Category: Noodles

Just Good Food

March 30, 2010

Some days I have a story and some days I just need to tell you about a dish that is super yummy and maybe a little unusual.  This is one of those days.

I am no expert but from what I can gather, fideo is the Spanish word for noodle.  In this dish, very thin noodles are sautéed in oil until they brown, then a smoky tomato sauce is poured over top.  The noodles then cook in the sauce until soft and until they brown on the bottom.  Throw some pasilla chiles in the mix and top the whole thing with sour cream, avocado, and pickled onions and you will probably just want to call it “yum”.

The recipe suggests making this in a cast iron skillet or a non-stick pan.  My cast iron skillet was too big for this job and my non-stick pan was too small.  I made it in a Le Crueset dutch oven, but I had to mix it more than I wanted to so that it wouldn’t stick until the end of time.  Next time, I am going to double it and just make it in my cast iron skillet (and improvise some kind of lid) because my husband could probably eat ¾ of the dish by himself and I want me some of that crust.  And leftovers would certainly be nice.

One Year Ago:  Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable Salad

Fideos with Pasilla Chiles, Avocado, and Crema

Adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
Serves 3-4

The chiles will make this dish delightfully spicy – just a warning.  The original recipe calls for parsley instead of cilantro so feel free to use that if you don’t like cilantro.

3 dried pasilla, New Mexican, or guajillo chiles
4 plump garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 15-oz. can Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
½ pound short, skinny egg noodles (like spaghetti or noodle nests)
3 cilantro sprigs, plus ½ a cup chopped cilantro leaves
½ cup Mexican crema, crème fraîche, or sour cream
3 ounces feta cheese or queso fresco
1 avocado, peeled and sliced, for garnish
Pickled onions for garnish (recipe follows)

1.  Cover the dried chiles with hot water and set them aside to soften while you make the tomato sauce.  When soft, tear or cut the flesh into strips.  Discard the seeds.

2.  Moisten the unpeeled garlic cloves with a little of the oil, then cook them in a small skillet over medium-low heat, occasionally sliding the cloves around the pan, until the skins are toasted and the cloves are soft, 10 to 15 minutes.  Allow to cool, then squeeze the garlic from the skins into a blender and add the canned tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of salt, the shallot and ½ cup of water.  Purée.

3.  Heat the remaining oil in a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Break the noodles into pieces about 1½ inches in length.  Add the noodles to the oil and stir them around until they’re lightly browned, then add the tomato sauce and cilantro sprigs.  Add all but a few of the torn chiles, then even out the contents, and adjust the heat to a simmer.  Cover the pan and cook until the noodles are soft, 15 minutes or so.  Season with pepper.

4.  Loosen the cream with a fork, then drizzle it over the surface of the finished dish.  Crumble the cheese over the cream, scatter on the remaining chile pieces, and slice the avocado all over.  Add a little chopped cilantro and some pickled onions and serve, being sure to scrap up all that delectable crust that lurks on the bottom of the pan.

Pickled Onions

1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
Sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
Apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar

Toss the onion rounds with a pinch of salt and the sugar.  Put them in a bow with vinegar to cover; they’ll turn bright pink in about 15 minutes.  They will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator.



Vegetarian, Healthy, Not Spa Food

January 22, 2010

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When people ask me what kind of food I cook, the first thing I say is “vegetarian”.  Then I usually say something like, “I make healthy food but not spa food.”  What does that mean exactly?  I think I mean that yes, the food I cook is healthy in that I use a lot of vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins.  I cook with a minimum of oil.  I make a salad almost every night.  But my food can also be hearty (see: lasagne) and have more cheese than anything you would ever see in a spa.  If I’m going to make enchiladas, I do soften the tortillas in oil – I just don’t make them very often.

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I think this dish kind of sums it up.  If you are a meat and potatoes person, this soba noodle dish might look like spa food to you – there is tofu in there after all.  But the fact that you brown the tofu in oil and that you add sesame oil as a flavor enhancer might get you kicked out of a spa.  I don’t know for sure – I don’t frequent spas, although I would like to.  So in a nutshell, “healthy food with lots of flavor and mostly good for you”.  How does that sound?

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Soba Noodles Previously on Dana Treat: Soba Noodles with Bok Choy, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Ginger
One Year Ago: Lemon Bars

Soba Noodles with Vegetables, Crispy Tofu, and Toasted Sesame Seeds
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 4

8 oz. package soba noodles
1 Asian or Bosc pear
Vegetable oil
12 oz. package extra firm tofu, patted dry, cut into ½-inch cubes
4 carrots, cut into 1½-by ¼ inch sticks
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced thin
4 scallions, sliced thin
2 tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. Tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted lightly

In a large pot, bring salted water to boil for noodles.

Peel and cut pear into matchstick pieces.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil over moderately high heat.  Brown tofu on all sides, working in batches if necessary.  Transfer tofu to paper towels to drain and season with salt and pepper.

