Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fried Eggplant with roasted vegetables, goat cheese and strawberries

If only you could eat pictures.....

This dish is a play on what I did last week, because I couldn't stop thinking about how delectable it was. Anytime I find a flavor combo I enjoy that much, I want to try and see if I can improve on it. Making a dish healthier is obviously a goal of mine, so I wanted to replace the bread with a food containing more nutritional value. Whole wheat bread is great, but I never need more bread in my diet, I get PLENTY of that. 

This time I used eggplants and the outcome was extraordinary. The fried eggplants were tender, yet crunchy with the breading. Fried eggplant made a perfect base for this dish, and stepped up the dish in presentation. I think you could serve this to your meat eating friends and they would enjoy as much as any meat dish. The colors and layers look elegant, yet still fun and easy to eat. The combination of goat cheese, vegetables, and strawberries was heavenly as usual, this may be one of my new favorite dishes. 

Again about 50 percent of the ingredients were local, I am LOVING all the access to fresh local food. Makes cooking that much more fun and friendly to our sweet worn out environment. 

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! 

To Dry an eggplant: Slice into 1/2 inch disks and place on a plate with paper towels. Place a pinch of salt on each slice and rub in on both sides. Place a paper towel over the salted eggplants and let drain for at least 20 minutes or up to 40 minutes. Remove salt from eggplants before cooking. 
Fried Eggplant with roasted vegetables, goat cheese and strawberries

The Goods: Serves 2-3 as main dish

Fried Eggplant:
1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch slices, dried(see note above)
1 large egg
1/2 cup white unbleached flour
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2-3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Salt and Pepper

1 quart strawberries, sliced
8 ounces rosemary and fig goat cheese
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 medium zucchinis, sliced into 1/2 inch coins
1-2 tablespoons Greek Vinegrette dressing
Salt and Pepper

The Deal: 
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl combine onions, zucchini and 1 tablespoon of greek dressing. Make sure to evenly coat all the vegetables, add more dressing if needed. Set bowl aside.

2. Combine the flour and a good pinch of pepper on one plate. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish with a dash of water. Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper in a third dish.
Your breading an eggplant station
3. Coat each slice of eggplant with flour and dip into the eggs. Remove the eggplant from the eggs, letting any excess drip off, and then coat evenly with breadcrumbs, pressing the breadcrumbs to adhere. Place on a large plate until all eggplant slices are coated.
Coat in flour
Excess dripping off

Breaded, ready to fry!
4. Place zucchini and onions on large baking sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes, turning twice during cooking time to ensure even browning. Remove once onions and zucchinis are lightly browned and fork slides in easily.

5. While the vegetables are cooking, place a large saute pan on medium-high heat with a tablespoon of grapeseed oil. Once water sizzles on the pan, fry 2-3 slices of eggplants at a time, being sure they do not touch in the pan. Fry for about 3 minutes, then flip to cook other side. Remove when breadcrumbs are slightly browned and fork slides easily in eggplant. Fry the remaining eggplants, adding additional grapeseed oil as needed. 

6. To plate your dish, place fried eggplant, a large dollop of goat cheese, your roasted vegetables, then a few slices of strawberries. Serve warm.
Such lovely spring colors! 

Summer Picnics

My strawberry obsession continues
Yesterday was perfect. For a planner/constant to do list person such as myself sometimes its hard for me to make time for relaxing.
No table? Use a log!
Don't get me wrong I can sit around with the best of them, but often I fill my weekends which so many "TO DO's", that by Sunday night I realize I for got to relax. Accomplishment is fantastic, but so is finding joy in the nature, and playing in rivers.
So yesterday began with my favorite Saturday morning ritual, going to the Farmers Market, then I spent the afternoon playing at Sliding Rock, followed by an early evening potluck. My evening was filled with silly card games and cuddling with healthy boyfriend. I didn't cross off one thing on my to do list, but the day was perfect and just what I needed.
Having a picnic does not mean soggy sandwiches or pre-packaged crap. An early trip to the farmers market meant a picnic with local Carolina strawberries, freshly picked green salad mix, a hearty whole wheat local bread, and as always Spinning Spider Creamery Goat cheese. Boy oh boy what a picnic we had. Eating local food, surrounded by the gentle flowing river, blue butterflies floating by, and shady trees keeping the hot day bearable.
The river water was ice cold, not yet warmed by the eventual summer heat July will bring.
Go spend some time outside, it does you a WORLD of good. Today Im back in accomplishing mode, but I can still hear the birds chirping to each other and feel bone cold water shocking my system with joy.
Cut your bread into bite size pieces for easy snacking

