Plato’s peanut butter noodles

There are certain meals that are sure-bets when feeding my family. Often, they include pasta. Fortunately, this one also includes broccoli and tofu, and is so delicious, everyone will love it, and you won’t get tired of it. It’s peanut butter noodles. I’ve been futzing with the recipe for a long time, trying different recipes to see which one I like best. Well, I’ve finally made the one, the Platonic ideal of peanut butter noodles, if you will. It tastes like satay, and it is delicious. I have a little bit of sauce left over, so I guess I’m going to have to make tofu satay! Bummer.

This is a recipe specifically for my kids, so it’s not very spicy. When my husband and I eat it, we add plenty of sriracha, which is highly recommended, but you could also use hot curry powder instead of regular curry powder or add cayenne to the sauce mix. Also, we all love what happens to broccoli when it’s roasted, so I take that step here, but you could just as easily add it to the pan. It’s so easy to roast, though, and if you fry the broccoli in the pan, you still should/have to remove the tofu from the pan in order to get the broccoli the direct contact with the pan that it deserves. Do it however you like, though.

Peanut butter noodles with tofu and broccoli

  • 1 head of broccoli, broken and chopped into small florets
  • 1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 lb whole wheat pasta (spaghetti or other shape)
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 lb extra-firm tofu, cubed into 1/2″ dice
  • 13 oz can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I use natural peanut butter with nothing added to it, except salt, I don’t know what this would be like with Jif)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp agave
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Chopped roasted peanuts for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil (makes clean-up easy), and spray with cooking spray. Place the broccoli florets on the foil, pour the olive oil over it and add the salt. Toss with your hands until all the florets have a light coating of the oil. Roast for about 18 to 20 minutes, stirring and tossing about half-way through cooking time.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. My husband likes spaghetti, but it’s messy for the kids, so I break it into smaller pieces.

Heat a large cast iron pan over slightly lower than medium-high heat. Add the canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu and then leave it aloneIf you try to move it before the tofu is properly caramelized, you’ll lose the crispy skin to the pan. When it lifts fairly easily, after a good 8 to 10 minutes, toss it around in the pan to caramelize it on another side.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, agave, tamarind paste, curry powder, salt, ginger, and coriander, and place the saucepan over medium heat. Stir often to incorporate the peanut butter and to ensure that it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. When the sauce starts to simmer and bubble, it’s ready to serve.

In a large bowl, toss together the drained pasta, the broccoli, the tofu, and the sauce until thoroughly combined. Serve with plenty of sriracha and chopped peanuts, if you want to be fancy.

Serves a family of five (with three small kids)

Every [scrap] is sacred, every [scrap] is great…

On nights when I want to serve an elegant dinner to my family – perhaps for Shabbat – I make a meal that is also one of the simplest and fastest to make: tofu steaks, sauteed green beans with garlic, and some kind of potato, generally mashed or roasted. As my children get bigger, one pound of tofu is no longer enough for all of us. A few days ago, I made our favorite elegant meal, this time, the potatoes were mashed.  I made more mashed potatoes than I thought we’d eat, because I’d wanted to use them in a bread (soft potato bread, anyone?). Well, I also made 2 pounds of tofu, which is definitely more tofu than the five of us are going to eat in one dinner, and I made more green beans than I needed, too, who knows why. So what do leftover vegetables, leftover protein, and leftover mashed potatoes make? Why, shepherd’s pie, of course! I also had an abundance of mushroomy items in my fridge, and I was just in the mood for a mushroomy flavor, so I used all of them.

I’ve said it before. I love leftovers. I especially love repurposing leftovers. To me, there’s nothing like taking something that was already great, and making something completely different and still great out of it! I also am a BIG fan of not wasting food. And I’m a fan of feeding my family things they love. So this shepherd’s pie is a win-win all over the place.

Mushroomy shepherd’s pie

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 – 16 oz tofu, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh, frozen, or already cooked green beans (if fresh, blanch first)
  • 1 tbsp mushroom flavored or regular soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/4 cups mushroom or vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 cups mashed potatoes
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8×8″ casserole with cooking spray. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan, and if using fresh (not leftover) tofu, saute tofu until golden.  If using leftover tofu, add onions to the pan first, and saute until translucent. Add garlic and mushrooms, and saute until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are soft. Add green beans and tofu, if using leftover tofu, and saute until the green beans are soft. Add soy sauce, sage, and thyme, and saute until everything is coated in the syrupy soy sauce. Add the peas to the pan.