Add carrots to skillet and sauté, stirring, until just tender and start to brown.  Transfer carrots to a bowl.  Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet and then add mushrooms, scallions, ginger, and pear and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until vegetables are tender.  Remove skillet from heat and add carrots.

Cook noodles in water until al dente.  Drain noodles in colander and immediately rinse with cold water.  Leaving them in the colander, toss the noodles with 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil.

Return skillet to moderate heat and add ¼ cup water, tamari or soy sauce, vinegar, and remaining teaspoon sesame oil.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring, until hot.  Add noodles, tossing to combine and adding more water if necessary, and cook until heated through.  Season noodles with salt and pepper and serve warm topped with tofu and sesame seeds.



Asian Coconut Noodle Soup

October 2, 2009

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Sometime in my past, early childhood, I fell in love with noodle soup.  It was Campbell’s of course because that’s what noodle soup was in the suburbs in the 1970′s.  My mom would make me a bowl and I would eat it very carefully: broth first, then chicken, then the beloved noodles.  I thought it was the most delicious thing in the world.

Then I discovered Top Ramen.  More noodles and none of that pesky chicken!  (I never liked meat, even as a child.)  It was the first thing I ever made for myself and I would make it as often as my mom would let me.  I ate Top Ramen and Cup of Noodles into my early 20′s when I realized how unhealthy and fattening those two products are.  There was a noodle soup lull in my life until I met Randy who introduced me to pho.

Pho is a Vietnamese soup that uses rice noodles and various cuts of meat.  In the Northwest, most places will have vegetarian option made with tofu and often various vegetables.  Pho is the only food that Randy introduced me to rather than vice versa and I am eternally grateful.  A bowl of pho comes to your table relatively plain.  It is up to you to flavor it up with lime, chiles, cilantro, Thai basil, bean sprouts, Sriacha, and other types of hot sauce which are usually provided for you.

I have tried without success to make my own pho at home – I just can’t get the flavor of the broth right.  I have a terrible sneaking suspicion that the broth at my local joint isn’t actually vegetarian in which case {plugs ears with fingers} la la la!  I can’t hear you!

Ahem.  Anyway, just because I can’t master pho doesn’t mean I don’t make noodle soups.  I make lots of them actually and this is a favorite.  Sweet potato may seem like an unlikely ingredient in an Asian soup but it’s sweetness and texture is most welcome here.  The original recipe calls for a whole head of Napa cabbage which is just too much for me.  I just put in a bit and add tofu to make the soup even more filling and healthy.

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One Year Ago:  Some talk about weight and Fruit and Spice Granola

Asian Coconut-Cabbage Soup with Lemongrass
Adapted from Food and Wine
4 Servings

Ingredient notes:  Napa cabbage is the elongated one with the ruffle-y leaves.  For this soup you will want thin rice-stick noodles, the ones that are about angel hair width, not the Pad Thai noodles.  5 tablespoons does sound like a lot of soy sauce, but you will want at least that much and possibly more.

About 14 cups water
6 oz. dried rice-stick noodles
1 tbsp. peanut or canola oil
1 tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
2 stalks lemongrass – top third discarded, tough outer leaves trimmed, minced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
10 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch dice
5 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt
6 leaves Napa cabbage, thinly sliced cross-wise
1 -14oz. can “lite” coconut milk
Juice of one lime, plus lime wedges for serving
1 large bunch cilantro, tough stems discarded, tender stems and leaves chopped

1.  Bring 8 cups of water to a boil.  Remove from the heat, add the rice noodles and let soak until the noodles are softened, about 4 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

2.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the ginger and lemongrass and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the remaining 6 cups of water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the sweet potatoes, tofu, soy sauce, and crushed red pepper and season with salt.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 7-10 minutes.

3.  Add the cabbage and coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.  Stir in the lime juice and cilantro.  Add the noodles and stir until heated through.  Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with lime wedges.



Super Soba Noodles

September 28, 2009

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I’ve just returned from the most fun weekend.  Friday evening I flew down to San Francisco for BlogHer which was a food blogging conference.  There were interesting panels and highly successful panel participants but most fun for me were the terrific people.  You see people write frequently that food bloggers are the nicest group of people and, having spent the weekend with a bunch of them, I have to agree.  Open, warm, funny, generous, and interesting.  I met a few people who I hope will become true friends.  And any of them are welcome to come visit me in Seattle.

(On a side note, if you follow anyone on Twitter who was there, or you read the blog of someone who was there – yes, the food was THAT bad.  Here is a terrific account of how things went wrong and where they should have gone right.)

Speaking of friends, I cooked for a good one last week.  I have mentioned Deb here before several times.  She used to be my neighbor and now lives just a few short blocks away.  We try to get our kids together once a week at least to play since they are similar ages and they love each other.  We also love to have our happy hour wine and catch up.  Usually dinner is something really casual.  It’s a break for her because she loves to eat vegetarian but is married to a meat and potatoes guy, and it’s a break for me because I get to not cook a big meal.  Our standby is baked potatoes with toppings and a big salad but last week my mom was joining us and I had a full box of vegetables from our CSA.

