Category Archives: noodles/pasta

Finally! Fresh Food Fast: Marinated Sesame Tofu Steaks, Soba Noodles, Greens and best of all Pea Shoots

I signed-out Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast from the local library a few weeks ago and have since ordered my own copy.

It took me awhile to get use to the layout of the cookbook and at first I was less than impressed  – even though I made this fantastic Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup out of it.  It is a seasonal cookbook, divided into spring, summer, winter and fall.  The recipes are paired, giving you a tasty meal with two easy to prepare dishes.  Each paired recipe gives you a shopping list, pantry list, and plan of attack so you can complete the meal in as little time as possible.

This was the part that turned me off.

I felt that the shopping list and procedure for preparing the meal outside of the recipe was overkill and to be frank a waste of paper.  However, the recipes, with full on Berley style, are fantastic, easy, and full of pizzazz and creativity.  It is the recipes, the most important part of any cookbook, that compelled me to change my mind, get over the parts of the layout I didn’t like, and pick up a copy for myself.

This tofu dish was much more than a simple stir fry.  The tofu, noodles, and bok choy are all cooked up separately, giving you a noodle bowl-type meal instead of just a stir fry and since the greens are quickly cooked in the same pot as the noodles, the dishes are kept to a minimum.

The glazed tofu was delicious with just a hint of sweetness from the honey (EPC swore it was maple syrup), but the piece de resistance was the accompaniment to this spring meal whose recipe Berley included.  The pea shoot salad was served atop the other ingredients to lend a tender fresh taste.

Pea shoots were a first for EPC and I and we both loved them.  They taste exactly the same as snap peas, but are much more tender and, being pea shoots, they are much “cuter” as well.  Peter Berley included sunflower sprouts in his salad, but I choose to leave them out and go for some straight pea shoot goodness.

I should also mention that I the pea shoots were a much appreciated spring-like presence in my last Organic Box.

Marinated Sesame Tofu Steaks, Soba Noodles, and Greens

1 pound of firm tofu, cut into 12 slices
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon of crushed red chile flakes
2 tablespoons oil

enough noodles for 4 people
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 pound baby bok choy, rinsed and trimmed – pre-washed spinach works too and makes it extra fast!

2 cups of  pea shoots
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil

  • Bring water to boil in a large pot
  • Blot the sliced tofu on paper towel to remove excess water
  • Mix 6 tablespoons soy sauce with the vinegar, honey and red chiles in a small bowl and whisk to combine
  • Heat a large skillet (I use my 12-inch cast iron) and add the oil.  Let it warm up and then add the tofu slices in one layer.  Fry the tofu for 5 minutes until the bottom is browned
  • Flip the tofu and top with the soy sauce mixture and cook until the sauce has thickened – about 5 minutes
  • When the water boils add the soba noodles and cook according to the package directions.
  • When the noodles are cooked, drain and rinse.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the tablespoon of soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds and toss to coat.
  • In the same pot, with enough water to cover the bottom, add the bok choy and steam for about 2 minutes.
  • In a small bowl mix the lemon juice and oil with a dash of salt.  Add the pea shoots and toss to mix.
  • Serve the noodles topped with greens and tofu with a sizeable garnish of pea shoots.
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Is it a soup or stew? Neither, its Pasta e Fagioli!

This is a great weeknight meal.  It is quick to make, satisfying, and tastes even better for lunch the next day!

I love pasta dishes, but one of my complaints is that the vegetarian versions are often low on the protein side of things.  This dish has a whole can of cannellini beans along side the vegetables and pasta making it much more balanced and filling.  I made a  few simple changes to the original recipe, so that the sauce would be thicker and a little less soup like, and it worked really well!

In anticipation of making this popular  dish I picked up a new pasta shape from the Italian Grocery Store: whole wheat orecchiette.  It was fantastic: tender, yet chewy.  I am not sure if it was the brand of pasta, or if it was the particular shape, but I think it would work really well in a “macaroni” and cheese type dish.

I will save that for next time.  After all,  there are never a shortage of great recipes and ideas to try!

