Zucchini and Tofu in Roasted Chili Paste

August 4, 2008 at 6:31 am (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

This is currently my favorite way to eat Thai roasted chili paste. This recipe from Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott is simple and satisfying. For more color, use half yellow squash, but add it slightly before the zucchini as it’s slower to cook. Alternatively, throw in a handful of halved cherry tomatoes when you add the tofu.

  • 10 – 14 ounces medium-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp. – 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. coarsely chopped garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
  • 1 large onion (about 10? ounces), cut lengthwise into thick strips
  • 3 medium or 2 large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch rounds (about 1.5 pounds?)
  • 3 Tbs. roasted chili paste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt (omit or reduce if your vegetable stock is salted)
  1. Heat a wok or a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and onion and cook until shiny, fragrant, and softened, about 1 minute. Add the zucchini and cook, tossing occasionally, until shiny, tender, and a brilliant green, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chili paste, vegetable stock, soy sauce, and salt. Toss well. Add the tofu and cook, giving it an occasional gentle toss, until it is heated through and evenly coated with the sauce, about 1 minute. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot or warm.

Serves 4.

Rating: B+

Derek: A-

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Shriveled green beans, red pepper and tofu in thai roasted chili paste

August 4, 2008 at 5:52 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)

This is a tasty summertime recipe that’s very quick to make (if you already have the chili paste made).  Just put on your rice a little while before you start prepping, and by the time it’s done dinner will be ready.

  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into thin rings
  • large bag of green beans (1 pound?), stemmed and long beans broken in half, washed, and dried well
  • 1 Tbs. palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 – 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 pound medium-firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 Tbs. coarsely chopped garlic (4 to 6 cloves, optional)
  • 2 Tbs. thai roasted chili paste
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed Thai basil, ribboned
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed 9-inch skillet over high heat.  When hot, add the red onion, stirring frequently until just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the green beans, keeping the heat on high.  Next add the sugar and salt, and mix well. Stir constantly, until the green beans start to brown and shrivel up a tad, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, red bell pepper, the tofu, the chili paste, and the water, and gently stir to combine.  Cover, turn heat to medium-low, and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the red pepper is shiny and beginning to wilt.
  4. Sprinkle with the ribboned basil, and serve immediately, with brown rice.

Serves 3-4 as a one-dish meal, with brown rice.


The green beans will be slightly shriveled and brown with this recipe–adding the salt and sugar early on helps draw out the moisture, and carmelizes the sugar.  To make them even more like the green beans served in a Chinese restaurant, I want to try either pre-salting them, or roasting them in the oven briefly before stir-frying them.

The Thai basil is really essential: it adds add a fresh bright floral note on top of the tangy explosive sauce.  If you can’t find Thai basil perhaps try substituting regular basil or mint.

Cutting the tofu into very large cubes helps keep them from breaking up too much, and adds visual appeal.  Make sure to use a Chinese-style tofu that’s firm but not too firm.  Many of the brands available in organic stores in Montreal and Germany were hard as a rock, and sour, and would be awful in this dish.  If the tofu doesn’t taste good raw, leave it out.

If your sauce is really fiery, you’ll want to serve this with a refreshing beverage, like tamarind juice or iced tea or ginger lemonade.

Rating: B

Derek Rating: A-

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Thai Roasted Chili Paste

August 4, 2008 at 5:32 am (A (4 stars, love), Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Nancie McDermott, Other, Sauce/dressing)

A few years ago I made the Roasted Chili Paste (Nahm prik pao) from Nancie McDermott’s cookbook Real Vegetarian Thai.  We used it in a recipe with butternut squash and spinach, and everyone enjoyed it.  For some reason, however, I never made it again, until this summer.  I gave my mom my big Kitchenaid spice grinder with the washable bowl,  since it won’t work in Germany, but she didn’t know what to do with it, since she already had a normal coffee grinder.  I suggested she make Thai roasted chili paste in it, and she wanted me to show her how, so we cracked open her pristine copy of Real Vegetarian Thai, and made half a batch of Roasted Chili Paste.  After tasting it and discovering how utterly delicious it is, we felt foolish for only making half a batch!

