Perhaps you are familiar with the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry and Elaine stop at a bakery before a party to pick up a chocolate babka as a hostess gift.
While they are at the bakery, they discover they are in line behind two other people going to the same party, picking up the same chocolate babka. A kerfuffle ensues about who was actually in line first, which Elaine and Jerry lose. The two people in front of them get the last chocolate babka and walk away smirking. The only babka left is a cinnamon babka.
When Elaine whines, “I don’t want a cinnamon babka! I want the chocolate babka!” Jerry tells her that everyone loves cinnamon. “Whenever there is a secret ingredient,” he says, “And people want to know what’s in it that makes it taste so great, the answer invariably comes back, cinnamon, cinnamon, cinnamon!” (I am paraphrasing, but that’s basically what he says.)
Then he goes to the bathroom to throw up the black and white cookie he’d just eaten.
People do love chocolate, and a chocolate babka is grand, but Jerry had a point. Cinnamon has a way of sneaking into a dish and bringing it to the next level. Thinking about that today, I realized ginger does the same thing.
Here are two recipes to prove my point.
Mo’ Rockin Tofu Stew
1 tbl olive oil
1 block extra firm tofu, pressed, drained and cut into bite sized pieces
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable broth
1 15 oz can of chick peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup raisins
1 bay leaf
Chopped fresh cilantro and Sriracha hot sauce for garnish.
Heat oil in a big pot. Saute onion, carrots and garlic with a dash of salt, three minutes. Add spices, and cook one more minute. Add all other ingredients except garnishes and bring to boil. Lower to simmer and cook 10 minutes. Serve in big bowls over cous cous or rice with cilantro and hot sauce.
Impress Your Guests Carrot Soup
1 tbl hot sesame oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh grated ginger (freeze ginger and use a microplane for easy grating. There is no need to peel it, and it will keep in the freezer for months.)
1lb carrots, peeled and chopped
5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
juice of one lime
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
3 tbl smooth peanut butter
2 tbl brown sugar
1 cup coconut milk
Chopped fresh Italian parsley and/or toasted sesame seeds for garnish.
Sauté veggies in hot oil with a dash of salt for five minutes. Add all other ingredients except garnish, bring to boil, and simmer, 30 minutes. Puree soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a counter top blender. Serve with parsley sprigs and a scattering of sesame seeds.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman