cold noodles with sesame sauce

I’m sure by now it doesn’t really come as a surprise that I get hooked to one ingredient and go on to prepare it in multiple ways for weeks on end. Remember those chickpeas I was crazy about? Yes well, I’ve found a new obsession. Tahini. I guess this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise either – chickpeas and tahini are well acquainted after all. As most of my food obsessions, it begins unassumingly, I never expect it and before I can control the situation, I’ve already purchased an excessive quantity of it. Fortunately though because of tahini’s rich taste and texture I maintained my sanity. I couldn’t overindulge. The long shelf-life also helped!
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I ate tahini with carrots, in salads, and on sandwiches and while this was all well and good, I wanted more. I wanted fireworks. Tahini has a great flavor on it’s own, but I didn’t want it to be the only flavor, the only texture. I wanted it paired with something that would compliment it’s texture, play off of it’s flavors, really make it sing.

I found what I was looking for in a Mark Bittman recipe for cold noodles with sesame sauce. With some ever so slight modifications this recipe has become a favorite. Though his recipe suggests you can make this with peanut butter, I have decided I am not a peanut-butter-in-my-noodles kind of person. I’ve tried it and, and in the end, it still tastes like peanut butter and noodles. I think tahini makes a far better accompaniment to Asian noodles.

Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce

1 block of tofu cubed
Salt
12 ounces Chinese egg noodles or long pasta, like linguine
2 tbsp dark sesame oil
½ cup tahini
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp rice vnegar
Hot sesame oil or Tabasco sauce to taste
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
chopped fresh scallion for garnish

Cut tofu into 1 inch cubes and fry in 2 tbsp of oil until golden and crisp, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until tender. Whisk together the sesame oil, tahini, sugar, soy, ginger, vinegar, hot oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Thin the sauce with hot water until it’s about the consistency of heavy cream. When the pasta is done, drain it and run the pasta under cold water. Drain.

Toss the noodles with the sauce and tofu, salt to taste. Garnish with scallions and serve.

Recipe Notes: Though I did not do this, Bittman suggests adding shredded cucumber into the mix. This can only make things even more awesome.

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Peanut noodles with gingered vegetables and tofu

It would seem that I am craving a lot of peanut butter lately. I suppose it’s true, I have been eating peanut butter at least once a day. When I first saw this recipe, it sounded like a good idea. Lots of vegetables and tofu in a peanut sauce – its everything I love all mixed together! The day I made it, we enjoyed it. Martin had seconds. And even though I cheated a bit (I’ll get to that later) with the recipe, it was still good. The next day things changed. We ate the leftovers, and though still good. I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. It was too…dense. I suppose it is because I associate vegetables, tofu, and noodles with light, summery meals. Perhaps the thick peanut sauce was just a bit too much. Martin suggested I increase the sauce to make it creamier, but I’m worried it will be too rich. If you make it, just know it will be rich and creamy.

4-6 Servings

Recipe:

Peanut sauce:
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 garlic cloves
2/3 cup hot water
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce

Noodles & Vegetables:
2 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
3 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced, divided
8 ounces broccoli, tops cut into florets, stems peeled, cut into matchstick-size strips
1 large carrot, cut into matchstick-size strips
8 green onion, white parts cut into matchstick-size strips
1 zucchini, halved and cut into slices
8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchstick-size strips
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained, and patted dry cut into 1/2 inch cubes
12 ounces soba noodles

Peanut Sauce:

Mix peanut butter, soy sauce, and garlic in medium bowl. Whisk in 2/3 cup hot water. Add remaining ingredients and whisk to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Noodles & Vegetables:

Cook noodles in large pot boiling water until tender. Drain.

While the noodles are boiling:
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons ginger and 2 minced garlic cloves
Stir 30 seconds
Add broccoli & carrot, saute 5 minutes
Add white parts of green onions, zucchini, sugar snap peas, bell pepper and saute until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon ginger and 1 minced garlic clove, saute 30 seconds.
Add tofu and saute until golden, about 7-10 minutes.

Mix vegetables, tofu and peanut sauce, toss to coat. Garnish with green onions and peanuts.

