Sometime the herbs are what are left from the box when next CSA week rolls around. But if you took them out of the bag last week and placed them in a small jar of water, refrigerated or decorating your kitchen counter top, cilantro, basil and chives are just about as sprightly as a week ago. I try to be aggressive and use up the beet greens or any other leafy greens first, before the weekend, because I know I can continue to enjoy the herbs right into the next week. And there are so many international dishes that benefit and shine from their pungent flavor—from Latin American and Caribbean to Thai and Indian.
For us the basil is easy because we squirrel it away made into pesto. I keep walnuts and fresh Romano cheese on hand this time of year in hopes that John will bless us with his beautiful basil. If I feel like I am swimming in cilantro, I turn it into Latino pesto with toasted pumpkin seeds.
About a week ago I was cruising the deli counter at the Salt Lake Whole Foods and spied a fruit and jicama salad with a cilantro lime dressing. I was thinking about making such a salad over the weekend when supper in a hurry became a priority and since we had been gifted some beautiful farm fresh eggs—chilaquiles frittata (with ¼ cup of chopped cilantro) made the cut. Here is last night’s supper, which uses almost ½ cup of cilantro, a bit of basil and spinach greens as well as last week’s scapes. Deborah Madison once again provided the inspiration. In her book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, she describes this as a Vietnamese dish, though I am not sure about my version with turmeric curry powder and almonds.
Tofu in Curry-Coconut Sauce
1 pound firm tofu, cut into cubes
1 huge handful fresh spinach or other green, thick stems removed
1 tablespoon coconut oil or peanut oil
1 small onion
1 large handful garlic scapes
1 to 2 teaspoons Thai curry paste, red or green
1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder
½ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
½ cup vegetable stock
½ teaspoon Real Salt
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/3 cup chopped roasted whole almonds or peanuts
Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Gently drop the tofu cubes into the water and let them simmer gently for 5 minute. Remove the tofu with a slotted spoon onto a plate draped with a couple of paper towels.
Drop the spinach leaves into the simmering water and blanch a minute or so. Drain and chop coarsely. Set aside.
Slice the onion thinly. As you would with asparagus, snap the tops and bottoms off the scapes, then cut them into ½-inch lengths. Cut each carrot in half lengthwise and then slice into 1/8-inch half moons.
Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet or wok. When it is hot, add the onion and scapes and stir-fry for a minute. Add the carrots and stir-fry a few minutes. Stir in the curry paste and powder, then add the coconut milk, vegetable stock, salt and tofu.
Simmer several minutes, then stir in the spinach, 1/3 cup of the cilantro and the basil. Season to taste with more salt and cayenne pepper.
Serve over quinoa rice*, garnished with the remaining cilantro and chopped almonds.
Makes 2 to 3 servings.
* Quinoa rice is half quinoa and half rice, steamed as you would for rice.