Here is my recipe for 1.5 batches of thai chili paste:

  • 3/4 cup loosely packed small dried red chilies such as chilies de arbol or chiles japones (about 48), stemmed, halved crosswise (about 3/4 ounce)
  • almost a cup of unpeeled shallots, cut lengthwise into chunks, about 4.5 ounces
  • generous 1/3 cup unpeeled garlic cloves (12 to 15 large cloves), about 2 3/4 ounces
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (my mom uses 3/8 cup, and the original recipe calls for 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tamarind liquid
  • 1.5 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  1. Measure out the chilies, shallots, and garlic, and cut the shallots as specified.
  2. In a wok or heavy skillet, dry-fry the chilies over medium-low heat until they darken and become fragrant and brittle, 3 to 5 minutes.  Shake the pan and stir frequently as they roast.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate to cool.
  3. Increase the heat to medium and dry-fry the shallots and garlic, turning them occasionally, until they are softened, wilted, and blistered, about 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and transfer to the plate to cool.
  4. Stem the chilies and shake out and discard most (but not all) of the seeds. Add to a mini processor or spice grinder, and pulse twice.  Trim the shallots and garlic, discarding the peel and root ends.  Combine the garlic, shallots, and chilies in a mini processor, blender, or spice grinder, and pulse to a coarse paste, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.  Add 1/4 cup of the vegetable oil and grind to a fairly smooth paste.
  5. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup oil into the wok or skillet.  Place over medium heat until a bit of the paste added to the pan sizzles at once, about 1 minute.  Add the ground chili paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the paste gradually darkens and releases a rich fragrance, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  6. When the paste is cool, add the sugar, tamarind, soy sauce, and salt and mix well.  The paste will be quite oily, and must be stirred before each use.  Transfer to a jar, cap tightly, and refrigerate for up to 1 month.  Use at room temperature in recipes or as a condiment.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups (if using 1/2 cup oil), or maybe just a bit less.


I love this versatile sauce, as did my mom, and Derek.  It’s spicy, sweet, salty, and just a tad sour from the tamarind. Make a big batch and keep it in the fridge, and you’ll be glad.  It’s quite a bit of work, but it lasts in the fridge for a month.  With this sauce it’s super easy to whip up a quick Thai weeknight dinner, that tastes like something you’d get at a Thai restaurant.  My mom and I used it in a dish with zucchini and tofu, which we scarfed down.  Derek and I made a green bean, tofu, and red pepper version which was almost as delicious.  The original recipe I tried was a vitamin packed butternut squash and spinach hot pot. I’ll post the recipes separately.

If you have a thai mortar and pestle you can make the paste the traditional way, adding oil little by little to grind the sauce to a fine paste.

You can buy Nahm prik pao in an Asian grocery store, but it will ususally contain fish sauce and dried shrimp.

Open a window and turn on the stove fan if you can while frying and seeding the chilies–otherwise your whole house will be spicy and everyone will be coughing all day.

This version gives a rich, tangy chili-tamarind paste softened by the brown sugar. For a more pure, fiery version skip step 6.

How to make tamarind “liquid”: To get the required tamarind paste, soak 1/2 cup of tamarind pulp/seeds (the kind that comes in a hard brick) in 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes.  Use a wooden spoon to break it up a bit, then use a wooden spoon to push the pulp through a fine mesh sieve, getting out as much tamarind paste as possible.   You’ll have extra tamarind paste leftover–store it in the freezer.  It won’t freeze, but will stay soft and ready to use at a moment’s notice in any Thai or Indian dish, or as a substitute for lemon juice. Pour boiling water over the remaining seeds and stringy paste, and let sit for 30 minutes.  Strain it and use it for a nice cooling Thai beverage–tamarind juice/tea.  Add a bit of honey or maple syrup if it’s too sour for you.

The first time I made this with my mom I was religious about getting out all the seeds, and the final paste was delicious, but totally without heat.  The next time I was less conscientious, and the paste was appropriately fiery.  Derek ate a few Tablespoons of it and then sat around in a numb daze after dinner.

