A Story and a Question

March 8, 2010


Today – a story and a question.

But first a disclaimer.  This story has to do with me drinking.  Those who know me can tell you I love my wine.  I drink it often but I don’t usually drink too much of it.  I love the way it tastes with food and a glass at 5pm can really help me through the boys fighting/fixing dinner/bathtime/stories/teeth brushing/bedtime part of the day.  Okay, maybe two glasses.

Remember we went to Whidbey Island for New Year’s Eve?  What I didn’t tell you is that I drank a lot that night.  A lot of red wine and then toasted the New Year with a large glass of champagne.  Friends, my advice to you is do not ever end the night with champagne.

I took Advil before going to bed and woke up feeling a little rough but not terrible.  Here is the thing with me and hangovers though.  I usually wake up feeling as described above but as the day wears on, things get worse.  I start feeling more off and by the late afternoon, I am a bit of a mess.  On Whidbey, we all ventured off to go to the park, only to find it closed for renovation, so we went into the darling town of Langley.  All ten of us (four adults, six kids) piled into a coffee place.  I drank water.  We walked around the town.  I eyed lots of benches longingly.  No one would notice if I just laid down, right?  Jen steered me in the direction of a new gourmet food shop which, because of the holiday, was closed.  I peered in the window at all the gorgeous food and thought, “I must feel really bad if I’m thankful this place is closed”.

Why am I telling you this story?  Well, because eventually we ended up in this adorable shop which is part grocery, part clothing, part toy, and part kitchen gear store.  (It doesn’t sound like it would work, but it does.)  They always have an eclectic selection of cookbooks and, even in my state, I pulled down a new-to-me one called New Vegetarian.

Because I have so many, a veg cookbook has to have some really innovative and interesting recipes for me to want it.  With this book, I immediately saw three or four recipes that I was dying to try.  So, of course I had to buy it.  If I was in the middle of one of the worst hangovers in my life and was moved to want to cook – this had to be a special book.

I brought it home, put it on my overflow shelf and promptly forgot about it.

End of story.

Now the question.  Why do they only sell buttermilk in large quantities?  Yes, once in a while I can find a pint of it, but usually I am stuck with a quart.  Just about any baking recipe that calls for it uses somewhere around ½ a cup.  That leaves you with 3½ cups.  Yes, I could make pancakes but I don’t really like pancakes (don’t tell anyone).  Yes, it’s inexpensive so I could really just pour it down the drain but – ugh! – I hate that kind of waste.

And here is where the story and the question magically weave together to make perfect sense in this post.  While paging through my fun new book that I forgot about, I found this recipe.  Not only did it include some of my very favorite spices, it calls for a full two cups of buttermilk.  Because I seem to have misplaced my brain lately, I can’t remember why I had an almost-full quart of buttermilk in the fridge, but there it sat – just waiting to be used in this delicious and unusual entrée.

This is one of those “use what you have on hand” recipes.  I bought the cauliflower and zucchini because I happened to be at the store anyway, but really any vegetable you love would be great here.  The only advice I’m giving in this post is to drink champagne as your first beverage of the evening, not your last.

Is this post weird?  I just went to type the name of this recipe which is “Tofu-Cabbage Karhi” and realized that I added no cabbage to my recipe.  I know I can be absent minded in the kitchen, but did I really leave out a title ingredient in this dish?  But no, on closer inspection, the recipe was wrong – no cabbage was called for.  So I changed the name.


Tofu-Cauliflower Karhi
Adapted from New Vegetarian
Serves 4

I had some toasted coconut on hand from another recipe, so that is what is garnishing this dish.

12 oz. extra-firm tofu
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. black mustard seeds
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 small zucchini, julienned
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
2 large red jalapeños, seeded and diced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger 2 cups buttermilk
½ cup chickpea flour 1 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp. tumeric
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice
½ cup chopped cilantro

Cube the tofu and set aside.  Place a large cast-iron skillet over high heat and, when hot, add the oil.  Add cumin and mustard seeds.  Be careful as the mustard seeds will start to pop.  Immediately and the shallot, and stir.  Add the tofu to the pan and cook until golden on each side, then turn over.   Add zucchini, cauliflower, jalapeños, and ginger and stir, cooking until the vegetables are slightly softened and golden in spots.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk ½ cup of the buttermilk into the chickpea flour to make a paste, then gradually whisk in the rest of the buttermilk.  Whisk in the vegetable stock, tumeric, coriander, and chili powder.  Pour the mixture into the pan of sautéing vegetables and tofu.  Bring to a simmer, stirring, and cook oer low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, adding water or stock if the sauce becomes too thick.  (DT: I probably added at least another cup of liquid.)  Add the salt and brown sugar and stir well.

