Tofu in Coconut-Basil-Lemon Sauce

A couple of weeks ago, I was having Thai for lunch with a couple of friends, and one of them told me that they like to coat their tofu pieces with sugar to help them to brown up more deeply. I thought it was a great idea. It would make the tofu more like how our local Thai restaurant served theirs. I've combined that idea with an easy Thai-inspired dish. Because lemongrass is one of my favorite components in Thai food, I made a coconut sauce that has a light lemon flavor. Basil is commonly used in Thai cuisine, so I added lots of shredded basil, along with my favorite vegetables, green beans and bell peppers. Altogether, this made a sort of curry paste-less Thai curry with plenty of bright flavors---which is perfect for springtime.

Tofu in Coconut-Basil-Lemon Sauce

1 lb extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp unbleached organic sugar
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 bell peppers (any color) thinly sliced
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized lengths
1 onion, thinly sliced into half-circles
fresh or dried red chili peppers, sliced or crushed, to taste (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp lemon zest
2 clove garlic, minced
2 cups lite coconut milk
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp corn starch
2 tsp unbleached organic sugar
2/3 cup finely shredded fresh basil leaves
4 tbsp chopped peanuts
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and allow the oil to heat.
2. Blend 2 tbsp soy sauce and 2 tbsp of sugar in a bowl. Blot the tofu dry of any moisture, then gently toss the tofu with the soy sauce-sugar mixture. Place the tofu in the hot oil, being careful not to splatter yourself with the oil. Cook the tofu until it is deeply caramelized, about 15 minutes; set aside on paper towel to drain.
3. Add the bell peppers, green beans, onion, red chili, ginger, lemon zest, and garlic to the remaining oil in the pan. Increase the temperature to medium-high; season with salt and pepper and stir-fry until the onion is translucent and the rest of the vegetables are tender-crisp.
4. Blend the lite coconut milk, 4 tbsp soy sauce, lemon juice, corn starch, and 2 tsp sugar in the bowl that had the tofu seasonings. Once the vegetables are ready, pour this sauce over top, tossing to combine; allow it to gently boil and thicken. Add the tofu back in and gently toss the whole thing together. Sprinkle over the basil leaves and allow them to wilt. Serve immediately with rice; garnish each serving with peanuts.

Servings per recipe: 6
Per serving:
Calories: 263
Fat: 16.3 g
Saturated fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 935 mg
Carbohydrates: 22.4 g

Fiber: 4.2 g
Sugar: 8.6 g
Protein: 12.9 g

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