The original recipe yields a very oily sauce, and then all the recipes that call for it have you cook the vegetables in more oil, which results in very tasty but overly greasy dishes.  So I reduced the oil a bit the second time I made it, and although the final dishes were still oily, they weren’t unpleasantly greasy.

Try to choose peppers that aren’t too tiny, as the tiny ones are really hard to seed.

I was initially hesitant because the recipe seems to call for a lot of salt, but you only use a few Tbs. of this sauce in a whole dish, so it doesn’t end up being too salty.  Really.

Rating: A- (soon to become an A?)

Derek Rating: A

Update May 2010:  I accidentally seeded my chilies before dry frying them.  I wonder what effect that will have?  I also used olive oil as the oil.  I followed the original recipe in the cookbook except I was a tad short on shallots and I used 5.5 Tbs. oil rather than 8.  I wanted to use less but it took 4 Tbs. before the mini processor would blend the mixture.  I probably could have left out adding the extra oil in the pan, but I wasn’t sure so I added 1.5 Tbs. just to be on the safe side.

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Simple Napa Stir-fry

May 7, 2008 at 3:59 pm (Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

I’m quite terrible at making stir-fries: I always go overboard and try to include too many different vegetables and flavors, and I end up with a mushy, overcooked, bland mess.  I went searching for some vegetables for dinner at the local grocery store in Saarbruecken last week, and the only thing that looked remotely fresh was the napa cabbage.  So I bought the cabbage and some ginger and scallions and whole wheat pasta and figured I’d make a quick stir-fry for dinner.  I wanted tofu as well but couldn’t find any, so bought eggs instead.

I started boiling water for about 1/2 pound of whole wheat pasta.

Meanwhile, I chopped up garlic, ginger, scallions, and the napa cabbage. I worked with what I had in the house and made a simple stir-fry sauce with some water, soy sauce, and honey.

After the pasta went into the boiling water, I started the stir-fry. I fried up two eggs in a stainless steel skillet with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then cut the fried egg into strips with a pair of kitchen shears, and set the egg aside. In the same pan I sauteed some garlic and ginger with a little olive oil and chili flakes, then added the chopped napa cabbage.  When the white, crunchy part of the cabbage just started to get soft, I removed from the heat and tossed in the cooked pasta, the scallions, the egg strips, and the sauce.

The stir-fry definitely turned out better than previous attempts.  The napa stayed crunchy, the ginger flavor was strong but not overpowering, the egg provided a savory element, and the scallions and pepper flakes provided just a hint of heat.

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Thai spinach soup

May 7, 2008 at 3:46 pm (Dark leafy greens, East and SE Asia, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, unrated)

I made a raw spinach pasta sauce for dinner the other night, but overestimated the amount of spinach I’d need.  I used the extra blended up spinach to make this thai-inspired soup.  I didn’t measure any of the ingredients so this is more of an idea than a recipe per se

  • fresh spinach, cleaned, large stems removed, blended raw with water til its smooth
  • coconut milk
  • ginger (I put mine through a garlic press)
  • garlic, pressed
  • finely minced lemongrass (I used a store-bought almost-paste, that left no stringy bits in the soup)
  • soy sauce
  • ground coriander
  • ground cumin
  • salt
  • something spicy, perhaps a fresh green chili with the seeds

The soup came out rich, but very tasty.  I used a little of the coconut milk to saute the ginger and garlic, then I added more lemongrass and a few spoonfuls of spinach, with the lemongrass, soy sauce, and dry spices.  When all the flavors were developed I added the fresh spinach and brought it carefully up to temperature.  If it gets too hot or cooks too long you’ll lose that bright green color.  I left mine sitting on the stove for a while and it turned a bit more brownish rather than the original bright green, but was still tasty.  The ginger and lemongrass and coconut milk were the strongest flavors.  If I had kaffir lime leaves, I would have added a few of those as well.

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Sesame Broccoli

February 15, 2008 at 6:17 pm (Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated, Vegetable dishes)

This is a simple dish that is truly more than the sum of its parts. The ingredient list is very short, but the combination of flavors is perfect, and the dish takes only 5 minutes to prepare.

