Roasted Vegetable and Tofu-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Thai Pesto

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As far as I can tell, I have had exactly two really unique recipes in the history of this blog. And were they smash hits? Not exactly. You’ve got to do something borderline inedible to stump the internet. And when you do hit on an original concept, there’s only a small group of people who are truly interested in frozen, vodka-spiked gazpacho on a stick.

I’ve found that successful food blogging is a balance, somehow satisfying a handful of interests. There’s timeliness (i.e. this should be a kale smoothie recipe), trend-awareness (and should be salted, somehow), and knowing what readers want in a recipe (5 ingredients, 30 minutes) or even in a blog post, for that matter (250 words, professional-grade photos). What I actually want to post about seems almost irrelevant.

Guys, blogging is hard. All I wanna do is tell you about this pesto.

 

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Let me set the scene: It’s January. You’re all done with cookies, cookies, and more cookies, and the gym is offering a mighty good discount. It’s also dark and cold. Comfort food whispers your name at 2:00 a.m., on the treadmill, in traffic, all the time. Clearly, if you’re going to eat something, it needs to be warm and filling yet easy on the waistline.

Remember all those conflicting interests? Readers, I gotcha covered this time.

 

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First, Thai pesto.

Despite living in a small southern city with only one Asian grocery store (and yes, of course it’s called the ‘China Market’), Thai basil is still obtainable. We know to ask the cashier for fresh herbs from the cooler in back. $3.00 for a bunch the size of an entire basil plant? Rock on.

But even after making vegetarian pho, we still had most of a bale of Thai basil left over, and some rapidly wilting cilantro. After toying with the idea of freezing it in sesame oil, I had a lightbulb moment. What do you do with an oversupply of basil? You make pesto, of course.

 

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I patted myself on the back and felt like a genius for a split second. Thai pesto. You are so clever, Amy. Then I ran a Google search. Oh. Looks like lots of other people are clever, too. Sigh.

 Fortunately, finding out I’m not a beautiful, unique snowflake is nothing new. Long story short, I am the poster child for “gifted” kids who grow up and kind of suck at real life. The real world does not care that you took Honors everything. In fact, it thinks you are weird. Resist correcting everyone’s grammar if you want to survive.

So I remix and recycle, blurring influence with intuition. The result: Roasted Vegetable and Tofu-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes…with Thai Pesto. Decently photographed, quick to prepare, and you get killer leftovers for tomorrow’s lunchbox. Happy new year, friends. May 2015 be sweet.

 

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Thai Pesto
Yields 1
I'm as weirded out by fish sauce as the next person, but trust me, it's vital to this recipe for both saltiness and an umami flavor. If you really can't find any or don't want to use it, sub an equal measure of wheat-free tamari.
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1.5 ounces (2 cups, packed) Thai Basil
  2. Handful of cilantro leaves
  3. 2 Tablespoons peanuts
  4. 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  5. 1 1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce
  6. 4 teaspoons lime juice
  7. 1 clove garlic, minced
  8. 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  9. 4 Tablespoons sesame oil
Instructions
  1. Chop peanuts in food processor. Add all remaining ingredients except sesame oil and blend, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula. With the motor running, pour sesame oil in a thin stream down feed tube. Blend until smooth.
  2. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.
Adapted from from Vintage Mixer
Wooden Spoon Baking http://www.woodenspoonbaking.com/
Roasted Vegetable and Tofu-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Thai Pesto
To shortcut the sweet potatoes' cooking time, use your microwave's baked potato setting. I set it for two potatoes and put in four, then move them to the oven after the microwave cycle is finished.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 recipe Thai pesto, above
  2. 4-5 sweet potatoes
  3. 1 bell pepper, sliced
  4. 1 small onion, sliced
  5. 1 package extra-firm tofu, pressed* and cut into 1/2" cubes
  6. 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  7. 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Put pepper, onion, and tofu cubes in a large mixing bowl. Pour half of the pesto and the sesame oil over everything and toss until the mixture is well-coated in the pesto.
  3. Scoop veggie mixture into prepared pan and spread evenly. Put in oven and roast 30 minutes, giving everything a good stir at the 20 minute mark. Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and toss them in the oven, too.
  4. Once veggies are done, reduce oven temperature to 350F and roast sweet potatoes an additional 10-20 minutes, depending on size. They are done when you can easily slide a paring knife all the way through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes.
  5. To serve, split a sweet potato lengthwise and mash the innards a little with a fork. Spread a generous spoonful of the pesto inside, then scoop on some of the veggie-tofu mixture. Top with chopped peanuts and serve.
Notes
  1. *If you buy water-packed tofu, you will need to press it before use. Remove from the package and place in the bottom of a colander. Place a plate on top and weight with a few cans of vegetables or a bag of rice. Ideally, allow tofu to drain for an hour before use, or at least 30 minutes.
Wooden Spoon Baking http://www.woodenspoonbaking.com/