February 29, 2008

Smoky Spicy Fried Okra

1/2 lb okra, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons ground chipotle pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

canola oil for frying

Place the okra and the buttermilk in a bowl and allow to soak 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together the paprika, salt, pepper, chipotle pepper, and cornmeal. Set aside. Drain the okra and place it in the bowl. Shake to coat. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the okra in a single layer. Cook until all sides are golden brown, turning occasionally. This step should only take a couple of minutes, do not over cook. Remove to paper towel lined plates. Serve hot.

Spring this recipe!

My thoughts:
I love okra in any form but I know not everyone shares my undying devotion to the vegetable. Everything tastes good fried so this is a great way to convert people to the way of the okra. Okra doesn't have an assertive flavor but it can stand up to some spice. In this case the chipotle and paprika add a bit of spice and smoky favor that adds flavor interest without being overwhelming. The trick to grease free fried okra is making sure the okra is thoroughly covered in the cornmeal mixture, the oil is really hot before you start to fry and quick draining afterwards. I like them plain, but I've heard rumours of people dipping them in ranch dressing if that is your sort of thing.

February 28, 2008

Rhubarb-Orange Pancakes

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup diced rhubarb
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon orange extract or liqueur
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
1 egg

Whisk together the egg, extract, zest and buttermilk in a small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside. In the medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly whisk in the egg/buttermilk mixture until a smooth batter forms. It may bubble slightly. Fold in rhubarb. Spray a frying pan or griddle with nonstick spray or melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Heat the pan so that it feels warm when you hover your hand over it. Add about 1/2 cup of the batter into the middle. Cook until bubbles begin to appear and pop. Flip. Cook for about 2 minutes. Both sides should be golden brown.

Yields about 4-5 mid-sized pancakes.

My thoughts:

I was excited to see that this month's In the Bag ingredients were rhubarb, orange and sugar. They are some of my favorite foods to cook with this time of year. I was thinking about making a dessert or a bread but then I thought pancakes might be fun. I really enjoyed them, there were bits of orange zest and tart rhubarb throughout and the pancakes were the height of fluffy perfection.

February 27, 2008

Southern-Inspired Quinoa

1 1/2 cup frozen or fresh chopped okra
1 1/2 cups vegetable or mushroom broth
3/4 cup quinoa
15 oz canned kidney beans, drained
10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chile
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until fragrant. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cook 30 seconds, then add the broth, chipotle, cayenne pepper, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has be absorbed. Stir the okra, kidney beans and canned tomatoes with chile into the saucepan, and continue to simmer 2-5 minutes or until heated through.

My thoughts:
I still think half the fun of eating quinoa is that you have an excuse to say "KEEN-wah". That aside, quinoa is a great source of protein which makes this dish pretty much a complete meal in itself. Quickly sauteing the quinoa before adding the liquid brings out a nutty flavor that works well with the spices and the vegetables and diminishes the slight "seedy" flavor quinoa has that I know at least my husband finds less than appealing.

February 25, 2008

Grandpop's Home Fries

1 1/2 lb red skin potatoes, quartered and sliced*
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
3 slices of bacon, diced

Heat a large skillet. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease. Return to flame. Add the onions and potato. Cover and cook about 5-8 minutes, remove cover and saute until the potatoes are golden and fork tender. Add the bacon bits back in, sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve hot.

*You can peel them if you want. We always did when I was growing up but I don't bother for the red skin ones.

My thoughts:
I love home fries. I think they are my favorite way to make potatoes but I rarely make them. When I was growing up my grandfather would make them to serve with fried chicken thighs but I normally just serve them on their own to tell the truth. I know some people cube the potatoes or precook them but Grandpop always made them using sliced raw potatoes so I do too. I find that the potatoes keep their shape well and they cook evenly when they are sliced and the need for boiling is totally eliminated. They fare reheating fairly well-much better than most fried foods do- so you can make a double batch or save your leftovers and have a yummy breakfast the next day with a lot less work.

February 24, 2008

Broccoli with Caramelized Pearl Onions Pasta

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
3 cloves garlic, chopped
8 oz pearl onions*
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
to serve: 14-16 oz hot short pasta (like penne)
parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat oil in a large pan and add the garlic, red pepper, salt, pepper and pearl onions. Saute until the onions are starting to caramelize, then saute in the mushrooms for about 1 minute. Add broccoli and cook until almost tender, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss with pasta.