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I decided to make this soba noodle dish because, well, it just called to me.  I was scrolling through the index of my much beloved Fields of Greens looking for recipes starring bok choy (yes, I got more bok choy) and of course this jumped out at me.  Asian noodle dish?  Yes please.  The three of us loved this and with a little advance prep chopping, it came together incredibly quickly.  I added tofu because I almost always do so to Asian food for the added protein.

Buckwheat Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms, Bok Choy, Ginger and Scallions
Adapted from Fields of Greens
Serves 4

1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/2 large or 2 small heads of bok choy
Salt
12 oz. soba noodles
2 tbsp. light vegetable or peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. dark sesame oil
3 tbsp. mirin (sweet cooking sake)
3 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. sesame seeds

Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Remove the mushroom stems and cut the caps into 1/2 inch thick slices.  For small heads of bok choy, slice the stem lengthwise, leaving leaf and stem together.  For a large head, slice the stems diagonally, 3/4 inch thick, and slice the leaves into 2-inch -wide ribbons.

When the water boils, add 1 tsp. salt.  Add the noodles and cook as directed on the package, about 8-10 minutes.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large saute pan; add the shiitake mushrooms and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic, ginger, chiles, and bok choy and sauté for 2 minutes.

Drain the noodles in a colander when they are just tender.  Reduce the heat under the sauté pan and add the scallion, sesame oil, mirin, and soy sauce.  Quickly add the noodles, taking care not to overcook the bok choy.  Remove from the heat, toss the noodles with the vegetables and cilantro, and season with salt to taste.   Sprinkle with sesame seeds.



Asian Noodles

May 5, 2009

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I joke sometimes that if I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, that it would be french fries.  I do so love french fries but I think a lifetime of them, even the very best ones with lots of ketchup, would get old.  But some kind of Asian noodles in some kind of Asian curry sauce with tofu with some kind of green vegetable?  That could sustain (and not bore) me.

I make a lot of dishes like this.  I have never met a Southeast Asian noodle dish I haven’t liked.  I love rice noodles, bean thread noodles, soba, somen, and Chinese egg noodles.  I love green, red, and yellow curry.  I love the combo of coconut milk, soy sauce, and curry.  I love mixing shallots, garlic, and ginger into a kind of holy trinity.  I love any excuse to eat tofu and to have it taste like something other than a sponge.

For tonight’s dinner, I had planned to make Burmese Noodles from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  As I was preparing to make the curry paste, I remembered I still had some homemade red curry paste in my refrigerator, and suddenly Burmese Noodles didn’t appeal to me.  On the facing page, was a recipe for Noodles in Thai Curry Sauce which sounded good but plain.  I decided to mix the two recipes and throw in some changes of my own.  Almost every time I make an Asian curry, whether I am using noodles or rice, I throw in some tofu.  I don’t obsess about my protein intake but when given the chance to eat tofu, in a dish where it plays so nicely with others, I take it.

One of the beautiful things about this recipe is that you can change it your heart’s delight.  Use a different kind of noodle, use a different green vegetable, omit the tofu, substitute Thai basil for the cilantro if you are a cilantro hater.  By all means, use a commercial curry paste – there are some good ones out there.  Below you will find how I adapted it.  Although I make dishes like this often, these noodles were one of my better creations.

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Here are 2 low fat notes.  This kind of dish can actually be kind of unhealthy.  Two ways that I try to combat that are by using low-fat coconut milk, and by not deep frying the tofu.  Last night I sprayed a hot non-stick skillet with non-stick spray and fried the tofu that way.  You want a bit of a crust on it.  You can also get that by shallow-frying it in bit of flavorless oil (like canola).

Noodles in Thai Curry Sauce with Tofu
Inspired by Deborah Madison
Serves 3-4

Since I was using my own curry paste (which is less spicy than store-bought), I added the full 3 tablespoons.  If you are worried about spice, add just 1 to begin and more to taste if necessary.

8 ounces dried Chinese egg noodles (linguine can do in a pinch)
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, pressed dry and cut into 1 inch pieces
Canola oil
2 large shallots, thinly sliced into rings
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 15-oz. can unsweetened lowfat coconut milk
1-3 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 handful snow peas, strings removed
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 scallions, thinly sliced into rounds
3 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Cook noodles in pletny of boiling water until tender, about 4 minutes for the Chinese egg noodles and slightly longer for linguine.  Drain and rinse well to stop the cooking and to keep them from sticking together.  Set aside.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray and add the tofu.  Cook on each side, flipping as the tofu turns slightly brown.  Pour out onto a paper lined plate and set aside.

Heat a wok or a skillet over medium-high heat.  Pour in just enough canola oil to coat the bottom and add the shallots.  Cook until starting to brown, about 4 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the coconut milk, curry paste, and soy sauce and stir to break up the paste.  Add the snow peas and green peas.  Lower heat to medium-low and cook until the snow peas start to become tender, 3-4 minutes.  Add the noodles and tofu and stir well.  Add the scallions and cilantro and give it another good stir.  Allow to cook for 2 minutes to blend flavors.



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