Onions. Gorgeous, golden, sweet onions. They add their deep, rich flavor to soups, sauces, gravies and then they recede to the background, letting the vegetables, the lentils, or the meat steal the show. Just how nice is that?
But humble as they are, onions are, without a doubt, stars in their own right. I can come up with a substitute for nearly any other ingredient while cooking on the fly, but the one ingredient I will absolutely, positively, most definitely not replace in any recipe is the amazing onion. In fact, I've been known to send Desi flying to my neighbor Heather's home to borrow an onion or two during a late-night cooking session.
If you love onions as much as I do, you are going to love today's recipe, because it is, literally, an ode to the onion. And it starts with the evocative name: Tofu Paneer Do Pyaza.
Pyaaz is Hindi for onions, and Do Pyaza literally translates to "with twice the onions." Indeed, there are plenty of onions in this recipe, and they're used two different ways, once at the beginning and again at the end, creating twice the deliciousness. You start off by sauteing a puree of onions that adds an incredible, velvety richness to the gravy, and you end by adding lightly sauteed onions that contribute an extra something, that oomph, that nicely rounds out the dish without overwhelming you or your tastebuds.
Most Do Pyaza dishes you'll find at restaurants feature meat of some kind or the other, with mutton being the most common, followed by chicken. There are also versions with Paneer, and that's what I set out to recreate, but the rich, complex sauce begs for something heftier and more textured than tofu -- or paneer -- is. So for my very vegan Do Pyaza, I bumped up the heft by baking the tofu to make it chewy, and by adding meaty, textured mushrooms. You could make the dish with just one or the other and you'd still have a winner on your hands. Or you could try this with seitan or tempeh, or one of those Gardein "meats."
I used two kinds of onions for the base puree-- red onions, which are spicier than yellow or white, and shallots, with their garlicky sass. And I used yellow onions for the final flourish, because I wanted something sweeter and milder to finish off the creamy gravy.
This, served with warm rotis, made a perfect Sunday night dinner at our home. And a healthy one too, with just 143 calories in each serving. Try it, if you are, like me, a true lover of this mighty allium. You'll be crying -- with joy -- for sure.
Tofu Paneer Do Pyaza
- 2 shallots (diced)
- ½ large red onion (diced)
- 1 yellow onion (chopped)
- 16 oz extra firm tofu (drained and sliced into six pieces. Spray a baking sheet with oil, place the tofu on it in a single layer, spray on some more oil, then bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until the tofu is lightly golden brown on top and bottom. Remove and cut into small cubes, about ½-inch square.)
- 1 large tomato (pureed)
- 8 oz mushrooms (use cremini or button or shiitake, sliced)
- 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 2 dry red chillies, optional
- 2 tsp garam masala
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup raw cashews (pureed into a smooth paste with ½ cup water)
- Salt to taste
- ¼ cup coriander leaves (chopped)
- Blend the shallots and red onions and garlic into a smooth paste and set aside.
- Blend the tomato into a puree
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok or kadhai or a wide saucepan.
- Add the cumin seeds and, when they sputter, add the onion-garlic paste.
- Saute, stirring frequently to prevent the paste from sticking, for about 10-15 minutes or until the raw flavor of the onions has dissipated and the mixture has darkened.
- Add the tomato puree along with the ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne.
- Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the moisture evaporates from the tomatoes.
- Add the mushrooms and tofu cubes and stir well to mix. Add 1 cup of water, Mix well.
- Cook for 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the flavors have blended. Add lemon juice, garam masala, and salt to taste.
- In a small saucepan, heat the remaining ½ tbsp oil. Add the yellow onions and dry red chillies, if using. Saute for a couple of minutes or until the onions just start to turn translucent.
- Add the onions to the do pyaza gravy. Stir to mix.
- Add the cashew cream, mix, and stir in the coriander leaves.
- Serve hot with some rotis or naan.