Egg Salad with Radishes, Purple Scallions, and Dill

Purple Scallions, Oooooooo!
Where this new found love of egg salad has come from I do not know, but about every two months I get a hankering for some homemade egg salad.
I also had eggs about to expire and no inspirational ideas for lunch. I wanted to play with the basic egg salad using new fresh ingredients. Last week at the farmers market they had purple scallions, which looked delicious, and I did not notice a difference in flavor from regular scallions. The only difference was the color, and who doesn't want a little purple to jazz up a dish? Nobody thats who!
The tangy fresh homemade mayonnaise jumped this salad from good to extraordinary. The whole salad exploded with flavors, each bite was tangy, fresh, and of course egg-erific!
Dill is one of my favorite herbs, but I think any fresh herb adds to the freshness of egg salad. Use what you like, or even better use what you have in your garden!

To Hard Boil an Egg: Place 6 eggs, 1/2 tablespoon of salt and 1 quart of water in a medium saucepan on high heat. Bring to a boil, and then immeidiatly remove the pan from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile prepare a medium bowl with ice and water, creating an ice bath. Place eggs in the ice bath for 5 minutes, then remove and peel.

Egg Salad with Radishes, Purple Scallions, and Dill
A good toasted bread makes a HUGE difference
The Goods: Makes 2 cups about four sandwiches
6 Hard Boiled Eggs(See note), roughly chopped
1/4 cup Homemade Mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons Purple Scallions, thinly sliced
2-3 radishes, chopped fine
1 tablespoon Dill, minced

The Deal: 
1. Place all ingredients in a bowl except the eggs. Mix together and slowly fold the eggs in, being careful not to over mix. You want the eggs still chunky.
Keep in chunky
Serve on a good toasted wheat bread or with crackers.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Three Ways

Oh strawberries, I love YOU more!
Chocolate and Strawberries, OH the places you can go with those two ingredients. As yall may have noticed, its strawberry season here in NC, so I am eating them by the pint and trying to incorporate them into as many dishes as possible. Im may be part strawberry now, I cannot stop eating them.

I had a dear friend for dinner and wanted to make something fancy, but not time consuming. I also needed to use the oven for the other dishes, so I ruled out a pie or cobbler for space reasons. With a hot appetizer and entree, I wanted something cool and refreshing to finish the meal with. Yes indeedy, I made a three course meal for my friend, I treat my hommies RIGHT.

During my nightly reading of my new cooking bible, "America's Best Test Kitchen: Family Style" I spotted chocolate covered strawberries and instantly realized I found my dessert.
Who knew something so elegant was so simple. Sure it takes some time, especially if you want to make ones drizzled in white chocolate, but who cannot put aside an hour to make a delicious fancy treat? Its worth every minute. Actual kitchen time is only about 10-15 minutes, then you just pop them in the fridge and let them chill out until ready to serve.
Is your mouth watering? Mine still is from eating this gems! 
I wanted to jazz them up a  bit so I made three different types, trying to see which one I preferred for future strawberry dipping occasions. Im hoping these occasions will be frequent and include champagne.
Not surprisingly my favorite was chocolate covered with white chocolate drizzle. They also happen to look the nicest, which a great plus. It did take a few tries to get the drizzle right, the first batch looked like white chocolate vomit, or as if I was trying to recreate a Pollock painting with white chocolate. But I added some grapeseed oil, got it a bit drippier and you can see for yourself, they look pretty good for homemade!

Its crucial you use a high quality bittersweet chocolate, you cannot use chocolate chips. Chocolate chips have additives that change the way the chocolate melts, so buying bars is the way to go. I used Ghiradelli 70% cocoa bittersweet chocolate baking bar and it was heavenly. Ghiradelli in general is a great brand, just make sure it has at least 60% cocoa. Same thing goes for the white chocolate, don't buy chips and try to get a higher quality white chocolate. I used toberlone white chocolate, which worked great.

Get ready to impress your friends and family, dip it up yall!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries: Three Ways

The Goods:
8 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 quart strawberries, rinsed and dried
(See below for variations)

The Deal:
1. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Microwave the chocolate, whisking often, until melted and smooth, 1 to 3 minutes.
roughly chop chocolate and melt, whisking often
2. Dip the fruit into the chocolate and transfer to the baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator until the strawberries cool completely, at least 30 minutes.
Just dipped, ready to chill out
These can be dipped up to 8 hours ahead of time and refrigerated. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Chocolate-covered strawberries with Candied Ginger: 
Mince two tablespoons of candied ginger. When dipping your strawberries in chocolate, roll the chocolate dipped strawberry in candied ginger before refrigerating them.

