Pan-fried tofu cubes and peas are simmered in spiced tomato-cashew sauce to create this luscious vegan version of Indian matar paneer.
I realized this weekend that I don’t think I ever finished the tale of my 2015 vegetable garden on this site. I’m sure you guys have been on the edge of your seats for the past six months or so, and for that I’m sincerely sorry!
Things didn’t end well with me and the garden. At some point it became infested with some horrible biting insects. I have no idea what they were, and I don’t think I ever actually saw one, but at some point around early August my midday trips to snag cherry tomatoes for lunch salads began resulting in painful, itchy welts everywhere that I had exposed skin. My trips became more and more hurried, until I got fed up one weekend, covered myself from head to toe in long jeans, hoodie and ski mask (in 95+ degree weather), gathered every last tomato, and stuck those suckers in the freezer for later use. And you know what? Even in my my makeshift beekeeper suit, I still got eaten alive!
This weekend the weather was unusually mild for late February, so the topic came up as to whether there’d be a third annual vegetable garden out back. I’m totally torn between wanting fresh grown cherry tomatoes at the ready, and fear of being a snack for some hungry insect. If anyone has any experience with nasty garden biting bugs and how to keep them away, I’m all ears.
This dish, thankfully, is perfect for those of us who are botanically challenged, or anyone who happens to be cooking in late winter when nothing’s in season. With frozen peas, canned tomatoes, and loads of warming spices, this meal is perfect for this time of year (though I wouldn’t hesitate to cook it up in July either). Tofu for paneer is one of my favorite swaps for veganizing Indian food, and if you have’t tried it yet, you’ll definitely want to give this dish a go. With lots of flavor and just a little bit of richness from cashews, this dish will warm you right up during the last few chilly days of winter.
- 1 large onion, halved
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
- ½ cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours, drained and rinsed
- 1-12 oz. can crushed tomatoes, divided
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed, plus extra for topping
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 serrano pepper, minced
- 1-2 tbsp. garam masala
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. ground turmeric
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ¼ tsp. ground cardamom
- small pinch ground cloves
- 1-12 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1½ cups vegetable broth
- 3 cups frozen peas, thawed
- salt to taste
- basmati rice, for serving
- Place ½ onion, garlic, ginger, cashews, cilantro and 1 cup of crushed tomatoes into food processor bowl (reserve remaining onion and crushed tomatoes). Blend to a smooth paste, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
- Coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil and place over medium heat. Add tofu cubes and cook about 10 minutes, flipping once or twice, until browned on multiple sides. Remove tofu from skillet and transfer to a plate.
- Dice the remaining half of your onion and add it to the skillet, along with the serrano pepper, 1 tablespoon of garam masala, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, cardamom and cloves (you can add a dash more oil if it seems to dry), and sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, and cashew mixture to skillet. Stir a few times to incorporate. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a bit of water if mixture becomes too thick and begins to sputter. Add tofu back to skillet, along with peas. Cook just until tofu and peas are heated throughout, about 3 minutes. Season with additional garam masala, if desired, and salt to taste.
- Divide onto plates with rice and sprinkle with fresh cilantro. Serve.