Just before serving, sprinkle in the lemon or lime juice and the cilantro.  Serve over rice.


  1. I always end up with too much buttermilk too. I hate wasting food, so I have come up with quite a few buttermilk recipes. You should try these lemon buttermilk cookies next time you need to use some up:

    Comment by Maria — March 8, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

  2. Ooh but which post to comment on? I’ll go with this one.

    I have never seen buttermilk in a curry dish. I am sure that it is super creamy and delicious. The color is gorgeous too! I love any curries with this kind of lineup. Well done!

    Comment by The Ordinary Vegetarian — March 8, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  3. The whole buttermilk issue IS super obnoxious. My solution last time I had some was to bake a loaf of bread with it – honey buttermilk=delicious.

    This recipe looks amazing. I’m bookmarking for the next time I’m in a buttermilk predicament.

    Comment by Joanne — March 8, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

  4. Ugh hangovers. I get hangovers so badly that I pretty much just don’t drink anymore. I’ll end up getting sick over literally one glass of wine and it’s not worth it. The buttermilk thing drives me crazy, too. It’s like, just to buy some you have to have several buttermilk recipes on deck. At least they don’t do that with heavy cream!

    Comment by Andrea — March 8, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  5. Andrea… I hear you… I used to be able to share a bottle of wine with my husband over dinner and feel great, but now if I have more than 2 glasses: hangover city!

    Dana, if I drink Champagne, that has to be IT for me. One glass, and nothing else, no way I could mix it with wine, no matter in which order. My hangovers are just like yours: I wake up feeling ok, but get worse and worse through the day. My last was in July 2010, I hope I will never have another :-)

    Loved the recipe, I also suffer from buttermilk overload…

    Comment by SallyBR — March 8, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

  6. Your hangovers sound like mine. As the day goes on my body just starts to ACHE. By mid-afternoon I just want to rocky myself like a baby.

    Move back to England – you can only buy buttermilk in little half pint containers here! But I am of the buttermilk-lasts-forever school so I wouldn’t even worry about having it hanging around. My mother always has a litre of buttermilk in her fridge and, I swear, it lasts WEEKS past its sell-by date.

    Comment by Hilary — March 8, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

  7. Oh, gosh… make that July 2009! ;-)

    Comment by SallyBR — March 8, 2010 @ 10:03 pm

  8. Oh Dana, you are making me laugh here. I am sorry about your bad hangover. I love champagne, but luckily it does not have the same effects on my next day! This tofu looks SO good! I can’t have enough tofu recipes up my sleeve…

    Comment by fresh365 — March 8, 2010 @ 10:11 pm

  9. That used to be my fear with buttermilk but then I started adding it almost everything: salad dressings and soups! It’s perfect! Love the sound of this recipe.

    Comment by kickpleat — March 8, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

  10. Were you drinking wine while writing this post? or buttermilk?

    Comment by stacey snacks — March 8, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

  11. For me, the solution to the buttermilk dilemma has been powdered buttermilk. It’s much like powdered milk: keeps forever stored air-tight in the pantry, and you can mix up any amount you need instantly by just adding water. I currently use Bob’s Red Mill brand (1 tablespoon powder = 1/2 cup buttermilk), but I used to use a product from Saco.

    Or, sometimes, I use yogurt thinned with milk, if I have yogurt to use up.

    Comment by Cat — March 9, 2010 @ 5:46 am

  12. Ouch, that sounds so bad. I rarely get hangovers but even the memories of a couple bad ones are painful.

    Hil got to what I was going to say before me- in the UK, buttermilk containers are so small. (But you probably knew that, right?) I actually find it annoying because sometimes I need to buy two, depending on what I’e got planned.

