cold sesame noodles

Cold “Sesame” Noodles with Tons of Veggies

Since Cold sesame noodles have sustained me through many a New York night. After all, weekly Chinese takeout stands as a hallowed tradition in any New York apartment without a decent kitchen—basically, every apartment I ever occupied during my years in the city.Read this little prologue, followed by a step by step, or jump to the recipecold sesame noodles, an easy recipe from le chou fou Once I moved away, in 1999, I pretty much gave up cold sesame noodles. The ones I’ve sampled here in the midwest are pretty, pretty bad. I did have a bang-up recipe for them years ago, from fellow New Yorker Jane Brody’s Good Food Book. But once my daughter left home and the divorce went through, I found I was the only person craving them. My son never developed the taste.And yet, when friends recently popped by in this hottest of summer, I happened on the following version (with modifications, including very little sesame to speak of) and thought, what could be finer?

Note that there is no sesame in this version other than in the oil; I used peanut butter, so honestly, that title is a TOTAL shell game. Ha! I’ll best you yet, Google. OK, that actually isn’t possible. You can buy sesame paste—NOT tahini, which has a different preparation—at Asian markets, and you could replace the peanut butter with that. But you can buy peanut butter anywhere, and you could really use any nut butter you fancy or have on hand, I’m guessing, except coconut, which is distinctly sweet. OK, that paragraph was a lot longer than anticipated.

Here’s my adaptation of the “Saucy Asian Noodle Salad” from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates (Clarkson Potter, 2003). And here’s the cookbook if you want to check it out.

Step One: Prepare the dressing
The original version of this suggested marinating tofu. I blew this off as I’d decided to (forgive me, vegan and vegetarian friends) tea smoke some chicken as the protein. Here’s the formula:

  • 4 parts nut butter
  • 2 parts each soy sauce and citrus juice (I used limes, and liked them, though the original called for lemon; orange would also work)
  • 1 part brown or coconut sugar (or skip it if you’re sugar averse)
  • 1/2 part each rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil
  • grated fresh ginger and sriracha or gochujang to taste

Either way, add the nut butter last. If you want to marinade tofu or tempeh, use the dressing ingredients first without the nut butter. Then, after an hour or so, remove the tofu or tempeh and mix in the nut butter. Waiting to add it to the end makes it a lot easier to mix. And DO NOT use the marinade on any sort of raw meat, or you’ll have to discard it.

cold sesame noodles, an easy recipe from le chou fou: dressing

Step Two: Noodles and veggies
I used about 1.5 ounces of pasta per person, and I went with the recommended soba; both the texture and flavor work nicely. As an alternative, fresh egg noodles—the Asian kind, not the fat German or Eastern European ones—or ramen will do in a pinch. Grate about 1 carrot and 1 radish per person, and add a handful of chopped or baby greens per person as well. Since I had dandelion and baby bok choy on hand, but once again, any flavorful tender greens should do the trick.

cold sesame noodles, an easy recipe from le chou fou: veggies

Step Three: Mix it all together.
Exactly what the header says. Top with toasted sesame seeds, chopped nuts, crumbled seaweed, minced cilantro—whatever floats your boat. I was going to use sesame seeds, but Steve seems to have eaten them all, and by then I was all, dammit, I’m hungry. Just take the picture already.

cold sesame noodles, an easy recipe from le chou fou

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  • Cold Sesame Noodles: The Recipe

Sopa Seca

A few months ago I discovered the joy of cooking pasta in just enough liquid to bubble up over the top of the noodles. (Thanks to Cooking LIght magazine for the inspiration.) I realized that this dish translates easily to sopa seca, the wonderful “dry soup” of Mexico.

There’s nothing dry about sopa seca, but there’s not a whole lot of liquid. The method defies the conventional wisdom of giving pasta plenty of room in pot as they boil. Indeed, I still cook pasta that way when it’s the right way to cook it.

This method—which uses just 2 1/2 cups of broth for 4 ounces of pasta—behaves in an interesting way with any pasta, and particularly with gluten-free versions. I feared that it might dissolve into mush, which can happen pretty easily when you boil g.f. pasta in a giant pot of water. But Full Circle Gluten-Free Spaghetti, made from corn and rice, stayed stubbornly intact, remained pleasantly “to the teeth,” as they say in Italian.  Additionally, the corn and rice starch soaks into the broth, boosting it with subtle flavor. Given both grains’ close association with Mexican cuisine, it worked perfectly.

(If, by the way, you’re interested and even skeptical about cooking pasta in less water, read this entertaining NYTimes article.)

For the zucchini, I used Steve’s trick for even browning; he’s a stickler for getting all sides seared. Rather than cube the zucchini before hand (thus having to turn over each individual cube), we slice the zucchini lengthwise. We end up with 5 or 6 slices that are easy to turn; then we cut them afterward.

Zucchini is roasted before adding to sopa seca.

It goes together quickly. Non-vegans can add any number of protein choices to it, but it’s wonderfully filling and you really don’t need them, especially if you go a little hog-wild with the toppings. Is the vegan version of hog-wild….I dunno, avocado-wild? I kinda like that. May keep it. Or send your own nominations in the comments section. Above all, simply enjoy this lovely meal.

Sopa seca featuring roasted zucchini, avocado, cilantro, and other garnishes.