Sometimes fresh is more

Sometimes fresh is more

Generally, when I cook I use dry spices quite generously, but I am subletting a friend's place for the summer and do not want to buy lots of different spices for a few dishes that I will cook while I am here. But I also do not want cook something with just salt and black pepper. Fortunately, I am spending the summer in Southern California, and walking through the gorgeous farmer's market, I could not help but get inspired by fresh herbs and vegetables. 

Santa Monica Farmers Market

You will notice that this recipe is quite heavy on ginger, garlic, jalapenos, mint, and cilantro. These ingredients lend quite bold flavors to the dish and if you are not fond of any of these ingredients, just reduce the quantity as per your taste.


Serves 4-6


Coconut Rice

  • 2 cups Basmati Rice ( Jasmine rice will work just as well)
  • 1.5 cups Coconut Milk
  • 1.5 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1.5 cups water 
  • Salt as per taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Vegetable and Tofu Layer

  • 5tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 2tbsp finely chopped Ginger
  • 1tbsp finely chopped Garlic
  • 1medium sized Onion
  • 1/2 large Red bell pepper
  • 1/2 large Yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 lbs firm Tofu ( if you are a paneer fan, you may substitute tofu with paneer)
  • 1/2 Cauliflower
  • 1-2 Jalapenos or other spicy pepper 
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro 
  • 1/2 cup Mint
  • Salt as per taste


Making Coconut Rice

Soak the rice for 30 min to an hour. If you do not have time to soak rice, then increase the quantity of water by 1/2 cup. If you had time to soak the water then drain the water in which you soaked the rice. 

Combine rice, coconut oil, and salt in a medium-sized pot. Mix well on medium heat until the coconut oil melts and coats the rice. Add water and coconut milk. On high heat bring the mixture to boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer for around 10 minutes until roughly 90% of the liquid is absorbed. Switch off the stove, cover and let the rice sit for 10 minutes. 

Cooking vegetables and tofu

All the vegetables in this recipes have different cooking times and will need to be cooked separately or they will become mush.

  • Dice the onions. Heat 1.5tbsp oil and add ginger and garlic on high heat. Around 30 seconds later, lower the heat to medium heat and add the onion and cook until the onions are soft.
  • Simultaneously, chop the tofu in 1cm squares and shallow fry them in 2tbsp oil.
  • Remove the cooked onions in a bowl and heat 1tbsp of oil in the same pan. Stir fry red and yellow bell peppers in high heat, until soft and slightly charred
  • Next, chop cauliflower into 1-inch florets. Heat the last 1.5 tbsp of oil, salt and stir fry the cauliflower on medium heat. In about 7-10 minutes the cauliflower will get soft and start browning. You want to cook the cauliflowers until all florets are all evenly golden brown.
  • Finely chop jalapenos, mint and cilantro, and combine with onion mix, tofu, and bell peppers on medium heat. Add salt to taste and cook for 30 seconds.

Putting it all together

Mix lime juice in the rice. In a serving bowl, layer half the rice. Layer half the bell pepper and tofu mix. Layer the smaller of the cauliflower pieces. Layer the remaining rice. On top of that layer the remaining bell pepper and tofu mix. Finally, top it up cauliflower. Serve hot

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