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Spicy Noodles with Sweet Potatoes, Spinach and Tofu

In Chili, Cilantro, Garlic, Ginger, Lime, Main Course, Meatless, Pasta, Peanut Butter, Recipe, Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce, Sweet Potato, Vegetarian
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Can I be completely frank with you about something?

I'm not a big fan of tofu.

I know this news doesn't come as a big shock to those who have been with us here for a while, but I felt that it was time I just stated that fact unequivocally.

Why am I feeling the need to come clean about this right now?

Because this dish is fairly well jammed with tofu and I love it, and that fact is freaking me out a little bit!  Truth be told the tofu isn't my favorite part of the dish, but prepared as it is (yeah, it's fried), I found it down right unoffensive.  And that, my friends is real progress for me.  I'm quite sure that I will never love tofu, but if I can find a few more ways to weave it into our diets and lighten our dependence of meat based proteins, then I'll consider that a significant win.  

Progress in baby steps is still progress.

It's taken a while to find, but this "pescatarian" friendly, tofu based dish not only pleases Peyton and her meatless dietary desires, but is one that we flesh eaters can get behind as well.  There are of course, lots of seafood based dishes that we all love, but finding a meal built around soy protein has been a real struggle.  We've tried all varieties of tofu from silken to firm, and have even dabbled in tempeh, but before this meal all of our experiments ended with cries of uncle after just a few bites.

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When I came across this dish on Culinate's site not long ago my hope for success was renewed.  Why, you ask?  Because this recipe calls for frying the tofu cubes before tossing them with the pasta and sauce, and as any good chef knows there is practically nothing that can't be improved ten-fold by a little time spent in bubbling hot oil.  Am I right?  While the frying really doesn't do anything for the flavor of the tofu (let's face it, one of the real problems with tofu is that it doesn't HAVE any flavor), the texture of the stuff is greatly improved by being crisped in the oil.  

The rest of the dish is a no-brainer with flavors so bold that the blandness of the tofu is sufficiently masked.  The soy-ginger-peanut sauce along with the spinach and sweet potatoes would be delicious all on their own, but also with shrimp, chicken or pork should you be a non-tofu type.  Enjoy!

Cheers - Steve

 

Spicy Noodles with Sweet Potatoes, Spinach and Tofu

by: the talented folks at Culinate

(Print Friendly Recipe)

 

Ingredients:

The sauce:

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2-3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce (we used sambal olek)

The noodles:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1 block firm tofu, drained and patted dry
  • 1 package (10 ounces) soba noodles or whole wheat spaghetti
  • 4 cups baby spinach (we used a whole cello bag from the grocery)
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 limes cut into wedges
  • sliced thai peppers and fresh cilantro (optional)
  • canola oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 400℉
  2. Place all the sauce ingredients into a medium bowl, whisk until smooth and set aside.
  3. On a large baking sheet, pour enough oil to create a thin film.  Place the sweet potato cubes on the sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to coat with the oil.  Spread them out into a single layer, then roast the cubes in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned.  remove from the oven and set aside.
  4. Use paper towels to pat the block of tofu dry.  Cut the block into 4 strips lengthwise, then cut each strip into cubes.  Blot with paper towels again to remove any moisture from the cubes.  In a large skillet, pour enough oil to come up in the pan 1/3".  heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the tofu cubes carefully.  Fry the tofu until light golden brown, turning to brown all the sides, about 10 minutes.  Drain the tofu on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Prepare the noodles according to the package instructions.  Drain, then place in a large bowl and toss with the sauce.  Add the roasted sweet potatoes, the spinach, the tofu and half the peanuts.  Toss well to combine and season to taste with salt.  Serve with the balance of the peanuts sprinkled on top and with a wedge of lime on each plate to squeeze over the noodles just before eating.  We also sprinkled a few hot pepper slices and some fresh cilantro over the dish for a little extra something.

 Serves 6

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"Oui, Chef" exists as an extension of my efforts to teach my kids a few things about cooking, and how their food choices over time effect not only their own health, but that of our local food communities and our planet at large. By sharing some of our cooking experiences, I hope to inspire other families to start spending more time together in the kitchen, passing on established familial food traditions, and starting some new ones. Read more...
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