This is a healthier, plant-based spin on saag paneer. Tofu replaces the cheese, and I mixed up the greens a little bit, just for kicks.
Today’s VeganMoFo theme is “Recreate a meal from your childhood.” We definitely ate some Standard American Diet food when I was a kid, but my parents also really liked Thai, Japanese, and Indian food. I was the elementary school kid getting teased about sushi in her lunchbox.
When we would go out for Indian food, saag paneer was my go-to. It always felt like a big bowl of comfort food to me. When I went vegan, I really missed those rich, creamy greens piled over rice. This saag tofu is me trying to veganize that cozy dish in my own kitchen.
A Thing I Learned About Saag
To develop this recipe, I started by researching saag paneer. Here’s a fun thing that I learned: saag isn’t always made with spinach. It’s just a mix of winter greens, and spinach is the most common one that folks use. That makes sense, since spinach is inexpensive and cooks up so quickly. But you can make saag tofu with whatever dark and leafies you like, really.
That was great news, because when I hit the store for ingredients last week, there was no spinach in sight. What I did find was baby kale, which looked like it would work very well in this recipe. Baby kale behaves a lot like spinach in the pan – it cooks down considerably. You start with a mountain of greens, and by the time you’re done, you have less than half of that. A modest hill, really.
You can use other greens for your saag tofu, if baby kale or spinach aren’t your thing. If you use hardier greens, like (not baby) kale or collards, cut the amount in half.
Serve up your saag tofu over rice for a super simple supper.
Mild Saag Tofu
Yield: 4 servings as a main dish, 6-8 as a side
- 14 cups fresh baby kale, washed (You can substitute baby spinach. Either way, this is about a pound of baby greens.)
- 5 tablespoons vegan margarine of your choice, divided (You can use olive oil instead. If you do, add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pan when you’re cooking the tofu.)
- 1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1″ cubes
- 1/2 a yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1″ piece of fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala (I have found this at Whole Foods and at Asian markets. You can also find it online.)
- 1/2 cup almond or soy milk mixed with 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup plain coconut yogurt (just plain, not unsweetened plain)
- In a soup pot or Dutch oven, saute the baby kale in 1 tablespoon of the margarine on medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes, until it wilts. Spinach will take slightly less time to cook down, and hardier greens will need a few more minutes to cook. Set your cooked greens aside.
- Heat the rest of the margarine in the same pan on medium-high. Add your tofu, and fry until it begins to brown. Spoon the cooked tofu into a bowl, and set aside. This take about 8-10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium, and saute the onion, garlic, and ginger until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the mixture with the salt and spices. Stir these together for just another minute or so, then fold the cooked baby kale back into the pan.
- Reduce the heat to low, and stir the almond milk/lemon juice mixture and the yogurt, and cook until everything starts to thicken, about 2 more minutes. Once things thicken up, use your immersion blender to puree the greens just a bit. You can also transfer to a blender and pulse a few times, if you don’t have an immersion blender. Either way, you are not going for a smooth puree here. Puree just enough that there are no big clumps of spinach, but the mixture should still be chunky when you’re done.
- Gently fold in the tofu, and you’re ready to serve.