When my husband and I go on vacation, whether with family or friends, we choose rental homes based mostly on how well-stocked the kitchen is, to accommodate our flurry of cooking. I love to cook while on vacation, and the preparation and consumption of the meal becomes a production, lingering for hours, gathering everyone near the kitchen, tasting, drinking wine, talking and anticpating a feast.
Can you tell that we just got back from a mini vacation? A three-day weekend at the coast with my husband, my parents and siblings…. eating clams, riding bikes, board games and zombie movies, having time to paint my nails with my sis and let them dry (really, doing nothing!), and drinking so much coffee. I washed some dishes… we all did. It was great, and we ate very well, especially my mom’s carne asada and grilled salsa that we ate on hand-shaped pupusas. I cooked Yotam Ottolenghi’s shakshuka for breakfast, because, I can’t just make a simple breakfast, I suppose! But my mom’s breakfast of french toast with cinnamon-maple syrup and ham steaks was my favorite, so amazingly delicious. She is the master.
soba noodle salad with crispy tofu
Look for soba noodles at Asian grocery stores, and also in the health-food section of your local grocery… here is a brand that our local Fred Meyer carries.
Thai chiles are very small, very red, and very hot. I find them at Asian markets — sometimes they have them frozen, if not fresh. You can substitute serrano chiles (available at most grocery stores), which are green and smaller than a jalapeno, but serranos are not as hot as a Thai chile. Adjust quantities to your heat preference… we like the 3 Thai chiles here to produce enough heat to be enjoyable but not sear off our tastebuds.
If you’d like to make this vegetarian, use salt in place of the fish sauce — start with 1/2 teaspoon and adjust to your liking.
for nuoc cham:
- 3/4 cup hot water (just hot enough to dissolve sugar — I often use hot tap water)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- juice from two limes
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 Thai chiles, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
Mix the hot water and sugar together to dissolve — I like to use a repurposed glass jar or a container with a tight lid. Then add the lime juice, and taste. You’re making limeade –does it taste good? Adjust the ingredients for your preference of sweet and sour. Then add rice vinegar and fish sauce and taste. If it needs more of a salty punch, depending on the type of fish sauce used, add more (Vietnamese-made fish sauces are lighter in flavor, while Thai fish sauces carry a salitier and more bracing taste). Add chiles and garlic and shake well to combine. Let it sit out at room temperture for a few hours, if you can…. overnight is even better. For longer periods of time, store in the fridge.
recipe inspired by alexandracooks.com
- one package extra-firm tofu (around 14 oz)
- 2 tablespoons each white and black sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
- salt and pepper
- 1 egg
- peanut, vegetable or another neutral oil
Drain tofu: I like to put the block into a colander that can sit inside a bowl with a couple inches of clearance at the bottom for draining. Weigh the tofu down from the top by placing a second bowl on top of the tofu and filling it with some canned food or other heavy items. Place in the fridge to drain for 15 minutes at least, but if you can, start the draining before you leave for work in the morning. The better-drained the tofu, the crisper it will fry.
Slice the drained tofu into thick slices, about 3/4-inch. Toss panko and sesame seeds together in a small, shallow dish with some salt and pepper. In another small, shallow dish, lightly beat egg and season with salt and pepper. Dredge tofu slices first in egg mixture and then in panko mixture, making sure to get all six sides coated. Set aside in a single layer on a plate.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high. Once a drop of water will sizzle and dance across the pan, gently place the tofu slices in to cook without touching each other. Give them 3 – 4 minutes per side, watching for panko to crisp and brown, then flip and repeat. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain before serving.
- 4 oz soba noodles
- 1 large cucumber, peeled, halved and seeded (use a spoon to scrape out the seeds)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled
- 1 cup (about 1/8 head) thinly shredded purple cabbage
- scallions, sliced
Cook the soba noodles according to package directions. These delicate noodles do not need to cook in a rolling boil, and don’t cook as long as the usual egg pastas, just as a heads up. Drain, then rinse with cold water.
Run the cucumbers and carrots through the julienne blade on a mandoline to produce noodle shapes, or slice thinly, stack, and cut into long, thin matchsticks.
Toss noodles, cucumber, carrots and cabbage together in a large bowl with nuoc cham to taste (you may or may not want to use all of the nuoc cham). Serve immediately, or chill in the fridge for later.
To enjoy, top with piping-hot, crisp tofu and garnish with scallions.