Monday, April 19, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Three-Pepper Thai Pesto Noodles

One sad, lonely photo. That is all.


That's simply all I could muster. In an apartment with no less than four digital cameras, two photo-enabled cell phones, one small video camera, and two laptops with built-in camera lenses, I could only manage one photo of this delicious, spectacularly indulgent vegan dinner.

I searched high and low for batteries, memory cards, matching computer-connection cords, and all the digital accoutrements needed to take and upload photos, but everything was scattered, missing, misplaced, or broken (all within 400 measly square feet, lest we forget). *Le sigh.* At least my old, decrepit batteries in one camera held out for this photo - the AA's swan song.

If I had a few more lovely photos to break up my commentary, I'd share with you all about how traditional pesto gave way to an Asian pesto inspiration, but you can Google pesto and see for yourself. Sparse though the evidence may be, this was a craveable meatless Monday creation. And I realized, mid-bite, that it was not only vegetarian, it was vegan as well (bonus for me and my planet!).

If you've never made pesto, or are trying to eat more conscientiously, or if you simply delight in an overabundance of cilantro, I urge you to make this pesto* posthaste. And then try not to have seconds.

NOTE: If you are sensitive to spicy foods, as mentioned, watch your serranos, and if you're a total wuss, substitute green bell peppers for the Cubanelles. Trust me.

INGREDIENTS
Makes 5-6 servings

PESTO (makes about 2 cups - you'll have some leftover):
1 bunch cilantro, stems trimmed off
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems trimmed off
1/4 c. toasted sesame oil
1/3 c. olive oil (you could use less - I just eyeballed it)
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
big handful roasted salted peanuts (about 1/2 cup?)
1/3 cup (about) roasted unsalted cashews
several vigorous dashes soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
juice of 1 lemon
a few vigorous dashes rice vinegar
2 T. honey
~1/3 c. water (more or less as needed)

PEPPERS/TOFU
1 T. toasted sesame oil
1-2 tsp. olive oil
1/3 block extra firm tofu, cut into chunks, moisture squeezed out
1 red bell pepper, in big chunks
1 medium sweet onion, in chunks
2 cubanelle peppers, halved and sliced
2 serrano chilies, halved and sliced, with seeds (if you're sensitive to spice, remove all seeds, or leave out serranos altogether)

1 package rice noodles (or, if you're dumb like me ran out of rice noodles, use 1/3 rice noodles and 2/3 whole wheat spaghetti - cook them according to package directions and in two separate pots).
small handful peanuts and cashews for garnish (optional)

STEP 1:

Combine all ingredients under "PESTO" in a blender. Blend on high until mixture forms a smooth, creamy pesto sauce. My blender is a 7-year-old, $8 blender from Wal-Mart, so it took a little prodding till it would really get going, but just push stuff around in there until it all gets mixed. Set aside.

STEP 2:

Heat the sesame oil in a pan. Fry the tofu on all sides until golden brown. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add a little olive oil to the pan (and the remaining sesame oil) and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook until lightly browned at the edges.

STEP 3:

Add the Cubanelle and serrano peppers to the peppers/onions. Add a little salt and pepper. Cook until the cubanelles and serranos are softened and beginning to brown lightly in places. Meanwhile, boil the noodles, drain, and set aside (try to time it so that you're ready to toss everything together as soon as the noodles are done).

STEP 4:

In the pot you cooked the noodles in (off the heat), toss the noodles with 1 to 1.5 cups of the pesto and the peppers mixture. Transfer to plates or a serving dish. Top with the fried tofu and some extra nuts for garnish. Enjoy!
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