Pasta e Fagioli (adapted from Toni Fiore’s Totally Vegetarian)

4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
3 fresh sage leaves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 19 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (Hint: these are also called white kidney beans)
1 -15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups of dry pasta, I used whole wheat orecchiette (use brown rice pasta to make this recipe gluten-free)

Grated parmesan (optional)

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven and saute the onion, celery, and carrots for 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the oregano, sage and rosemary
  • Add the beans, tomatoes and 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Add cooked pasta to individual bowls and top with the thick soup.
  • Garnish with grated parmesan if desired.

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Feeling like Carmella Soprano: Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

I was first introduced to ziti while watching The Sopranos.

In Season Two Carmella brings an aluminum pan of baked ziti to her daughter Meadow’s dorm room.  I wondered, what in the world is ziti.  I had never heard of it and I recalled that the dish had been mentioned a few times in Season One.  At first I thought it was an Italian dish, which it is, but I found out the name of the dish is based on the pasta shape.  As you all know, something not uncommon in Italian Cuisine.

EPC and I always eat whole wheat pasta, so I was delighted when I went to the Italian grocery store last month and found whole wheat ziti (they had whole wheat orzo and cavatappi too!).  I knew that my fabulous Jack Bishop Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook had a recipe for Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella, so I decided to pick up a few boxes of ziti and give it a try.

It is had to believe how the shape of pasta can affect the way tastes.  For example, I really dislike whole wheat penne, but quite enjoyed the ziti, and cavatappi is my favourite pasta of all time.  Perhaps it not just texture and shape that affects the taste, but also the appearance.

Regardless what it is about pasta and its shapes, EPC and I enjoy pasta in its various forms about once a week.  This particular dish is a keeper and the quick tomato basil sauce of Bishop’s is a nice departure from canned or bottled sauces.

Baked Ziti with Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, minced
250 grams of mozzarella cheese, grated
4 cups (450 g) of uncooked whole wheat ziti
1/4 cup of parmesan, freshly grated
Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Set large pot of water on high heat.
  • Then start the sauce: Heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic until lightly browned
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, basil and pepper to taste
  • Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let stand until pasta is ready.
  • Oil a 9X13 glass baking dish and preheat the oven to 400°C
  • When the water is boiling cook the ziti 2 minutes less than suggested.  It will complete cooking in the oven.
  • Stir the ziti into the pot with the tomato sauce and stir to coat
  • Pour half the sauce and pasta mixture into the baking dish.
  • Top with half the mozzarella and half of the parmesan.  Add the remaining pasta and  top with the rest of the cheeses.
  • Bake until the cheese browns – about 20 minutes.

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Easy Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese

When I woke up this morning it was +8°C!  I could not believe how cool it was out.   I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but cool mornings (and macaroni and cheese cravings) are a sure sign that fall is just around the corner.

I should have called it Chipotle Cavatappi and Cheese, but macaroni noodles will work just as well.  I got the idea to include chipotle chilis in this familiar dish from my last visit to The Keg.  We took EPC’s father there for Father’s Day and ordered their Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese as an appetizer.  We were all blown away. The smoky chipotle taste and spice added a delicious layer to this familiar comfort food.

This dish is really easy.  No need to bother with a white sauce.  You just layer the sauce coated pasta with cheese, top with bread crumbs and bake.  If you prefer a gluten-free version omit the bread crumbs and try substituting corn macaroni for the wheat.  I think corn pasta would go extremely well with the smoky flavour of this dish.  Just be sure not to  over cook it (corn pasta can get mushy).

If the end of summer is getting you down, just remember that Easy Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese  is sure to make the approaching cool weather a bit easier to bear.

