“It’s spicy and sweet and peanutty all at the same time.” From some people, including me, that would be a hearty endorsement, but those were the words my daughter used to express her dislike for this dish. “It’s just weird,” she continued, handing her plate to her father to finish. “It’s complex,” I countered, but she wasn’t buying it. To a pre-teen, “weird” is the kiss of death.
But let me assure you, this rich, complex dish is delicious, to us adults at least. In fact, D and I ate far more of it than we should have. I have a hard time resisting anything in peanut sauce, and having been tantalized by the heady aroma coming from the crockpot all afternoon, I was ready to fight D for E’s share of the meal. Unfortunately, at 14 grams of fat for 1 serving, it hardly qualifies as diet food or, needless to say, anything close to fat-free. So it’s going on my For Company Only list because I can’t be trusted around it.
I made it this time with what I had in the house: tempeh, frozen tofu, and half of a butternut squash. You can use all or any one of those ingredients or make it with another meat substitute such as seitan, TVP, or sweet potatoes, but I think that frozen tofu tastes best because it absorbs the sauce and has a pleasingly chewy texture. Whatever main ingredient(s) you use, you need to aim for between 2 and 3 pounds in total. And while I liked the taste of the winter squash, I think it was the source of the sweet flavor that E found objectionable, so if you’re opposed to sweet-spicy combinations, you might want to bear that in mind.
I cooked this in the slow cooker, but I found that even on low, it was ready in a little over 3 hours. It could be that my crockpot runs hot, but I hesitate to recommend that you leave it cooking for more than 4 hours. If you need to, then add a little water to the sauce, perhaps 1/2 cup, just to make sure that it doesn’t get too dry. If you’d like to cook it on the stove, cover it tightly and cook on the lowest setting until the sauce is thick, probably at least an hour.
Tofu, Tempeh, and Butternut Squash in Slow-Cooked Peanut Mole
Freezing tofu completely changes its texture, making it chewy and spongy. Be sure to freeze it for at least 24 hours and squeeze out as much water as possible before cooking so that the sauce will permeate it. Tofu can be stored in the freezer for months in its original package and then defrosted in the refrigerator or microwave before using.
- 1 dried Ancho or New Mexico* chile pepper
- 1 1/2 cups hot vegetable broth
- 3 black peppercorns (or 1/8 tsp. ground pepper)
- 3 allspice berries (or 1/4 tsp. ground)
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (or 1/2 tsp. ground)
- 3 cloves (or 1/8 tsp. ground)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder *(optional–use if New Mexico chile is used above)
- 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (or 1/2 cup roasted peanuts)
- 1 slice whole wheat or French bread (or gluten-free bread), torn in pieces
- 1/2 to 1 chipotle chile canned in adobo
- 14 ounces reduced fat tofu, frozen for at least 24 hours and defrosted
- 8 ounces tempeh, cut in 3/4″ cubes
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut in 3/4″ cubes
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- Cut the dried pepper in half and remove the seeds and stem. Chop it into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Cover with 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth and set aside to soften for about 1/2 an hour.
- Place the spices in a spice or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. (If you don’t have whole spices, use ground ones in the amount specified and mix them in a small bowl.)
- In a small skillet, saute the onion until it begins to brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
- Transfer the onion-garlic mixture, ground spices, chile pepper and its broth, tomatoes, and remaining broth to the blender. Add the salt, ancho chile powder (optional), peanut butter, bread, and chipotle pepper. Blend until the mixture is nearly smooth.
- Cut the tofu into slices about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Squeeze each slice between the palms of your hands until all the water is removed. Cut the slices into cubes.
- Spray the bottom of the slow cooker with non-stick spray. Spread the tofu, tempeh, and squash on the bottom of the cooker and pour the blender contents over them. Stir to make sure sauce covers all surfaces. Cover tightly and cook on low for 3-6 hours, until sauce is thick and squash is tender. Before serving, check sauce and stir in the sugar, if you like, and salt to taste. Serve over rice or in tortillas.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s) | Cooking time: 3 hour(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 305 Calories (kcal); 14g Total Fat; (38% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; trace Cholesterol; 286mg Sodium; 8g Fiber.
(Sauce adapted from a chicken recipe in The Gourmet Slow Cooker.)