Open (your mouth) sesame!

February 10, 2010

I used to be very anti-tofu. My husband always liked it, but up until five years ago, I always got a little lip sneer when thinking about eating it myself. But now I'm totally hooked. (If you already eat tofu, just skip ahead to the recipe, because below is my mini-treatise on why one should try tofu.) You can't think of it as fake meat. It tastes nothing like meat, which is one of its selling points. It tastes like whatever you cook it with. And if you cook it right, it is crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. Anything that's crispy on the outside is delicious! I dare you to name one food that isn't. Try this recipe if you're new to tofu. If you hate it, there's noodles as a side. And if you hate noodles, well, only God can help you.

Bonus feature: the leftovers are great cold for lunch the next day.

Sesame tofu and sesame noodles, from Eating Well and Simple Vegetarian Pleasures
Serves 4

1 16 oz. block extra firm tofu
1/4 cup rice wine, sake or sherry (I used sherry)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup white sesame seeds (these are much cheaper in the bulk food section, rather than the spice section, of your market)

1 lb. soba noodles
1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste) or peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
a few dashes of Sriracha hot sauce, to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow, red, or orange pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions

Cut the tofu into eight slices, about the size of playing cards. Mix together the rice wine (or sake or sherry), soy sauce, and sesame oil in a low bowl or pie plate. Marinate the tofu, turning occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a big pot of water to boil for the soba noodles. Mix together the tahini paste (or peanut butter), soy sauce, sherry, sugar, sesame oil, water, ginger, and Sriracha. Cook the soba noodles in the boiling water until tender, but still with a little bite, about five minutes. Drain and rinse, then toss with the sauce, diced pepper, and onions.

Heat a nonstick or cast iron skillet to medium-high heat. Add a little vegetable oil. Spread the sesame seeds on a plate. Lift the tofu slices out of the marinate, and coat on both sides with the sesame seeds. Cook the tofu slices in two batches, allowing the sesame seeds to brown and crisp, about 3-4 minutes per side. (A good spatula is essential here. One reason I really like using a cast iron skillet is that you can use a metal spatula.)

Serve the tofu on top of the noodles. You could also make all of this ahead, and have it chilled for a picnic lunch.