Lately, I have been doing a fair amount of catering. Some of it has been real official catering and some of it has been making food for lots of people on behalf of friends. Either way, I am always faced with the challenge of how much food to make. Working as a personal chef for three years and also catering lunches, dinners, and parties – not to mention all the entertaining we do ourselves – has made me a pretty good judge of portions. I have no formula, I just kind of guess. (Very scientific, I know.) If I’m not sure, I err on the side of too much food because leftovers are nice but being hungry because the hostess/chef/caterer didn’t make enough food is not. Once in a while I am off but thankfully not very often.
My parents came over for dinner last night along with my brother Michael. Both of my brothers have incredible appetites and if they like something, you had probably better duck for cover. My brother Alex once went to a wedding where he ate 99 skewers of shrimp with each skewer holding three shrimp. I do know he did not get sick. I do not know if anyone else got any shrimp that night.
Anyway, Michael, the baby in the family, also loves food and I always like to send him home with leftovers. Keeping that in mind, and knowing I was cooking for five last night, I decided to one and half the recipe for these Spicy Peanut Noodles. Just a pound and a half of noodles. That should be right for five hungry people with a few leftovers, right? If I were making this pasta or this one, I wouldn’t hesitate to use a pound and a half of pasta.
I’m not sure what happened to my nice Barilla whole grain spaghetti, but I could have fed about ten people with this dish. As I said, better too much food than not enough. Especially if it is a savory dish like this one. I love Asian noodles of all kinds and these are no exception. Peanut-y and smooth with terrific bite from the lightly pickled vegetables. After we all ate our portions, I sent both my brother and parents home with some, and the boys and Randy ate the rest of them tonight. That is a lot of noodles. (By the way, my boys – the little ones – inhaled this dish. Both of them had two huge plates-ful and Graham even had a second helping of tofu.)
I usually scoff at using spaghetti in Asian dishes, but I had some on hand and I like that the Barilla noodles have quite a bit of protein in them. Their nutty flavor was most welcome in this dish, I just cooked them past al dente so their texture would be right. No tofu was in the recipe originally, but I liked it here. I held back a bit of the peanut sauce, brushed both sides of the tofu with it, and baked it in a 375º oven for about 25 minutes. I also added the slightly pickled carrots because I thought the dish could use an extra bite and a bit of color.
One Year Ago: Greek Pasta Casserole
Spicy Peanut Noodles
Adapted from Food & Wine
1 pound spaghetti
¾ cup smooth peanut butter
½ cup + 2 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar
6 tbsp. soy sauce
½ cup water
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. crushed red pepper
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove
12 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into ½-inch thick wedges
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
½ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 carrots, peeled and grated
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
In a blender, puree the peanut butter with 6 tablespoons of the vinegar, 3 tbsp of the sugar, the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, ginger and garlic. Remove about ½ a cup of the dressing and place in a pie dish. Put the tofu slices in the dish and turn them to coat with the dressing. Place dish in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and turn the slices over. Bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
In a pot of boiling water, cook the spaghetti until tender. Place the remaining dressing in a large bowl. Using tongs, scoop the spaghetti out of the water and into the bowl. Toss to coat the noodles with dressing. Ladle in some of the cooking water if the noodles seem too dry.
In another bowl, toss the celery with the cilantro and 2 tbsp. of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Do the same in another bowl with the carrots and remaining vinegar and sugar. Drain if they seem too wet, but allow them each to sit in their liquid for at least 10 minutes.
Serve the noodles in bowls and top them with the celery and carrots.