Sichuanese chefs make a popular spicy sesame dressing for noodles and salads. Traditionally, the sauce is made with toasted sesame paste sold in Asian markets. For convenience sake, I’ve developed a recipe where I substitute tahini paste or peanut butter, which is much more readily available, but no less delicious. Serve at room temperature or prepare in advance, refrigerate, and serve slightly chilled.
1 4-inch piece fresh ginger
7 cloves garlic
1 cup sesame tahini paste, mixed thoroughly to combine the paste with the liquid
1/ 4 cup soy sauce
1 /4 cup toasted or dark Asian sesame oil
1/ 4 cup sugar, or to taste
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 1 /2 tablespoons unseasoned Asian rice vinegar
3 /4 teaspoon hot chile paste or crushed red pepper
10 tablespoons water
In a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade, chop the ginger, garlic, pulsing until chopped finely. Add the tahini paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste or hot pepper and blend until smooth. Pour the water down the feed tube while the machine is running. Taste for seasoning, adding more sugar if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl
1 14-ounce squares extra-firm tofu, sliced through the thickness in half
1 1 /2 tablespoons soy sauce
3/4 pound snap or snow peas, ends snapped and veiny strings removed
8 ounces whole wheat linguine
1 teaspoon toasted Asian sesame oil
4 carrots, grated or 2 cups shredded
3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thin slices
1 1/ 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Wrap the tofu sections in 1 layer of paper towels and place in a pie plate or any large flat pan. Place a flat cookie sheet on top and a heavy pan on top as a weight. Let sit 20 minutes to press out the excess water, discarding the paper towels and drying the tofu. Rub the surface with the soy sauce.
2. In a large soup pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil, add the snap or snow peas and blanch for 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out and refresh in a colander under cold, running water and drain. Bring the water back to a boil and add the noodles. Cook for about 11 minutes over medium heat, or until al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold, running water. Drain thoroughly and toss with the sesame oil. Transfer to a large round serving bowl and arrange evenly with a slight indentation in the middle. Set four to five red pepper slices aside for the garnish.
3. In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the drained tofu and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 12 minutes, turning once. Drain on paper towels and cut into 1/ 4-inch thick slices.
5. Arrange the blanched snap peas, shredded carrots and red pepper slices in separate concentric circles over the noodles, leaving a well in the center and arrange the fried tofu slices there. Sprinkle the top with the reserved red pepper slices and serve with the spicy tahini sauce.