Break broccoli into florets, and slice the stem along the bias. Steam until just tender-crisp. While the broccoli steams, mix together sesame oil and soy sauce. Toss the sauce over the broccoli, sprinkle copiously with fresh toasted sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

I don’t have amounts, as I generally just eyeball it, but I will try to measure next time I make it. Be careful not to overcook the broccoli; it goes from done to overdone in a very short time. I often bring my pot to a boil, then off the heat and let the broccoli sit covered for about 5 minutes, and find that the broccoli is done perfectly, and there is less risk of overdoing it.

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Spring Rolls

December 24, 2007 at 4:32 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Spring recipes, Summer recipes, Tofu, Winter recipes) ()

Spring rolls are delicious, healthy, fresh, kid-friendly, and most importantly, a perfect springtime antidote to winter-induced “vegetarian mush syndrome.” It’s amazing how quickly spring rolls can be made. If I restrain myself, and prepare only a few items for fillings, I can have dinner on my plate in under 15 minutes. (Of course, depending on how many fillings you make it could take hours!) Spring rolls are versatile as well. Although they’re typically served as appetizers, I generally use them as a main course. Please don’t restrict yourself to traditional fillings.  The few combinations below stick mostly to an east asian theme, but I imagine Indian, Ethiopian, and even Mexican fillings could be delicious. Think outside the wrapper.

If anyone has any creative filling ideas to share, please post a comment below.

Update Feb 28, 2020

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since I’ve updated this post! Our neighbors invited us over for spring rolls a few weeks ago and it was such a nice dinner! I forgot how fun it is to have spring rolls for dinner. They had tofu and shiitake mushrooms and vermicelli rice noodles, but also a number of non-traditional fillings, including a simple salad made from grated celery root and grated apple. It was so refreshing. Hit the spot. I made a peanut sauce (following this Cookie and Kate recipe) I think. Everyone liked it except Alma.

Then tonight I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, and I had a little tofu to use up, a ton of grated cabbage, and some mint. I thought “Spring Rolls!” I cooked most of the cabbage with a carrot, roughly following this recipe for cabbage with miso. (I didn’t have any scallions though.) I left a little cabbage raw, cut up a red bell pepper, pan-fried the tofu into long strips, got the sprouts out of the fridge, and whipped together a peanut sauce. Alma quite enjoyed the spring rolls. She wouldn’t try the peanut sauce though (despite loving the peanut sauce at an Indonesian restaurant we went to this past week). She finally tried the mint in her last spring roll. Derek said the spring rolls were very tasty. He especially loved the fresh mint and the peanut sauce (which is good because I have a lot of peanut sauce left over.)

Update Dec 24, 2007

I decided to make some vegetable soup for dinner, and started sauteing a leek and 8 ounces of mushrooms in a little olive oil. It looked so good, however, I was hesitant to dilute it by adding more veggies and making soup. So I added a little white wine and some butter, along with salt and pepper (sort of like Kaya’s white wine french style medley. It was delicious, but a little rich and strong tasting to eat by itself. Derek suggested serving it over pasta, but the veggies were done and I didn’t really want to wait 20 minutes for water to heat and pasta to cook. When eyeing the pasta, however, I spied my spring roll wrappers, and the solution was obvious. The leeks and mushrooms made delicious, if somewhat sloppy, spring rolls. The filling was enough for 4 large, quite filling rolls.  Two made a tasty dinner, with a little raw tofu with yeast and soy sauce on the side. I think this combo would also make a nice winter appetizer, perhaps with just a touch of something fresh, maybe scallions. Next time, however, I’d cook the liquid down more so that the spring rolls don’t drip (ooze?) quite so much.

Originally posted May 9, 2006

Today I decided to try an allergy-free spring roll version for dinner. I made four large spring rolls:

  • 1/8 cabbage, shredded, raw
  • 1/8 cabbage, briefly sauteed in veg. broth
  • 3 shiitake mushrooms and 5 crimini mushrooms, sauteed in veg. broth
  • 1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 scallion
  • 8 sprigs watercress
  • 1 radish, julienned
  • 1/3 avocado

The spring rolls turned out great. They were big and satisfying, with great flavor. I was worried about not having a soy- or peanut-based dipping sauce, but turns out they had enough flavor on their own. The essential ingredients for the flavor were 1) the sesame seeds 2) the shiitake mushrooms 3) the avocado 4) salt. It’s essential to salt the cooked mushrooms and cabbage well if you’re not using a dipping sauce. The other ingredients added crunch but less flavor. The only addition I didn’t like was the watercress, since it’s kind of stringy and is hard to bite through. They might be fine without the stems, and chopped, however.