Chocolate-covered strawberries drizzled with White Chocolate:
Do not use white chocolate chips, use a high quality bar for better melting.
Microwave 3 ounces of white chocolate, whisking often, until melted and smooth, 1 to 3 minutes. If the white chocolate seems to stiff, stir in dash of vegetable oil, to try and loosen in. Using a spoon drizzle the white chocolate over the already hardened chocolate strawberries in lines. Refrigerate until the white chocolate hardens, another 20 minutes or so.
Looks good, taste good, DAMN IM GOOD.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce

I am making a particularly delicious appetizer tonight and needed some simple dipping sauces to go along with them, just in case.

Talk about simple, the ingredients are in the title. To make honey mustard sauce, grab honey, mustard mix together and rejoice at your homemade dipping sauce. 
Old Style, just like me
"Hey its a local honey",  I hear that ALL the time :)
I used whole grain mustard because that's what I had in the fridge. I wasn't going to open another jar of mustard, but I think the plain dijon would have been better. Mine was good but grainy, obviously
This would be great dipping for tofu sticks, french fries, anything fried and yummy. Also great for sandwiches, this stuff keeps for a week, make it on Sunday and have a week of delight!

Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce

The Goods: makes 1 cup
1/2 cup dijon mustard
6 tablespoons honey
Salt and Pepper

The Deal: 
1. Mix the mustard and honey together until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste. 

This sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week.

Homemade Mayonnaise

a fat homemade masterpiece
I am SICK of store mayonnaise. The real stuff is full of chemicals, the lite mayo is full of even more chemicals and taste like dirty feet, and DONT even get me started on miracle whip. I would rather lick a foot than eat that stuff. Clearly I have a thing about feet and mayonnaise, not sure what thats all about.

This week I was having a serious craving for egg salad, the only problem being what mayo to use. Then I had a (ridiculously obvious) epiphany. I can make my own mayo! I literally had this thought in bed last night and got out of bed to grab my "America's Best Test Kitchen" cookbook to look up the recipe.
With a food processor, making your own mayo couldn't be more easy! It took 10 minutes tops, and thats will squeezing the lemons. Making it by hand can be tricker, there's more risk of it separating instead of emulsifying. Its possible, you just have to whisk like your life depends on it.
I urge you to try this, especially if you are making a dish where the mayonnaise is a key ingredient. I can't believe how delicious it is. My egg salad(recipe coming soon) was extra delicious, and I know the spicy mayo dip I make tonight is going to be fantastic.
So make your own mayo, you will feel so cool. Or at least I do.

Homemade Mayonnaise

The Goods: Makes 3/4 cup
2 egg yolks
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup corn or vegetable oil(any flavorless oil)
Salt and pepper

The Deal: 
1. Process the egg yolks, lemon juice and sugar in a food processor until combined, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, slowly pour the oil through a feed tube in a slow steady stream, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a ruber spatula and process 5 seconds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
I added garlic, but just follow the recipe above
This can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 3 days. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Radish, Endive, and Carrot Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing

Mix together and be happy.
Back at salads again, and this time Im using new vegetables! Since starting this blog, I feel like a food detective in the supermarket. Before when I would see something in the produce section that looked unfamiliar and I would ignore it, knowing I would never try it. Now I see something new and grab it so I can go home and look up fun recipes for my new mystery vegetable.
Endives and Radishes are vegetables I've been meaning to try for a while, and I finally bought them both.

Inspiration for this salad dressing combo came from "The America's Best Test Kitchen: Family Style" cookbook. I was trying to play on a asian style theme, while still using easy/cheap vegetables. The spiced croutons were amazing, I had to stop myself from eating them all before they made it to the salad. It happens. The recipe for the croutons is in a different post, but please DO not ruin another salad with prepackaged 'tons. They taste like cardboard covered in garlic.

The dressing was fresh and delicious. You can use bottled OJ if you must, but fresh juice makes a huge difference. The orange juice is such a key element in creating the flavor of the dressing, buy an orange and squeeze it. Its cheaper than buying OJ! For the oil, I used vegetable, but you can use canola or grapeseed, you just want a flavorless oil that doesn't overpower the dressing. Also white wine vinegar is fine to use if you do not have red. The acidity from the vinegar is more important than if its red or white.  I can't stress the difference homemade dressing makes, and the simplicity. Making your own dressing takes less time than opening a store bought one, fo real people, DO IT!

