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

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

I am not one to go shrieking, “Carbs mean carnage!!,” as the unstable duck in the movie Babe does about Christmas. As I’ve noted before, I love carbs. So I’m mildly troubled to report that, since embarking on an ostensibly healthier and lower carb overall eating strategy, I don’t crave them. In fact, the idea of eating a pizza crust, once music to my taste buds, now strikes a less harmonious note. The thought of a full-blown pizza crust, most nights, just sounds heavy and unappealing. For those nights, I give you this cauliflower pizza crust.

Cauliflower pizza crust hosts roasted veggies.

It turned out well, even with no cheese on hand. It’s not entirely vegan; I used an egg bc I was too lazy to make a flax version. But there’s zero gluten or dairy, and the carb count is low. You can pile on vegetables like there’s no tomorrow—even as a bold, glorious, unbloated tomorrow awaits you because you’re all gluten-free and healthy.

Keep reading for step by step instructions; or just jump directly to the recipe.

Tip Number 1: Don’t buy that crumbled up cauliflower rice because it’s ridiculously expensive, and, to quote Harvey Milk, you don’t know where it’s been. Just cut up half a cauliflower in even size pieces, about an inch or two sized cubes, then throw it in your food processor and chop, chop, chop your troubles away.

Cauliflower pizza crust starts with crumbling the cauliflower in the food processor

If your food processor is like mine, i.e., old as hell, get out the noise-cancelling headphones; chopping anything, especially cauliflower, sounds like a Mad Max death rally, though blessedly, without Mel Gibson screaming about how sane he is. I just dated myself, because nobody who’s not in their Golden Years even knows who Mr. Gibson is. Meanwhile, everyone knows that the greatest Mad Max of All Time is Charlize Theron.

Charlize Theron is THE greatest Mad Max ever.

Anyway, now you have a big old bowl of cauliflower crumbles. Many a recipe, either for cauliflower rice or cauliflower pizza crust, provides the mystifying instruction to boil the rice, then squeeze out the water. People, don’t add water to food. Just don’t. I mean, I’m sure there will come a time where I’ll say, yo, add some water to those ingredients. But I can’t imagine the circumstances.

However, you gotta do something to soften up the cauliflower crumbles, and as usual, I advocate roasting. Add some olive or grapeseed oil to the bowl, just about a tablespoon, and some salt, pepper, and spices. I always like harissa (the powdered kind), but a Mexican or Italian blend will work just fine. Evenly distribute the oil and spices, spread the cauliflower out on a parchment lined baking sheet, and roast for about 20 minutes in a 400º oven.

Let the roasted crumbles cool about 10 minutes; leave the oven on. Then mix them in the bowl with an egg. A flax egg will probably work if you’re vegan, but I haven’t tested it, so proceed at your own risk. A nice handful of grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese would add crispness and savory flavor. But you might not have cheese on hand, or you might not be a dairy person, in which case you can do what I did for this version: Add a couple of heaping tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Also, some kind of bread crumb, about 1/4 cup for a medium-sized bowl of cauliflower. I used garbanzo crumbs; I’m not quite sure what they are (grated garbanzo beans? toasted garbanzo flour?), but they stood in nicely. Use panko if you want some gluten in your life, a desire for which I will never, ever scold you.

Cauliflower pizza crust, after roasting the cauliflower and adding to other ingredients

Now, scrape the mix onto the baking sheet.

Cauliflower pizza crust ready to rollThen take a piece of wax paper or parchment and press the mixture into an even circle; in a pinch, you can use gloves or your hands, but it’s kinda sticky, so if you use some type of paper, it’s easier and less messy.

Cauliflower pizza crust rolled out and ready to cookYou want it to end up about 10-12 inches in diameter. Remove what you used to push it down, then pop it in the oven about 12-15 minutes. At the bottom, you can see that one little piece of cauliflower that was all, “You can’t crumble me!” Feisty little vegetable.

Cauliflower pizza crust ready for toppings like roasted veggies.

The chickpea crumbles and nutritional yeast imparted a nice saffron-ish color that you’d normally get from cheese. But here’s something you need to be really clear on: If you expect a cauliflower pizza crust to be an adequate sub for regular pizza crust, you will be sad. You can’t rip into a cauliflower pizza crust. You don’t sink your teeth  and tear each bite in that satisfying “I’m a Pizza Pig! Oink! Oink!” way that you can with even a $5 Hot and Ready from Little Caesar’s.

But you can have a nice light alternative that’s more fun than just eating a sturdy, healthy heap o’ roasted vegetables. I piled mine high with an oddball mix of roasted fennel, radicchio, and—yes, this is eccentric—strawberries added for just a minute at the end. Roasted strawberries taste strange and wonderful, but do not overcook them, or you will have some bizarre pale red mush on your plate. Just add them to your pan at literally the last minute if you’re feeling dangerous, as Belle and Sebastian used to say. A few pistachios on top added crunch. #weirdbutgood

Cauliflower pizza crust hosts roasted veggies.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust: The Recipe

how to make A genius Irish staple for using up leftover mashed potatoes and greens—or better yet, make them both fresh. Perfect comfort food, just in time for St. Patrick's.

