Spicy Tofu and Cold Noodle Salad

IMG_4495

I love soy products and sadly I don not consume enough of them, but that will be changing soon. I actually fell in love with soy milk when I lived in China.  I would wake up early to head down to the dining hall on the campus where I was working just so I could grab as many of the cups of fresh made soy milk that I could. I love both warm and chilled so I would drink one or two with my breakfast then put the rest in my refrigerator for later.

To me tofu is like risotto. By that I mean they are both blank canvases and you can do so much with them. Tofu is very versatile it can be used in smoothies, soups, desserts, stir-fries, fried, enjoyed as is, and so much more. It also takes on the flavor profile of whatever you marinade or cook it in. If you haven’t had a chance to try it, you really should. I feel like tofu gets a bad rap some times, people say they have had it and hate it but I wonder how they had it? Was it a not so good preparation or recipe? If so maybe this recipe will change your mind?

Here is a little information about Soybean and Soy Products

(information take from lecture notes, Vegetarian Cuisine lab at JWU with Chef Cwynar)

  • Soybeans are a wild plant from East Asia and have an edible seed.
  • The seed colors can vary from yellow, green, brow, black, or multicolored – here in the US we consume the green beans.
  • Soybeans are oilseeds – which are mainly grown for oil extraction.
  • Soybeans are great sources of protein and their composition is: 33% protein, 39% fat, and 28% carbohydrates. 1 cup cooked soybeans = 28 gm of protein (about 1 ounce)
  • Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Great sources of protein for diabetics
  • Low in saturated fat
  • FDA recommended soy food intake: “25 grams of soy protein a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease”
  • Soy protein is one of the only plant proteins that is equivalent to animal protein.
  • Contains all 9 essential amino acids with high digestibility (.91)
  • Other benefits of soy: Reduces Cholesterol (could cut heart disease risk by 25-30%), Slows Artery-Clogging (neutralizes the ability of LDL cholesterol to infiltrate artery walls and trigger plague buildup which aids in avoid a heart attack), Fights Cancer (soy isoflavones – genistein, suppresses the growth of cancer cells), Strengthens Bones (new evidence that soy foods can cut the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in later years),  Eases Hot Flashes (because soy has estrogen like activity, a decrease of hot flashes may occur), and Helps Equalize Blood Sugar (for diabetics).
  • Isoflavones – studies show that as little as 25% grams of soy per day (less than 1 ounce!) reduces the risk of: heart disease, breast cancer, digestive disorders, eases symptoms of menopause, eliminates the problems of lactose intolerance, prevents symptoms of milk allergies, and is beneficial in diabetic diets (equalizes blood sugar)

Tips on ways to add soy products into your diet

  • Soymilk – don’t expect it to taste like cows milk, it has a nutty flavor, comes in many varieties such as: plain unsweetened, sweetened, vanilla, and chocolate
  • Tofu: use silken tofu in soups (miso soup), smoothies, and custard like desserts, it takes on different flavor profiles, if you marinate it before cooking it will have a deeper more intense flavor, you can grill it, bake it, fry it.

Last week was soy week in vegetarian cuisine and below is the recipe that I created.I like to make different noodle dishes at home, some warm, some cold, and I never write down how I make it because usually it is one of those “what do I have in the house” type meals. So when I knew that I had to make a salad for class that night I thought, “oh this is the perfect opportunity for me to actually write it down!”. I tend to change up the ingredients based on what I have on hand so feel free to get creative with this. Sometimes I drizzle in a little toasted sesame seed oil, and chili oil (we like spice in this house!), and even top with some toasted sesame seeds.

This salad works great for summer cookouts because there is no dairy. It travels well and the longer it sits the more intense the flavor. I would suggest eating it within a day or two though (if there is any left).

Spicy Tofu and Cold Noodle Salad

IMG_4496(close up)

Sauce/Marinade (divided)

  • Ginger, fresh, grated                                                                                       1 tsp.
  • Garlic, fresh, grated                                                                                        1 ½ tsp.
  • Tamari, gluten-free, low sodium                                                                      4 tbs.
  • Chili paste                                                                                                       1 tsp.
  • Hoisin Sauce, gluten-free                                                                                1 ¼ tsp.
  • Agave or honey                                                                                               ½ tsp.

Cold Noodle Salad

  • Tofu, extra firm, diced                                                                                      6 oz.
  • Mushrooms, baby portabella, diced                                                                10 oz.
  • Zucchini, diced                                                                                                10 oz.
  • Bell Pepper, red, diced                                                                                    4 oz.
  • Bell Pepper, yellow, diced                                                                               4 oz
  • Water, tap                                                                                                        1 qt
  • Rice noodles, Medium                                                                                     12 oz
  • Green onion, cut on a bias                                                                              ½ oz
  • Bean sprouts                                                                                                   4 oz
  • Cilantro, chopped (divided)                                                                             1 tbsp.

Method of Preparation

1.   Gather all the ingredients and equipment.

2.   Peel the ginger and garlic and grate them into a medium bowl using a microplane.

3.   Add remaining sauce/marinade ingredients (Tamari, chili paste, hoisin sauce, and agave), mix well.

4.   Check sauce/marinade for spice level and adjust if needed.

5.   Take 2 tablespoons of sauce/marinade and place in another medium bowl. This will be used to marinade the tofu.

6.   Gently wrap tofu in a several paper towels and press it lightly to remove any additional moisture.

11. After you have pressed the tofu, dice it into ½ inch chunks and add to the second bowl to marinade for 20 minutes.

12. Gently wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt.

13. Cut the mushrooms into quarters and set aside.

14. Wash the zucchini and pat dry. Cut in half, length wise, then cut in half, length wise again. Dice into ½ inch pieces and set aside.

15. Wash peppers. Remove tops, seeds, and ribs. Dice into ½ inch pieces and set aside.

16. In a large sauce pan add 1 quart of water and bring to a boil.

17. Once the water is at a boil, add the rice noodles and cook for 7 minutes.

18. Add all mushrooms, zucchini, and red and yellow bell peppers to the boiling water. Continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes.

19. Strain all contents of the pot in to a chinois and run cold water over the noodles and vegetables to stop the cooking process. Drain well.

20. Add the noodles to the first bowl with the sauce/marinade and mix well to make sure all the noodles are coated with the sauce/marinade.

21. Add in the green onions, bean sprouts, and ¾ tablespoon cilantro, mix well.

22. Place the noodles and vegetables on a serving dish and top with marinated tofu and the remaining ¼ tablespoon of chopped cilantro.

Chefs Notes:

A)    The medium rice noodles work very well in this dish, they absorb the sauce nicely, however you may substitute thin or thick rice noodles, buckwheat noodles, or gluten-free spaghetti (Sam Mills corn pasta works great in this).

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