April 18, 2009

Spicy Peanut Pasta

I have only been to The Foundation restaurant once, having been previously put off by stories of horrific service and, frankly, the dish-naming conventions (which I still find monumentally irritating). The service we got was fine, and the food...there was the real surprise. Excellent. Significantly superior to, for example, The Naam, to which it is frequently compared. However, I am not here to write a restaurant review. The dish that I ordered that night was called "Spicy Peenut" (sic). It appeared to contain things that I like, so I ordered it, and liked it so much that I immediately started conspiring over how to make it myself. It was a filling and satisfying dish, and I had to take some of it home. It actually re-heated fairly well, too.

Several weeks later, I decided to take a stab at it. The dish above is the result and, while it is not a dead-ringer, it was certainly a comparable and delicious rendition. I googled around to see if there were any recipes for it online, and came upon an entry for the sauce from Everybody Likes Sandwiches, and I had a good long look at her version before drafting my own.

Here it is:

Spicy Peanut Pasta with Cauliflower & Spinach

Serves 2
Total Time to Cook & Prep: 30 minutes

225 grams rotini pasta
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
150 grams homestyle fried tofu (atsu-age), cut into triangular slices
3 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped roasted peanuts
2 green onions, sliced


1/3 cup natural peanut butter
200 mL coconut milk
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sambal oelek
1 teaspoon ginger powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
dash of salt (to taste - you may need more if you are using unsalted peanut butter or light soy sauce)

Prepare the pasta in plenty of boiling, lightly salted water. About 5 minutes from the end of the pasta's cooking time, add the cauliflower florets, and continue to cook until pasta is done and florets are tender.

Meanwhile, in a high-sided, 12" skillet, fry the tofu slices until golden in a little vegetable oil, and set aside (this step is optional, actually). Combine all of the sauce ingredients in the emptied skillet, and stir over low heat until integrated. Taste and adjust for seasoning. If the mixture seems thicker than desirable in a pasta sauce, add a little of the hot pasta water, about 1/4 cup, until you reach the desired consistency. Turn heat to its lowest setting.

Add the tofu slices back into the skillet, and stir gently. Use a wire skimmer to remove the pasta and the cauliflower from the boiling water as soon as it is ready, and add directly to the skillet with the sauce. Stir gently, again adding a little pasta water if necessary to thin the sauce. Add the spinach and stir through carefully. Plate up in large pasta bowls, and garnish with chopped peanuts and green onions.

This dish is a great reminder that vegan food is neither boring nor inherently tasteless. It's definitely getting a return engagement at our place.