    Haha, I’m laughing at Stacey’s comment. My grandma loved buttermilk so much that she does, actually, drink it!

    Comment by Ele — March 9, 2010 @ 7:18 am

  13. Am I the only one that doesn’t bother buying buttermilk? I just stir some lemon juice or cider vinegar into milk (1 tsp acid per cup of milk) and let it sit for a few minutes before adding it to the recipe. Now I’m starting to wonder if this solution is simply too easy — maybe my tastebuds have gotten acclimated to an inferior ingredient…?

    Comment by statgirl — March 9, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

  14. OOh, I’m so glad you found this book! I have a giveaway copy I’ve been meaning to post about since December. Happily, your post will inspire me to get my rear in gear. I know the author, Robin Asbell, personally — super nice lady with a wicked sense of humor.

    p.s. Off topic, but I’ve printed out your lentil/coconut milk recipe and hope to make it later this week.

    Comment by Cheryl @ 5 Second Rule — March 9, 2010 @ 6:40 pm

  15. This looks delicious and is extra awesome because it uses up buttermilk. I found a really great bread recipe that uses up 1/2 cups of buttermilk: http://www.eatmedelicious.com/2009/12/buttermilk-honey-bread.html

    Comment by Ashley — March 11, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

  16. Mmmmm, a good sounding recipe that will enter my to be tried pile. We can get buttermilk in pints here, which is good, however, at this time of year, March, I need more as my Irish Soda bread recipe calls for 2 eggs and enough buttermilk to make 2 cups. I make around 10 loaves. I know you like Ina Garten/the Barefoot Contessa, and she has a very good and easy recipe for thyme biscuits that uses heavy cream, but, I’ve used buttermilk when I have that around.

    On another note, you will make the right decisions as they come along for both of your boys, Dana, though right now the one most pending is of course Graham and kindergarten. Lots and lots of us will be thinking of you along the way.

    Comment by Penny — March 11, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

  17. Statsgirl you are right on about not buying buttermilk. I think it’s one of those old-timey recipes from Joy of Cooking or some such tome, but all I do to make buttermilk is squeeze half a lemon into about 2 c 2% milk, stir, and then wait about 10 minutes and it looks and tastes just like store-bought. The other advantage other than not having to buy too much of the stuff, is that you avoid the gross thickeners that they always add to it. And I don’t think your taste buds are off…my buttermilk waffles are the BOMB. (According to hubby and kid…)

    Comment by Tracey — March 12, 2010 @ 1:57 am

  18. I love this post! What a great story. I hate to admit it, but I have had all too many mornings / afternoons like that. Now I’m at the point that before I pour the third glass of wine I have to ask myself if it’ll be worth it tomorrow (and by the end of the second glass, the answeer is usually yes).
    One day soon, we’ll share some wine again!

    Comment by Allison Arevalo — March 12, 2010 @ 3:32 am

  19. I know it not the same but I have Bob’s Red Mill powdered buttermilk in the freezer and boy does it end the problem of having too much buttermilk on hand. It tastes pretty good too. This recipe looks killer! I will be making it for my vegetarian daughter.

    Comment by Dana Zia — March 14, 2010 @ 5:19 am

  20. On the one hand, I treat buttermilk like sour cream and ignore its expiration date–by a lot. So it never goes to waste. On the other hand, I love buttermilk but have never had it in this kind of dish, so I am quite excited to try it.

    Comment by Laura — March 17, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

  21. […] 3. New Vegetarian by Robin Asbell (Chronicle Books, $19.95, paperback) Fellow IACP buddy gathers recipes from around the globe for pasta, tagines, curries, soups, stews, and desserts for all you meatless (or wannabe) meatless eaters. Read more about this book from Dana Treat at Treat Yourself. […]

    Pingback by Bumper Cookbook Giveaway — November 27, 2010 @ 4:42 am

  22. Thanks for the great review. I, too, love a glass of champagne, and sometimes it doesn’t love me so much the next day. That you were drawn to my book even with a few butterflies in your stomach is very flattering.

    Comment by Robin Asbell — November 28, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

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