These rolls are extremely low calorie, if I can believe the stats on the spring roll wrapper package~only 30 calories per wrapper!

A tip for serving: if you’re going to have people roll then own, then give them separate little bowls for any sauces you serve. Otherwise the sauce get’s all over their plate and makes a mess when they try to make their spring rolls.

Note added May 25th: I made spring rolls for Derek and his parents and served it with the carrot ginger dressing, and everyone enjoyed that. When Katrina came over we made a peanut sauce from my co-op days. I thought the peanut sauce was delicious, but that it did overpower the spring rolls a bit. I couldn’t really taste the filling as well. Also, the peanut sauce did not go with avocado I though. Also, this time I couldn’t taste the sesame seeds as well, but this might be because I didn’t toast them enough. They need to really get dark I think.

Rating: B

As written here, this isn’t a very spring-like recipe, but if you use spring carrots, baby green onions, fresh sprouts, spring mushrooms, and delicate spring greens you can make lovely spring rolls, truly deserving of the name. Also, they will be extremely fast to prepare. If you’re serving mostly cold or lighter fillings, then try starting your meal with a bowl of hot soup, like sweet and sour or tom yum or miso.

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Cabbage carrot salad with peanut dressing

January 5, 2007 at 4:41 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cook's Illustrated, Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Sauce/dressing)

This is a cook’s illustrated recipe that I’ve made a few times, and quite enjoy. It’s a piquant alternative to traditional coleslaw.

Makes about 5-6 cups.

1 pound green cabbage (about 1/2 medium head), shredded fine
1 large carrot , peeled and grated
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped coarse
1 1/2 inch piece ginger , peeled
1/2 jalapeño chile , halved and seeded
4 medium radishes , halved lengthwise and sliced thin
4 medium scallions , sliced thin
  1. Shred the cabbage using the slicing blade of a food processor, or slice by hand. Grate the carrot in the food processor or by hand. Slice the radishes in the food processor or by hand.
  2. In bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, puree the peanut butter, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño until smooth paste is formed.
  3. Toss the cabbage and carrot, radishes, scallions, and dressing together in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

My Notes:

First let me say that I think Cook’s Illustrated’s obsession with salting and draining cabbage is absurd. Omitting that part of the recipe left a happy grin on my face. Even if you don’t eat the salad right away, and it waters down the dressing a tad, who cares? It’s worth it for the extra crispness, and for the time and bother saved. Okay, now that that’s covered….

I guess I had a very large head of cabbage because 1 pound was less than 1/4 of my cabbage. I used crunchy (natural) peanut butter, since that was all I had, and I thought it was just fine. I didn’t have peanut oil so substituted 1/4 Tbs. olive oil and 1/4 Tbs. toasted sesame oil. It probably would have been fine with no oil. I was out of honey so used maple syrup and accidentally used a whole Tbs. rather than just a tsp. Oops. It didn’t taste too sweet though. I started out trying to just mix the dressing with a fork, but that was a bad idea, so I got out my stick blender–much neater than messing the food processor. Of course, I could have prepped the cabbage and carrot in the processor, but I did them easily and quickly by hand. I didn’t have radishes so added an extra 4 ounces of cabbage.

I thought the salad was very pleasant. I had a big bowl–then another. Before I knew it I had finished all 6 cups of it. Oops again. I guess it probably deserves more than a “just pleasant”, huh? Or maybe I was just hungry…

Rating: B.

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Tempeh Stir-Fry with Ginger and Lemon (B-)

August 24, 2006 at 8:04 am (C (1 star, edible), Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Miso, Tempeh, The Vegan Gourmet, Vegetable dishes)

My friend gave me this tempeh recipe from 15-Minute Vegetarian by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay.

