Friday, June 20, 2008

Cold Asian Noodles for a Hot, Hot Day

Once again Northern California is having a heat wave, and once again I need something cool, refreshing and a bit jazzy to perk up me and my taste buds.

Cold Asian Noodles with Lots of Shredded Veggies and a Peanut-Tofu Sauce
Serves 8 or more as a appetizer or as part of a multi-course Chinese meal. Serves 6 as a main course

Trust me, tofu nay-sayer’s won’t even know its there and you’ll save a ton of fat and calories plus boost the dish’s nutrition.

1 pound fresh Asian noodles (try Chinese chow mein or egg noodles, Japanese soba or udon) or fresh or dried fettucine. (Note: the buckwheat soba will be a heartier taste.)
1 tbs Asian toasted sesame oil
½ cup water or vegetable broth
4-6 tbs of peanut butter (I use a natural chunky style)
8 oz of firm tofu, rinsed, drained and cut into large chunks
1 tsp fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 tbs apple cider vinegar or Chinese rice vinegar
3 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1tsp Asian toasted sesame oil
Assorted shredded vegetables – cucumbers, zucchinis, carrots, red peppers, snow peas, scallions, etc. (About 1½ to 2 cups total, or more or less if you like)
Chopped cilantro and additional chopped scallions for garnish

Cook the noodles as per package directions. Drain, rinse, drain and toss in the 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Prepare the sauce. Combine in a food processor or blender the water, 4 tbs of the peanut butter, the tofu chunks, the ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and the 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Blend until smooth and combined. Taste. Add additional peanut butter if desired and process again until incorporated and smooth. (The color will be much lighter than commercial peanut sauces, but so are the fat and calories, once the sauce is mixed with the noodles it will look fine and taste great.)

Pour about half of the sauce into the bowl with the noodles. Toss well, mixing the sauce in completely. Add more sauce as needed, tossing well after each addition. Toss in about half of the shredded vegetables, mixing in evenly throughout the noodles. Just before serving, scatter remaining shredded vegetables on top of noodles. Sprinkle garnish on top. Serve at room temperature or cold (well not ice cold, let them warm up in the room for 10-15 minutes before serving). Leftovers keep extremely well and any left over sauce keeps well in an airtight container for a few days. (Leftover sauce is good for not just a new batch of noodles, try it on steamed green beans or potatoes or other vegetables.)

This recipe is part of Sweetnick's weekly roundup of Antioxidant Rich Foods. You can view all the submissions here.

Note: My starting point for this recipe was from an old Weight Watchers’ cookbook, Stir-Fry to Szechuan: 100 Classic Chinese Recipes. I don’t know how “classic” the recipes truly are, but I do credit the book for helping me figure out how to make my peanut noodles and eat them, too.

Weight watchers – I have no idea how much sauce you’ll actually use when you make the dish – but figuring if you used every last bit, that’s roughly about 5 points for 8 servings, or if you make a meal out of it about 6 points for 6 servings. It’s a bit more if you go for the extra peanut butter in the sauce.

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