cashew and cardamom fudge

by Stevie on August 31, 2012

This tofu dessert… yes, you read correctly, tofu dessert, is another super recipe from Nguyen’s Asian Tofu. She touts it as a higher protein version of the Indian kaju barfi, typically made with milk, sugar and cashew nuts.

cashew and cardamom fudge

cashew and cardamom fudge

Mine was delicious but didn’t quite have the consistency of what I consider to be fudge. This was soft. Perhaps I should have simmered the sweetened condensed milk longer to have less liquid? In any event, the flavor was wonderful and unlike most tofu-bearing recipes, you’ll never even know it is there.

cashew and cardamom fudge

8 oz super-firm tofu, grated with your finest grater
3½ oz raw cashews
1 can sweetened condensed milk
¾ tsp cardamom—I used whole pods which I ground and removed some of the fibrous shells
2 tbsp chopped pistachios

Line a small pan (she recommends 8”x8” but I didn’t have one so improvised) with parchment paper.

Grind cashews in food processor to a coarse texture. Add to shredded tofu (shredding the tofu was the hardest part of this recipe.) Toss to combine.

In a medium pan on medium heat, add the sweetened condensed milk and the tofu cashew mixture. Cook, stirring periodically, about 15 minutes. Don’t let it boil. Remove from heat and add ground cardamom.

Press into prepared pan. Press chopped pistachios on top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

When ready, cut into squares, bars or diamonds. Enjoy.

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The more that I delve into Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey, the more that I become fascinated. I’ve been focusing on some of the rice and grain dishes over the past few weeks, like Susa Polow with lentils, currants and dates; Fertile Crescent bulgar and mung bean pilaf; and Georgian pilaf with tart cherries.

wide rice noodles with Birjandi cucumber and pistachio sauce

The book is filled with lots of other foods besides rice. There are numerous exciting breads, vegetable dishes and pasta sauces. I’ve been enchanted with all things noodle since childhood. Growing up, though, we’d usually have Italian style sauces with semolina pasta or Chinese noodle dishes with Chinese style noodles. Najmieh Batmanglij turns that old fashioned model on its head, suggesting that any sauce can go on any kind of noodle. To me, this idea comes as a revelation! “Silk Road Cooking” has recipes for tried-and-true Italian style tomato or mushroom and cream sauce but boldly suggests that they can be served over rice stick, cellophane (mung bean) or Thai noodles. I wouldn’t find that in my mother’s kitchen: or, until I read this amazing book, in my own. I realize that I’ve gotten too rigid about pasta. Well, change is good.

As an aside, did you know that Najmieh Batmanglij’s son, Rostam Batmanglij, is in the band, Vampire Weekend? There was a flattering interview of Rostam and some fellow band-mates in the Feburary 4th Rolling Stone on the eve of their new album, Contra. The article even refers to Najmieh’s cookbooks. Cool! I like Vampire Weekend and have both of their albums but never made the connection until the magazine review. They’re a talented family! Who knew?

But back to creativity in the kitchen!

Last week, I was inspired by Najmieh’s Birjandi cucumber and pistachio sauce. It vaguely reminded me of a variation of pesto. But this one has no garlic, no olive oil, no cheese and no lemon juice. She says that the recipe has been adapted from a soup into a sauce. She got the idea from “the Sepehri family” in Birjand, an ancient caravan town surrounded by desert. Do you think that the Sepehri’s are family friends?

Since you can pick any noodle, I settled on a package of Asian wide rice noodles that had been sitting around the kitchen for a while. I’d wanted to use spaghetti or linguini because the recipe seemed to call for that in my mind, but I forced myself to do something different. The noodles went perfectly with the sauce.
The recipe calls for fresh tarragon which I couldn’t find anywhere. And much to my surprise, I didn’t have any dry at home either. I ended up using a Provencal herb mix that includes tarragon. I’m going to make the sauce again once the fresh is available.

some key ingredients for wide rice noodles with Birjandi cucumber and pistachio sauce

The finished dish was very aromatic and flavorful. I always worry that fresh mint will overpower everything else, but that didn’t happen here. We loved it.

be creative with noodle selections

Wide Rice Noodles with Birjandi Cucumber and Pistachio Sauce

1 cup shelled pistachios, rinsed
1 cup shelled walnuts, rinsed
½ cup fresh basil leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp dry Provencal herb mix (the original recipe calls for ¼ cup fresh tarragon)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup boiling water
1 pita bread, toasted
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 package noodles of your choice!

Prepare noodles per package directions.

While noodles are cooking, toast pita bread. I don’t have a toaster so used my broiler. Of course I was talking on the telephone when I was toasting the pita so it burned completely. Fortunately I had another pita as a spare.

i love using the food processor!

Put all ingredients except cucumber into a food processor and process until a paste. Adjust flavors.

I didn’t have seedless cucumbers so cut out the seeds with a spoon after peeling them.

Toss sauce, cucumber and pasta together in a serving dish and enjoy.


Georgian pilaf with tart cherries

by Stevie on December 31, 2009

Georgian pilaf with tart cherries

I made this rice dish over Heguiberto’s objection for Christmas dinner last week. He objected not because it was a non-traditional dish (which he doesn’t care about) or because it was a rice dish (he loves rice). Rather, he didn’t like the idea of the tart cherries. Though he’s from Brazil where there is abundant fruit throughout the year, and he’s been cooking for decades, he still can’t wrap his mind around the idea of fruit in a savory dish. Silly thing! After eating this Georgian pilaf, he’s now a true believer, and you will be too!

I found the recipe in Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey by Najmieh Batmanglij. We’ve had the book for years but only tried a few of the dishes. She excels at rice dishes, so I’d recommend that you get the book to try these for sure. That’s the advice that I’m planning to take.

I’ve modified the recipe slightly as I thought that it would go better.

key ingredients for Georgian pilaf

Georgian Pilaf with Tart Cherries

2 cups basmati rice
3 cups water
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 inch piece peeled fresh ginger, grated
2 two inch cinnamon sticks
2 cups pitted tart cherries. (I used Morello cherries in a light syrup from Trader J’s. Just rinse them before use.)
1 Serrano chile; stem, seeds and ribs removed; minced
½ tsp saffron threads, ground and dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
½ cup blanched, pan toasted almond slivers
½ cup shelled unsalted pistachios

rinse the basmati rice thoroughly before cooking

Rinse basmati rice thoroughly with cold water before cooking.

saffron and sour cherries make this dish exciting

Put two tablespoons vegetable oil in a pan over high heat. Add salt and rice. Sauté for about a minute. Add water and cover tightly. Bring to boil then lower to simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from heat when water is absorbed (about fifteen minutes). Set aside.

While rice is cooking, pour remaining oil into a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat. Add onion, Serrano, ginger, cinnamon sticks. Sauté until onion turns a golden brown. Then add cherries and saffron. Stir to warm. Add nuts. Mix well.

Fold rice into cherry mixture. Cover to warm through. The book recommends cooking for another fifteen minutes. I added a bit more water and let it cook a bit longer but to me it seemed done.
Plate and serve. We had this with a remarkable fish dish that John made from a recent Saveur magazine issue. Hegui wants me to make the rice again sometime!

Georgian pilaf with tart cherries

Thanks for sharing this video, Jack! Happy Holidays, everyone! Welcome 2010!!!

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