28 March 2012

Vegan pan-fried tofu with cilantro pesto

I've experimented before with adding a dollop of yogurt to pesto to cut down on the amount of oil used while creating a creamier effect. So when I found myself today with a small amount of attempted cilantro pesto in the handblender cup that wasn't moist and voluminous enough, I remembered the small plain coconut milk yogurt container I had opened to taste the night before and presto, the pesto transformed to proper creaminess without oil.

Think toasted pumpkin seeds, sharp, fragrant, unmistakable cilantro, garlic, lime and a little coconut cream and you've got yourself a banging vegan pesto at play, perfect to slather over some lightly fried tofu. I love my cheese, but no dairy necessary here.

Ed and I have frequented the Mooncake Foods in Manhattan where they have a pretty delicious cilantro pesto that accompanies some dishes, particularly the tofu with soba noodles. Suffice it to say that a hankering for that sauce, though I don't know their ingredients beyond cilantro, as well as some unopened tofu in the fridge, was the inspiration for this.

Vegan pan-fried tofu with cilantro pesto

For the pesto:
Small bunch cilantro
Handful pepitas
scant 1 T olive oil
1/4 clove garlic
Sea salt and cayenne pepper
Juice of 1/4 lemon and 1/4 lime
1/3 c coconut milk yogurt (plain)

For the tofu:
4-7 oz Block of tofu, extra firm and pressed to eliminate water
Olive oil
Sea salt
Cayenne and crushed red pepper

Roasted Carrots:
2 large whole carrots, sliced in half lengthwise then width-wise
sea salt, olive oil and cayenne pepper


1. Roast the carrots: Heat oven to 400, slice carrots, douse in a tad of oil, salt and cayenne and bake on baking sheet 20 minutes. Allow to cool a bit.

2. Make the pesto: Finely chop the cilantro, garlic and pepitas and place into a bowl where you can use an immersion/hand blender. Blend for a minute, then add lemon and lime juice, spices and oil, blend again, add yogurt, blend til smooth.

3. Prepare the tofu: In a small frying pan, heat oil with some crushed pepper flakes. Slice your tofu into slabs, douse in a little oil and salt (I used leftover from the carrots) and fry a few minutes on each side, adding more crushed pepper or cayenne if desired. Let cool a few minutes, an important step.

To serve: arrange tofu with with roasted carrots and lay atop spring greens, spread on pesto and garnish with extra toasted pepitas.

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