Recipe Notes: I’m made some serious changes to this recipe. For one, I didn’t even use peanut butter, I used almond butter (we have a honey roasted peanut butter at the moment, and that would make it too sweet). Two, instead of chopping a million vegetables, I just bought a bag of frozen stirfry vegetables. I know, I majorly cheated. Of course with the frozen mixed veggies, everything cooks unevenly, the bell pepper is falling apart and the broccoli is still frozen. I’m sure this recipe is much better with fresh vegetables. And this may well be one of the reasons I was unsatisfied with it. If you don’t have soba noodles, most non-rice noodle varieties should be fine. And my last complaint about this recipe is that it required a few to many pots/pans – something to keep in mind if someone else washes your dishes!

Chicken Teriyaki and Spicy Soba Noodles

I decided to make this after coming across the recipe for chicken teriyaki and soba noodles, but I ended up changing almost everything.

My father-in-law raved about his own latest marinade of teriyaki sauce and pineapple juice. So instead of following the recipes recommended application of teriyaki sauce, salt and pepper I opted for his. 1 part teriyaki sauce to 4 parts pineapple juice. Although next time I might opt for 1 part teriyaki and 3 parts pineapple. I also ended up marinating this for 2 days, on accident, sort of, and it only added to the flavor. I was prepared to eat sweet chicken, but this was not the case! The chicken ended up being just slightly sweet with a good amount of teriyaki flavor. Next time though, I’d reduce the pineapple juice just a bit, 4 parts pineapple juice was just a tad too much.

As for the soba noodles, I boiled according to the directions on the package, drained and rinsed under cool water. In a clean pan (or wiped down) I heated olive oil, sesame oil and a few red pepper flakes. Once heated I tossed in the noodles and mixed well. I topped it off with some cilantro and crushed peanuts.

Gut reaction: simple, easy and tasty. Perfect weekday meal. The spicy noodles and sweeter chicken worked well together.

Recipe:

Chicken Teriyaki:

1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
3/4 cup pineapple juice (this is my modification)
4 chicken breast or thigh pieces

Marinate at least 1 hour and up to 24 hrs.
Grill 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked through

Soba Noodles:

1 bunch soba noodles (mine came wrapped in bundles, and 1 bundle was enough for 2 people)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
crushed peanuts
cilantro to garnish

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Whenever my in-laws visit I am always reminded of how delicious and comforting Vietnamese food can be. To be honest, I haven’t always felt this way. I remember my first experience with Vietnamese food being disappointing. I was overwhelmed by the menu, and a little concerned half the menu consisted of pork. But since I’ve started to attempt various dishes at home I’ve grown to love it. I love how fresh and clean the flavors are. Uninterrupted by heavy sauces, cream or layers of cheese. It’s just fresh and simple.

One of the first Vietnamese foods I learned to make at home were Vietnamese Spring Rolls. These are wonderfully refreshing on stifling hot summer days.

Serving size: 2-3 as an appetizer

6 rice paper wrappers
1/4 package of clear rice noodles cooked
1 shredded carrots
6  slices of cucumber
6 lettuce leaves
6 leaves of basil
1 bunch cilantro
6  Chinese chives
6 strips of chicken or shrimp (or both)

Pickled Carrot:
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Assemble one spring roll at a time. Run each rice paper wrapper under hot water until barely soft (it will continue to soften once it’s been moistened). I’ll just keep the rice paper on a plate and run the plate/rice paper under hot water for 5 seconds and then assemble the spring roll on that same plate. In the center of the wrapper place a leaf of lettuce and small amount of rice noodles into a rectangular block. Top the noodles with shredded carrots a slice of cucumber (halved or cut into thin slices) and basil, cilantro, Chinese chives and chicken. The noodles and herbs should be in a rectangular shape for easier folding. Fold in the shorter sides and then roll the long sides to create a wrap. The rice paper is a bit delicate and tends to tear.  I like to use pickled carrots, it adds an extra bit of flavor – but I’m sure they would be fine with plain carrots as well. We will eat these with nước mắm a type of dipping sauce made out of fish sauce. But peanut sauce may be better if you’re not feeling adventurous enough to brave fish sauce.

Gut Reaction: always delicious especially on hot summer days.