Garlic Noodles

12 ounces thin spaghetti (340g; can also use dried Chinese noodles or fresh egg noodles)
salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 cloves garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
1/8 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce (or vegetarian oyster sauce)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar (depending on your taste)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1-2 whole scallions (chopped)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles/pasta according to package instructions. If using fresh noodles, you may simply need to blanch them. (Reserve some of the pasta cooking water, as you may need it in the sauce later.)

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, until lightly caramelized, and stir in the turmeric (if using), oyster sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Stir for 1 minute and add the scallions.

After 30 seconds, to let the scallions wilt, toss in the cooked pasta and parmesan cheese. If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of the noodle cooking water to loosen them up.

Serve them either as a side dish, or as a quick and easy vegetarian main, with some bok choy or sauteed broccoli on the side!

1-2-3-4-5 Tofu

21 ounces firm tofu (1 1/2 containers, 600g; cut into cubes)
2 tablespoons oil
4 slices ginger
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
4 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons water

Preheat a wok (or cast iron pan) until it starts to smoke lightly. This is very important to prevent the tofu from sticking.

Add 2 tablespoons oil, along with the ginger slices. Over medium heat, fry the ginger for 1 minute. Add the tofu, and take 10 minutes to brown the tofu on at least 2-3 sides.

When the tofu is lightly browned (or to your liking), add in 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine, 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, 3 tablespoons light soy sauce, 4 tablespoons sugar, and 5 tablespoons water. Stir and mix everything well. Turn up the heat to bring it to a boil.

Cover and reduce the heat to medium/low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Halfway through, check to make sure the liquid is not drying up. If so, reduce the heat further and add in a little more water if needed.

After 15 minutes, remove the lid. The sauce should be mostly cooked down. With the heat on high, gently toss the tofu to ensure every piece is coated in glistening sauce. This process takes a couple of minutes. Reduce the liquid until there is ¼ cup of liquid left and the tofu is gleaming with sauce. Serve immediately.

Crispy Tofu With Cashews and Blistered Snap Peas (with Variations)

1 (14-ounce) block firm or extra-firm tofu, drained
3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed, vegetable or canola, plus more as needed
Kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 pound snap peas, trimmed
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 tablespoons)
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 (13-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (light or full-fat)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons molasses, dark brown sugar or honey
1/2 cup toasted cashews
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup mint leaves, torn if large
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)
Rice or any steamed grain, for serving

Slice the tofu in half horizontally, and leave on paper towels to dry any excess liquid.

In a medium skillet or cast-iron pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high until it shimmers. Season both sides of the tofu with salt and black pepper, place in the pan and sear without moving until tofu is browned and golden on both sides, turning once halfway through, about 8 minutes total. Move the tofu to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan, and add the snap peas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until blistered and just tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and move to a bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, add the ginger and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the coconut milk, soy sauce and molasses. Simmer, stirring frequently until the sauce reduces and its color deepens to a dark brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. It should coat a spoon without running right off. Stir in the cashews, break the tofu into 1-inch pieces and toss in the pan to coat with sauce. Remove from heat, and taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Toss the snap peas with the rice vinegar, scallions, mint and red-pepper flakes, if using. Divide among plates, along with the tofu and cashews. Serve with rice or any steamed grain.

Baked Tofu With Peanut Sauce and Coconut-Lime Rice (with Variations)

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil, plus more for brushing the pan and drizzling
2/3 cup lime juice (from about 5 limes), and zest of 1 lime
Kosher salt
8 baby bell peppers or 1 medium bell pepper (any color will do), stemmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
Black pepper
1 cup long-grain rice like jasmine or basmati
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 cup smooth, natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon red miso
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons chopped habanero pepper, stem and seeds removed, or 1 tablespoon sambal
2 tablespoons buckwheat honey or molasses
2 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and sliced crosswise, 1/4-inch thick
3 cups peppery greens, like arugula, mizuna or baby mustard greens
2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Heat the oven to 450 degrees and lightly brush a large rimmed sheet pan with oil.

In a small bowl, stir 4 tablespoons lime juice with 1/2 teaspoon salt until salt dissolves. Add the sliced peppers, a few cracks of black pepper and set aside.

In a small pot, combine the rice with 1 cup water and the coconut milk. Season with salt and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium-low until the rice is just tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, until ready to serve.

In a medium bowl, whisk 4 tablespoons lime juice with the peanut butter, miso, ginger, fish sauce (if using), habanero, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon honey and 3/4 cup water. Stir until smooth and season to taste with salt.

Arrange the tofu pieces in a single layer on the oiled baking sheet and season with salt. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the peanut sauce over each, covering the top and allowing the sauce to run down and coat the sides. Drizzle the tops with some oil, and roast until glaze is set, deep brown and caramelized along the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Add the remaining lime juice and 1 tablespoon honey to the leftover peanut sauce in the bowl to make the dressing; set aside.

Notes: A spicy, fragrant peanut sauce reminiscent of the groundnut stews that are popular across West Africa anchors this recipe. Any protein would be lucky to be doused and marinated in it, but tofu soaks up the peanut sauce’s flavors and chars up nicely upon roasting.

Yam and Plantain Curry With Crispy Shallots

1/4 cup neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
4 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
Kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 (2- to 3-inch) piece fresh ginger, grated (about 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 whole red habanero or Scotch bonnet chile, pierced all over with a knife
1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with their juices
1 1/2 pounds white or orange yams, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 green (unripe) plantains (about 1 pound total), peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 (13-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon red palm oil (optional)
4 cups julienned hearty greens, such as dandelion greens, collards or lacinato kale, tough stems removed
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 lime, sliced into wedges

Heat a medium pot, large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium. Pour in the neutral oil, add the sliced shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are caramelized and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove shallots from the oil and allow to drain on paper towels or a cooling rack. Season with salt and set aside.

Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the cooking oil out of the pot. (Reserve extra oil for another use.) Over medium-low heat, add the garlic, ginger and turmeric to the pot and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional 2 minutes or until it begins to stick to the bottom of the pot.

Drop in the chile and add the whole peeled tomatoes with their juices, crushing the whole tomatoes with your hands as they go in. Stir to combine ingredients and dissolve the tomato paste, then add 3 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat.

Once boiling, season with salt, reduce heat to medium, add the yams and simmer until the yams are just beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the plantains and cook until both are tender but hold their shape, and the liquid is slightly reduced and thickened, 15 to 18 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and red palm oil, if using, season with more salt and let simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the greens and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.

To serve, remove and discard the cooked chile. Ladle the curry into bowls, top with the caramelized shallots, a scattering of basil and cilantro, and several squeezes of lime juice.

Note: This recipe is an adaptation of asaro, the Yoruba word for a dish of starchy root vegetables simmered in a seasoned tomato- and chile-based sauce. Regional versions of asaro are served all year round across the south of Nigeria and in other parts of West Africa. Traditionally, the dish is made with the West African yam, but you can also use white or purple taro root or unripe plantains. Here, firm, green plantains are combined with white yams in a sauce rich with caramelized shallots, garlic and ginger. There is a slight but welcome heat from a single red habanero dropped in whole to infuse the stew. Coconut milk and an optional spoonful of red palm oil — a floral, slightly smoky oil that is pressed from the fruit of oil palm trees — round out the flavors, and hearty greens cut the richness. Serve topped with crunchy shallots, fresh herbs and a wedge of lime.