*I don't normally use frozen onions but the thought of peeling dozens of pearl onions repells me. The frozen ones work just as well in this dish, I just defrosted them about halfway before cooking.

My thoughts:
This is one of those "use up what we have on hand" recipes that really turned out well. I swear that bag of pearl onions moved with us when we bought house house in July of 2005. They were still good and they caramelized like a dream.

As a side note: I've been wanting to try Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta, which has three times the fiber of regular pasta and as much calcium as an eight-ounce glass of milk per serving, so I used that instead of my usual Barilla. And you know what? It really did taste and have the texture of regular pasta. I wish it came in more shapes though, I only have so many uses for spagetti and penne.

February 21, 2008

No Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter*
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring sugar, butter, and milk to a full boil, remove from heat, add oatmeal. Stir. Then add vanilla and peanut butter. Stir. Drop by teaspoonfuls on to waxed paper. When cool, pack in single layer in Tupperware or other air-tight container to store.

*I used Peanut Butter & Co Smooth Operator.

My thoughts:
These are not the most attractive cookies I've ever made but they are tasty. They are my favorite kind of peanut butter cookie and actually one of the very few forms I actually consume peanut butter in. My Aunt A used to make these when I was little, and since she was my great aunt I bet she made them for my mom when she was a child as well. Since they have zero baking time they come together really quickly. They are a great "first cookie" for kids to make as the dough is barely warm when you scoop them on the the waxed paper.

February 20, 2008

Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

10 hardboiled eggs, peeled and sliced length-wise
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon sour cream
4 oz smoked salmon, minced
white pepper
large capers for garnish

In a small bowl, use a fork and thoroughly mix together the yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream, pepper, and the smoked salmon*. Spoon an equal amount into each of the egg halves. Top with a jumbo sized caper and serve.

*If you want a really smooth texture, pop it all in the food processor or blender and pulse.

My thoughts:
I think I have a minor deviled egg addiction. Over the past few years I have posted no fewer than five deviled egg recipes to Coconut & Lime. This will make six. The funny thing is that Matt isn't terribly fond of deviled eggs so I normally just make enough for me or use a lunch visitor as an excuse to try out a new variety. These I made for my mother who stopped by for lunch today and she quite enjoyed them. When I eat at her house she always makes me guess what the "secret ingredient" in whatever she made is (hint: it is always Old Bay) so I didn't tell her what kind of deviled eggs they were but she got it in one. The lox gives the egg a slightly salty smoky flavor that works really well with the creamy egg yolks. Just take care to really mince it so you are not left with any big, chewy chunks.

February 19, 2008

Matcha Marshmallows

1/2 oz. unflavored powdered gelatin*
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup**
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon matcha powder
Confectioners' sugar for dredging


In a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to seep for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a vigorous boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed for 1 minute. Add the salt and matcha and beat for 12 minutes. Oil your hands and a spatula and scrape into a 11" x 7" pan*** lined with oiled plastic wrap or sprayed with cooking spray and spread evenly. After pouring marshmallow mixture into the pan, take another piece of oiled plastic wrap and press firmly on the top, oil side down, to smooth the marshmallow. Allow to rest 3 hours. Invert the pan into plate full of confectioners’ sugar and dredge the marshmallow through. Remove and cut into pieces with kitchen sheers or a knife. Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners' sugar. Store in an air tight container.

Note: Instead of dredging in plain confectioners' sugar, dredge in a 20/80 mixture of matcha and confectioners' sugar.

*1/2 oz. gelatin is equal to 2 packets Knox unflavored gelatin

**I like to use corn syrup made without high-fructose syrup. Oddly, I find it most frequently at Asian markets. Also make sure that the corn syrup does not have vanilla added.

***Depending on how thick you want your marshmallows, you might want to keep a second, smaller pan (like a loaf pan) handy for overflow.

My thoughts:
Okay, I already thought marshmallow making was magic-you can't beat molten sugar turning in to a fluffy treat in just a few minutes for pure cooking alchemy- but these matcha marshmallows are a revelation. They have a wonderful green tea flavor without being overwhelming or medicinal. I didn't add food dye so they are just the faintest of green, but if you wanted a more verdant green, a couple of drops of food dye would do the trick. They are great to eat out of hand, melted on cupcakes (instead of icing!) in dark chocolate s'mores and in hot chocolate.

Matcha is now readily available from many online merchants including Amazon .

