Tofu Green Curry and Healthy Cooking

Because I’m soft and lumpy after a winter of relative leisure and because I need to harden up quick if I’m going to make it through this farming season, I’m trying to eat a lot healthier. Not that I’ve ever eaten that badly. At the house we eat fresh, local and something between vegetarian and vegan. We cook everything from scratch and we know how to do it. I grew up cooking in restaurants. My wife came up in bakeries and delis. Which is to say, we know how to make real yummy food using lots of fat and salt. We know how to pair good food with good drink. We know how to bake bread and we know a few things about sweets. Not that any of this is inherently bad. Food is important and we certainly enjoy our meals around here. But at some point it becomes about health. It becomes about having the vigor to do the things I want to do. And it becomes a problem when I need to get (and stay) “farm-lean”.

“You can pay your farmer or you can pay your doctor.” As a natural foods grocer and a farmer I’ve been hearing this for years. But honestly, for a long time I didn’t really buy it. Sure, buy organic and avoid a lot of toxins. That made enough sense to devote a career to. But food as medicine? Really? I’ll turn my organic russets into some nice pomme frites, thank you. At least that’s how I felt until very recently.

The more I read (and especially here) and the more I study, the more I believe that nutrient dense food, cooked responsibly is essential to good health. For me good eating, healthy eating, is becoming about getting much more nutrition from far fewer calories. Most days, for most meals, I choose to avoid high calorie/low nutrient foods (sugar, oil, animal products, processed and refined foods), and focus on things that provide more nutrition per calories (good list at the bottom here). One might think my new mantra might sterilize and take the fun out of food. Quite the opposite, it challenges my skill and creativity to cook this way. And there’s always room for an occasional indulgence. But, as I said, most days I try to keep it clean.

I love a good curry but traditionally made, they tend to be very high calorie meals providing only moderate nutrition. This recipe for a healthier green curry omits both the oil I’d normally have used sauteing the vegetables and the very high fat coconut milk I’d have used to thicken the sauce and provide richness. Instead, this recipe uses low calorie (but thin) coconut water, almond milk for richness and it’s thickened with non-GMO, organic corn starch. It’s not quite as rich as a traditional curry but when well thickened with the corn starch slurry it’s every bit as velvety and satisfying.

My version uses tofu, a perplexing ingredient for many people. I’ve found the secret to cooking good tofu is to always cook it twice. Here, it’s steamed for 15-20 minutes before being simmered in the broth.

Healthy Tofu Green Curry

A nutrient dense, lower cal option

ingredients

  • 1 ea red and green pepper, diced into 1″ pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced 1″
  • 1 lb organic extra hard tofu, cubed 1″
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 cups coconut water
  • 2 tablespoons Non-GMO, Organic corn starch
  • 1-2 tablespoons green curry paste (quantity to taste)
  • sea salt

method

Steam (or bake, or grill, or whatever) the tofu for 15-20 minutes or until it’s noticeably drier and denser.
Get a pan hot (no oil), add onion and a tablespoon water. The water will get the onion cooking and you can proceed to sweat it as you would have in a traditional oil based sauté, adding a few more drops of water if it sticks. When the onion wilts, add the peppers and another tablespoon water. Stir the pan to deglaze any residue. In a bowl, combine almond milk, coconut water and curry paste. Stir until the paste is dissolved. When peppers turn bright red and green, add milk mixture. In a bowl, combine corn starch with 1/8 cup of water and stir into a slurry. Add the slurry to the pot while stirring. Bring the veggie/milk to a vigorous boil and in a few seconds the sauce will thicken and become velvety. Add tofu and cook at a simmer for 3-5 minutes. Adjust the curry’s thickness by adding water to thin or a bit more slurry to thicken. Adjust for salt and serve hot with brown rice.

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