I look back with great fondness at the first couple of years after I finished university. It was my first time to be living alone (without roommates), working for money (albeit not much!) and enjoying all the benefits of being 21 years old (if you know what I mean!). I lived the quintessential young professional's life in Washington DC, shuttling between work, the gym, happy hours and in my case dancing salsa which I fell in love with around this time. My studio apartment in Washington DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood had a decent-sized kitchen, and this was where I really started experimenting with cooking.
As my efforts in the gym started paying off and I lost the weight that I had packed on during college, healthy cooking became particularly important to me. A co-worker turned me on to Cooking Light magazine, and soon I signed up for a subscription, waiting with anticipation for each month's issue to arrive. Being keen to try out as many new dishes as possible, I religiously went through every installment, making as many recipes as I could. Talk about beginner's enthusiasm!
One of the Cooking Light recipes that I fell in love with, from the April 2001 issue, was "fettucine and tofu with finger-licking peanut sauce". Light, packed with protein, cheap to make for my young professional budget, quick and plenty tasty, this Thai-ish recipe was gold! And ten years and a few variations later, it still shows up in my regular dinner repertoire. The funny thing is I made this for my husband for the second dinner I ever cooked for him back when we started dating. He took one bite and then asked me to marry him! And he was only partly joking ;-)
I can't guarantee that these noodles will get you a marriage proposal, but they will make your family or dinner guests happy. And considering that even kids and self-avowed tofu haters have been impressed with this dish, it just might become part of your regular rotation too! The original recipe calls for fettucine, but you can make the dish with spaghetti, linguine, udon noodles or any other pasta that you fancy. I usually use green onions, carrot and bell pepper as my vegetables in this, but here too your options are endless - add in whatever veggies you like and make this dish yours!
NOODLES WITH TOFU AND SPICY PEANUT SAUCEAdapted from Cooking Light Magazine
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon ginger paste (or 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger)
1 tablespoon (or less) sambal oelek or other chili sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces (250 grams) noodles of choice
8 ounces (250 grams) firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 cup green onions, sliced
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup red bell pepper, julienned (optional - I didn't have any on hand today)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
Dash of sesame oil (optional)
1. Combine first 8 ingredients (water to garlic) in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for five minutes or until smooth, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
2. Cook noodles in boiling water until al dente. Add tofu, green onions, carrot, red bell pepper (or whatever vegetables you are using) and drain.
3. Place noodles and vegetable mixture in a large serving bowl. Add peanut sauce, coriander, a dash of sesame oil and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature (or even cold as a noodle salad).