Easy Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese

1 375 g package of vegetable cavatappi, cooked for the minimum cooking time indicated on the package
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
2 cups of grated old cheddar cheese
1 cup of grated parmesan
1/4 cup of bread crumbs

  • Preheat oven to 375°C
  • Bring water to boil in large pot, add pasta, return to boil and cook for the minimum time indicated on the package
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan and saute onions and garlic until translucent
  • Add canned diced tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in chipotle chili powder  and simmer 5 minutes more.
  • When pasta finishes cooking, drain and mix with tomato sauce.
  • Add 1/3 of the pasta sauce mix to the bottom of a prepared 2 quart casserole dish.  Top with a third of the cheddar and a third of the parmesan.
  • Add another layer of pasta and cheese and repeat topping the final layer of cheese with the bread crumbs and few spritzes of olive oil.
  • Cook at 375°C for 20-25 minutes until the bread crumbs are brown and the pasta is bubbling.

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Nigella’s Sexy Sesame Peanut Noodles

I am not sure how sexy these noodles are, but they are quick and they are easy. Two important things when you would rather be outside enjoying the sunny day than spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

After getting the week’s grocery shopping finished this morning, EPC and I ventured down to Whyte Ave to take in the Annual Art Walk and enjoy a perfect summer afternoon. In my books that means less than 25°C, with a cool breeze, and few clouds to give you a shady break now and again.

We will be heading out to the Toronto area next week and since they have been stuck in a heat wave for the last three weeks (with no end in sight) I figure we should enjoy the comfortable Edmonton weather while we can.

I adapted tonight’s recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Good Food Fast.  Although this cookbook does not feature a lot of vegetarian entrees, it does feature quite a few fast desserts and, as cookbooks go, is an enjoyable read.  As a result, I don’t think that I would recommend it as a must have cookbook for vegetarians, but my omnivore friend who  has a copy of this book uses it quite frequently for quick week night meals.  Nigella also includes a great recipe for making quick individual pizzas on store-bought naan bread, which EPC and I whip up quick frequently for a quick lunch during the winter months.

This meal is even quicker and easier if you use ready-cooked egg noodles, but I prefer to cook up some brown rice noodles instead.  With regard to the vegetables, use your imagination and add what ever tickles your fancy and suits your mood. Tonight we decided on snow peas, red pepper, and spring onions.

Sesame Peanut Noodles

1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce (for gluten-free, substitute wheat-free tamari)
1 teaspoon of sambal oelek
1/4 cup of smooth peanut butter (I use all natural)
2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice

2 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 block of firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cup of snow peas, ends trimmed and halved
1 red pepper, finely sliced
3 spring onions, finely sliced

1 375 gram of brown rice noodles, cooked, drained and tossed with a few drops of sesame oil to prevent sticking (or 500 grams pre-cooked egg noodles)

2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons of cilantro, finely diced

  • Saute tofu cubes in oil until brown on at least 2 sides
  • While tofu is browning, whisk together sesame oil, olive oil, soy sauce, sambal oelek, peanut butter and lime juice.  You may need to add a bit of water if the sauce if too thick.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Add the cooked noodles (or pre-cooked noodles) and toss with the sauce.
  • Add the vegetables and toss.
  • Add the tofu cubes and toss.
  • Top with cilantro and sesame seeds

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Want to impress someone? Try Pineapple-Glazed Tofu with Spicy Cucumber Salad.

This has become one of my favourite meals.

It is a wonderful summertime dish.  Cool and refreshing with a little zing!

I picked up Jack Bishop’s A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen from the local library 3 weeks ago and haven’t really had a chance to explore it as much as I would have liked.  It is due in a couple of days and of course there is a hold on it.

Sigh.

We have been so busy over the last couple of weeks that we have been cooking old standbys.  You know how it goes, too strapped for time and energy to try anything new.

Anyway, this was the perfect meal to get me back in the saddle!  (I guess the Calgary Stampede is influencing my choice of words).  No matter.  I can do no wrong after this meal – bad pun or not.

It took over an hour to prepare, because Bishop recommends that you salt, press and drain the sliced and peeled cucumbers for one hour.  Cucumbers are quite watery, so it seemed like the right thing to do.  And what do you know, I had to wipe cucumber juice off the counter a couple of times. I didn’t have any plain rice vinegar, so I substituted sushi vinegar and left out the sugar (sushi vinegar is sweet enough as it is).  It worked just fine.

