When people ask me what kind of food I cook, the first thing I say is “vegetarian”. Then I usually say something like, “I make healthy food but not spa food.” What does that mean exactly? I think I mean that yes, the food I cook is healthy in that I use a lot of vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins. I cook with a minimum of oil. I make a salad almost every night. But my food can also be hearty (see: lasagne) and have more cheese than anything you would ever see in a spa. If I’m going to make enchiladas, I do soften the tortillas in oil – I just don’t make them very often.
I think this dish kind of sums it up. If you are a meat and potatoes person, this soba noodle dish might look like spa food to you – there is tofu in there after all. But the fact that you brown the tofu in oil and that you add sesame oil as a flavor enhancer might get you kicked out of a spa. I don’t know for sure – I don’t frequent spas, although I would like to. So in a nutshell, “healthy food with lots of flavor and mostly good for you”. How does that sound?
Soba Noodles Previously on Dana Treat: Soba Noodles with Bok Choy, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Ginger
One Year Ago: Lemon Bars
Soba Noodles with Vegetables, Crispy Tofu, and Toasted Sesame Seeds
Adapted from Gourmet
8 oz. package soba noodles
1 Asian or Bosc pear
12 oz. package extra firm tofu, patted dry, cut into ½-inch cubes
4 carrots, cut into 1½-by ¼ inch sticks
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced thin
4 scallions, sliced thin
2 tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. Tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted lightly
In a large pot, bring salted water to boil for noodles.
Peel and cut pear into matchstick pieces.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil over moderately high heat. Brown tofu on all sides, working in batches if necessary. Transfer tofu to paper towels to drain and season with salt and pepper.
Add carrots to skillet and sauté, stirring, until just tender and start to brown. Transfer carrots to a bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet and then add mushrooms, scallions, ginger, and pear and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until vegetables are tender. Remove skillet from heat and add carrots.
Cook noodles in water until al dente. Drain noodles in colander and immediately rinse with cold water. Leaving them in the colander, toss the noodles with 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil.
Return skillet to moderate heat and add ¼ cup water, tamari or soy sauce, vinegar, and remaining teaspoon sesame oil. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring, until hot. Add noodles, tossing to combine and adding more water if necessary, and cook until heated through. Season noodles with salt and pepper and serve warm topped with tofu and sesame seeds.