Tempeh Stir-Fry with Ginger and Lemon


2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. light-colored miso
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cups sliced crimini mushrooms (button mushrooms also okay if you can’t find crimini)
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh broccoli
8 oz. soy tempeh, cubed
1 can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, drained

In a medium bowl, whisk the conrstarch into 1 cup water. Add the lemon juice, honey, miso, soy sauce, and ginger, and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Heat the canola oil in a wok or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir and saute for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms, broccoli, tempeh, and water chestnuts. Stir the cornstarch mixture to recombine and add it to the pan. Increase the heat to high and cook until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings

Each will have: 285 calories, 9 g fat, 16 g protein, 41 g carbohydrate; 5 g dietary fiber; 0 mg cholesterol.

My friend’s notes
I had to double the honey because it was so lemony, and I also substituted snow peas for water chestnuts (just because I wanted to). It came out pretty well, but not stellar.

My notes

I made a similar looking stirfry years ago from the same authors but from the cookbook The Vegan Gourmet that had what seems like 3 times as many ingredients. I never made it again because it was a lot of work but I remember it after all these years because it was probably the best stirfy I’ve ever made (I’m not so good at stir-frying). This one looks similar but more manageable. I wonder if it will be as good?

Okay, I tried it and thought it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t as excellent as I remembered from my version of the recipe, however, so I dug out my cookbook to see what was different in the “gourmet” version, and the biggest differences I noticed was that the 15-minute version used 3 Tbs. brown rice syrup rather than the 2 Tbs. honey (a sweetener) and mirin (which is also sweet). I enjoyed the lemon flavor, but found it a bit overpowering. It needed something to counter balance it. Derek suggested fish paste or anchovies to give it some depth, but I don’t eat either of those… Derek picked out all the tempeh cuz it was his favorite, and I preferred the vegetables, so we made a good team! Anyhow, I’m not sure if I’ll make it again, but I’ll enjoy it for lunch today 🙂

Update Dec 2006: I tried the original version again.  It’s the recipe above except another Tbs. of canola oil, only 4 ounces of tempeh, only 2 cups mushrooms, a 1/2 pound snow peas, 2 Tbs. mirin, and 3 Tbs. brown rice syrup (I used 2 Tbs. honey).  The consistency of the sauce was very good but it was too sweet, and just not that great.  Derek and I had it for lunch but threw out the leftovers.

Rating: B-

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Sesame noodles (tahini style)

June 30, 2006 at 9:29 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Isa C. Moskowitz, Madhur Jaffrey, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing, Starches, Tofu)

I love the cold sesame noodles at China Palace in Pittsburgh. This isn’t quite the same, but it’s rich and salty and complex all the same.  Serve it with julienned raw veggies and crispy tofu.  Based on a recipe from Madhur Jeffrey’s World of the East.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, about 4 quarts of water.  Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli and sauce. Chop

  • two small heads of broccoli, stems sliced thinly and tops broken into small florets (about 1 lb 8 oz. broccoli in total–after trimming any woody stems–usually around 7 cups of florets and 2 cups of stems)

In a large serving bowl, mix together with a fork until you have a smooth paste:

  • 3/8 tsp kosher salt (if you have fine salt use only a 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbs neutral-tasting oil or peanut oil (use the spoon you’ll use for the tahini to measure this)
  • 1.5 tsp. toasted sesame oil (you can leave this out and instead drizzle it over the noodles)
  • 3 Tbs. tahini (using the spoon you used to measure the oil)
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. rice wine vinegar

When the water comes to a boil, salt the water (add 2-3 tsp salt), then add the broccoli stems, the broccoli florets, and then:

  • 1/2 lb. soba noodles, udon noodles, spaghetti, or Chinese egg noodles

Actually, the order will depend on how long the noodles need to cook.  My soba noodles are very thin and only take about 3 or 4 minutes to cook, so I add the broccoli first.  I let the broccoli stems cook for 1 minute, the broccoli florets cook for another 2 minutes and then add the noodles.  However, if your noodles take more than five or six minutes to cook you’ll want to add the noodles first.  The broccoli should take a total of about 4 to 6 minutes to cook, including the time with the noodles. (The exact time will depend on exactly how large your broccoli pieces are.)

