Friday, August 7, 2015

Flavor-packed Cold Noodle Salad - My latest at Anthology, Zippy Gazpacho with The New York Times, and a Whole Lot More

Crunchy, tangy, punchy, meaty, chewy, spicy. Yep, all that, and almost no cooking to do.

My monthly column at Anthology has been a ongoing affair for two years now (next month!) - how cool is that?!

I made this using somen noodles, shiitake mushrooms, royal burgundy beans, slivered jalapeño, cucumber, Chinese chives, pickled red bell pepper, and mint and cilantro. My choices here serve as a guideline - pictured is an array of possible elements you can incorporate. My hope is that in sharing this as a guideline, it inspires you to play. Experiment with the type of noodles, the pickled and spicy elements. Definitely swap crunchy veg variations to see which harmonize together, and what is freshest at the market. 

These are building blocks to lift-off from and have fun, using your own sensibility and really, what's beautiful when you visit the farmers market. This recipe is one of those I find myself returning to and modifying a bit each time. 

While this seriously tasty preparation takes cues from Asian flavors, this isn't explicitly from a particular culture. More, an interest to eat flavorful food that isn't expensive, and, perfect for picnics on lazy summer days. Though it isn't a saucy pasta dish by any means, don't let the apparent plainness fool you - this dish is packed with flavor.

If you have a few pantry staples - the sauces and vinegar, and pasta - you can make this virtually no-cook recipe without notice. It is a mix-and-match pull-from-what-you-have kind of thing. And the best part? This dish makes for a beautiful presentation and a really satisfying meal for whomever you serve it. 

Cold noodle salad
Serves 4-6

for the noodles
1 pkg noodles, cooked according to the directions on the label 
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp good olive oil
2 tsp fish sauce
1/2-1 tsp soy sauce
1/2-1 tsp rice wine vinegar

choose one, 2-3 tbsp, divided - finely chop whichever you choose 

Chinese chives
garlic scapes
spring onion

a few handfuls total, a mixture of two or three

green beans, royal burgundy beans, etc
kirby or Persian cucumbers
sweet bell pepper
snap peas
green papaya or mango
hakurei turnips

choose one - 1-2 cups

mushrooms (any of these is great): button, shiitake, cremini, king trumpet
poached or sautéed fish flaked into pieces, such as salmon or mackerel
poached or sautéed shredded chicken 
cubed and roasted tofu
cooked chickpeas

spicy or pickled - very thinly sliced 
choose two, 2 tbsp (unless you like spicy - then add more)

pickled shallots, onions, peppers, radishes, carrots, summer squash, ginger, cornichons, etc*
jalapeño, very thinly sliced or chopped
spicy Japanese yuzu condiment

fresh herbs for garnish
choose two - 1 small handful per serving

*Store-bought pickle variations work great in a pinch. However, if you make your own pickles, here's a delicious and fun place to incorporate them. 

Cook the pasta and drain. Transfer noodles to a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Use tongs to turn pasta, ensuring all strands get a light coat of oil. Once the noodles have cooled enough to touch, add the the fish sauce, soy sauce, and lime juice, and use your hands to gently separate any remaining clumps. Taste and adjust soy (salty), vinegar (tangy), or fish sauce (savory) to suit your taste. Refrigerate at least a half hour, up to overnight. If you refrigerate overnight, cover in cellophane.

For whichever crunchy elements you chose, chop them. If you chose cucumber as one of your veg, peel the skin if it is tough, or if the cucumber isn't organic. if you were lucky enough to score kirbys or Persian cukes, their seeds are small and you can leave them intact. Otherwise, scrape seeds out with a spoon. 

Chop the beans into thin cross-sections -  little bursts of assertive crunch! I got royal burgundy beans a local farmer friend grew. Basically if you can find any snap-fresh bean, then you won't need to cook them. Ask if you can taste one: it shouldn't be fibrous or tough to chew. 

Choose an allium - a little goes a long way. Chop it finely and reserve a little for table-side garnishing.

Trim mushroom stems and halve or quarter any larger ones. Sauté mushrooms in a little olive oil, on medium high heat in a cast iron or enameled skillet until tender - about 5 minutes - adding a small amount of water (or broth, should you have some on-hand) to keep them juicy. Transfer cooked mushrooms to a bowl and toss together with all the above chopped elements once mushrooms have cooled a bit.

On a mandoline, shave jalapeño or ginger (etc), and add to the mix. If you have pickled veg, chop them as you did the beans and add them in. I sometimes add a little of the brine liquid for added punch. Up to you. 

To serve, transfer noodles to a serving platter. I created little piles by coiling the noodles around my hand. Do what fits you in the moment. Scatter the crunchy-peppery-meaty mixture onto the piles, leaving a little extra aside for serving. Additional chopped allium is nice table side, too. 
With a final flourish, add the fresh herbs to top. Enjoy!

If you have not already heard, Anthology will be closing their doors at the end of this year. Of course this is very sad news for me as I have loved our flourishing relationship, the numerous online and in-print stories together and the million emails getting it all done. But as anything in life, change happens. The show will still go on.

I imagine the great homes in my future. New and relevant places to continue sharing my voice. I might even update here more… :P If you have suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

For better or worse, I work like a fiend. My Instagram page bears the evidence. I cook new and varied (deeelicious) things, multiple times in a given day. All this of course is mounting to something fantastic, still simmering and melding....

If you're hankering for more of me, visit me there. I have a lot of fun rescuing food. I play extensively on set. Be forewarned: you will get hungry, stat.

Another piece I recently produced for The Times is this terrific, zippy gazpacho. It is a great basic recipe; one to which I added tequila, lime, and a pinch of salt this evening (in a cocktail glass), to reward myself for all the hard work cooking, styling, and shooting I've been up to.

Yes oh yes. Makes me feel like we are still embarking on summer, not that it is almost over….

I have seen the light change at home base. A longer cast of the sun inside, sign of earth's rotation towards autumn. That will mean the pussycats get to bask in more sun spots, but it also means the end of tomato season. Not yet. But, it's a real thing to reckon with and I'm definitely (and defiantly) not ready.

There is an ice cream story on the horizon. And a pop-up dinner. Then there's the story I shot for Saveur Magazine, about craft cocktails at a neighborhood spot called Lou's. And soon, a trip to Maine filled with lots of lobster. I'm still firmly planted in balmy evenings and icy cocktails, see?

For myself…. today I baked a gorgeous fig, black pepper, and smoky blue cheese galette. I hungrily picked the figs from a neighboring tree near a friend's home, sweet reward in itself after a long three-day shoot. After a final round in front of the camera tomorrow, I get to devour it.

Also on the agenda: making a quail egg and roasted tomato pasta with capers and chives. Sounds good, doesn't it? Visit Instagram to see how it turned out!

Maybe I'll convince someone to go foraging again with me, if I can buy myself some free time. In any case, I will eat like a queen. Come sit at the table with me. Eat some of this good food.