Stir-Fried Noodles with Asparagus, Mushooms, Tofu and Cashews

4-5 servings


Adapted from The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation

click to enlarge

One of my all-time favorite recipes (a version of it was first published in Still Life with Menu), this dish still pulls me in with its interplay of lemon, ginger, soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil - plus the textural triangle  of asparagus, mushrooms, and tofu against cashew-coated noodles. The only significant change from the original recipe is the cashews, which used to be sesame seeds. Feel free to reclaim the sesame seeds, if you wish, tossing on a small handful before serving.

• The tofu and mushrooms need at last 15 minutes (and up to 2 hours) to marinate before the recipe is assembled. You can use this time to prepare the asparagus.

• Don't forget to zest the lemon before juicing it.

1 cup cashews, lightly toasted

8 scallions, minced (whites and greens kept separate)

1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic

1 heaping tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons soy sauce

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons Chinese sesame oil

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar

Up to 1 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound firm tofu, cut into ½-inch dice

12 to 15 fresh mushrooms (about ¾ pound) - wiped clean, stemmed, and sliced or quartered

½ pound linguine, fettuccine, spaghetti  - or fresh, long Chinese noodles, if available

2 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil

1 pound asparagus

Crushed red pepper 

    1. Place the cashews in a food processor (small bowl or mini) – or just use a knife on a board) and work briefly until coarsely chopped. Set aside.
    2. In a 9 X 13-inch pan or its equivalent, stir together the scallion whites, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, lemon juice and zest, sesame oil, water, sugar, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Stir in the tofu and mushrooms, and let it stand for at least 15 minutes  - and up to 2 hours. The marinade won’t completely cover the tofu and mushrooms, so shake the pan and stir to redistribute the liquid every so often.
    3. Meanwhile, put up a large pot of water to boil, and set a colander in the sink.
    4. While waiting for the water to boil, snap off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus, and, if desired, peel the remaining stalks about halfway up.  Cut them diagonally into 1-inch lengths (can be longer pieces if asparagus is very thin), and set aside.
    5. When the water boils, cook the noodles in until al dente - or until done to your liking. Drain, rinse in warm water, and then drain again—thoroughly this time. Leave them in the colander for now.
    6. Place a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet or a large wok over medium heat and wait about a minute large wok over medium heat and wait about a minute, then add the oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high, and toss in the asparagus and another ¼ teaspoon salt, and stir-fry until the asparagus is just tender, 5 to 7 minutes – depending on thickness.
    7. Add the drained noodles and another ¼ teaspoon salt, mixing as best you can with tongs or a large fork. Stir-fry over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, or until the noodles and asparagus entwine.
    8. Pour in the panful of marinade, tofu, and mushrooms . Turn the heat to high, and stir-fry another 3 minutes, tossing in the ground cashews and a light touch of crushed red pepper as you go. When the sauce and cashews are well distributed and everything is heated through, taste to see if it needs more salt, and add accordingly. Serve immediately, topped with a scattering of the scallion greens. 
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