintegrating completely. Normally, I rely on my heavy cutting board and my basket of spices to do the job - it's a flat surface and heavy enough to press without mash the tofu I'm working with. It works well and (unless I can access pre-pressed tofu, which is my preference) is simply part of the process - just like marinating or resting meat. I never really thought of anything being an alternative, until Cindy (at Vegetarian Mamma) posted a giveaway on her site for a product called the EZ Tofu Press.

I have to admit, I almost didn't enter the contest - after all, why complicate the relatively simple act of placing weight on an object with a gadget? - but my curiosity won out and apparently, so did I!  According to the manufacturer, the EZ Tofu Press has been the number one selling tofu press on Amazon two years running, is inexpensive (about $19.99, with free shipping to USA Amazon Prime members - Canadians click here), fast (giving results in <15 minutes) and easy to use and clean.

Not only did Cindy send me the press as a prize, but she put me in contact with the creator of the press, who asked that I give it a shot at home and write a little blurb about it. Before you roll your eyes, this is not a sponsored review. I won this gizmo fair and square, and like all the other reviews you read here or on Reading, Writing and Cooking, all the opinions and experiences are my own.

With that out of the way, how did this gizmo fare?

Let me start off by saying that even though the device is ridiculously simplistic, it is not necessarily an intuitive product. For success (as with anything new) I beg of you... read and follow the directions. There are a few nuances that can make or break your EZ Tofu Press experience: you must use a water-packed firm or extra firm piece of tofu, the press works best on it's side (like this, not lying flat like above) and you can't just winch it down and walk away for 15 minutes - you have to hang around, turning the knobs evenly every few minutes. Reading through the book, it started to seem like this contraption isn't as "EZ" or convenient as the name sounds.

Unfortunately, my mom was the first to use it out of the box, and since she relies on intuitive products for the majority of her daily living (she hates reading manuals of any length), she didn't read, nor follow, the directions. While she did use the right type of tofu, she winched it right down at the onset and did not set it on it's end... hence the outcome you see.

Tofu Carnage

She also complained that the unit was tipping and tilting, which was caused by the bases of the screws on the bottom of the plate (and possibly one of the reasons they stress leaving it on it's side, not the bottom). The tofu was certainly still edible (and what we used in the curry below), but after breaking apart it also didn't drain thoroughly, which forced us to wrap the oozing brick in a towel and leave it in the fridge under a plate while we were at work.

It's not all bad news, though. I had my turn with the unit a few days after, and even though I followed the directions to the letter I still found it took a lot longer than 15 minutes to press properly, even turning the knobs every 3 minutes or so. The reason for this, I'm assuming, is that I couldn't winch it down very far all at once without bursting the block, but at the same time there was barely enough pressure to exude liquid at all. In total, I think it took me over an hour to attain a block that I could marinate without it turning mushy again. While it won't be a go-to device in my kitchen, I can see myself using it when I have to work or run errands - I'll winch it as far as I can without splitting the block, then leave it on its side in the fridge. Then when I return I'll turn the knobs a little more, and a final turn while I'm prepping dinner. The other thing I might try is splitting my tofu blocks in half horizontally, since even though the press is billed as being able to accommodate any size and shape of tofu, thinner pieces will be less apt to break and more likely to press evenly and quickly. Follow @BenzelBen on Twitter for more info on the EZ Tofu Press.

But on to the tasty stuff - curry!

I have to say I was shocked when my mom and stepdad came home from a weekend away at The Briars Resort simply raving about the vegan curry served at the hotel pub. The way they described it, I can see why: spiced but not super-hot, packed with tofu, chickpeas, cauliflower and sweet potatoes with the unusual addition of slivered snow peas, served over brown Basmati rice. Looking for a little more information, I took a quick perusal of the menu (which has now changed to reflect the season). The combination pointed me in the right direction, recipe-development wise, and I soon found a recipe to use as a base. Apparently my (not-so) hard work tasted spot on, if not better - crumbled tofu notwithstanding!

Shared with Gluten Free Friday - Thanks again Cindy!

Chickpea, Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Curry
Serves 6 with rice
2 tbsp coconut oil
1½ tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp mustard seeds
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon
1½ tsp ground coriander
1(13.5 oz) can full fat coconut milk
2 cups gluten free vegetable broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
12 oz firm tofu, drained, pressed and cubed
1 (19-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
200g snow peas, de-stringed and julienned
¼ cup cilantro, chopped roughly
brown Basmati rice, to serve
  1. Melt oil in a deep pot and add ginger, garlic and spices. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes until spices are fragrant.
  2. Add coconut milk, vegetable stock and tomato paste; stir to combine.
  3. Stir in cauliflower, onions and sweet potato.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until sweet potato is tender.
  5. Stir in tofu and chickpeas and simmer 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, stir in the snow peas and cilantro.
  7. Serve over rice.
Amount Per Serving (not including rice)
Calories: 324.3
Total Fat: 18.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 735.7 mg
Total Carbs: 33.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 8.7 g
Protein: 13.2 g

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