Coco-Peanutty Noodles with Panko-Crusted Tofu, Wilted Kale and Enokis

After several mediocre attempts at making and liking Pad Thai, I was in search of an easy, peanutty noodle dish that wasn't Pad Thai. Turns out, I don't really like it! Never really have, in fact. It's too sweet for me. I gravitate toward the spicy whether my insides want me to or not!

I started experimenting in the kitchen when Jeff was out of town last week, and usually when I do that, it takes several tries before I'm satisfied with the outcome. Not this time though! It was super easy, spicy, satisfying, delicious and, did I say this already? EASY! I made it for Jeff when he got back into town and he loved it too. Halleluja! He's actually pretty easy to please, but don't let that fool you, I'm not. Like, at all. It's GOOD. Trust me.

So, when I made them the first time, I used organic brown rice Pad Thai noodles and it was really tasty. That said, I used organic udon noodles the second time I made it and actually liked it a way better. It held up wonderfully the next day too. Rice noodles get all weird as leftovers, but if you want to keep it gluten-free, go ahead and use those.

So, lets get cookin, shall we? First things first, let's marinate that tofu...

Ingredients for the marinated tofu:
6-8 oz. Organic extra-firm tofu, cut into rectangle- or triangle-shaped slabs
1 TBSP Rice vinegar
1 TBSP Tamari or soy sauce (I always use San-J organic gluten-free reduced-sodium tamari)
1 TBSP Water
1 Garlic clove, minced or grated on a micro-plane grater
3 big pinches Crushed red pepper, or to taste (I like it hot)

Mix all the ingredients, minus the tofu, well in a bowl. Add the tofu and carefully toss to coat. You don't want it to break! Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so all sides get the flavor. You can even do this the night before so it gets all good and soaked in.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF

In a sandwich-sized ziplock bag, combine:
1/2 C Panko breadcrumbs
1 TBSP Sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. Black pepper, or to taste

Add 2-3 pieces of the marinated tofu at a time to the baggie and toss well so that all sides are coated.
Place one a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes. Note: all ovens are different. Mine runs really hot, but if yours doesn't, you may need to add another 10 minutes or so.

Set the remaining marinade aside for sautéing the veggies.

Now for the sauce. FYI, every time I say "sauce" out loud, I say it in a thick Brooklyn accent like Jeff's Ma. Not sure why, I just do. "Sauwse!"

OK, so the tofu is baking. In a high-speed blender, combine then set aside:
1 C Light coconut milk
1 TBSP Peanut butter
2 TBSP Tahini
2 TBSP Tamari or soy sauce
1-1/2 TBSP Lime juice, approx. the juice from 1 lime
1 tsp. Sriracha
1 Garlic clove minced or grated
Another big pinch of crushed red pepper

You could totally combine this stuff in just a bowl and stir it up really well. It's just the pb and tahini take a while to dissolve. In a high-speed, or even not-so-high-speed blender, it'll just take a few seconds.

Check on that tofu and give it a flip!

Everything else:
8-10 oz. Organic udon noodles (or GF rice noodles)
1/2 bunch Dino or curly kale, chopped with the stems removed
1 Red and/or green pepper, de-seeded and and sliced thin
1/2 bunch Enoki mushrooms if you can find them. If you can't or don't want to find them, you could use any other mushroom you like, or skip the 'shrooms altogether.
Honestly, you could really add anything here. Some other veggies that would be yummy are: broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, whatever you like. Use your imagination!
For garnish: Cilantro, sliced jalapeños, crushed peanuts, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and lime wedges (all optional, but highly recommended)

Put the water on for the pasta and bring to a boil.

While the water is boiling, lightly steam the kale over med-high heat in a covered shallow cast iron pan or wok with just a little water like I do (it takes about 60 seconds) or in a steamer basket. Set aside.

Flip that tofu again!

In the same pan pour in the marinade and over med-high heat, sauté the peppers. Set aside then do the enokis. A little trick I've learned with enoki mushrooms is to sauté them while they are all still bunched together then cut off that stump thing after they're cooked. That way, they stay together and look way better. I'm a Libra, things must be pretty! Set aside when finished.

Tofu and pasta should be done at this point. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water then place into the pan or wok. Add your kale and peppers then pour in the sauce. Toss to coat. Once everything is good and coated, add the crusted tofu and carefully fold into the pasta/sauce/veggie mixture, again being careful not to break it. You can always just place the crusted tofu on top of the pasta too. See picture below:

Scoop into bowls, add enokis on top, cilantro, limes, sesame seeds or whatever garnish you're using and serve immediately. I always have a bottle of Sriracha on the side for extra heat too. Dig in and then let me know what you think!

Ooo! This dish is also really good cold, so you could totally make it all in advance. It'll keep in the fridge for at least a day.

To make it totally gluten-free, just skip the breading and use rice noodles. BAM!


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