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Powered by Plants: Cooking vegan is as easy as 1, 2, 3 – recipes for tofu scramble, pasta and curry

By Jonathan Glover For The Spokesman-Review

Give a vegan a tofu scramble, and you feed them for a day (or a couple of hours, if we’re being honest). But teach a vegan to tofu scramble, and you feed them for a lifetime.

In non-cliche-speak, what I’m getting at is every vegan worth their kosher salt should be able to cook. Not three-course-meal cook. Not gourmet cook. But cook.

It doesn’t have to be every night. But it should be most nights. In fact, research has shown that people who eat home-cooked meals more often than dining out tend to consume less sugar and processed foods. Whether they’re happier or healthier, that’s anyone’s guess.

But there’s something to it. You control how much salt is added. Not interested in gorging on that much butter or oil? Don’t use it. Like extra spice? Throw in some red pepper flakes. Prefer a fresh lemon over lemon juice, just squeeze it on out.

And because I recently adopted a habit of cooking at least six nights a week, I figured now is the perfect time to push my beliefs on you, dear reader. Which is why I’ve concocted what I’m now calling “Three Easy Meals to Make When You Just Can’t Be Bothered To Care.”

Plus, who doesn’t want to put on their dating profile that they’re a great cook and actually mean it?

Tofu Scramble

We’ve already mentioned it, so why not start here. I think every vegan should be able to whip out a tofu scramble in 20 minutes flat.

And please don’t skimp on the turmeric.

Why this recipe works:

It’s quick, it’s filled with protein and flavor, and it’s infinitely customizable to whatever you’re feeling at the moment.

My preferred ingredients:

1 package of tofu (firm or extra firm is fine, but I prefer firm)

1 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

1/2 of a yellow onion

1 teaspoon of Indian black salt

A few shakes of turmeric

Salt

Pepper

Instructions:

Finely chop the vegetables and throw them in a nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat with a bit of vegetable oil. While those are cooking, open your tofu and grab chunks that fit easily between your hands. Squeeze your hands together as if you’re trying to ring out all of the water you can from the tofu (because you are).

Once you’ve gotten about all the water out, crumble it into a bowl. It should look kind of like eggs. Alternatively, you can set your tofu block out on a paper towel for about 20 minutes, or press it on a cutting board with plenty of weight. Up to you. (I like the first method because it’s fast, and you get to take out your frustrations on pressed soy.)

Once the tofu is taken care of, check your veggies. The onions should be translucent and the peppers a bit soft. Not too soft, though. Once they’re the consistency you like, add your tofu. Incorporate it into the pan and crank the heat up to just below high. Let it sit for 2 to 3 minutes, then roll it around.

The tofu will start browning in spots. After 7 to 8 minutes in the pan, stirring occasionally, add the seasonings, and continue cooking until the tofu and veggies are warmed through.

If you’ve done it right, and to be honest it’s difficult to mess up, it should look like a plate of scrambled eggs and veggies. It won’t taste exactly on the nose, but it’ll be good nonetheless. Eat it as is, or throw it in a burrito with hash browns and tempeh for a delicious breakfast burrito.

Pasta

That’s a broad topic, I know, but the recipe I have in store for you is full of flavor.

Why this recipe works:

It’s made from fresh ingredients, much of which you probably already have in your fridge. And it’s remarkably easy (and cinematic).

My preferred ingredients:

1/2 pound of spaghetti noodles

1/2 cup of olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, cut into little spears, finely chopped or pressed

1 teaspoon (or more, if you’re like me) red pepper flakes

1/2 cup of Italian parsley, finely chopped

One lemon

Instructions:

Fill a large pot with water and set it to boil on the stove.

While the water is heating up, finely chop 6 cloves of garlic (use more if you really love garlic).

Next, strip leaves off of the Italian parsley, enough to give you about a half a cup once finely chopped.

Cook the pasta until it’s al dente, following the directions on the package. Remove from pot, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Heat a nonstick pan on medium-high heat and add 1/2 cup olive oil. Once translucent, add the garlic. After about 2 minutes, it should start to turn brown. Once you see this, move quickly. Throw in the red pepper flakes, then the pasta. Keep the pan over the heat.

Move it all around for a bit, then add the pasta water. Once it’s well-incorporated, add the salt and pepper. Then, the Italian parsley. Finally, squeeze the juice of an entire lemon over top (be careful to keep the seeds out of the pasta).

Stir to mix the ingredients, then serve immediately.

Curry

Green, yellow, red – curry is basically a stir fry with more spice and flavor. And it’s endlessly customizable.

Why this recipe works:

It lets you experiment with all types of flavors and helps you introduce all kinds of vegetables and proteins into your cooking.

My preferred ingredients:

1 to 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice

2 tablespoons red or green curry paste (be careful, many curry pastes contain shrimp)

1 can of coconut milk

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Juice of one lime, with 1 teaspoon of zest

1 teaspoon of freshly ground ginger

1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

3 cloves of garlic

1 red pepper

1 yellow or green pepper

1 package extra firm tofu

About 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Instructions:

Drain your tofu after cutting it into little cubes. Once it’s sat for about 20 minutes, bake it in the oven on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Cook rice according to package directions.

While tofu and rice are cooking, chop vegetables. (You could use anything here – cauliflower, mushrooms, broccoli, chickpeas. I like to use peppers, sometimes mushrooms.)

In a mixing bowl, add the can of coconut milk, curry paste, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, lime zest and lime juice together and whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl, add freshly chopped garlic and fresh ginger together with a dash of oil.

Once your rice and tofu are about 10 minutes away, saute vegetables with about 1 tablespoon of oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat for 5 or 6 minutes, until they’re soft. Next, add the garlic and ginger to the center, pushing the vegetables to the side. Press the garlic and ginger into the pan until you can smell it. Cook for about a minute, then add the curry mixture.

Remove tofu from oven, add to pan, and continue to stir.

Serve the curry over a bowl of rice.

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