“Don’t be over-wise; fling yourself straight into life without deliberation; don’t be afraid – the flood will bear you to the bank and set you safe on your feet again.”
– Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
I finished Crime and Punishment a couple of weeks ago, thus fulfilling a goal I’ve had for about eight years now. To be sure, its 500 pages are packed full of haunting, upsetting, and inspiring passages that repeatedly forced me to stop reading, lay the book on my lap, and stare out the subway window for a minute or two, just to let it all soak in. But the quotation above is the one that moved me most. So much so that as soon as I finished the book, I wrote the quote on an index card and stuck it on the refrigerator as a daily reminder to “fling myself straight into life.”
I feel like I’ve been flinging myself straight into life a fair amount recently, though perhaps with more deliberation than Fyodor would have wanted. Just yesterday I submitted the first of a handful of applications for Master’s degree programs that, with any luck, I would start in Fall 2015. At work, I’ve taken on teaching a couple of new and unfamiliar classes this session — a change of pace that I think will be both challenging and rewarding. And then, of course, there was this recipe, whose principal ingredient I have long shied away from but which I was determined — at long last — to conquer.
That ingredient is tofu. Yes, a funny ingredient for a vegetarian to be afraid of, but for whatever reason I have never trusted myself to be capable of turning a brick of spongy white protein into anything remotely appetizing, despite having enjoyed tofu in countless dishes prepared by other (perhaps more talented) cooks. But this recipe for delicata squash, tofu, and kale curry seemed too good to pass up, so I steeled my nerves and gave it my best — and guess what? Cooking tofu isn’t so hard after all. The key, I found, is buying it extra-firm, patting it dry as best you can, and cooking the cubes with just a little oil and a lot of flavor (here, curry) until that spongy nothingness has been transformed into crispy, curried, delectable chunks. See? Just as Fyodor promised, the flood will bear you to the bank.
So don’t be afraid, and try making this curry as soon as possible. With a little coconut milk, ginger and lime, and a lot of confidence, how could you fail?
delicata squash curry with kale & tofu
Adapted from Eating Well
2 tablespoons curry powder
salt & pepper
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large delicata squash, peeled, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, diced
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 14-ounce can lite coconut milk
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
4-6 cups coarsely chopped kale or chard
brown rice or quinoa, to serve
We begin with the tofu. Drain tofu and blot with a paper towel to dry. Chop into 1/2″ cubes. Place in a large bowl and toss with one tablespoon of curry powder. Heat two teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu, a couple good shakes of salt and pepper, and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring often, until pieces are nicely browned. Return to the bowl and set aside.
Take this opportunity to chop EVERYTHING: peel, de-seed, and cube the squash; mince the garlic and ginger, dice the onion, zest the lime, coarsely chop the kale. Now we’re ready to rumble!
In the same large skillet you used for the tofu, heat a couple tablespoons of oil. Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and squash and cook for 5 minutes more, until vegetables begin to brown.
Add one tablespoon of curry powder, the lime zest, and a couple good shakes of salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Pour in coconut milk and add brown sugar. NOTE: You’ll have to make your own judgement call on how liquid-y you want this curry. I added another half a can or so of water, because I wanted the consistency to be just a little bit soupy. But, as my mother would say, use your nursing judgement. Also, if you happen to have vegetable stock on hand, that would add even more flavor than just plain ol’ water.
Bring everything to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add kale a couple handfuls at a time, waiting for each batch to wilt slightly before adding more.
Finally, return the tofu to the skillet, stir to combine, and let cook for 5-6 minutes more, or until the squash is softened. Remove from heat, and squeeze in the lime juice just before serving. Top with cashews if it suits you.
In summary: this dish packs equal parts protein and flavor, all coated in a ginger and lime studded creaminess thanks to the mouthwateringly good curry and coconut milk base. The just-wilted kale and crispy tofu chunks add just a hint of crunch to this otherwise melt-in-your-mouth bowl of comfort and health. As the days get shorter, colder, and — at least in Brooklyn — rainier, this is exactly what you want to fill your belly with.