Friday, March 12, 2010

Asian Noodle Edition: Wasabi Edamame Salad with Rice Noodles & Peanut-Sesame Green Tea Noodles

I guess we've been eating a lot of noodles lately. I seem to have quite a stock of udon, soba, and rice noodles that are taking up what I think is an unreasonable amount of space in our pantry and my method of spring cleaning seems to be to simply eat everything. It's like a last-minute carbo-load before the weather gets warmer and our diet gets lighter and fresher.

The dish above, though, was very light and fresh due to the one-two combo punch of wasabi and ginger in the sauce. I got the recipe for Wasabi Edamame Salad with Spicy Rice Noodles from my Whole Foods iPhone app while shopping - if you have an iPhone, this app is pretty awesome. You can search by course, category (budget, quick, etc.), and diet (vegan), and it certainly comes in handy when you tend to wander the aisles looking for inspiration, as I do. My only critique is that many of the recipes I have tried so far, like the vegan paella, are great basic recipes but tend to be missing a key ingredient, like a protein. So again, I added some baked tofu to this one, and it turned out to be pretty tasty.

The ingredient list may look long, but if you cook Asian food frequently, you probably have most if not all of the sauce ingredients already, like soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and wasabi paste. You just whisk all the sauce ingredients together, then soak about 10 oz. of rice sticks in hot water for a few minutes until they soften. Drain the rice noodles and then stir-fry them in 2 Tbsp. of oil and 1 tsp. of red pepper flakes. Add about half of the sauce mixture and cook another minute or so.

I will say that the amount of noodles seemed excessive for this recipe. I think you could easily use half the amount of noodles, and make the rest of the recipe as is, and the proportions would be fine. After you cook the noodles, you remove them from a pan and keep them warm. Next you stir-fry one cup each of chopped green onions, carrots, and red bell pepper together with about half of the remaining sauce. After these have cooked, you arrange them on top of the noodles.

Then lastly, you stir-fry one 16-oz. package of frozen edamame (thawed) with the rest of the remaining sauce. As I mentioned, I added one package of sliced baked tofu (Asian flavor), although it was not called for in the recipe.
Arrange the edamame and tofu on top of the other veggies, sprinkle with some gomasio (black sesame seeds with salt) and serve. If you like wasabi, and that kick that seems to rise from the back to the top of your nose, then you will like this dish.

I also made some Peanut-Tahini Green Tea Noodles the other day after experimenting with my favorite new gadget, a Tofu Xpress. Do you have one of these? All these years of cooking with tofu, I never really bothered to do much more than give a cursory squeeze of the tofu after draining, maybe wrapping some paper towels around it to get a little more liquid out. It never really seemed necessary, and all those instructions about putting the tofu between two pans with a weight on top and so on just seemed like a lot of trouble for no good reason. Anyway, after seeing many ads for it, I decided to get one of these pressers and try it, and at the risk of sounding like I'm on one of those ridiculous infomercials, I can't tell you how amazed I was after using it. It's super easy - you just drop the tofu in and put the lid on top - and it really does make a huge difference in the texture and preparation of tofu.


You can see the liquid squeezing out almost immediately once you put the lid on top. About an hour is enough time to get almost all of it out, and by then your tofu looks about half as thick as when it comes out of the package. The pressed tofu cooks SO much easier, it browns quickly and evenly, with little to no oil in the pan. I never thought it was a problem to cook tofu before, but after seeing how much easier it was after it had been pressed, I am definitely a convert.


The texture is also much firmer, more like restaurant tofu. The Xpress isn't exactly cheap (about $40) but the way it improves the tofu taste and texture makes it really worth it.

But back to the noodles. I was torn between wanting to make some Sesame Green Tea Noodles and remaking the Lime-Peanut noodles that I made a few weeks ago. So I came up with kind of a combination of the two. Maybe not as zippy as the Lime-Peanut noodles, but it was still really good.

Peanut-Sesame Green Tea Noodles
makes 4 servings

For noodles:
7 oz. green tea soba noodles
1 16 oz. package tofu, extra firm, pressed and cut into bite-size cubes or slices
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 bunch kale, stemmed and torn into small pieces
1 Tbsp. spicy sesame oil (regular sesame oil ok too)
1 Tbsp. canola oil

For sauce:
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup peanut butter (I like crunchy, but smooth is fine)
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. palm sugar (or regular sugar)
1 Tbsp. red curry paste
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Cook noodles according to package directions. In the meantime, whisk together all sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. Heat sesame oil over medium-high in wok. Stir-fry tofu cubes until golden brown on all sides. Remove from pan, set aside. Heat canola oil in wok. Add red pepper and stir-fry a few minutes until softened. Then add kale and stir-fry just a minute or two, until wilted but still bright and lively. Remove from pan and set aside.

3. Add drained noodles to wok and cover with sauce, reserving a few tablespoons of sauce in bowl. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes, until sauce is heated through.

4. Serve by arranging noodles on plate, then top with veggies, then tofu. Spoon some of the remaining sauce over the top.

I love the contrast of the sweetness and nuttiness of the sauce with the slight bitterness of the kale. Enjoy!

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