Editor's Note: Today’s post is contributed by guest blogger, Sarah, author of Snixy Kitchen. Sarah is a graduate student in California (yeah, Berkeley!) who cooks to keep herself sane while the prospect of writing a dissertation looms in the not-so-far-off distance. With her boyfriend as a full-time taste-tester, she performs her culinary stunts in a pint-sized kitchen.
When I first got my KitchenAid pasta-maker attachments just over a year ago, I served fresh pasta dishes biweekly. Maybe more. Homemade pasta is high up on my list of favorites. When I’m craving something fancy, but my creativity has run dry from a long day of reading and annotating journal articles, pasta always comes to mind. Just toss your favorite veggies, some parmesan cheese, and a bit of crispy pancetta over a bed of fresh noodles and you’ve got a comforting meal. It takes me loads of self-control not to eat homemade fettuccine every day. Unless you’re training for a marathon like my super fit boyfriend, this amount of carbs is not the healthiest of eating habits. And after pigging out on desserts a couple of weeks ago, our diet was in desperate need of some fresh vegetables…sans tasty tasty carbs. But…I WANT PASTA! ALL THE TIME! In walks zucchini, subbing in for pasta at this critical hour.
My mama (coincidentally) perfectly timed her last visit to town with the tail end of our candied bacon binge. Accordingly, together, we set out to create a satisfying, vegetable-filled, Weight Watcher-friendly, and unique entrée to serve up for dinner. As expected, however, my belly, who always disobeys my health-conscious brain, craved pasta. Seriously, when I swear off sweets, I find myself shoving a bag of gummy bears in my mouth 5 minutes later. Is this just me? On this particular occasion, though, my brain triumphed as I tricked my tummy by thinly slicing zucchini noodles with a vegetable peeler. Plus 1 for good sense. What a delicious alternative to a traditionally carb-heavy dish!
Minus 1 for preparation. I vastly underestimated the amount of time it’d take to peel the zucchini noodles, julienne the carrots, slice the apple, mince the ginger, and cube the tofu. Mom to the rescue. If there’s anyone I’m happy to have in my miniature kitchen with me, it’s my mom. We somehow managed to keep from bumping each other as we prepare the vegetables - a nearly impossible but crucial feat with pots of boiling water on the stove, a pan of hot oil heating on a burner, and peelers, slicers, and blades flailing about the pint-sized space. Without her knife expertise we might not have eaten until after midnight.
Even though dinner was still plated well past starving-o’clock, it was worth the wait. The blanched zucchini acted the part beautifully. It offered a sturdy base for vegetable add-ins, while soaking up all the flavors of the sauce. Extremely filling, but light and healthy, this “pasta” dish simultaneously appeased my hunger for pappardelle and my nutritious ambitions. Go ahead, have an extra serving.
Sesame miso zucchini noodles and tofu (Adapted from Appetite for China)
- 6 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons white miso paste
- 2 pounds extra-firm tofu, rinsed, pressed between two plates to dry, and cut into thin squares
- About 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 5 large zucchini, peeled into long thin strips with a vegetable peeler
- 2 large carrots, julienned
- 1 apple, peeled, cored, and cut into matchstick-sized slivers
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
- Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and miso paste in a small bowl. Whisk until completely mixed.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil.
- Meanwhile, season both sides of the sliced tofu with salt and pepper. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a medium cast-iron skillet. Add tofu in batches and cook, undisturbed, for 4-5 minutes, until crispy and browned. Use tongs to flip the tofu and cook on the other side for an additional 4-5 minutes. Repeat with remaining tofu. Transfer to a paper towel and set aside.
- Add the ginger to the same pan and heat for about 30 seconds.
- Add the zucchini and carrots to the boiling water and blanch for about a minute. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water. Drain well.
- Transfer the blanched zucchini and carrots to a large bowl with the apple slivers. Toss with half of the miso dressing.
- Top with crispy tofu and sprinkle with the remaining dressing and the sesame seeds.