Palak tofu, served here with rice, is a vegan version of palak paneer. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Palak tofu, served here with rice, is a vegan version of palak paneer. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Going green, in the yard and on the table

This dish is fragrant, satisfying, and has a wealth of protein and nutrition, perfect for after a day spent in the dirt

The first summer we lived on the strawberry patch, our son’s playground was a bare, dusty construction yard where even dandelions couldn’t grow.

The second summer, we raked the rocks and planted seed, but the vibrant shoots that sprouted failed to thrive, and died before the fall.

This year we called in the dump trucks (to my 4-year-old’s delight) and spread the soil with aching backs to blanket our rocky lawn. We passed the sweaty hours shovel by shovel, stopping only to retrieve a toy or snack or other diversion for our exceptionally patient child.

My hardworking husband and I share a vision, and we are happy to put in the effort we need to achieve it as a team. We’ll try again to seed the grass so we can watch it grow together, hopefully for good — a gift for our son’s happy childhood and a labor of love.

Green is my favorite color, both in the yard and on my plate, and this beautiful palak tofu is a lovely shade. This dish is fragrant, satisfying, and has a wealth of protein and nutrition, perfect for after a day spent in the dirt. This is a vegan version of palak paneer, a very popular and delicious Indian dish.

Palak Tofu


1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into cubes

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 inches ginger, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 large tomato, diced

1/3 cup raw unsalted cashews

1 cup full fat coconut milk

2 bunches spinach (not baby spinach unless you have to. If so, about 6 cups)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoons cumin seed

2 tablespoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons garam masala

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)


Soak your raw cashews in water for at least 4 hours to soften.

In a large saucepan (I used my wok) saute the diced onion in coconut oil for about 5 minutes until translucent and slightly browned.

Add in the ginger and garlic and cook for a couple minutes until very fragrant.

Next add the cumin seed and cook for just a minute before pouring in the coconut milk. Stir to combine.

When the mixture comes to a boil, add in the ground coriander, garam masala and salt.

Drain the cashews and add to the pot. Cook for 15 minutes, adding water if necessary.

In a separate small pot, bring some water to a boil.

Boil your cubed tofu for about 5 minutes then drain and set aside. This will improve the texture of the tofu in the finished dish and will help it to more closely resemble the paneer (cheese) it is replacing.

Thoroughly wash the spinach, then roughly chop before dropping into the pot. You may need to do this step in stages, waiting for the greens to reduce before adding more, until all the spinach has been incorporated.

Cook for 3-5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to cool enough to transfer to a blender. Blend until smooth, then return to the pot on low heat.

Stir in the nutritional yeast, then taste and season with extra salt or a squeeze of lemon.

Add the tofu and stir gently to coat. Cook just long enough to heat up the tofu, then serve alongside steamed long grain rice.

Try adding a bit of plain yogurt or chopped spicy chilis to enhance the flavor.

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