The sun has returned from its lengthy vacation, making things considerably more cheerful here in Davis. While I still catch myself daydreaming about sandy beaches and turquoise waters in class, I am also reminded of the many charms of Davis in winter- like the somber beauty of rain-soaked olive trees under a gray sky, and the millions of creative ways in which people wear scarves.  Now that the sun is actually sticking around past 5 pm, it's starting to feel like spring isn't so far away.

    This noodle stir-fry is fresh and peppy, kind of like this song I've had stuck in my head all week... With lemon juice, mint, and zucchini, it is not the least bit an authentic Chinese dish. Still, it makes the tastebuds happy. Consider it a tribute to sunshine and an invitation for spring to come.

*serves 2

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 oz extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 carrot, julienned
1 zucchini, julienned
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1  7-oz pack of precooked yakisoba noodles
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp shredded fresh mint

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over high heat until it spreads to coat the pan. While the oil heats, cover the sides of the tofu cubes with a light coating of cornstarch. Add the tofu to the hot oil, and cook, turning, until it is lightly browned on all sides. Turn the heat down to meduim, and add the ginger, bell pepper, and carrots. Cook until the vegetables have softened. Combine the soy sauce, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper in a separate bowl, then add to the tofu and vegetables. Puncture the inner pack of noodles and microwave for 1 minute to loosen them, then add the noodles to the skillet with the water. Cook, stirring, until the noodles are hot and most of the sauce has evaporated. Serve immediately with fresh mint.