June 14, 2012

Low-Sodium Spicy Green Beans

Low-Sodium Spicy Green Beans

Do you remember that show, My Two Dads?

It was about two guys (duh) raising a daughter. Kind of like Three Men and a Baby, but with a lot less Ted Danson and a lot more of a dude that looks like George Michael.

I have two dads now. My father and my father-in-law. Neither looks like Ted Danson nor George Michael. But they both like each other. A lot.

This obviously wasn’t a requirement for my matirmonial arrangement, but it really worked out for the best. They talk politics and sports, burgers and beer. And both love to find any excuse to drink wine. Seriously, any excuse.

They’re both becoming major gooftsers in their, let’s just call it, “wiser years.” And lucky for me, they also share a deep affinity for Chinese food. Which is another big score on the daughter scale, because this father’s day I can make one dish that will please them both.

This all leads me to Spicy (not so) Green Beans with Tofu.

Now if your dad doesn’t like spice or tofu, it’s easy to adjust this recipe to fit his taste. Instead of the chili paste, just add a few chili pepper flakes, or leave the heat out all together. And if tofu just ain’t tough enough, then broil up some Chinese five-spice chicken or pork, slice, and serve. Or call them “Tofu Fries” and you’ll be surprised by the sudden willingness to give them a try.

In place of the high-sodium soy, I pulled out one of my favorite low-sodium substitutes: a simple mix of plum jam, vinegar, and for this recipe, chili paste. Then, wash those green beans and throw the “tofu fries” into the oven. And with a little sesame oil, a hot flame, and a few minutes, you have a low-sodium, veggie heavy dish worth serving family style.

No matter how many dads are at your table.

Chow on.


inspired by Michael Natkin’s Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans and Tofu from his new book, Herbivoracious

serves 2 to 4


  • Sesame oil
  • 1 package extra frim tofu, patted dry, cut into long thin strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut diagnally in half if long
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili paste (I used: Costa Peruana Organic Aji Limo Chili Paste)
  • 2 tablespoons plum jam (or any dark berry jam)
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1 green onion, sliced lengthwise into strips and the cut into diagonals


Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and when hot and spitting, add the tofu and stir-fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside. Option: If you don’t want to fry the tofu, then preheat the oven to 375dg F. Cover a baking sheet with some parchment paper and lay out your tofu sticks in a single layer. Using a pastry brush, slick the tops of the tofu sticks with sesame oil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden and slightly crunchy on top. Keep an eye on them, because the thinner the sticks are the faster they cook up!

In the same skillet or wok, heat 2 more tablespoons of sesame oil and when hot and ready, add the garlic. Cook until the garlic bits start turning golden brown, then add the green beans. Stir and cook until the beans start getting softer and a bit charr on their skin, about 5 to 10 minutes.

While the beans are cooking, quickly whisk up the sauce. Mix the chili paste with the jam and unseasoned rice wine vinegar until combined. Add it to the pan, stir, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Take the green beans off the heat and lay them out on a serving platter or in a large bowl. Sprinkle the green onions all over the beans, place the tofu on top, and serve family style.

+ Sodium Count: Tofu: 0 to 10mg, depending on brand; Green beans: 33mg per cup

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