One more thing.  It may seem like the glaze will never boil down, but then, voila,  you are left with perfectly browned and glazed tofu.

Just wait until you taste it!

Pineapple-Glazed  Tofu with Spicy Cucumber Salad

1 1/2 to 2 long english cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded.
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt (I didn’t have any, so I used pickling salt)
1/2 cup rice vinegar (you can use sushi vinegar and leave out the sugar)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
1 small fresh hot red Thai chili
1 heaping tablespoon of cilantro, finely chopped

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 pound of firm tofu, cut in half and then each half sliced into four slabs and then pressed and blotted dry
2/3 cup of pineapple juice
1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
1/4 cup of salted peanuts, finely chopped

Enough brown rice noodles to make you both happy, cooked, rinsed, and tossed with a few drops of oil to prevent sticking.

First the salad:

  • Toss the cucumbers and salt in a colander and apply two sandwich size Ziploc bag full of water to the top to help draining.  Set aside for 1 hour.
  • While the cucumbers are draining, bring the vinegar and sugar to boil over medium heat.  Stir to dissolve the sugar and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup.  This takes about 5 minutes or so.
  • Pour the dressing straight from the stove into a large bowl and add the onion and chili.
  • When the cucumber has finished draining, rinse off the salt and blot dry with paper towels.  Add to the bowl and top with cilantro.
  • Stir well to mix.

Now the tofu:

  • Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet (I used my cast iron pan).
  • Add the tofu in a single layer and cook until golden brown – about 7 minutes.  Turn the tofu and cook about 5 minutes.
  • Add the pineapple juice, lime juice and a dash of salt.
  • Cook, turning the tofu once until the liquid has evaporated.  This takes about 5 minutes.
  • Spoon enough brown rice noodles for one person on a plate, top with cucumber salad, tofu and garnish with peanuts.
  • We found the dish served two of us, with enough for seconds.

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Quick and tasty weeknight meal – Thai Curry with Vegetables and Tofu

Did you ever think you could enjoy a Thai curry on a weeknight without having to go to a restaurant?

Perhaps it seems to exotic to fall into the quick and easy category?

Well, exotic or not, this Thai Curry is quick and tasty enough to spruce up your weeknight dinner repertoire.

I came across a version of this recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers, but after taking a look at the recipe I realized that it was basically the same as the one on the side of my jar of Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste.

Thats right. I took this recipe straight of the side of the jar of curry paste – with the appropriate vegetarian modifications, of course. You certainly do not have to limit yourself to the red curry, as the green curry paste is equally good. In addition, feel free to experiment with the vegetables: half a can of baby corn, some broccoli or cauliflower would work equally well.  I also think a bit of spinach would be a tasty addition.

Aside from slicing a carrot and a couple of shallots, chopping and seeding a roma tomato, cubing a package of firm tofu, and tearing some basil leaves, the meal came together with frozen green beans, frozen peas, and a can of coconut milk. To cut down on time I decided to forgo the brown rice and use brown rice noodles instead. They cook quite a bit quicker and offer a pleasant change of pace.

Thai Curry with Vegetables and Tofu

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 -14 ounce can light coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons Thai Kitchen red curry paste (this is quite spicy, so adjust for personal taste!)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons soya sauce
1 block firm tofu, cubed
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 roma tomato, seeded and chopped
2 medium carrots (cut into thirds and thinly sliced lengthwise)
1 cup of frozen green beans
1/4 cup of frozen green peas
10 basil leaves, shredded

  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet add tofu cubes and cook until golden.  You will need to turn the tofu half-way through cooking.
  • Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.  In the same pan gently fry the scallions for 3 minutes and then add the curry paste, stirring until fragrant.
  • Add the coconut milk, soy sauce and sugar and stir to mix well
  • Add the carrots, tomato, green beans,peas and simmer until tender (about 10 minutes)
  • Add the tofu and basil and cook until heated through
  • Add water if sauce is too thick.

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