With all the fresh vegetables at the farmers market I hope to making a lot more salads and fresh dressings, so stay tuned! Salad up people, bunny style!

Radish, Endive, and Carrot Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing

The Goods: serves 4-6

Jar O Dressing! 
2-3 endives, leaves removed, sliced into bite sized squares
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
8-9 small radishes, halved and sliced thin
1 large head of boston or romaine lettuce, chopped
1/3 cup sliced almonds(optional)
Spiced Croutons, click her for recipe: Spiced Croutons

Orange Sesame Dressing:
4 teaspoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup vegetable oil (Grapeseed and canola are fine)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt

The Deal:
1. Toast sesame seeds in a small saute pan on medium heat until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Once toasted place sesame seeds and all other ingredients for the dressing in a jar with a air tight lid and shake vigoriously.

2. Place all salad ingredients into large bowl, except croutons. Toss the salad with the dressing, adding the croutons last to avoid soggy croutons. Serve it up!

The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 3-4 days, bring it to room temperature before reusing.

Spiced Croutons

You can almost never go wrong with bread. Take bread and cook it in oil and spices and I dare you to find an unhappy eater at the table. If you do find one, kick that person out, they are clearly insane :)
Close family friends introduced me to homemade croutons a few years ago and I have never looked back. Imagining looking back at store bought croutons is a funny image.
People think croutons are just for salad, but oh NO, they are so much more. They are great additions to soup, especially the homemade variety. Also homemade crouton+a good piece of cheese+ a good piece of fruit x a toothpick = delicious surprising appetizer.

I will try to make a variety of croutons, I already posted my garlic crouton, to see that recipe click here: Garlic Croutons

So easy to make, its a great way to impress guest. A good hard top bread is best, sourdough croutons are unbelievable, but the crusty fresh baked french bread in the bakery at the supermarket is cheap and works great as well.
Again, TRY not to eat them all before they reach the salad. This has happened to someone I know very well. *cough* me clearly *cough*.

Spiced Croutons

The Goods: Makes four cups
1 loaf(about four cups) of hard top bread, sliced into 1/2 cubes
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne

The Deal:
1. Place oil and all the spices in a small bowl and whisk until blended. Pour spiced oil in a large 12 inch saute pan on medium heat. Place bread into the pan and coat with the spiced oil. Saute, stirring occasionally to ensure even browning until the bread is lightly browned and crunchy about 10 minutes.

Serve immediately or store in a airtight container for up to 48 hours. They really are best fresh, so eat them promptly if possible!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Roasted Vegetables with Goat Cheese and Strawberries

Your mouth will thank you
Spring is a magical time for so many reasons. Waking up to birds chirping, having several hours after work to enjoy the sweet sun, and fresh food growing right outside your door. Well technically not my door, as I have no space for a garden, but Farmers Markets are in full swing, and I am like a kid in an appropiately healthy candy store.
Local Strawberries, NOTHING better
Asheville is full of wonderful farmers markets, there is one almost every day during the summer. During the week Im working, but Saturdays from 9-1 there is a farmers market downtown that is worth getting up early for.

Vertically Challenged bread was $2 bucks off!
Now, I cannot take full credit for this dish. The farmers market was having a cooking Demo, and the head Chef from "Knife and Fork" was grilling vegetables and placing them on bread with a dollop of goat cheese and grilled strawberries. Being the great local chef he is, I asked where he got his idea, and he replied, "This morning! I looked around, saw what the farmer's had and just threw this together." Once you know about food, you can look at ingredients and make something delicious every time. Every day I learn more about flavors, and what flavors compliment each other.
I do not have a grill, sigh, but I had wanted to try baking vegetables in this local greek dressing I bought last week at the same market. A little bit of good dressing goes a LONG way. I also did not heat my strawberries, so they were room temperature, which I enjoyed more than the grilled ones. I like playing with hot and cold, especially in the summer when hot food can often just be too hot to eat. During July and August if I haven't cooked by noon, I aint gonna cook. Being in a hot kitchen in July is just miserable

Goat cheese 4 LIFE!
This dish will BLOW. YOUR. MIND. The more I learn about cooking, the more I understand the concept of "developing flavors". I've watched the Bravo show, "Top Chef" for years, and they always talk about the success of a dish as too how well the flavors develop in your mouth when you are eating it. Ingredients can be simple, or complicated, cheap or expensive, but in the end what matters is if they work well together. When you bite into something special, you taste one flavor, then another, then another, and the flavors develop in your mouth, you know someone thought about how the ingredients would work TOGETHER.

