The Real Housewife of Santa Monica

Sesame otsu, how to press tofu & “needs v. wants”

I have this new favorite cookbook – “Super Natural Every Day” and I am always daydreaming about the recipes. Sometimes I get caught up on ingredients I am missing but today I said “What the hey?” and made this otsu with what I had on hand. You’ll see firsthand where I made a mistake learned something.

Btw: this has TOFU in it. People have different reactions to tofu as a foodstuff depending on their experience or non-experience with it. If you’ve never tried it and are scared (is scared too strong a word?) I urge you to challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone. Anyone who knows my husband, G, knows that he is a self-proclaimed “meat-a-tarian” with a limited palate. But he likes fried tofu. Hell, he likes fried anything pretty much. Anyway, the tofu in this dish is fried and my kids love it. It’s NOT slimy! It’s like a french fry. (Yuuuummmm, french fries!!!!) Anyway, you have to laugh at the irony of being scared of a plant based product but eating dead animals without hesitation. Especially when you think about what those animals are being fed and what is being injected into them to make them fat as well as to keep them alive despite pretty gnarly conditions. Enough with my (run-on) rant. Try this tofu! What’s the worst thing that can happen?

This is an amazing dish – the wholesome buckwheat noodles are coated in a complexly flavored sesame paste. Tofu rounds out the dish.

YOU NEED:

INGREDIENTS:
1 tsp pine nuts (if you don’t have pine nuts, double the sunflower seeds)
1 tsp sunflower seeds
1/2 c sesame seeds
1-1/2 TBSP sugar
1-1/2 TBSP soy sauce or tamari
1-1/2 tsp mirin (Japanese sake – I got it at Ralph’s)
scant 1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
2 TBSP rice vinegar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
sea salt
12 oz soba noodles
12 oz extra firm tofu
olive oil
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin on a diagonal

All the ingredients listed are from Ralph’s, Trader Joe’s, Costco or my garden. None are from specialty stores. I had the ingredients from my regular monthly/weekly shopping excursions.

**NOTE: as always, I changed some of the ingredients to make them more accessible. I’m not sure how Heidi Swanson would feel about it and I’m sure it changes the flavors but my goal is to make recipes do-able without going to any special stores just for that dish. When you have a 1-1/2 year old who refuses to sit in a shopping cart, responds to her carseat as it if were doused in battery acid, and delights in running down an aisle with her arm out to knock EVERY box of cereal off the shelf, more than a Xanax, you need to keep it simple.**

TOFU PREP TUTORIAL
If you’re not familiar with preparing tofu – this part is for you. If you’re an old pro – you will want to skip this section.

Tofu comes in a little pool of water. You need to get rid of most of that water before you fry it because you know what they say about oil and water? They don’t mix. In fact they splatter all over you. Also, think of the tofu as a sort of sponge for flavors. The more water you get out of it the more flavors it can absorb. In this recipe, you’re getting the water out for better frying since we’re just salting it.

Here’s my method:
- Remove the tofu from its package over the sink.
- Slice tofu in a few large flat pieces (3 or 4)
- Place slices together on half of a paper towel atop half of a kitchen towel (the paper towel keeps any grody fuzzies or bits & pieces that were on your kitchen towel from touching your tofu)

- Fold the the other half of the paper towel & kitchen towel over the top of the tofu, covering it completely.

- Place something heavy but not too heavy atop. I use a cast iron skillet. This presses the water out of the tofu and into the towels.

Try to press your tofu for about 15 minutes if you can.
After 15 minutes, you are ready to cut your tofu into whatever size pieces you’d like. I usually cut mine into 1×2″ pieces.

Ok. So anyway, press your tofu first thing.

Did you do it? Great! Let’s start…

1. Toast the pine nuts & sunflower seeds in a large skillet over medium heat. If you don’t have pine nuts, just substitute more sunflower seeds.
Be sure to toss them in the pan often. Those pine nuts can burn quickly! I should know, I just burned a bunch. After about a minute, add the sesame seeds.

The second you start smelling the sesame seeds, remove from heat. You are making the sesame paste now in case you didn’t realize it!

This year I’ve made it a personal challenge to make ice cream, bread, pesto, pastes (that is not a typo – I haven’t tried to make pasta yet), pizzas and soups all without an ice cream maker, bread machine, food processor, pizza stone or stand mixer. My opinion: you don’t NEED most of that stuff! That said, I WANT a pizza stone but as for all the other expensive stuff clogging up my tiny countertops – this appliances can s____ it! I do, however, concede to the usefulness of the mandolin which I also do not currently own. But that’s another story… Another WANT not a NEED.

Regardless & irregardless of what you have or don’t have, need or don’t need, you are about to make a paste that calls for a mortar & pestle but which I’m here to assure you can be made just as easily in a regular old grotty old blender. Here we go!

2. Crush seeds/nuts with a mortar pestle. What? You KNOW I don’t have one! I crushed them in my blender.

The seeds look like sand.

Damp sand.

3. Add the sugar, mirin, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and cayenne pepper to the “sand” mixture.

Stir to combine thoroughly & adjust any ingredients to your taste.

It should look something like this.

5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Read the soba noodles package direction before you go any further. They don’t cook like typical pasta.

