Smackdown: Not Tofu


I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to tofu.

black eyed

That is, I only like it when it’s deep fried and covered in kung pao sauce. The rest of the time, I can leave it be, especially when it tries to make an appearance in my mac and cheese. So when I decided to pick a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook, I set a no-tofu rule. No tofu masquerading as cheese, no silken tofu masquerading as yogurt, no blended tofu masquerading as cream. Just good ol’, non-tofu vegetarian food.

Note to angry vegans: I do not begrudge you your tofu. Also, why are you still hanging around? Haven’t you learned your lesson? My readers, they are not kind to the tofu, and I don’t stand in the way of the hate train.


I also wanted something quick, because I need to go to bed early tonight so I can get up as the ass crack of dawn tomorrow morning. And vegetarian + quick and easy can only add up to one thing: beans. Or, in this case, black eyed peas in the form of Indian skillet beans.

This was a double win, because both Brian and I had been craving Indian food last night, but the only Indian joint we could find on was called something like “Horn OK Happy Indian” and the chicken tikka masala was $13 a serving, which is highway robbery for takeout Indian. Indian food should not cost more than $6.95, and should come in buffet form. Unlimited samosas for everyone!

I started sauteeing some onion, garlic and ginger while I got the spices together; a blend of cayenne, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander and cumin. I also drained a can of black eyed peas and rinsed off the nasty can juice.

skillet beansspinach

The spices and peas went into the skillet along with some tamarind concentrate and water.

Tamarind concentrate is some dark and viscous goo that clings obstinately to whatever utensil/countertop/human skin it touches. It’s like the devil’s semen. But damn it if as soon as the tamarind hit the heat, the smell emanating from the pan immediately began to read as Indian and my mouth immediately began to water.

I added a tomato just-plucked from my garden and, when the beans and tomato had simmered for a few minutes, some baby spinach.

Speaking of my garden, which is apropos of nothing here, I am currently experiencing Critical Chile Mass. Habanero, cayenne, jalapeno and something questionable called an “inferno.” I would appreciate your leaving me any good recipes that will use up a shit ton of chiles. Brian would prefer something pickled. Hup to.


While the spinach finished wilting down, I threw together a quick raita – yogurt, cucumber, mint and a little cumin.

Real yogurt that, at one point, came from a cow. Not a soybean. Just specifying.


I heaped the peas and spinach into my bowl, added a dollop of raita and sat down to the best Indian food a $0.79 can of black eyed peas can buy. This is my kind of vegetarian. It was hearty, satisfying and well-spiced. The raita was a welcome foil to the cayenne’s kick.

Admittedly, this is kind of a cheap shot for a Smackdown, because I could have very easily made something very similar without a recipe. So, you know, discount me if you will; I can take it.

14 thoughts on “Smackdown: Not Tofu

  1. Well, this vegetarian is still hanging around because you are wicked funny – I just take off my tri-focals if the meat pictures get too gory.

  2. OMG. “The devil’s semen.”

    I DIE. So funny.

    As far as the pickled chiles thing, might I suggest Food in Jars’ recipe for pickled peppers? If you’re not hopping on the canning-is-the-new-yoga trend, you could always just cover the peppers in brine and leave them in the fridge. But if you don’t have a lot of fridge space, and you can sacrifice an extra 30 minutes, this would probably be perfect.

  3. I had pepper overload two years ago. I took them and strung them on cotton thread with a sewing needle and hung them in my cellar stairwell. They dried perfectly and when making soups (all the time with the abundance of tomatoes this year!)I toss one in the mix. You can probably hang them anywhere that’s not too damp. I didn’t take any special care with them, and it worked.

  4. Oh for all the chiles – do a chili jam. Sounds complicated but it’s really not, and chili jam is awesome on grilled meats or on a sandwish or just mixed in with cream cheese…

    I know it’s not pickled, but there you go.

  5. Good for you with no tofu. Tofu is the devil. Unfermented soy products will mess with your thyroid and make men grow moobs. Stay far away!

    Tamarind though is nice stuff. Devil’s semen or not, I loves me a good tamarind sauce.

  6. Yep. Who needs tofu when you can have yummy pulses?
    Also, I’m right there with you about those angry vegans. They really get on my nerves. I don’t have a problem with their life choices but as soon as they are criticising mine, I do.

  7. lee, heh. i know you’re not the only one. the angry vegans haven’t been around in a while.

    kelly, deep fried is the only way, i’m convinced.

    carter, thanks for the link!

    cynic, good to know; i’m trying to figure out the best way to dry these little red ones we’ve got.

    gloria, brian loves chile jam too, i bet he’d be up for that.

    rachel, i’m with you on the tamarind love.

    autumn, ooh, i like her red chile sauce. may give that a whirl with the habaneros.

    karohemd, there were some particular angry vegans who jumped down my throat after i made some untoward comments about tofu; my beef is with them.

  8. Harissa! It’s a hot pepper condiment from North Africa. It lasts forever in the fridge, and you can adjust the hotness by how much of the innards you leave in.

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