Healthy boyfriend was skeptical when I told him what we would be eating for dinner. After his first bite, he was silent; he couldn't eat it fast enough. Its so fun when someone is skeptical about a dish, makes the enjoyment that much sweeter. Food surprises are the best!

What's incredible about this recipe is each ingredient tastes fresh and unique, but also as a whole each flavor adds to the dish.
The ingredients may sound odd, but this is one of the best dishes Ive ever eaten. Not only does it play with sweet and savory, it plays with temperature and texture. This dish is a playground of flavor, the fun just never stops!
I could drink this stuff

Best of all I used about 75% local ingredients which is so exciting! Local organic strawberries, Farm and Sparrow seeded bread, Spinning Spider Creamery Goat Cheese, and Papou's Greek Dressing from a woman who makes local greek food. If you are in the Asheville area, this is about as good as it gets. Though I encourage any of you to find your local farmers market and make it your beeswax to go. Not only is it the most environmentally friendly food you can eat, it also taste the best! Fresh picked food does not even compare to grocery store food. Fresh strawberries taste nothing like the ones you buy in the grocery store; the first time I had a local strawberry I was in shock. It was like I'd never had a real strawberry before. You should have a rough plan of how to make the food you buy at the farmer's market, fresh food goes bad quickly because its not filled with chemicals. Talk to the farmers you buy the food from, often they have simple delicious recipes and are happy to share them with you. As you see, I got all my ideas from the farmers, by the end of the summer who knows how much Ill learn!

This dish is as flexible as a olympic gymnast, use a different kind of goat cheese, a different type of fruit, depending on where you live, your local farmers will have different ingredients. Also I just asked healthy boyfriend to pick up some type of squash and onion. Yellow squash, acorn squash, eggplant, purple onion, any and all would be great roasted vegetables. Play with your food people!

Roasted Vegetables with Goat Cheese and Strawberries

The Goods: Serves 4-6 as a meal, 10-12 as an appetizer
1 loaf hard top bakery whole wheat bread, sliced into 2 inch rectangles(see picture below)
1 quart strawberries, sliced
8 ounces rosemary and fig goat cheese
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 medium zucchinis, sliced into 1/2 inch coins
2-3 tablespoons Greek Vinegrette dressing

The Deal: 
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl combine onions, zucchini and greek dressing. Make sure to evenly coat all the vegetables, add more dressing if needed. Place vegetables on large baking sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes, turning twice during cooking time to ensure even browning. Remove once onions and zucchinis are lightly browned and fork slides in easily.

Get good hard top bread from a local Bakery
Onions, you gonna bake up goooood
2. While your vegetables are cooking, place a decent layer of goat cheese on each bread rectangle. Once your vegetables are ready, promptly place a heaping tablespoon of vegetables on each piece of bread. Finish each bread piece with a few slices of strawberries, and serve immediately.
THATS a good Saturday night
Get ready, your mouth will never be the same.

Guacamole with Basil

A few chops away from delicious
Find a better dip than homemade guacamole with fresh ingredients and you will be a rich woman. You don't need to know jack about cooking to make a perfect guacamole. For those who want a few banging staple dishes they can make over and over and always wow a croud, this guacamole is one to keep in your pocket. Or recipe book, or secret lair, wherever people are keeping recipes these days.

Well, something went haywire on the blog site, so my this post was deleted. I am very annoyed, so for anyone who saw the first post, this is a repost and probably will not be as good because I am frustrated. Anyway please read on!

I call him "Guac Man"
A few key elements are imperative to make a guacamole wow a crowd worthy. Haas avocados are a must. No exceptions, must be Haas. I know on the outside they are the ugliest color, but inside is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.

Second, you MUST use fresh herbs and fresh lime juice. Over and over I read in cookbooks that when they say use fresh herbs or fresh juice, thats what they mean. They add a brightness in flavor that cannot be replicated, no matter what. Of course we all forget an ingredient sometimes, and dried herbs or bottled lime juice will do in a pinch, but do your best to get fresh. I will be moving in a few months and I am determined to find a place I can have a small herb garden, or even a deck where I can get some big pots and herb it up!

