Peanut Noodles with Tofu
I cook for the people that I care about. When they are sick, tired, stressed, or coping with great tragedy. When they are elated, successful, or celebrating. Occasionally, I even cook for them just because they are hungry.
When my two best friends were preparing for their PhD. exams, I brought them brain food to eat the night before: grilled wild salmon with brown rice pilaf and spinach. When another passed his exams it was a tropical carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I’m always the girl who brings the birthday cake or I host the whole birthday dinner. Events like these are fun to cook for, and I do it with great exuberance.
Less fun but more important for me is cooking for people who are facing tragedy. I believe that bringing something warm, comforting, and sustaining is one of the small ways that I can show support. Restaurants close, and their food is generally high in fat and sodium. My mom also cooks for people facing personal crisis, and we often consult with each other to come up with the right menu for a particular occasion.
Unfortunately, it was tragedy that had me in my kitchen early yesterday morning. One of my best friend’s experienced a death in her immediate family and I wanted to bring her some warm comforting foods when we met for our morning walk. She and her husband are vegetarians, so I settled on a peanut noodle salad with tofu and red lentil coconut curry with a tin of Christmas cookies for dessert.
The peanut noodles are a pantry favorite of mine, because I almost always have the ingredients on hand. You can substitute any meat for the tofu, chicken and shrimp are two favorites of mine. The peanut sauce also makes a great dip for satays and spring rolls.
Peanut Noodle Salad with Tofu
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (feel free to use regular)
3 Tbs soy sauce
3 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs honey
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp minced or grated ginger
1 garlic clove
optional 1 tsp chili-garlic paste (if you like it spicy)
water to thin to the desired consistency
In a mini-processor, food processor, or blender combine all ingredients until they form a smooth paste. Add water until dressing reaches its desire consistency. When I am using the dressing for noodles I add about 1/4 cup of water, making it a bit on the thin side, because the noodles soak up a fair amount of the dressing.
This makes enough dressing for 1 lb of noodles.
Peanut Noodle Salad with Seared Tofu
1 lb of whole-wheat thin spaghetti, or capellini
1 batch of peanut dressing
any combination of the following vegetables:
(if you are using more than 3 or 4 reduce the quantities accordingly)
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 english cucumber
3 large carrots
1 cup of bean sprouts
1 cup of snow peas
1 lb of tofu
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs rice vinegar
1/2 tsp each grated ginger and garlic
1 tsp sesame oil
Cut the tofu into bite-size pieces and marinate using soy sauce, rice vinegar, grated ginger, garlic, and sesame oil.
Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package directions. While noodles cook, cut vegetables into roughly equally sized pieces. (I cut them all into a fat julienne.) When the noodles are finished cooking, drain and rinse the pasta. Once the pasta is cool toss it together with the dressing and vegetables.
In a sautee pan over medium high heat, sear the tofu so that it is nicely browned. Let it cool and add it to the noodles. Since tofu tends to break up, I just “arrange” (dump) it on top rather than toss it through.
One of the nice things about this recipe is that it is very picnic friendly, because all of the ingredients are stable at room temperature.