Green Beans and Tofu with Cruncy Thai Peanut Sauce

Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven
Preparation time: 20 to 30 minutes (10 minutes of work)
Yield: 4 to 6 servings (Maybe fewer... this is hard to stop eating!)
The fresher and firmer the green beans, the better this will taste.
  • Serve this with jasmine or basmati rice. (Put up the rice to cook before you begin.)
  • You'll need two pans--a medium-sized heavy skillet to sauté the peanut mixture, and a large, deep nonstick wok or skillet for the tofu and green beans. You can have both pans going at the same time.
1 1/2 cups peanuts (unsalted or lightly salted)
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 pound firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Red pepper flakes to taste
  1. Place the peanuts in a blender, and grind briefly until they form a coarse meal. Set aside.
  2. Heat a medium-sized heavy skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and the ginger and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, then add the crushed peanuts and the lemon zest. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the peanuts are lightly toasted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. As the peanut mixture is cooking, heat a large, nonstick wok or deep skillet. Drizzle in a little oil. When it is very hot, add the tofu and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over high heat for 10 to 15 minutes to let the water evaporate, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with lemon juice, reduce the heat, and cook for a few minutes longer. Transfer the tofu to the pan containing the peanut mixuture, and set aside.
  4. Scrape out the wok or skillet if necessary, and return to the heat. Let it get very hot, then add the remaining scant tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the green beans. (The pan should sizzle when they hit.) Stir-fry over high heat for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and a small amount of red pepper flakes.
  5. Stir-fry just a few minutes longer, or until the beans are divinely tender-crisp (mostly crisp, but just tender enough). Add the peanut-tofu mixture and toss everything together. Serve right away, over rice.
The above recipe is crunchy and tasty, but doesn't have a lot of liquid sauce. For those of you who would like this moister and more peanutty, make the following and pass it at the table so each person can drizzle some on his or her own serving. I very much thank Greg Leeson for giving me the feedback that inspired this addendum.

1/2 cup good-quality peanut butter
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 tablespoon minced cilantro

Combine p.b. and water in a bowl; mash and mix until uniform. Add remaining ingredients, and stir until combined. Add a little more water it you prefer it thinner. Salt to taste. Serve warm or room temperature, drizzled over hot green beans.