Coconut Squash Panang (Nuttzo) Curry with Tofu


One thing endurance athletes always struggle with is getting enough quality food. Amy and I do this thing sometimes when we get home from training that we call "Garbage Eating." I'm sure you're already getting a sense of what we're talking about. We come home, famished, from a swim/bike/run/lift, open the cupboards and the refrigerator, and start eating everything. We're soon full, but who knows about the quality of what we just ate?

A few years ago, Amy left me a recipe clipping somewhere, physically or virtually, for a coconut panang curry with tofu. It got me thinking about this amazing pumpkin curry I ate, in all seriousness, in The Dalles three years ago. The recipe she'd left me didn't feature a vegetable, so I picked up a butternut squash while doing the shopping, and came home to give the curry I try. Panang curries are usually milder, sweeter dishes than the fierier red and green versions, and often include peanuts or peanut butter in their construction. After cooking the recipe for a few years, and after discovering Nuttzo Nut Butters, I thought about changing the recipe again to accommodate the new ingredient. The result is a nutrient-dense, filling, delicious, one-pot meal. As a side benefit, it's vegan, if that's important to you (but check your curry paste for fish sauce!). Amy and I aren't vegan, but meat consumption is pretty ecologically disastrous, so we keep it limited.  We'd been eating this for about a year before realizing it was not only vegetarian, but vegan, so our Portland cred is a-ok.

Coconut Squash Panang Curry with Tofu and Nuttzo Nut Butter

1 shallot
1" peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons turmeric
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon panang curry paste (I use a brand called "Thai True" that is local to Oregon and kicks ass)
1/4 cup Nuttzo Power Fuel Nut Butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup water
2 14 oz. cans light coconut milk
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes
zest of two limes
juice of two limes
2 14 oz. packages of firm tofu
Thai basil or cilantro
Limes, quartered

Chop shallot into fine dice. Grate ginger on a box grater or microplane. Heat oil in a large, deep pot. Sweat the shallot and ginger, stirring frequently to keep the ginger from sticking. Do not brown the shallot! Once the shallot has softened and turned translucent, add the spices and curry paste. Cook for a minute, continuing to stir, until the mixture is fragrant and sticky. Add the nut butter, the brown sugar, and the water. Stir until well blended. Turn heat to low and add the coconut milk and chopped squash. Add a good amount of salt, probably just north of a tablespoon. Add the lime zest and lime juice. Let mixture come back up to a low simmer. As the squash cooks, the curry should reduce and thicken somewhat. You're aiming for a consistency that will coat the back of a spoon. Once the squash is cooked through (probably 15-20 minutes) cut the tofu into 1/2" squares and add to the pot. Let the tofu heat through completely (remember the cardinal rule of tofu: very hot or very cold—never warm) and serve over white or brown rice with chopped thai basil or cilantro, adjusting your seasoning as you take it to the table. Leave each diner with a quartered lime.