Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Thai Cabbage Salad and why I love bowls...


I love bowls.  Particularly hand thrown pottery. It has a soft, sturdy, personal feel.  
Bowls are the obvious and reliable vessel for soup, porridge, stew, curry.  But they can also feel smart and out of the ordinary for a large square of lasagna, or a piece of chocolate cake- with or without ice cream.   

To me, eating a salad on a plate feels frustrating and unwieldy.  There's bound to be some cabbage or a stray scallion on the floor if you attempt it.  But put that same heap of salad in a good sized bowl and the leaves will never topple overboard.  The sides of the bowl help you maneuver every last bit. The food feels cherished when eaten from a bowl.  As well  it should.

Thai Cabbage Salad
from Marlena Spieler's Hot and Spicy Cookbook 1985

I recommend serving immediately once the salad is dressed to avoid a soggy salad.  If you want to prepare the vegetables in advance simply wait to add the dressing.  Spicy, crunchy, fresh and summery. 

Serves 4 to 6

1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used peanut)
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 to 2 tablespoons red salsa or 1 teaspoon chile-garlic paste
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced
1 head green cabbage, shredded or very thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 carrot, shredded
1 cup dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
5 green onions, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper for garnish

1. Combine oil, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, cilantro salsa, garlic and chiles.
2. Pour the mixture over the cabbage, cucumber, and carrot. 
3. Toss with chopped peanuts, green onions and garnish with red bell peppers.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cold Sesame (Garlicky) Noodles


For almost a year, since the birth of my second son, I've been cooking for the lowest common denominator, meaning my three year old.  My husband and I reach for the hot sauce to make things more suitable to our palate. I'm not talking chicken nuggets and fries here...I pack as many vegetables into the food processor as I can, sauté, add coconut milk or tomatoes, simmer with some fish- you get the idea.  Roman will generally accept this type of preparation over rice or pasta, and I feel like it's a healthy enough way to ensure he's getting nutrients without forcing foods on him.  But lately I would like to regain a bit of my adult identity and I've started to think about the foods that can help me do that.
It's funny to think about being able to eat whatever I want, do whatever I want, wear what I please again. Everything has become tailored to my marathon days of schlepping two kids around the city. From park to park, then home again, we eat a lot of pb&j's, pizza, hummus and cucumber, muffins, things that are easy to tote around. So when I thought about making these cold sesame noodles, Roman (almost 4) was not who I had in mind to be the consumer. However, when there is pasta involved, he perked right up with interest and before I knew it he was reaching for his own bowl-- teaching me that the more chances I give him to like something out of his comfort zone, the more he might surprise me. Because parenting is, after all, full of surprises.

There are those dishes that tempt a brave palate.  If you value the taste experience and don't mind the way raw garlic tends to linger, this is a dish you are likely to enjoy.  
Fresh garlic stirred into silky sesame noodles, chilled for a delightful summer meal.  
Eat it with people you love and you won't have to be concerned about the aftermath of the raw garlic.  

Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce
A recipe my mom used to make, with the addition of red bell pepper because it's still hard for me to think about eating something without a vegetable.
1 lb. linguine or spaghetti
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup sesame paste
3 tablespoons brewed tea or water
2 tablespoon chili oil (optional but recommended!)
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt to taste
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 red bell pepper, diced (optional)
Sliced scallions and cilantro for garnish
1 tablespoon sesame seeds for garnish

 Boil six cups of water and cook the noodles until tender. Drain and run cold water over them to chill them. Sprinkle with the teaspoon of sesame oil. To make the sauce, place the sesame paste in a bowl and add the tea or water, stirring with chopsticks or a fork. Stir in the remaining ingredients and the 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Toss the noodles in the sauce and red bell pepper, if using. Serve cold, garnished with fresh scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds.

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