One of our favorite recipes is a great vegetarian lunch that we make at least a couple times a month. It's taken from Amelia Morris's food blog "Bon Appetempt" (www.bonappetempt.com). Amelia adapted this recipe slightly from "Vegetable Literacy" (Deborah Madison's Corn Simmered in Coconut Milk). It's a yummy riff on a Thai dish that Amelia loves to order at a restaurant in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. The flavors in this recipe combine beautifully, with a hint of heat from the jalapeno, some sweetness from the corn and coconut milk, and the pungent deliciousness of the curry and mustard seeds. Add crispy, sesame-oil infused tofu strips, and you've got a fabulous weekend lunch or light dinner on the table!
Corn Simmered in Coconut Milk with Tofu and Thai Basil
2 tablespoons of ghee (vegetable oil or canola oil will work just fine)
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 bay leaves
1 jalapeno chile (make sure you seed it if you want less heat)
1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
2 cups of corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
3/4 cup light coconut milk
salt and pepper
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
slivered Thai basil, plus whole leaves to finish (regular basil will work just fine)
4 teaspoons of light sesame oil
1/2 to 1 package (depending on how many people you're serving) of firm tofu, drained and cut into slabs
4 green onions, slivered diagonally (optional)
white or brown basmati rice
Heat the ghee (or canola oil), mustard seeds, bay leaves, curry, ginger, and jalapeno in a wide skillet over medium heat. Listen for the mustard seeds to start to sputter, then add the corn (if the corn is frozen, thaw in a separate sauce pan for five minutes or so prior to adding it to the skillet) and mix with the seasonings. Mix in the coconut milk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, plus a few turns of the pepper mill. Allow this mixture to simmer for around 5 minutes or so. Add the lime zest and juice plus the basil. Taste for seasoning.
Meanwhile, coat a non-stick (or even better, a cast-iron) skillet with sesame oil and turn to medium heat. When it's heated up, add the slabs of tofu (you may notice the tofu releasing some water as it starts to cook, but it will soon start to brown and crisp up-- just give it time). Flip the slabs carefully so as to brown both sides, then season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer slabs to a paper-towel-lined plate to rest for a couple of minutes. And just FYI, the crispy, sesame oil-infused tofu is so delicious! Definitely don't skip that step.
On a plate or shallow bowl, add the rice, cover with the corn mixture, then layer the tofu and the remaining basil leaves and green onions. We also like to add some steamed broccoli or green beans either to the dish itself or on the side to give it that verdant, healthy crunch and contrast. Enjoy!