peanut-sesame noodles

Time for something completely different. No beans here. No greens either (although I had to resist a strong temptation to throw a handful of cooked kale into the final product). This is yet another meatless dish, though: I’m beginning to fear I’ve become an accidental vegetarian.

This should be an extremely quick meal: a little bit of chopping, a little bit of blending, noodles that take less than 10 minutes to boil, and you’re done. Various complications — rummaging through boxes looking for the blade to the blender I packed away in Pennsylvania a year ago; a noodle package printed entirely in Japanese that led to frantic Googling of “how long to boil soba noodles”; an utter failure to realize that I could blend the sauce and chop the vegetables while the noodles were cooking —  means it took me quite a bit longer; I started cooking at 9 p.m. and sat down to eat just as Mad Men came on at 10 p.m.

Which is, in fact, my ideal Sunday night.

Peanut-Sesame Noodles

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. (My changes: I fried the tofu briefly in a little bit of canola oil; if plain tofu turns you off, I recommend this, but it’s hardly necessary. I also added some steamed/sauteed sugar snap peas.)

Serves 4 as a main course, or maybe even more.

For the noodles:

3/4 lb. soba noodles (boil for 6 minutes, if you’re curious)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
Half a seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed
Big handful of raw sugar-snap peas
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

For the sauce:

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles for 6 minutes. (You can substitute whole-wheat spaghetti if needed; in that case, follow instructions on the package.) Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a medium skillet. Add the tofu and fry, shaking the pan, until tofu is golden brown on all sides, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the tofu and add the sugar snap peas, along with a quarter-cup of water, to the same skillet. Cook until the water is evaporated.

Combine sauce ingredients in a blender and blend for 2 minutes.

Toss the cooked noodles, chopped vegetables, tofu and sauce in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold — it’s good any way.

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