February 16, 2008

Sesame Seared Yellowtail

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon hot chile (sesame) oil
2 yellowtail fillets*
sea salt
sesame seeds
In a large pan, heat the oils. Sprinkle the fish with the fish the salt and sesame seeds. Cook the fish for 30 seconds on each side. Remove from heat and slice.

*I used Kona Kampachi, a new variety of substanably ocean harvested sushi-grade Hawaiian yellowtail that is very high in Omega-3. I highly recommend ordering some here. It arrives extremely fresh and smelling of the sea.

My thoughts:
This was seriously some of the best fish I've ever had. Just perfect raw or seared or even steamed. Prepared this way, you get a hint of spice and sesame but the star is still the fish.

February 14, 2008

Giant Chocolate Fortune Cookies

7 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites

for fortunes:
4 1x5 inch strips of paper
Write messages on paper. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 300. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a silpat lined tray. Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, and cornstarch. Add the oil, water, egg whites and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Drop a heaping 1/8 cup of batter on the baking sheet. Spread into a very thin 5 inch circle. Bake 12-14 minutes, then quickly, with a spatula in one hand and a oven mitt on the other, place a fortune in the middle of the cookie. Fold into a half moon then gently pull the ends together to form the shape. Hold the cookie shape for a few minutes until it cools and keeps the shape. You must do each cookie one individually, so repeat for remaining batter.

Yield: 4 giant cookies
My thoughts:
So, this is what my husband made me for Valentine's Day's dessert. He gave them to me a little early (he's making mu shu pork with homemade pancakes for dinner) so I could take a picture and share the recipe today. They are so good, much better than the commercially made ones, and not too difficult to make. A major advantage to making jumbo sized cookies is that they can be made individually in a shorter period of time than it would take to make dozens of tiny cookies. Besides, giant cookies are just more fun. Happy Valentine's Day!

As a side note, Matt finally tried out the silpat and perforated baking sheet I got from Demarle. It worked like a dream! The cookies came out wonderfully. If you want to order one, click here. One of my readers, Alice, is a Demarle representative (i.e. she does home sales) so if they ask you for a rep ID # you can use 5130 and order through her.

February 13, 2008

Roasted Beet Mashed Potatoes

3 large, cubed roasted beets
2 lb red skin potatoes
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sour cream


Boil the potatoes in salted water. Drain the potatoes, add the pepper, beets, vinegar and sour cream. Mash until desired texture is reached. Serve hot. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Yield: 2-4 servings

My thoughts:
I've had some good luck with beets lately and have been trying to find ways to show off their beautiful color. I really enjoy mashed potatoes, possibly more than I should, and adding vegetables is a great way to add extra vitamins and flavor. I also think it would be a perfect way to convert the beet adverse into beet lovers.

February 12, 2008

Tamale Pie

top layer:
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup shredded cheddar
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg

meat mixture:
1 lb ground chicken
1/4 cup canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, pureed
20 oz canned diced tomatoes with green chile, drained*
15 oz kidney beans, drained
1/4 cup spicy Sicilian-style olives (oil packed)**
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon chile powder

Preheat oven to 400. Spray or grease a 8x8 baking dish.
For the cornbread layer: In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat in the egg, buttermilk and oil until well combined. Set aside.
For the meat mixture:
In a large skillet, heat the oil in the pan, then saute onion, garlic until fragrant. Add chicken, cayenne and chipotle pepper powder, chile powder and sauté until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in beans, tomatoes with green chiles, olives, and peppers and the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. Cook about 5 minutes or until the entire mixture is cooked though and the majority of the liquid has evaporated. Spread evenly into the prepared dish. The mixture should fill the majority of the pan, but don't worry, the batter will fit. Spoon the batter evenly over the chicken mixture to cover completely. Smooth with the back of a spoon or spatula.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Slice into squares and serve.

*Or 18 oz canned diced tomatoes and 4 oz canned chopped green chiles.
**available in well stocked olive bars and delis

Yield: approx. 6-8 servings

My thoughts:
Tamale pie is a bit of a misnomer, it doesn't really taste like tamales beyond the most basic corn-meat level but is a dish all of its own. Tamale pie appears to date back to at least 1905 when it appeared in this Los Angeles Times cookbook. During WWI a vegetarian version was popular (probably due to wartime rationing) then tamale pie had a resurgence of popularity during WWII when meat rationing was again in effect as tamale pie can serve a whole family with a minimal amount of relatively cheap meat. For this recipe, I modernized it a bit, I swapped out ground beef for flavor absorbing ground chicken, added chipotle peppers for a smoky spicy flavor and upped the amount of tomatoes. Some recipes call for corn in the meat mixture, but corn isn't in season so I left it out. I don't think it would be entirely out of place and might even make this dish more of a complete meal.