While the noodles cook, roast in a small skillet:

  • 2 Tbs. sesame seeds (white, hulled seeds crisp up and look prettier than beige, unhulled sesame seeds, but both taste good)

When the noodles and broccoli are cooked, drain them and if using soba or udon noodles rinse under cold running water to release the extra starch, then add the noodles to the bowl with the sauce.  Sprinkle on top:

  • 2 Tbs roasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Serve immediately.

This dish has quite a lot of broccoli, and sauce too.  It’s oily and quite salty, and filling.  There’s a mild but noticeable heat from the cayenne. Derek loves this recipe, and asks for it at least once a week.  I enjoy it as well, although I prefer to make it into more of a salad by adding lots of  raw veggies (partly because the noodles as Derek prefers them are quite salty).  I usually julienne about 4 cups of raw vegetables.  I like cucumber, carrots, red and yellow bell pepper, radishes, jicama, bean sprouts, scallions, kohlrabi, etc.  I usually keep the raw veggies separate from the noodles and broccoli so that Derek and I can mix in our preferred proportion of raw veggies.  Last time I made this I served it with cucumbers that had been marinating in a sweet, vinegary dressing, and Derek really liked the combination, much more than plain julienned cucumbers.

I would say that this recipe makes 4 generous servings, which should be enough for dinner for four people, but people always seem to want seconds.  So realistically I would say that by itself this recipe serves three, and if you serve it with a lot of raw vegetables and some spicy, crispy tofu cubes then it serves four people for dinner.  Usually I just make this recipe for Derek and I, and we split the leftovers into two small lunches or I give it as a big lunch to Derek.  Leftovers from this recipe make a nice lunch the next day (hot or cold). I never have any difficulty getting rid of the leftovers!

This recipe is very heavy on the broccoli.  If you’re not a huge fan of broccoli, you can reduce the amount of broccoli to 16-20 ounces and replace the missing broccoli with more pasta.  Try it with 10-12 ounces of pasta maybe.  If you like, you can add even more broccoli–around 1 3/4 pounds.  If you do, however, Derek suggests adding more sauce as well.  He thinks that even with 1.5 pounds of broccoli and 1/2 pound of noodles the dish is slightly undersauced, especially if you add more raw veggies and some tofu on top.

Derek likes this recipe with any kind of noodle.  I do too, but I prefer this recipe with soba noodles, because the flavor is more intense.  However, their dark brown appearance and generally sticky texture yields a dish that is not so beautiful.  The soba noodles are substantially less sticky if you rinse them before adding the sauce, but still the recipe looks a bit like brown congealed slop.  This recipe when made with wheat noodles is much prettier, and would make a nice potluck dish, especially if garnished with a variety of colorful raw veggies.

The sauce is also tasty on cauliflower and other vegetables.  The sauce can be made ahead of time.  Just cover it.  It’s fine at room temperature overnight.

Rating: B+
Derek: A-

Nutritional stats with all the sesame oil and broccoli, and 8 ounces soba noodles.

Macronutrient breakdown:  33% fat, 52% carbs, 15% protein

Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 420
Total Fat 16.9g
Saturated Fat 2.2g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 1178mg
Carbohydrate 60g
Dietary Fiber 5.6g
Sugars 4.5g
Protein 16.8g
Vitamin A 23% Vitamin C 256%
Calcium    16% Iron 22%

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Asian Tofu Cakes (C)

June 5, 2006 at 8:08 pm (East and SE Asia, F (0 stars, dislike), Other, Tofu)

3This recipe was given to me by a friend, but was originally from Vegetarian Times, March 2002.

1 Tbs. sesame seeds
15oz. firm tofu, rinsed and drained
5 egg whites- Use flax seed replacer for 2 eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose, whole-wheat flour
1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1 medium carrot, shredded
3 scallions (green part only), thinly sliced; reserve 1 tsp. for sauce
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 Tbs. soy sauce
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil, more if needed

3 Tbs. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil or chili oil
1/2 tsp. rice vinegar

1. In small skillet, toast sesame seeds until golden brown, stirring often, 1 minute. Transfer to small plate and set aside.

