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Tofu in a Curry Coconut Sauce using Basil and Cilantro

What is the best way to keep fresh herbs exactly that, fresh? So when you are ready to make something with them, you don’t discover an unusable bag of slime green. Yes, some weeks I never quite get around to using the herbs we find in our CSA weekly box. That’s not a problem though, because as soon as I get the produce home, I take them out of the bag and stand them up in a small jar of water. Into the fridge they go with a baggie upside down over the herbs. My fresh cilantro, basil and chives are practically as sprightly as a week ago.

There are so many international dishes that benefit and shine from cilantro and basil’s pungent flavors—from Latin American and Caribbean to Thai and Indian cuisines. This recipe for Tofu in a Curry Coconut Sauce uses both basil and cilantro, well-preserved from last week’s CSA box.

With beet greens and other leafy greens, I try to be aggressive and use them up first, before the weekend, because I know I can continue to enjoy the herbs right into the next week.

Basil, I turn into pesto asap. Walnuts and fresh Romano cheese live here this time of year anticipating farmer John will bless us with his beautiful basil.

Even though I don’t get around to using it right away, I’m full of more ideas of what to do with cilantro. If I feel like I am swimming in cilantro, I turn it into Latino pesto with toasted pumpkin seeds.

I was pondering and planning a fruit and jicama salad with a cilantro lime dressing when all of a sudden it was dinnertime. Supper in a hurry became a priority. Since we had been gifted some beautiful farm fresh eggs, chilaquiles frittata (with ¼ cup of chopped cilantro) became dinner.

Here is last night’s supper, which uses almost ½ cup of cilantro, a bit of basil and spinach greens as well as last week’s scapes. Deborah Madison once again provided the inspiration. In her book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, she describes her tofu in a curry-coconut sauce as a Vietnamese dish, though I am not sure about my version with turmeric curry powder and almonds.

Tofu in Curry-Coconut Sauce

1 pound firm tofu, cut into cubes

1 huge handful fresh spinach or other green, thick stems removed

1 tablespoon coconut oil or peanut oil

1 small onion

1 large handful garlic scapes

2 carrots

1 to 2 teaspoons Thai curry paste, red or green

1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder

½ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

½ cup vegetable stock

½ teaspoon Real Salt

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves

Pinch cayenne pepper

1/3 cup chopped roasted whole almonds or peanuts

Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Gently drop the tofu cubes into the water and let them simmer gently for 5 minute. Remove the tofu with a slotted spoon onto a plate draped with a couple of paper towels.

Drop the spinach leaves into the simmering water and blanch a minute or so. Drain and chop coarsely. Set aside.

Slice the onion thinly. As you would with asparagus, snap the tops and bottoms off the scapes, then cut them into ½-inch lengths. Cut each carrot in half lengthwise and then slice into 1/8-inch half moons.

Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet or wok. When it is hot, add the onion and scapes and stir-fry for a minute. Add the carrots and stir-fry a few minutes. Stir in the curry paste and powder, then add the coconut milk, vegetable stock, salt and tofu.

Simmer several minutes, then stir in the spinach, 1/3 cup of the cilantro and the basil. Season to taste with more salt and cayenne pepper.

Serve over quinoa rice*, garnished with the remaining cilantro and chopped almonds.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.

* Quinoa rice is half quinoa and half rice, steamed as you would for rice.


  • The tofu curry is a favorite of mine. I did not know that I could put herbs into water and that they’d last. Thank you. Sadly, I have tossed some in the past because I did not get to them. This is a great suggestion. Reply · 21 July, 2010

  • Sounds very good.. was looking forward to a photo as well :0)

    I love basil! Reply · 21 July, 2010

    • Thanks. I know, I know, I need to be in the habit of taking photos… Thanks for the reminder. Reply · 21 July, 2010

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