February 10, 2008

Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

for the salad:
3 large roasted beets
beet greens from the beets
1 orange
1 tangerine

1 shallot, grated
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 tablespoon tangerine juice
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Cube the beets. Supreme and zest the citrus. Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Tear the greens into bite-sized pieces. Arrange the greens on a plate, top with hot roasted beets and fruit. Drizzle with dressing when ready to serve.

My thoughts:
I always find salad making a bit daunting in the winter. I prefer to eat seasonally, so virtually none of my favorite salad ingredients are in season. You can however find good citrus and fresh beets so I decided to combine the two and make a winter salad that is worthy of my time. The heat from the roasted beets "cooks" the greens so there is no reason to steam or blanch them. This a very "adult" salad which would make it perfect for Valentine's Day and as part of Vegetable Love '08.

February 09, 2008

Deli-Style Macaroni Salad

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, grated
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
white pepper
16 oz cooked macaroni (I actually used cellentani)

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, celery seed, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, stir together the onion, celery, carrot, and macaroni. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving, but overnight is best.

My thoughts:
My Grandpop celebrated his 94th birthday today. My mom made crabcakes (naturally, my family's been in Baltimore over a 150 years, anything else would be sacrilege) and I thought I'd bring a side dish to his birthday lunch. He really likes getting macaroni salad at the deli so I thought I'd make a homemade version. I actually had never made a tradition macaroni salad before so I had to improvise, but I think I did a good job of maintaining the style of the dish, while using ingredients that I like-celery seeds, high quality Dijon mustard instead of what I am sure is the traditional yellow and white wine vinegar instead of plain white distilled. The result? The best macaroni salad I ever had, bar none. Even my normally macaroni salad eschewing husband enjoyed it.

February 08, 2008

How to Supreme An Orange, or a Tangerine, or a Grapefruit...

Supreming is one of those tricks that one can use to instantly make a dish look more special with just a little extra effort. To supreme citrus is to taking peeling to the next level-to actually remove the flesh of the fruit, whole, from the membranes. To be honest, there are not a whole lot of uses for this technique, but it is great for salads or in desserts when you might not want the slight bitterness of any pith or membrane to come through. Plus it looks impressive.

First, you start with a a whole fruit. Larger specimens are easier to handle so pick the largest tangerines, oranges etc as possible.

Next, cut off the very top and bottom of the fruit.

Then, peel the fruit using a knife.

You want to follow the shape of the fruit like so:

Continue until all of the peel is gone. If the peel or pith was especially thick or your fruit wasn't symmetrical, you might end up with a slightly misshapen fruit. It really won't make much of a difference.

Then you want to put you knife between the membrane and the fruit segment. Cut, repeat for the other side and remove the fruit. Repeat for the rest of the segments.

Voila! A naked fruit segment.

February 06, 2008

Wonton Soup

wonton filling:
1/2 lb ground pork
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons shaoxing
1 1/2 inch knob ginger, minced
1 small bunch green onions, minced

wonton wrappers

8 cups chicken, pork, mushroom or shrimp stock
1 2 inch knob ginger, sliced
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons shaoxing
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, halved

to serve:
diced green onions
sliced char siu
1 bunch green onions

Mix all of the wonton filling ingredients together. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each wrapper. Moisten the edges. Fold the ends together to form a triangle. Fold the two sides together. Repeat. Place finished dumplings on a plate and cover with a clean, dry towel. Meanwhile, bring all of the soup ingredients to a boil. Drain out the solids, return to stove. Add the dumplings, the now rehydrated mushrooms and char siu to the broth. Discard the rest of the solids. Cook until the dumplings float and are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Ladle into individual bowls, sprinkle with green onions.

Yield: 2-4 servings

My thoughts:
Matt's been wanting to make homemade wonton soup for a while now, and since I like especially like making homemade versions of takeout favorites it sounded like a good project to me. I picked up a package of frozen wonton wrappers during my most recent trip to H Mart so (for once!) we didn't have to make the wrappers from scratch. That really cut down on the work it took to make the wontons. Now the soup does require a bit of work: making the char siu, making the wontons but none of the work is particularly time consuming and quite a bit of it can be done the day before. I made some wonderful homemade stock the day before, so all I had to do was add some additional flavors to compliment the wontons when it was time to make the soup. It would be even easier if you used store bought broth. The char siu needs to be marinated overnight, so to make the soup Matt just had to cook and slice it. The dumplings came together in a matter of minutes using the premade wrappers. We only needed to make 25-30 dumplings to have enough for a really wonton filled soup. All in all, it didn't take much more than half an hour to make delicious homemade wonton soup. We had a large bowl of it as a meal (with lots of pork and wontons) but it would also make a great appetizer soup.