2. Pat tofu dry with paper towel and place in medium bowl. Mash tofu with fork until it resembles chopped eggs.

3. Mix in egg whites, flour, ginger, scallions, peas, soy sauce and salt and white pepper to taste, until well blended.

4. In large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons sesame oil. Add about 1/4 cup tofu mixture per cake to skillet, flattening with back of spoon to form small cakes. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

5. Meanwhile, make Sauce: In small bowl, mix soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and reserved scallion.

6. To serve tofu cakes, sprinkle with sesame seeds and accompany with sesame-soy sauce on the side.

Serves 6


My note: rather than use 5 egg whites I used 1 egg white and 1 Tbs. flax seeds in 1/4 cup boiling water. The texture was quite thick and fluffy, and held together pretty well when cooking, which surprised me. The flavor was dominated by the ginger and scallions, and the sesame to a lesser extent, which wasn’t bad per se, but a waste of all those tofu calories I thought. I could just make a vegetable stir fry and get those flavors. The texture I found unappealing, sort of soft and squishy on the inside. So I put some of them back on the skillet again to try to firm them up some more, and they did get drier but I still didn’t really like the texture all that much. This was a lot more work than just scrambled tofu, without a lot more nutritional heft, and I actually like scrambled tofu more, so I don’t think I’ll make this again. I am going to try adding flax seeds and/or egg whites to my tofu quiche recipe however to make it hold together better, so I learned something at least.

I had leftover cakes with a little soy sauce, wrapped in lettuce leaves, which wasn’t bad, but again not filling enough or tasty enough to be worth the calories.

I used slightly less than 1/4 cup per cake, and made 18, for 6 servings of three cakes each.

Rating: C

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Peanut Sauce No. 1 (B)

May 27, 2006 at 8:02 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), East and SE Asia, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe)

3This is an old recipe from my co-op days, and I don’t remember where it originated, but I suspect I futzed with it quite a bit.

Add to a small saucepan:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce (I think this is too much, try 2 Tbs.)
  • 1.5 Tbs. honey
  • 3 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1.5 Tbs. rice vinegar (maybe too little?)
  • 1-1.5 tsp. red chili flakes
  • 1 cup broth or water (maybe slightly too much?)
  • 1? garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 Tbs. grated ginger

Heat and whisk to combine.

I made it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, and it was tasty, but I felt like it overpowered the spring rolls. They need a lighter sauce I suspect.

Rating: B


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Burdock carrot slaw (B)

April 29, 2006 at 7:26 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), East and SE Asia, From a friend, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

This recipe is originally from the Harmony Valley Farms CSA in Viroqua, Wisconsin. The friend who gave it to me said you have to let it sit for at least four hours for the flavors to blend and so the acid “cooks” the burdock. She said letting it sit a whole day ahead is even better.

The Vegetables:
1 cup burdock, scrubbed well, julienned
1/2 cup peeled carrot, julienned
2 Tbs. green onion or shallot, minced
1 tsp. sesame seeds, lightly toasted

The Marinade:
4 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
2 Tbs honey

Sprinkle seeds over chopped veggies and toss with marinade. Chill 4 hours . Serves 4 – 6.

My notes: I used ume vinegar rather than soy sauce since I’m not eating soy right now, but otherwise followed the recipe, except I missed the part about letting it sit for at least 4 hours. Oops! And I ate the whole recipe (4-6 servings? I thought more like 2 servings. I guess it depends on how you measure a cup of burdock. I think a weight measurement might be useful in this case.) Anyhow, this was the first time I’d made a recipe with raw burdock, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was quite crunchy but not at all tough, and I loved the flavor of the raw burdock and carrot together. I liked the dressing as well but found it too sweet. I think one Tbs. honey would have been plenty. But maybe with soy sauce it would have been more balanced.

Rating: B

Update Sept 2007: Today I put in 9 ounces of burdock (about 4 cups julienned), 7 ounces of carrots (about 2 cups grated), 10 Tbs. green onion (about 3 large), 4 tsp. sesame seeds, 3 Tbs. soy sauce, 3 Tbs. sesame oil, 4 tsp. rice vinegar, and 1 Tbs. honey.

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