The soba noodles will expand quite a lot so you really will need a large pot! Add salt to the water & cook according to package directions. **NOTE: save about 1/3 c of the cooking water just before draining.**

Drain the noodles when done & rinse under cold running water. (They will stick together in a huge clump if you don’t do that!)

6. Put your cut tofu into a bowl & toss with a little olive oil & salt.

Heat a large skillet to medium high and toss your tofu in there. This time I tossed in there helper skelter but usually I lay all my tofu out in neat lines as I find it easier to turn. Another instance of OCD which doesn’t seem to spill over into my housekeeping. Flip occasionally – tofu should be golden brown on all sides but not tough and chewy. Taste one to see how it is.

This is what it looks like as some of the sides are browned. You still want to try to brown those paler sides but if you miss some – no biggie.

Mmmmm a nice pile of fried tofu!

7. You’re almost done!! Save 1 heaping TBSP of the sesame paste.

Water down the rest with that 1/3 c of reserved pasta water. If you forgot to save it, just use 1/3 c of hot water. Transfer your soba to a large mixing bowl & pour the thinned paste/sauce over it along with half the green onions.

Toss to combine. Serve topped with a dollop of the sesame paste & green onions. Beautiful!

That reminds me! I forgot to tell you what I learned. When I started making this I realized I was out of sesame seed oil but I DID have some Hot Chili Sesame Seed Oil in my fridge. I thought, “I’ll just use half the amount.” The sesame paste definitely had a VERY noticeable kick to it after I did that. This really makes me mad sometimes! I spend a lot of time & energy on a dish only to do something to make it 100% inedible to the girls. You know, something like serve it with live snakes or add carrots. Or green onions. This time I played dumb about the spice factor but stealthily passed out unasked for cups of milk along with the food. AMAZING!! They both ate a lot. And drank a LOT of milk!

Next time I will use plain sesame seed oil… (Trader Joe’s has it cheapest btw.)

Sesame Otsu, How to Press Tofu & Needs V. Wants
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4
 

Complexly flavored wholesome soba noodle dish.
Ingredients
  • 1 tsp pine nuts (if you don’t have pine nuts, double the sunflower seeds)
  • 1 tsp sunflower seeds
  • ½ c sesame seeds
  • 1-1/2 TBSP sugar
  • 1-1/2 TBSP soy sauce or tamari
  • 1-1/2 tsp mirin (Japanese sake – I got it at Ralph’s)
  • scant 1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
  • 2 TBSP rice vinegar
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
  • sea salt
  • 12 oz soba noodles
  • 12 oz extra firm tofu
  • olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin on a diagonal

Instructions
  1. Toast the pine nuts & sunflower seeds in a large skillet over medium heat. If you don’t have pine nuts, just substitute more sunflower seeds. Those pine nuts can burn quickly! After about a minute, add the sesame seeds. The second you start smelling the sesame seeds, remove from heat. You are making the sesame paste now in case you didn’t realize it!
  2. Crush seeds/nuts with a mortar pestle, a food processor or in a blender. The ground seeds will look like damp sand.
  3. Add the sugar, mirin, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and cayenne pepper to the “sand” mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly & adjust any ingredients to your taste.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. The soba noodles will expand quite a lot so you really will need a large pot! Add salt to the water & cook according to package directions. **NOTE: save about ⅓ c of the cooking water just before draining.** Drain the noodles when done & rinse under cold running water. (They will stick together if you don’t do that.)
  5. Put your cut tofu into a bowl & toss with a little olive oil & a few pinches of salt. Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium high and toss your tofu in there. You can add a little oil to the skillet. Flip occasionally – tofu should be golden brown on all sides but not tough and chewy. Taste one to see how it is. Toss until all sides are brown. Remove from skillet onto a plate lined with a paper towel.
  6. Save 1 heaping TBSP of the sesame paste. Water down the remaining paste with that ⅓ c of reserved pasta water. If you forgot to save it, just use ⅓ c of hot water. Transfer your soba to a large mixing bowl & pour the thinned paste/sauce over it along with half the green onions. Toss to combine. Serve topped with a dollop of the sesame paste & green onions.

Notes
TOFU PREP TUTORIAL If you’re not familiar with preparing tofu – this part is for you. Tofu comes in a little pool of water. You need to get rid of most of that water before you fry it because you know what they say about oil and water? They don’t mix. In fact they splatter all over you. Also, think of the tofu as a sort of sponge for flavors. The more water you get out of it the more flavors it can absorb. Here’s my method: – Remove the tofu from its package over the sink. – Slice tofu in a few large flat pieces (3 or 4) – Place slices together on half of a paper towel atop half of a kitchen towel (the paper towel keeps any grody fuzzies or bits & pieces that were on your kitchen towel from touching your tofu) – Fold the the other half of the paper towel & kitchen towel over the top of the tofu, covering it completely. – Place something heavy but not too heavy atop. I use a cast iron skillet. This presses the water out of the tofu and into the towels. Try to press your tofu for about 15 minutes if you can. After 15 minutes, you are ready to cut your tofu into whatever size pieces you’d like. I usually cut mine into 1×2″ pieces.

 



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1 comment on Sesame otsu, how to press tofu & “needs v. wants”

  1. Lib
    April 1, 2012 at 4:15 am (2064 days ago)

    Ok, I’m not sure how this just happened, but you have me wanting to try fried tofu…. dame it…..

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