February 04, 2008

Baby Loves Rhubarb Cupcakes

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup diced rhubarb
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature

fluffy rhubarb frosting
nonpareils for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 6 wells in a cupcake pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, mix thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture. Add the milk to the rest of the batter and beat until well combined. Fold in the rhubarb. Fill each well 2/3 of the way full. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just one or two dry crumbs. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before icing with rhubarb frosting. Ice, then sprinkle.

My thoughts:
I love rhubarb. I was so excited to find some truly beautiful, bright red rhubarb at the store this week. It's a little early for rhubarb, but it had the best flavor. I've been wanting to make rhubarb cupcakes since I missed the last weekend for rhubarb at the farmer's market last year and it was great to finally make them. I love the chunks of the rhubarb in the sweet, vanilla dough but it is the icing really sets it apart. The icing is fluffy, almost marshmallow like, has a wonderful, sublte rhubarb flavor. The combination of the two results in a cupcake that is full of rhubarb flavor but not too tart.

Fluffy Rhubarb Frosting

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
1 stalk rhubarb, chopped*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

Beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks using an electric mixer. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring sugar, rhubarb and water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil until it reaches soft ball stage (when a drop of the syrup forms a soft ball when dropped in cool water)while continuing to stir occasionally. Strain and discard the rhubarb. Keep the mixer running (you need a stand mixer or a friend to complete this next step) while you pour a continues stream of the molten syrup into the egg whites. Continue to beat for about 5 minutes, adding vanilla after about two minutes, or until the frosting is fluffy, glossy and cool. Frost cooled cupcakes or cake.

*If your rhubarb isn't very red, you can add a drop or two of red food coloring to color the icing if you'd like pink frosting. Very red rhubarb will yield pink frosting without dye.

Yield: enough frosting to generously frost one single layer cake or 12 cupcakes
My thoughts:
This recipe seems daunting; egg whites and a simple syrup combine to make a superbly fluffy, delicious and beautiful frosting but it is actually quite easy, especially if you have a stand mixer. The rhubarb flavor is subtle, but very much a part of the frosting. I got the idea from making rhubarb soda last year which also uses a rhubarb flavored simple syrup. I couldn't see why using flavored syrup in my favorite marshmallow-y icing recipe wouldn't work so I did some experimentation and it was fine. Just make sure to thoroughly strain out the rhubarb using a fine mesh strainer and work quickly. I bet it would work with other flavored simple syrups as well. Great on Baby Loves Rhubarb Cupcakes.

February 01, 2008

Superlative Sesame Noodles

the dressing:
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons black sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons hot chile (sesame) oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame paste*
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 1/2 inch knob ginger, grated

8 oz . skinny noodles* cooked, drained and cooled

to serve
toasted sesame seeds
chopped scallions
seedless cucumber slices or ribbons
steamed snow peas

In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients until smooth. Toss with noodles, cucumber and snow peas then sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.

* AKA tahini (not the super light tahini-make sure the label says it was made with toasted sesame seeds, not raw) or use Chinese sesame paste
**Somen, lo mein, soba, even thin spaghetti would all work.

My thoughts:
I love sesame noodles but always hated recipes that called for peanut butter. It just seemed wrong somehow. Then I got to thinking: if the taste I really wanted was sesame so why not just use sesame paste? It serves the same purpose (helping with the emulsion of the sauce and adding some flavor depth) and is roughly the same texture. In fact, to take a not-so-wild stab at it, I think that whole reason peanut butter is even in sesame noodles was because it is easier to find than sesame paste and not because of any ancient sesame noodle tradition. Now that tahini and sesame paste is at nearly every grocery store (one near me has 5 different brands of the stuff included a nice organic toasted variety) there is no reason not to use it. You can also find it in most Asian markets, along with the sesame and chile oils.

And you know what? These were the best sesame noodles I ever had. Who needs peanut butter? Packed with sesame flavor but not overwhelmingly so, with just enough heat to keep it interesting. Plus the cucumbers and cold noodles give the dish a hot-cold aspect that I love.