Friday, December 07, 2007
Time was when I was afraid of tofu.
In the past, my experience with tofu was limited to the times I had it in restaurants, usually Thai or Chinese, where it was typically served up in deep-fried chunks smothered in a sauce.
After one dinner spent chewing endlessly, it seemed, on huge chunks of tofu, I swore I would never again eat this horrible, tasteless food as long as I lived.
Even years later, now a vegan, I resisted. Not least because of the widely-held assumption made by the meat-eating world that every vegan survives on tofu. I knew enough about balancing my meals with whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and soy products (other than tofu) to feel almost duty-bound to thwart this annoying perception.
Then, one day, I decided to give tofu another chance.
Maybe it was the urge to experiment with new foods, now that I was no longer cooking the old meat standbys. Maybe it was difficult to pass up on its oft-touted, super-nutritious qualities. Anyway, I found myself coming home from the grocery store with a block of tofu.
This was during my paratha phase, when I was trying to stuff everything imaginable within the folds of a simple chapati dough, as an easy, effortless way to pump up the nutrition in our everyday meals while also making them more appealing to Desi who, although he will never admit is, is an extraordinarily finicky eater.
And thus was born the Falling-in-Love-with-Tofu Paratha. The title is self-explanatory. I have since gone on to adapt tofu in several Indian dishes. The blandness that first turned me off this wonder food is, I now find, what makes it extraordinarily versatile and easy to use in just about any dish.
In this paratha,you get all the health benefits of tofu (and it adds a silken texture to the paratha) but you don't even taste it-- instead you taste the vibrant flavors of the ginger and coriander.
Now that's a star!
For the paratha:
2 cups durum atta flour (can substitute whole-wheat flour)
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
Using water, knead the above ingredients into a smooth dough with hands or in a food processor/stand mixer. Set aside.
For the tofu stuffing:
1 block firm or extra-firm tofu, finely crumbled and drained thoroughly (make sure you remove every drop of liquid you possibly can or it will be hard to roll the parathas)
1/2 onion, minced
1-inch knob of ginger, grated
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)
Mix the stuffing ingredients together.
Divide the dough into lemon-sized balls.
Divide each ball into two pieces, then roll each piece into a disc about 4 inches wide. Flour the surface and the rolling pin so the dough does not stick.
Spread about 2 tbsp of the stuffing on one disc, leaving a 1-cm edge around the circumference.
Moisten the edge with water and place another disc on it, pressing the sides together to seal them.
Roll out into a paratha about 8 inches in diameter, turning it several times so it doesn't stick. (Don't panic if the paratha tears. Just patch it with your fingers, sprinkle some flour on it, and keep rolling).
Heat a griddle. Brush lightly with oil and when hot but not smoking, place the paratha in it. Turn when small bubbles start to form. Cook on both sides until golden brown, brushing lightly with a little oil.
Serve piping hot with mint chutney or simply with some spicy Indian pickle.