Noodles, Broccoli & Peanut Sauce for Busy Nights

I want to be making pies and testing side dishes but the reality of running a small business is one of constant hustle. And mostly I enjoy the hustle because I know you all want to be nourished everyday, feel good, and enjoy flavorful food without breaking the bank.

 

Sometimes my busiest days (when the pizza shop on the corner seems best, which it sometimes is!) are when I land on something noteworthy. When I feel pressed by work and family demands and budget constraints, I know you know the feeling. However, most of you don’t spend your busy days thinking about and working with food. Since I do, short-cuts and flavor combinations are top of mind and I get to share them with you and short-circuit some of that practice-makes-perfect time for you!

 

This recipe uses a couple of tricks:

  • cooking broccoli (or whatever veg you have) in the same pot of boiling water as the noodles (sequentially, although you can certainly time it to do them together as well)
  • making a quick marinade for the tofu and then adding peanut butter and water to it to make the sauce

 

For lots and lots of tricks and recipes you should subscribe! Or if you need more ideas for Thanksgiving sides or pies the Seasonal Recipe Collection has you covered (I’ve created tags Thanksgiving Side and Dessert to organize them all neatly for you). Use the discount code THANKS for access to the site for just $3.99/month.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Soba Noodles with Broccoli, Tofu and Peanut Sauce

 

While I have several similar dishes on this site this combination really works well AND is a good template–different noodles, different sauce, different veg. To make this sauce I add peanut butter and water to some of the marinade for the tofu. It streamlines things a bit and gives the dish variety without too extra much effort.

 

Variations

  • substitute ramen, rice noodles or spaghetti
  • substitute any cooked/roasted vegetable you’d like such as cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, kohlrabi, summer squash, green beans, snap peas, etc.
  • substitute this Chili Tahini sauce 
  • Substitute leftover chicken or other meat for the tofu (no need to bake, just toss with a little of the marinade)
  • Pan-fry the tofu instead of baking it, especially if you’re in a rush

 

Serves 4-5

 

6 ounces soba noodles (or other noodles, see variations)

1 block (usually about 8 ounces) firm tofu, briefly pressed between plates to remove some of the liquid, then cut into cubes

1 large stalk broccoli, stems peeled and then cut into small chunks and florets cut fairly small as well for about 5-6 cups

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Marinade

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper (optional)

2 teaspoons ginger, grated on a microplane or very finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated on microplane

Juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons sugar or other sweetener, more to taste

Sauce

1/2 the above marinade

3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

3-4 tablespoons water (or however much you need for just pourable consistency)

 

Hot sauce for serving

 

Preheat oven to 400

 

Mix together all ingredients for the marinade. Put the tofu cubes in a baking dish and gently toss with just shy of half the marinade, making sure they’re in one layer. Bake tofu for 20 minutes.

 

Meanwhile bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the noodles to the pot and cook according to package instructions. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water and set aside in a bowl. Toss the noodles with about 1 tablespoon of the marinade and the scallions and cilantro.

 

To the remaining marinade, stir in the peanut butter and water until you have a good consistency. Taste and add soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice and or/sugar as needed.

 

Assemble the noodles, broccoli and tofu on a platter or mix together in a large bowl and serve with the peanut sauce.

 

On Time, Frugality and Satisfaction + Delicious Rice Patties

We’re all busy. We have dozens of competing needs. We all need to eat. Should we even cook?

 

There is no one or right answer. For me, however, cooking is a creative outlet, it saves money, gives me (some) control, grounds me in the seasons and my place on the planet. And it’s an expression of love. The money saving part is about using up the things I buy. It’s also about imagining a meal in the bits and pieces in my fridge and pantry to tip us towards eating in rather than grabbing pizza at the neighborhood shop (which we certainly do) or running to the store.

 

I have days where I wish dinner would just materialize. Since it never does, I’ve been thinking about what makes pulling together a meal less irksome on a busy day? For me, it’s the moment when my brain, muddled by too many to-do lists, somehow lands on an idea . . . . The idea might be sparked by a small container of leftover rice I spot. It might come from considering what my now-pickier adolescent son might eat using what I already have in the house (it’s a good thing I stock pasta, rice, couscous and polenta since he’d live on carbs alone). I had one such idea recently–rice patties with lots of herbs, egg to hold them together, a little leftover green sauce and a little cheese. I started grinning like a goof ball as the idea took shape. 10 minutes later we were eating them. They were really good!

 

I’m not always as gleeful as I was with the rice patties but the actual making of whatever it is, is satisfying. And if an idea does not materialize I go through my mental check list of standbys as I peruse the fridge and pantry: lentil soup, peanut/sesame noodles with whatever veg/herbs I have, frittata, curry, can-it-be-put-in-a-burrito?  It’s food after all and I pretty much always love to eat. And getting up from my computer to make that happen is almost always a good thing!

 

Lots of practice has made this way of cooking so fun and effective and I’ve been thinking about how I want Cook With What You Have to be a resource to short-circuit years and years of practice by guiding and giving permission to be creative, to be scrappy, to have that bunch of wilting cilantro or leftover rice be your inspiration that leads to something delicious and satisfying. Or if you already have all those years of practice, then for it to give you ideas to keep having moments of glee!

 

P.S. The E-books I’ve been writing are a very good way to be keep the inspiration going when dinner doesn’t just materialize:)!

 

Rice & Herb Patties

 

You can make these with nothing but leftover rice, a couple of eggs, and a few herbs or spices but there are so many options! And ratios and quantities are totally up to you and what you’re needing to use up. This batch included about 2 tablespoons of leftover Green Sauce (the simplified version w/out egg). Just be sure to add more eggs and/or cheese if you increase the amount of rice so that the patties stick together.

 

Variations

  • Finely chopped leftover cooked vegetables are a nice addition
  • Add a little soy sauce and/or fish sauce and toasted sesame oil
  • Add chopped capers and/or anchovies and garlic
  • Add minced, fresh chilies
  • Serve with hot sauce or plain yogurt or spicy mayo
  • Substitute other cooked grains for the rice, like quinoa or barley.

Serves 2-4, depending on what else you’re serving

 

1 1/2 cups cooked rice

2 eggs

1/2 cup chopped, leafy herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil, dill and/or mint

1 scallion, white and green parts thinly sliced or 1 tablespoon onion, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch or two of red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar or cheese of your choice

Oil, for pan-frying

 

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, making sure to break up the rice well. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add spoonfuls of rice mixture to the pan, flatten slightly and cook for a few minutes until golden brown. Carefully flip and cook until browned and a little crispy. Repeat, adding a little more oil to the pan, with remaining mixture. Serve as is or with your favorite hot sauce, plain yogurt or spicy mayo.