Combine the flour and stock in a bowl, and whisk until no lumps appear. Add the stock to pan, and stir long enough to thicken and coat everything. Taste for salt. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole, and top with the mashed potatoes, making a crust.  Sprinkle on the smoked paprika. Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Enjoy!

The old New World

In my dreams, I live in Oaxaca, Mexico. I cook alongside my neighbor mamas with our earthen pots set over communal fires, roasting chilies and cacao beans for grinding…. I can feel the coarse chocolate between my fingers, smell the smoky warmth of ancho chiles, and taste a big pot of something dark and delicious simmering all day over hot coals. Our children play in the fields, boots muddy from nibbling tomatoes off the vine. And for a snack, we serve them pupusas with refried beans and marinated tofu.

Perhaps not. It’s my dream.

Pupusas with refried beans and marinated tofu

Marinated tofu

  • Olive oil
  • Zest and juice of a good lime
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 2 tbsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 lb tofu, sliced into steaks (1/2″ thick and 2×3″ wide/long)

Pupusas

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 15-oz can pintos, drained and rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt to taste

Place the marinade ingredients and tofu in a large zip-top bag, seal, and toss from one hand to the other to distribute the marinade evenly over the tofu. Let marinate for about an hour, tossing every once in a while.

Meanwhile, place the masa, warm water, and salt in a large bowl, mixing first with a wooden spoon, then kneading with your hands for a minute or two. It should be soft, pliable, and not at all sticky. Cover with a damp dish towel and let sit for 10 minutes.

While the dough sits, heat a small cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the peanut oil and the onion, and fry for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and stir until fragrant, about thirty seconds. Add the pintos, and stir until the beans are coated in onions and oil. Mash the mixture with a potato masher until well mashed and no whole beans remain. Add more oil if the mixture isn’t creamy enough. Taste for salt, turn off the heat.

Divide the dough into 8 balls, and poke a well in the middle of each ball. Add about a tsp of refried beans to the well, cover the beans with the surrounding dough, then pat between your hands to flatten the pupusas into about a 1/4″ thick disk. Place the raw pupusas on a sheet of wax paper.

Heat a large cast iron pan over slightly hotter than medium heat (medium-high was too high on my stove). Add about a tbsp of oil for frying the pupusas. You just want a thin coat, not a pool. Fry on each side for 2 or 3 minutes.

When you’re done with the pupusas, turn the pan up a little more, and add about a 1/4 cup of oil. Fry the tofu steaks for about 5 minutes per side, until they’re crispy golden. Sprinkle with a little salt.

To serve, top a pupusa with more refried beans and a tofu steak. Eat with your hands standing over your earthen pot.

Repurposed scraps (aka, lunch!)

My kids had eaten, and despite having gone grocery shopping yesterday, I have nothing in my fridge. I don’t want another sandwich, because I had peanut butter and banana on toast for breakfast. I’m bored. What’s for lunch?

Well, more than making everything from scratch most of the time, I’m also a huge fan of repurposing left-overs and scrounging scraps together to make something yummy and healthy in no time flat. The key for this concoction is that I had a cooked grain waiting to be used in my freezer. Without that, I would’ve had to resort to a tortilla or bread. Another important factor is knowing how truly variable this so-called recipe is. Today, I had a sausage, a red bell pepper, and 3 scallions in the fridge, and turmeric barley in my freezer. You could do this with any kind of onion (and/or garlic), most any kind of vegetable (e.g., summer squash, green beans, shredded cabbage, broccoli/cauliflower/Brussels sprouts, even handfuls of spinach or a few kale or chard leaves), any source of (vegan, ahem) protein (beans, cubed tofu, whatever),  a grain, and SIMPLE flavoring. Did you hear that, Mom? Keep it simple. I made a sort of Mediterranean dish, but you could swap out the za’atar and balsamic for some cumin and oregano and a splash of red wine vinegar or lime juice, and call it Mexican, or a pinch of curry and ginger, and call it Indian. Simple. This is a kind of stir-fry, but I don’t always want a Chinese flavored stir-fry. So, here you go. My afternoon masterpiece.

