Monday, April 27, 2009

Apricot-Cashew Moroccan Tofu & Couscous

Pardon me while I perch upon my culinary soapbox for a moment: it annoys the [bean curd] out of me when people claim they don't like tofu. Mostly because 90% of those people have never tried it. Most irritating of all is the insipid half-question/half-excuse, "Well, I don't even know what tofu IS...!!!"

To which I might reply, "Ever heard of Wikipedia?" Or perhaps, "And I suppose you know EXACTLY what comprises a Filet-o-Fish?"

Tofu is made from the soy plant. You know, the amazing crop that has sustained civilizations all over the world for thousands of years? The simple, humble legume that contains ALL of the essential amino acids, is high in protein, and is - oh yeah - delicious?!? Many of my cohorts loooove to have edamame before they eat their designer sushi rolls, but a scrumptious tofu stir-fry? Never.

OK, OK, I'll step down off my soapbox now. (Although the view is really quite nice.)

All smug, pro-veg-agenda rhetoric aside, tofu is really a wonderful kitchen staple. It's the picture of versatility - which is why it's so often compared to the egg (that, and its textural resemblance to egg whites). It takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in, hence its comparison to the ubiquitous chicken, the flavor-sherpa of the animal kingdom.

I had been meaning to pick up some tofu for awhile, and as I think more and more about the many unsettling things I've learned about the American meat industry, I felt that today was the day for a delicious return to a forgotten favorite. I was craving something spicy and restorative after a draining weekend of traveling (not to mention eating crap airport food).

I remembered I had some couscous, which inspired me to create a Moroccan-spiced, (almost) vegetarian dish that completely hit the airport-garbage-laden spot.



1/4 block extra firm organic tofu, cut into chunks
1/2 zucchini, halved and cut into half moons
1 yellow bell pepper, chunked
handful dried apricots
handful whole raw cashews, unsalted
1/2 a medium white onion, chunked
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. Moroccan spice mixture (from The Spice House or specialty store)
2 T. peach preserves (apricot preserves would be ideal, but I had peach on hand)
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 T. Sriracha hot sauce, or to taste
1 c. chicken broth
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 c. dry whole wheat couscous
1 T. butter or olive oil
salt to taste


Heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet that has a lid. Saute the onions until translucent and brown at the edges. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about a minute.


Add the chicken broth and the rest of the ingredients (except the couscous ingredients, of course), stir to combine, cover, and cook on medium until the veggies are just tender and the liquid is slightly thickened.


Meanwhile, cook the couscous according to package directions. Serve the Moroccan tofu mixture over couscous in a shallow bowl. Enjoy!

This came out lovely. The balance of savory and sweet elements punctuated with a bit of fiery Sriracha was just what the flight attendant ordered. The Moroccan spice blend really complemented the apricot flavor, and the tofu was the perfect protein star player. Next time, I'd chop some fresh cilantro as a garnish (I completely forgot to pick it up - if I didn't live in a dark Lincoln Park shoebox, I'd just grow my own).

This recipe, be forewarned, makes enough for about 3-4 meals. I have an inkling that it will only get tastier with time. I can't wait to have it for lunch tomorrow!

I can see this recipe being a nice introduction to the world of tofu for those who may be uninitiated. If you didn't know that there was tofu in the dish, you wouldn't even notice it - its meaty, silky texture is great with the crisp veggies, but its neutral taste allows the bold, exotic flavors to take center stage.

Hopefully the tofu-shy out there will venture into the world of complete vegetarian protein - if just as a brief departure from omnivorousness.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

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