I made my sweet potato quesdillas with black beans and this time I used some leftover herbs I had from this guac. Boy howdy, a few basil or cilantro leaves on the quesadillas made a noticeable difference. Fresh herbs are just where its at. To see that recipe, click here:Sweet Potato Quesadillas

To properly cut an avocado, remove the pit with a knife, then make criss cross cuts creating squares with your knife and remove the squares with a spoon.

To chiffonade basil, simple gather the basil leaves in a stack, roll them tightly, then cut them into thin strips.
Roll basil leaves, looks like a caterpillar
Slice thin

Guacamole with Basil

The Goods: Makes 3 cups
3 Haas Avocados, pitted and cubed (see note)
1/2 small red onion, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1-2 tablespoon basil, chiffonade (see note)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 small jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/2 1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste

The Deal:
1. Mash 2 of the avocados until relatively smooth using a fork in a medium bowl. Fold the cubed avocado and remaining ingredients into the mashed avocado until incorporated.
Grab some chips, vegetables, or a spoon and eat YO dip!

For a spicier guacamole, add a few seeds from your jalapeno with the other ingredients. The seed and stem are the spiciest, so use with caution.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cold Sesame Noodles

The elusive perfect pasta salad. It's become so rare for me to enjoy pasta salad, I started avoiding them at potlucks. There are either full of mayo, or the vegetables are overcooked and under flavored. There was one cold asian style noodle salad Trader Joes sells in its fresh section that drove me wild. Im talking had dreams about this salad. Living in Asheville is a gift, except of our lack of Traders Joes. Oh Traders, how I miss you. This one was not like the Traders one, it was tasty, but still not exactly what I wanted. You elude me again perfect pasta salad!

Don't get me wrong, this was great, but when you are seeking a particular flavor, nothing else will do.

Next time I will add more vegetables and less pasta. Of course I "forgot" the red pepper, aka I still dont vibe with red peppers and dont add them to things. Walking into a kitchen when peppers are cooking makes my mouth water, I want to eat them, but then I do and regret it. Someday red/green peppers...someday.
 I think next time Ill use a different type of noodle. Chunky peanut butter was recommended but I had creamy so thats what I used. Always follow ingredients, but be careful when buying food that could go to waste. If you don't eat crunchy butter, don't buy it. 
I made them Sunday night, tasted them and had them again for Monday lunch. Sadly they were tastier Sunday night, but by no means gross on Monday. I ate them again today, and they were still tasty. I made enough for the week, so Ill see how long it holds. This would be a fantastic dish for a potluck, especially in the summer, because it whips up quick and the ingredients are cheap.

Sesame Seeds are healthy too, full of copper, magnesium, and calcium. Also the phrase "open sesame" comes from sesame seeds. When sesame seed pod reaches maturity they burst open, hence open sesame. I tell ya, the things you learn online. I knew there must be a reason they are on so many asian dishes. You can read all about them here: Sesame Seeds

I found this recipe in America's Best Test Kitchen: Family Cookbook, a cookbook I think every person should have. It has every basic recipe you would need, plus information on everything from the best olive oil, to how cook every bean, to a list of every type of cheese and what it goes well with. I've been missing sleep just to read this wonderful book, I would say its a "must have".
Do not let the ingredient list scare you, a lot of components are things you probably have around the house. Specifically the kitchen, hopefully you dont keep peanut butter in your bathroom, though to each his/her own.
Noodle note: Chinese eggs noodles may not be in your pantry, they sadly arent in mine, so use what you have on hand. I only buy whole wheat noodles these days, its good habit to get into. I used angel hair, but think rotini, spaghetti, or farfelle would all be great.
Cold Sesame Noodles
Crap picture, I promise the taste is better
The Goods: Serves 4-6
5 tablespoons sesame seeds
5 tablespoons soy sauce or Braggs Liquid Amino Acids
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound fresh chinese noodles(see note)
4 scallions, sliced thin
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin

The Deal: 
1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds. Puree the remaining 4 tablespoons sesame seeds with soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic, and Tabasco in a food processor (or blender) until smooth, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream. You may not need all the water, the texture is key. 
Creamy and healthy. Yes!
2. Cook the noodles as directed until tender. Drain and rinse the noodles under cold water until cool. Shake out excess water and transfer to a large bowl. Add the scallions, carrots, red pepper, and sesame sauce and toss to combine. Serve on a platter, or divide into bowls and sprinkle with reserved sesame seeds.