Peanut-braised noodles (4+ servings)

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If you're looking for a vegetarian cookbook -- either because you're a new vegetarian or just because you're looking to add more vegetarian meals to your repertoire -- Williams-Sonoma's Vegetarian cookbook from their Food Made Fast series is an excellent place to start.  The book includes three sections (30 Minutes Start to Finish, 15 Minutes Start to Finish, and Make More to Store) and the recipes feature simple directions and accessible ingredients.  I feel there are too many pretentious, tree-bark-and-seaweed kinds of meatless cookbooks out there, featuring complicated recipes that aren't even that tasty.  This book, however, is refreshing and user-friendly.

Tonight's recipe comes from the 30 Minutes section.  I've made other peanut noodles recipes before, but this is my favorite so far, mainly because of the sauce. Other recipes I've tried produced a clumpy sauce that didn't coat the noodles evenly, but this one was perfect.  I think the trick must be the coconut milk.

You will need:

  • 1 lb firm tofu
  • ~1/2 lb thin fresh Chinese noodles (Nasoya makes a 9-oz package)
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1/4 lb green beans, ends trimmed and beans cut into 1- or 2-inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • splash of dark sesame oil

Steps:

  1. Start a large stockpot of water boiling for the noodles.  Meanwhile, drain as much liquid out of the tofu package as you can.  Then, slice the block into 1/2-inch wide slabs.  Lay the slabs on a folded clean towel on top of a plate; press another clean towel on top and apply pressure to squeeze the moisture out.  (I think draining the tofu as much as possible must be the secret to cooking it well.)  Remove the tofu from the towel and slice it into chunks about 1/2 or 3/4-inch thick.  Set aside.
  2. When the water boils, add the noodles and cook according to package directions.  (Mine needed 3 minutes.)  Add the broccoli and green beans to the water for the last 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse; set aside.
  3. Just as you're adding the noodles to the boiling water, warm the coconut milk and peanut butter over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Stir until well mixed; then stir in the pepper flakes, sugar, water, soy sauce, lime juice, and sesame oil.  Add the tofu, mix it into the sauce, and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes, or until the tofu is warmed through.
  4. Stir the noodles and veggies into the tofu-sauce mixture and toss to coat.  Serve warm.

The original recipe called for snow peas instead of broccoli and green beans, but I just used what I had on hand.  I'm sure you could use other veggies too; carrots or green pepper could be especially delicious.  I think the lime juice is essential here, as it thins out the sauce and adds an invigorating brightness to the dish.

One note: I mistakenly labeled this post as vegan at first, but I've since learned that Nasoya Chinese noodles are not vegan.  You could certainly use a different type of noodles to make this dish vegan, but I just wanted to correct myself there.