Active time:30 mins
Total time:55 minutes, plus optional marinade time
In a phone interview about his new book, “Plant-Based India,” Sheil Shukla spoke of his own journey in exactly opposite terms, and I wanted to applaud. Shukla, a Chicago-area internal medicine physician, was born and raised in Wisconsin to parents from the Gujarat region of India. His mother and grandmother were both vegetarians and they were the main cooks when he was growing up. He used to eat meat and seafood when they dined out, but switched to a vegan diet in college, starting in 2013 when he started cooking for himself.
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“I found it to be a great way to diversify the foods I ate,” he told me. “By limiting dairy, I was adding more fruits and vegetables, experimenting with things I had never tried before, and just letting my creativity run wild. When I went to the grocery store, there were always new fruits and vegetables that I wanted to try. A door closed and the world opened up.
His favorite example of such a variety is technically not a fruit or a vegetable, but is central to so much Indian cuisine: pulses, an ingredient dear to my heart and the star of dals, dosa, rajma and more .
When you cook dried beans, you get liquid gold. Use it in this recipe.
Shukla brings her perspective on consuming more (and more diverse) products to her patients. He recently started working in a new practice, so he mostly sees patients for the first time during their medical checkups and annual checkups. “I always ask what they’re eating, and when we get their blood work back, we make a correlation,” he said. “If things are significantly out of whack, we adjust the diet. My message is generally increase vegetables, increase fruits, increase whole grains, because we know all of these protect against heart disease.
Shukla’s book, along with her own vibrant, color-saturated photographs, is a beautiful guide to all the ways Indian cuisine can help anyone follow her advice. The recipe I picked for it, tofu tikka, shows how versatile bean curd, when coated with enough flavor, can provide so much satisfaction. My second favorite part of the recipe is Shukla’s instruction to balance the tofu, onion and bell pepper skewers on the edges of a deep baking dish so air can circulate around the food – and better approximate the effect of a hot tandoor.
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The marinade is my favorite part. After several experiments, Shukla came up with a potent flavor combination – rooted in tomato, garlic, ginger, lime, and spices – that turns soft tofu into something spectacular. The spice that stands out is just half a teaspoon of black salt, an ingredient with a sulfurous aroma and flavor that has become fashionable in recent years to give vegans an egg taste. , well, egg. But it also has a long tradition in Indian cuisine that has nothing to do with eggs or the lack thereof.
In this way, black salt is the perfect metaphor for Shukla’s cuisine. In his hands, it’s more, not less.
Serve with raita (made with dairy-free yogurt to keep this vegan) and/or chutney, on flatbread or with rice, or make into lettuce wraps.
Get ahead: Tofu and vegetables can be marinated up to 24 hours before cooking.
Storage Notes: Refrigerate up to 5 days.
Or buy: Himalayan black salt (kala namak) and chaat masala can be found in Indian markets or online.
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- 2/3 cup plain unsweetened non-dairy yogurt, such as oatmeal or coconut
- 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 6 garlic cloves, grated or pressed
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan black salt (kala namak; optional)
- One block (14 to 16 ounces) extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 medium red onion (4 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large bell pepper, any color, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- A generous pinch of chaat masala, to serve
- Cilantro or chopped fresh mint, to serve
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- raitato serve (optional)
- Mint and coriander chutneyto serve (optional)
In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, tomato paste, garlic, ginger, lime juice, garam masala, paprika, salt, turmeric, red chili and black salt, optionally.
Add the tofu, onion and bell pepper to the bowl and fold gently until each piece is well coated. If desired, cover and refrigerate overnight and up to 24 hours (although you can also proceed straight to the recipe if you wish).
If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
Gently stir the tofu and vegetables to coat them with the marinade, then prick onto bamboo or metal skewers, alternating the tofu, bell pepper and onion. Reserve any remaining marinade.
Line the bottom of a square baking dish with aluminum foil. Balance the skewers on top of the edges of the baking dish so that the tofu does not touch the bottom of the dish or the neighboring skewer. Roast the skewers for about 15 minutes, or until they begin to brown in spots. Remove from oven, brush with remaining marinade, rotate each skewer 180 degrees, then continue roasting for an additional 10 minutes or until browned in spots. (If desired, you can broil for 1-2 minutes to add charred spots reminiscent of tandoor cooking.)
Remove from oven and sprinkle with chaat masala and chopped cilantro or mint. Serve hot, with lemon wedges and raita and/or chutney, if desired.
Calories: 190; Total fat: 9 g; Saturated fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 0mg; sodium: 718mg; Carbohydrates: 14g; Dietary fiber: 4g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 10g
This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.
Adapted from “Plant-Based India” by Dr Sheil Shukla (The Experience, 2022).
Tested by Joe Yonan; questions by e-mail to [email protected].
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