Vietnamese Sweet Lemon Curry Soba Noodle Tofu Salad

If I’m going to enjoy tofu, it HAS to have been frozen, thawed, and pressed before being seasoned and cooked. Freezing tofu changes the texture into something I almost find enjoyable, so there’s always a block sitting in our freezer. This cold soba noodle salad with tofu, locally grown carrots, peppers, and tomatoes, and fried garlic is well worth repeating.

Here’s how I made it.

First, the thawed tofu needs to be pressed to expel excess liquid. I usually wrap it in a few layers of paper towels and gently squeeze it, being careful not to squeeze too hard and tear the block. Then it’s ready to be cut into bite-sized pieces and marinated. I chose a dry rub since it was going to be fried. Wet marinades make for quite a mess when it hits hot oil. Lesson learned!

The tofu was generously seasoned with Vietnamese Sweet Lemon Curry from Savory Spice Shop and then pan fried in peanut oil until crispy on all sides. The secret to getting a nice crust on each side is having a hot pan, hot oil, and not checking the food to see if it’s cooked, but waiting until it’s fully seared before flipping it. The chef-husband had to lecture me a few times on this before I listened, and what a difference it makes! Gone (hopefully) are the days of tofu sticking to the pan and breaking apart when it’s flipped, leaving smaller pieces to burn and stripping the tofu of it’s coating (read: flavor). After each side gets a crust, just remove them and let them cool.

Next, a chopped carrot and green pepper from the Boulder Farmer’s Market went into the peanut oil pan to heat them ever so slightly. I boiled soba noodles according to the instructions on the package and then rinsed them in cold water to keep them from cooking, fried some garlic until crispy, chopped a jalapeño, and sliced a tomato.

I tossed the cold noodles with sesame seeds and the carrot and pepper pieces, and then drizzled some toasted sesame seed oil, fresh squeezed lemon, soy sauce (I prefer the unpasteurized Nama Shoyu brand), and a little local honey. Finally, I added diced jalapeño and crispy fried garlic for an extra crunch and kick.

A Trifecta of Cheeses

So, it’s official. Cheese dinner nights are my new favorite nights and I sincerely hope to entertain a number of my friends over the course of the next few months (until forever…?) with unique cheeses I purchase at Cured in Boulder.

My buddy Joe came over to be “spoiled” with my cheese, bread, wine, and seasonal veggie dinner. I bought some beautiful golden beets, carrots, and heirloom tomatoes from Ollin Farms and got the beets wrapped up in foil and roasting in the oven at 400 degrees well before Joe showed up. I chopped the carrots into bite sized chunks and roasted them with a sliced onion drizzled in olive oil, salt, and pepper. While the root veggies roasted, Joe picked up my flip video camera.  Here’s how the night got started…

I bought three cheeses at Cured: Fleur Vert (in the front), a French goat cheese covered in herbs de provence and red peppercorns; Délice (middle), a tripple cream cow’s milk cheese; and La Tur (in the back), an Italian cheese with a “trifecta” of milks: cow, goat, and sheep.

These three cheeses were nothing short of fantastic and I’m almost tempted to recreate this entire experience for all of my friends.  But, that would really halt my exploration, now wouldn’t it?

As I look through The Murray’s Handbook and The Cheese Chronicles, it is becoming more and more clear to me just how many cheeses there are.  Neither of the cheese-filled books talk about Fleur Vert. It is a goat cheese covered in herbs de provence and red peppercorns, and it’s not technically a chevre, but can be thought of as a slightly aged chevre (apparently chevre is a fresh cheese, not aged). It is spreadable, especially on warm bread, and the herbs and pepper combination is savory on top of the sweet, white goat cheese.  This also went especially well with the roasted beets.

The Murray’s Handbook eloquently refers to Délice as” a tiny treat of pale buttercup” that is “rich and luscious, with the texture of whipped butter.”  It is.  It is.  We spread this on the warm baguette and practically giggled like school kids at this experience.  This is an amazing cheese with a mild flavor, like a European butter, and it is addictive.

The third cheese, La Tur, is also featured in The Murray’s Handbook.  It says, “three milks and two textures merge into one cheese’s best approximation of ice cream.”  Joe and I refered to this as the trifecta cheese- a power-house cheese made of three milks.  It’s a must-try.

I bought a bottle of Pinot Gris from Elk Cove Vineyards in Willamette Valley, Oregon.  As usual, this Oregon wine did not disappoint.  It was crisp, just sweet enough, and refreshingly cut through the fat from all this cheese.  And, Joe and I always appreciate that first sip… “once it hits the lips…”

Overall, it was a fantastic night.  We had roasted golden beets marinated in Persian Lime Olive Oil and Peach Balsamic from EVOO Marketplace, roasted carrots and onions with cumin, fresh heirloom tomatoes that didn’t need even a pinch of salt, toasted bread, and cheese.  By the time the second bottle of wine was opened, I started sautéing some local pears in butter.  But… we devoured those before I even thought to snap a photo.

Alton Brown-Inspired Roasted Tomato Sauce with Turkey Meatballs

I finally started to use my Alton Brown-inspired Roasted Tomato Sauce which I had made during peak tomato season and froze in small jars. Finally… fresh tomato sauce.
I thawed the puree and tried follow Alton Brown’s instructions, so I chopped an onion and some garlic and sauteed them a bit in a little olive oil, then added my previously frozen roasted tomato sauce and a cup or so of white wine and let this cook for approximately 30 minutes before adding my turkey meatballs.

In case you’re wondering whether I prefer my turkey meatballs in Grilled Roma Tomato Sauce or my Alton Brown-inspired Roasted Tomato Sauce… the winner is… Roated Tomaot Sauce! Hands down winner! Thank you, Alton Brown. Thank you.

Grilled Tomato Puree

I bought another 20 pounds of tomatoes. Last time I made some sauce, and this time I did too. But, I also made a simple tomato puree to use in soups, like my Fall Harvest Veggie Soup.

Just slice the tomatoes in half and drizzle them with olive oil. Put them on the grill. After the tomatoes are grilled for 5 minutes or so on each side, blend them in the Vita-Mix.
It’s really basic, but adds great flavor to soup.
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