What do you cook when you are visiting someone afar and working out of a foreign kitchen that is less than stocked with any bare necessities, much less extra goodies, and you’ve volunteered to prepare a vegan dinner for a group of four that has quickly grown to be seven? I just so happened to be greeted with this welcomed scenario Monday night, in St. Augustine. The result appeared as follows.
But first, let me back up. That’s right, I did say St. Augustine. If this sounds familiar perhaps it’s because I was just there for a spring break trip turned food tour a few weeks ago. Last weekend I decided to venture eastward for a return journey. The weekend visit turned into an extended stay, which allowed me time to cook a meal to share with the faces I am coming to know in that wonderful city.
Recognizing that I wanted to prepare a dish that was very signature Sarah, I knew it had to contain peanut butter. And so, a highly imaginative spin on the more traditional Pad Thai danced around in my head.
Between a grocery store I don’t typically frequent when at home, and a local natural food store, I was able to bring my vision to life. Despite being on what I will refer to as a “time trial” and having to snag some staple items in addition to key ingredients, I was able to feed seven folks without breaking the bank, and even had leftovers, which I consider to be quite the victory.
The result? The dish turned out to be a Thai-infused peanut surprise layered over quinoa. The mouths that munched upon the fruits of my labor raved on the combination of the flavors and textures. While each individual seated at the table had his or her own unique appreciation for diverse cuisine, none of these fellow mouths were vegan, which made things even more exciting.
I let everyone garnish their bowl as they pleased, using shredded carrots, chopped spring onions, and roasted peanuts. I was a bit hesitant to introduce the raw carrots, but after my second bite, was pleased with the dramatic contrast in the textures, and the cool, crispness they added. Each bowl was served with a strawberry salad comprised of onions, strawberries and spinach, served with two dressing options, pomegranate or cherry balsamic. After snapping a couple of quick-fire photos for documentation purposes (as seen here), we headed outside with ciders in hand and enjoyed a leisurely dinner on the back deck, under a century-old oak tree with Spanish moss dangling in the breeze. A winning atmosphere if I do say so.
After the meal, I realized I wanted to share the recipe, but had not measured anything along the way or taken notes. That evening I was far more focused on enjoying the meal itself, and visiting with new friends while cooking (and rightly so). Although I won’t ever be able to recreate the exact taste or experience that took place in St. Augustine (which is the beauty of it, in my opinion), I decided to reinvent the dish at home so to be able to spread the Thai-infused peanut surprise love. The following recipe is scaled down (from the St. Augustine dinner party) to serve 2-3 parties.
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 – 1 ½ cup(s) water
- ¼ cup Bragg Liquid Aminos
- 1 Tbsp. Sriracha
- 1 Tbsp. minced (or fresh) garlic
- Lime juice (to taste)
Using a fork, mix peanut butter together with water (adding water gradually). Once mixed thoroughly, add Bragg Liquid Amino (or Soy sauce if you don’t want to make an extra purchase and have some on hand). Once a smooth, sauce consistency is reached, add Sriracha, minced (or fresh) garlic and lime juice to taste. If the sauce remains a bit thick, continue to add a bit more water, until it becomes the texture of a thick soup. Note: If you spice it up too much you can add more water or peanut butter to tone it down. Once sauce is prepared place in fridge.
If you end up serving a larger party, since the quantities listed make plenty of sauce, simply doubling the recipe will suffice.
Peanut Sauce Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Tofu and Veggies
- 1 block extra firm tofu
- ½ onion chopped
- 6 vine sweet mini peppers
- ½ can baby corn*
Ingredient Note:* Although I didn’t end up using corn when I prepared the dish back at home, I used a single can in St. Augustine. If I serve this meal to seven mouths again, I will probably opt for two cans since the corn was in fact a hit.
Chop sweet peppers and onion and place together in pan on stovetop. Add ½ cup of water (enough to simmer), and light olive oil (or other oil of choice). Cover loosely with lid. Cook between medium and high heat for 10 minutes, until the water evaporates.
Meanwhile, cut tofu into thick pieces, gently pressing out excess water from each piece. After the onions and peppers have cooked for 10 minutes, place tofu pieces in pan. Generously add Bragg Liquid Amino and stir. Add garlic and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 more minutes on medium – medium/high heat. After ten minutes, add the baby corn, followed by the peanut sauce and turn to low. Note: If it looks like it’s a bit much sauce, feel free to hold some back. I personally don’t mind my food swimming, but recognize not everyone favors such. Allow to simmer in sauce for 5 more minutes.
Tofu and Veggies Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes
For 1-3 parties, place 1 cup of dry quinoa and 2 cups of water in pot on stovetop. Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium/low and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until water has cooked all the way out.
For seven individuals, I doubled this amount, combining 2 cups of dry quinoa with 4 cups of water. However, the servings were moderate, meaning I could have easily made more. This amount readily serves 4-6 parties.
Quinoa Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Prep/Cook Time: 45 minutes – 1 Hour (Time varies based on quantity and order of operations. Quinoa should be cooked at the same time as tofu and veggies.)
Layer quinoa in the bottom of your bowl, followed by the tofu and veggies. Garnish with spring onions, shredded carrots, and peanuts. Squeeze fresh lime juice over top. Add more Sriracha if you choose.
Although making nutty stovetop creations is something I do regularly, I must admit this one was especially magical and is certainly a surprise I plan on reinventing time and time again.