Mediterranean sausage over turmeric barley

  • Frozen cooked turmeric barley
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 vegan Italian sausage, quartered lengthwise and chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp za’atar
  • Kosher salt to taste

Defrost and heat the barley in the microwave, about five minutes. Heat a medium cast iron pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add olive oil, then add the sausage until starting to turn golden. Add the bell pepper until softened, then add the scallions. Let cook for another minute, then add the balsamic, za’atar, and the salt. Serve over barley. Enjoy!

Serves one in about 10 minutes’ time.

Middle Eastern tomato stew with creamy tofu

I had one small ball of pizza dough in the fridge that needed to get used. I have a family of five to feed, and one small vegan pizza wouldn’t cut it. Didn’t want to make pasta (with pizza?). And I’ve been craving shakshouka, the delicious Israeli stew of tomatoes and red bell peppers, rich with olive oil, served with a poached egg on top.

And so this simple stew was born.

Middle Eastern tomato stew with creamy tofu

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 8 oz green beans, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 1 lb firm tofu, sliced into 1″ squares/1/4″ thick
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
  • Salt to taste

Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup oil, and when hot, add the green beans. Let fry, stirring often, for about three minutes, then add the red onion. Fry until the green beans are blistered and the onion is browned, about three more minutes. Remove the green beans and onion to a bowl and set aside. Add the rest of the oil and the tofu to the pan. Be patient. Don’t touch the tofu until it comes up easily from the pan. Then flip it with a thin metal spatula and brown it on the other side. Once it’s good and brown, turn the heat down to medium, and add the wine to deglaze the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and the green beans and onion. Stir well to coat everything in the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and turn the heat to medium-low. Let simmer for about ten to fifteen minutes, until the sauce is reduced and thick.

Enjoy with focaccia, roasted potatoes, rice or another grain, or just a spoon. Delicious!

Mole picadillo burritos – the horse I rode in on

First let me begin with the menus of the week. For client #1, I made a green salad topped with lentils and nectarines, pickled red onions, and a seriously delicious creamy Dijon dressing with a couple of thick slices of my whole wheat sourdough; curried vegetables and chickpeas over black quinoa; Sephardi meatballs with cabbage and barley; chipotle macaroni and cheese with OMG roasted Brussels sprouts; and my world famous (in my own mind) mole picadillo burritos. For client #2, by request, I made mole picadillo burritos; roasted broccoli; salad greens with a pomegranate vinaigrette; and a chilled cantaloupe bisque. Everything was yummy. Other than the aforementioned burritos, I think my favorite item was the Dijon dressing. I know. It’s salad dressing. It was FINGER-LICKING GOOD. Really.

I have been making these burritos for…I dunno…17 years? They’ve only gotten better. As with any good burrito, the ingredients list is completely flexible, and lends itself to repurposed left-overs. But this is generally what they look like. If you want to beef up the vegetable content, you can add fresh spinach or kale at the end to wilt it. Seriously, I would stake my reputation as a maker of yummy things on this burrito. It is SO yummy.

Mole picadillo burritos

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 1 lb pkg super firm tofu, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 lrg onion, chopped
  • 1 lrg red pepper, chopped
  • 1 apple, preferably Granny Smith, but any will do, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 – 3 chipotles in adobo, per taste, minced
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt to taste
  • 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen roasted corn
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 8 (whole wheat, my preference) flour tortillas
  • Toppings: sliced avocado, pickled jalapenos and carrots, cholula

Preheat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu, and saute until golden on most sides. Add the onions, then the bell peppers, stirring often, until the onions are softened. Add the rest of the ingredients (stopping short of the tortillas, yo) in order, stirring fairly constantly. The water should make a nice sauce.

Heat a medium cast iron pan over medium heat. Toast tortillas in the dry pan, one at a time. Toast on one side, flip over, and then pile about a third cup of filling into the middle of the tortilla, add toppings, then remove to a plate to cool long enough so you don’t burn your fingers folding it into a burrito.

Enjoy!