I'm going to come clean about a recent addiction.
Don't worry, it's not drugs or smoking or cheap vodka. But my doctor still might not approve. You see, a few months ago I discovered my local co-op got fresh almond croissants delivered everyday from Cannelle Patisserie, easily one of the best pastry shops in New York. They are big and filled with almond paste and flakey in the best way possible. I can't get enough of them.
On a good week, I'd get one or two for breakfast and be done with it. During weaker periods, I'd succomb to three or four in a week. Self control, at least when it comes to croissants, is not my strongest quality.
In an effort to prevent my diet from being way too carb-heavy, I've been experimenting with some healthy lunches that aren't rice- or noodle-based. Or rather, wheat-noodle-based. I still like the thought of having noodles, so why not just make them out of vegetables instead?
(This was also partly influenced by a recent conversation with my friend Justin, who has gone gluten-free and says he has never felt better. I'm not going gluten-free, but maybe more vegetables in place of wheat would make me feel less sluggish day-to-day.)
And so I've gotten into the habit of making zucchini noodles, with a sauce similar to the ones I make for soba and other cold noodles. I just use a vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini into wide ribbons, briefly cook them, and toss them with a sesame oil, soy sauce (you can also opt for gluten-free soy sauce), and rice vinegar mixture.
To make the dish more filling, I pan-fry some tofu with ginger in a skillet to top off the noodles. Carrots add some nice color, plus they are also easy to julienne, but you can also toss in some chopped kale or boy choy or sliced raw radishes. I also sometimes add nori strips (sliced from nori snack packs) on top for some umami oomph, but you can leave them out if you choose.
Plus, because the noodles can be eaten at room temperature or cold, they're fantastic for the upcoming summer, which promises to be long and muggy. Make a big batch for the week, eat it straight out of the fridge, and feel less guilty about your morning pastry habits! (Or so I tell myself.)
Zucchini Noodles with Pan-fried Tofu
Serves 2 to 3
- 3 large zucchini
- 1 large carrot, peeled
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce (can substitute gluten-free soy sauce)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 pound (1 block) extra-firm tofu
- 1 to 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 1/2 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
- Nori strips, optional (I bought nori snack packs and sliced the sheets into thin strips)
- With a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into wide ribbons. (I rotate the zucchini every 2 or 3 slices so the ribbons get a nice thin strip of dark green along the edges.) With a julienne or vegetable peeler, slice the carrot into strips.
- In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the zucchini and cook for about 1 minute. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with half of the soy sauce mixture, reserving the other half. Transfer the tossed zucchini noodles to a large serving dish.
- Drain and rinse the tofu, then cut into flat, bite-sized pieces. Blot the tofu all around with a paper towel (drying the tofu helps it pan-fry better.)
- In a large skillet, add half the cooking oil. Working in two batches, pan-fry the tofu until golden brown and a little bit crispy on the outside, about 3 minutes per side. Add the ginger to cook for about 30 seconds after the second batch has gotten crispy. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Top the noodles with the carrot and tofu and drizzle the remainder of the soy sauce mixture on top. (If all the tofu doesn’t fit, you can also put any extras in another dish to be served on the side) Sprinkle the sesame seeds and nori strips on top and serve.