Thursday, November 8, 2012

Coming out of the Bubble: Green Beans and Tofu in Peanut Tamarind Sauce

So this is the week we have all been returning to work, chugging forward with alternative transportation routes.  This storm as thrown us all for a loop and not a moment goes by when I am not floating between the emotions of guilt and gratitude.  We thankfully did not lose power or suffer damage.  The worst we felt in my little hub was the powerlessness of being trapped unharmed between places of devastation.

I am sure that I don't need to tell you, but in case it is helpful, below are some links to how you can help the victims of hurricane Sandy.  

If you live in NYC, check out The Kitchn blog below for updated lists of where donations of food and supplies are being collected and what is needed.

I don't want to take a single moment for granted.  For whatever it is worth I am going to continue to participate in the things I love and let this space be a record of it.  I have refreshed this blog with links to the other things that I do, love and want to share.

I have also thought to appreciate the meals we make on our weekly rotation and not just the very indulgent ones.

Now for the recipe:

It took me quite a while to figure out how to create a successful, tasty stir fry, as simple as it may be.  I would always end up with some of my vegetables very crisp and some overcooked.  My sauces never stuck.  Most recipes told me to remedy this with cornstarch, which, in the past I have tried.  Don't get me wrong, it works.  It will make a thicker sauce but I thought to experiment with some ways of thickening sauces that also added flavor dimension. Here is what I have come up with.
  1. Tamarind Paste - Tamarind is a fruit found in India, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.  The flesh of the fruit has a sticky feel and color of a dried date, and the taste is subtly sweet and pleasantly sour.  You can get a package of tamarind paste at specialty grocers or try the Surfas Culinary District online.  Like the fruit, the tamarind paste will have seeds.  To use it in stir fry sauces I like to soak the dense fruit in a small amount of water.  The paste will dissolve into the water creating a thick, flavorful liquid.  Then you can easily separate out the seeds.
  2. Ketchup - Try it before you turn your nose up.  It not only adds thickness but just the right amount of sweetness.
  3. Peanut Butter - In my mind this is a no brainer.  Think of sesame peanut noodles or thai and vietnamese dishes that feature peanuts or peanut sauces.  I go for this one mostly for flavor but no worries here about whether it will thicken your sauces.  In fact I usually use chicken broth to keep the sauce from getting to thick.
  4. Tomato Paste - Same concept as ketchup only less sweet and more tomato flavor.

Green Beans and Tofu in Peanut Tamarind Sauce


  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste soaked in 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce or blend of soy and fish sauce
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of plum or rice vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves minced fine
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • sriracha to taste
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer on low.  Continue to simmer on low, stirring with a spoon until the peanut butter is melted.
• I always make extra to add when serving.  It is also great on rice noodles the next day.

  • 1 block of tofu
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 tomato, cut in large chunks
  • 3/4 lb green beans
  • 3 tablespoons of peanut oil
Finishes (optional):
  • lime
  • cilantro
  • sesame seeds
In a large wok, heat the oil on high heat. When the wok is very hot, sautee` each vegetable separately until they wilt and soften slightly.  Stir rapidly.  Set aside in a large bowl.  Add tofu to the hot wok and stir rapidly.  Sautee` until slightly golden on all sides. Add it to the bowl with the vegetables.  Then return them all to the hot wok and add the prepared peanut tamarind sauce. Let the vegetables simmer in the sauce for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add finishing ingredients and serve over rice.