12 September 2010

Using What's Left

As autumn prepares to roll around the corner, so disappears the summer garden's bounty of fruits and vegetables.  But the dropping temperatures aren't the culprits behind the steady dwindling of backyard produce, nor is my greedy consumption of it to blame.  Rather, squirrels and gophers have helped themselves to nearly anything they grew in those modest plots of tilled earth, leaving hardly a scrap for me to enjoy for at least a month now.  I have, in fact, had little homegrown bounty to speak of lately, the peak of early summer zucchini, chard, and kale long past and once-promising heirloom tomato plants proving nearly fruitless.  I hope at least a few persimmons survive to ripen this autumn, because I suspect some clever critters are behind the sudden rarity of immature green fruits that had recently begun to dot the tree branches.

One thing the critters out back haven't touched is the lemongrass.  I had really no clue how to grow it, but liking the idea of not having to purchase stalks from the market, I read up on it a bit and planted a seedling a few months ago to see how it would do, hoping that it would survive.  So far, it's thriving.  I don't think the temperatures around here are ideal for lemongrass to grow more than a few feet tall, so my amateur guess is that the plant is at its peak right about now.  I harvested a few stalks recently and decided to cook up something with them.

The resulting dish combined flavors of lemongrass, coconut, and ginger in a belly-warming, Thai-inspired stew.  The lemongrass is rather subtle--I only managed to utilize a small amount of my harvest so far and was unsure of how much to implement in the dish anyway--but does seem to add a touch of fresh flavor.  For more of a pronounced citrus-like presence, more lemongrass or a touch of lime zest would do the trick.
Green Tofu Stew (printable recipe)
Yields 4 to 6 servings

8 oz super-firm tofu, cubed
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped
3 dried red Thai chilies
1 c coconut milk
1 tsp vegetable broth powder, or 1/2 a vegetable bouillon cube, crushed
1 tsp shoyu
1 orange bell pepper (red or yellow are fine), chopped
1/2 c chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 c fresh spinach, loosely packed
1/4 c green onion, sliced
Oil, to lightly grease pan
Additional cilantro and green onion for garnish, optional

In a blender or food processor, process the garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and chilies until finely minced.  Add the cilantro and a bit of the coconut milk, blending to form a paste.  Add the remaining coconut milk, vegetable broth powder or bouillon cube, and shoyu, processing until well-blended.  Place the tofu in a medium bowl, pour over the coconut mixture, cover, and allow it to marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Lightly oil a large saucepan and heat over medium flame.  Drain the tofu, reserving the marinade.  Cook the tofu until uniformly golden brown, then remove from pan and set aside.  Add the spinach to the pan, cook until just wilted (approximately one minute), then drain excess liquid and remove from the pan.  Return the pan to medium heat, then add the bell pepper and green onion; cook until the bell pepper has softened and browned slightly around the edges.  Add the chickpeas and cook for and additional minute or so, until heated through.  Add the tofu back to the pan, then pour over the reserved marinade.  Cook over medium-low until the liquid begins to simmer, then add the spinach back to the pan, and cook until just heated through.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.  Garnish with additional cilantro and green onion and serve hot with rice.  Enjoy!


  1. Yum, looks delish! I only recently started using lemongrass and I'm surprised by how awesome it is. In V'Con there is a recipe for lemograss risotto that is so perfect for using the stuff up.

  2. That looks so good - and I just cooked a crockpot full of chickpeas!

  3. I think it's really cool that you grew your own lemongrass! The spice blend sound really great as does the entire stew.

  4. I agree with Andrea...and I love Thai flavors. This looks warm and comfy cozy.

  5. What a tantalizing flavor combination, and so colorful! I haven't had Thai food in so long. Now that I've seen this recipe I'm going to crave it until I make it!

  6. Very yummy sounding with that coconut milk and cilantro!

  7. Yum! tofu & chickpeas together, so good, the marinade sounds delicious too, lovely flavours!

  8. Yum! tofu & chickpeas together, so good, the marinade sounds delicious too, lovely flavours!

  9. That looks so good - and I just cooked a crockpot full of chickpeas!


Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)