Monday, July 25, 2011

Toasting Turmeric

Turmeric is known for its bounty of healthful benefits, including being an anti-inflammatory agent so potent that it is on par with drugs like ibuprofen and hydrocortizone, but without the toxic side effects.
It's the yellow pigment, curcumin, that gives turmeric it's powerful healing qualities. Besides offering a great color palette, turmeric also has a unique aroma and flavor. It played a starring role in Dorrie Greenspan's couscous salad, so here's another idea to put the ingredient to use: warm tofu salad over soba noodles.

OK, so maybe it's not a "salad" per se, but the carrots and cucumbers in this recipe are approximately julienned (they would be officially julienned if my knife skills were better) and thrown into a pan at the last minute, so they remain for the most part raw.

Step 1 - Prep the tofu.

  • Use firm tofu. Divide the block into 1/2" thick slabs and spread the slabs out over a cutting board. Cover with about 3-4 sheets of paper towels. Load a 9x13" baking dish with some heavy books (or other weight) and place on top of the tofu slabs to drain out the water. I chose Julia Childs' Joy of Cooking and Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, because that's how much street cred I have. Let stand for 20-30 minutes. Once drained, slice into uniform shapes of your choice.
  • Assemble a marinade.

    -2 hand-crushed dried red chili peppers (red pepper flakes will work, too)
    -2 tablespoons unrefined sesame oil
    -2 teaspoons of curry powder (whose main ingredient is turmeric -- imagine that!)
    -1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
    -1/2-3/4 cup vegetable stock to suspend the flavors
  • After whisking the ingredients thoroughly together and tasting to make sure I liked where this was all headed (I did), I gave each piece of tofu a turn in the marinade and transferred the newly-coated pieces into a separate bowl, finally pouring the remaining liquid over the top. This went into the fridge for a few hours.

    Step 2 - Slice some veggies & cook the tofu
  • Later, I pulled the marinated tofu out of the fridge and arranged it on a parchment-lined pizza pan before sticking into the broiler for about 40 minutes. When done, let cool and spritz with

    -juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Meanwhile, I sliced up

    -2 small carrots, julienned
    -1/2 a large cucumber, julienned
    -4 cloves garlic, minced

    and retrieved a bag of shredded cabbage from the fridge.

    Step 3: Boil noodles

  • Soba noodles are Japanese noodles made from 100% buckwheat flour. If you don't know why that's good for you, click here.
  • Throw a desired quantity (I did one bundle) into a pot of boiling water for about 7-8 minutes and you should be good. These cook quick, so be sure to watch them carefully. Turn your back, and you may return to a soggy mess. For added flavor, salt the water while the noodles boil.

    Step 4: Cook the veggies.
  • Bring a pan to medium heat and pour in about

    -1 tablespoon sesame oil

    Add the minced garlic and let it just barely start to brown.
  • Throw in 2-3 cups of shredded cabbage and let cook until the water starts to evaporate and the cabbage is frying in the pan. Add, to taste

    -Chili powder
    -Ground pepper
  • When the cabbage tastes cooked, throw in the carrots and cucumber, and add

    -3 tablespoons soy sauce
    -1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar. Mix well.
  • Finally, use a spatula to fold in the prepared tofu. Serve over warm soba noodles and enjoy -- if you actually made it this far, you've earned it! 


  1. Was this mouth-watering delicious? How did it taste?!!!

  2. It was pretty darn tasty! Flavorful without being overpoweringly salty. I mean, it's no homemade dim sum, but, I'm working up to it... :)

  3. it has become a joke in my relationship to make fun of me for being a giant hippie. my partner teases me about all my 'fix it with food not meds' kind of stuff. i told him about turmeric after reading your post and he sort of rolled his eyes....a week later though, he said, "Ya know, I really started to think more about what you were saying about turmeric, and read a little more about it, and I think I want to start incorporating it in my diet more so i stop taking advil so much." (he's a boxer and needs anti-inflamatory meds a lot, cause he's constantly all beat up). SUCCESS thanks to you! : )