Sesame Noodles with Crispy Tofu

This Bon Appetit recipe was good, but I've posted it here with a few tweaks we'd recommend for next time.

Note, to do double-duty on ingredients, double this cucumber side dish recipe to use (plus ginger) as the cucumber topping for the dish. You could also double the amount of tofu and reserve half of it to use as a protein in lettuce wraps or grain bowls later in the week. You could also just get the tofu up to the fried point and then use part of it in a different preparation.

Cucumber Topping (consider substituting this preparation for everything but the ginger)

2 medium Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced into rounds
Kosher salt
½" piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar

Toss cucumbers and a few pinches of salt in a colander. Let sit until salt begins to draw out water from cucumbers, about 5 minutes. Massage cucumbers, gently at first to keep them from breaking, then more vigorously as they start to expel water. Drain and squeeze out excess liquid again. Transfer cucumbers to a small bowl. Add ginger and 1 Tbsp. vinegar and toss to combine. Chill until ready to use.

Tofu and Noodles

1 red chile, such as Holland or Fresno, or a spicier chile deseeded if preferred
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp. honey
1 12-oz. block firm tofu, drained
¼ cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed, canola, peanut, or vegetable
4 oz. dried soba noodles
2 Tbsp. peanut butter or tahini
3 scallions, thinly sliced on a diagonal
Thai basil (optional)

Whisk chile, soy sauce, honey, and 3 Tbsp. vinegar in a medium bowl.

Cut tofu into 9 square-ish pieces by cutting the block into thirds, then cutting each third crosswise into 3 pieces. Press dry to expel extra liquid.

Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Cook tofu, undisturbed, until very crisp and dark brown underneath, 4–5 minutes. Transfer tofu to a plate; wipe out skillet. (Note: at this point, your tofu is still a canvas for whatever you want, and you can reserve part of it for another preparation.)

Heat skillet over medium-high. Return tofu to skillet and add soy sauce mixture (reserve medium bowl; you’ll use it again). Cook, turning tofu occasionally and reducing heat to medium if needed, until glaze is almost thick enough to coat a spoon, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook soba noodles according to package directions; drain. Do not rinse noodles, even if the instructions tell you to—you want them to stay warm.

Transfer tofu to a plate, leaving sauce in pan. Whisk into sauce peanut butter and remaining 1 Tbsp. vinegar. Add noodles and toss until coated with sauce.

Divide noodles among bowls. Top with tofu, pickled cucumbers, scallions, and thai basil (if using).

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