Colcannon: Comfy Irish Leftovers

Whether under a filter of soft gray light provided by the clouds, in the frequent rain, or the rare and cherished sunshine, Ireland is stunningly, unforgettably green. So it’s only right that the color, in some form or other, should sparkle up that most Irish mainstay, the potato. Hello, colcannon.colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine Continue reading for the step by step without a recipe. For exact amounts, jump to recipe.

Colcannon is a homey dish, made to use up leftovers and make plain old mashed potatoes a little more interesting. Green cabbage is the classic addition, but I like it mixed with kale; more colorful, more nutritious, and just plain delish. Purists might balk at the addition, but hell with ’em.

The dish is super easy. All you need is mashed potatoes, preferably freshly made, but leftovers will do in a pinch. To make mashed potatoes, cube them, with or without the skin, while you bring water to a boil. Drop them into the boiling water with some salt, about a tablespoon is good. (Don’t use your good expensive salt for this; keep some pourable salt on hand just to add to boiling water.) Boil about 10 minutes, testing with a fork. You should be able to stab the cube without much resistance, but it should still stay on the fork. Unless, of course, you like your mashed potatoes on the mushy side.

potatoes boiled for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

Meanwhile, saute up an onion with some greens; honestly, whatever you have in the fridge is fine.

greens for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

When the potatoes are done, drain them, then put back in the pot on the warm (but turned off) stove with the lid on. This dries them out nicely. Smash them, or, my preference, run them through a ricer; it produces a great mealy texture that’s not too fine. It also removes some, but not all of the skins.

potatoes riced for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

Add in butter, sour cream, yogurt, even cream cheese. If you don’t do dairy, you’ll want a plant-based yogurt and you can do oil if you don’t want to do that fake butter for vegans.

Stir in the greens and a mess of chopped herbs—dill and parsley are favorites, chives and tarragon are also wonderful—and you’re good to go.

potatoes and greens together for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

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Colcannon: The Recipe

This recipe says that it makes enough for 2, because the widget requires that I include that info. Let me amend that to “2 really gigantic portions” because I like to just eat these on their own. But if you’re doing sides, you’ll have a fair amount.

colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

rapini and how to make it tasty

Rapini

How do you solve a problem like…..rapini? On the shelf, it looks so adorable, bright emerald green baby broccoli flowers amid plenty of leaves that look like mustard greens, with crispy-looking jade green stems…

rapini, raw and innocent looking

You may think, well, there’s nothing to that but to pop it in a pan with some garlic, and…Yum! But should you do that very thing, you are likely to see troubled looks on the faces of your fellow diners—they trusted you, and you give them this?—and may end up barely able to swallow what seemed like a great idea.

If that sounds as if it comes from bitter (pun very much intended) experience with this particular vegetable, you have perceived correctly. I once innocently sauteed up a pan of rapini, blithely served it to Steve and Henry. I insist on honest reactions to my creations here, and I got them. Steve, normally a totally easy keeper on the vegetable front, said, “Wow. This is horrible.” Henry stood up and poured his in the garbage. Steve and I followed suit.

Rapini, you saucy trickster! You’re not broccoli at all, but a very stylish member of the turnip family. Hence the extreme bitterness. So why bother, when you could just get broccoli, which is honestly pretty hard to screw up? Because if you can get rapini right, it’s a wonderful way to zazzle up your taste buds. Tempered correctly, which you will shortly learn how to do, rapini provides a pleasant bang of bitterness, a wonderful texture—it doesn’t get mushy, but you also won’t feel like a horse chewing it—and a veritable powerhouse of nutrition. Vitamin K and C, cancer-fighting properties, anti-inflammatory, alkalizing: Read all about it at this link (though I caution against preparing the soup recipe unless you follow the de-bittering step here).

What is this magical step to render rapini ravishing? A big old pot of boiling water. Bring it to a boil, throw in about a tablespoon of salt, and blanch for about 2 minutes. (I break off any tough-looking stems prior to boiling.) The process mellows the bitterness to a manageable amount, and the broccoli stays bright green. Then simply drain, squeeze out as much water as possible, and chop coarsely. The amount shown below is the yield from the big batch of rapini at the top of the page (probably about 2/3 of a pound).

Rapini loves garlic. Heat your pan, heat some oil (olive is perfect), sauté your super thin garlic slices with a little salt for about 45 seconds so they’re just starting to turn gold. Then add your chopped rapini.

Rapini is no delicate creature. I give it about 8 minutes, but it can go longer. You’ll end up with a lovely big batch that you can keep on hand for about 3 days and throw into all kinds of things.

The night I made this up, Steve threw a big handful into some soup. I had some naan on hand, which I brushed with a little garlic oil, toasted briefly in the oven, then topped with the sauteed rapini, some leftover meatballs sliced thin, and some fresh mozzarella and a little parmesan. A heavenly little personal pizza. Don’t stop there. Throw some sauteed rapini into pasta or rice. Use it as your green in a bowl; it would be amazing as a bi bim bop component. Just one warning: Now that you know how rapini should taste, you would be wise to avoid ordering it in U.S. restaurants, and if you see it in a deli case, be sure to get a sample. Rapini always looks good. It stays bright green pretty much no matter what.

Of course, if you see it in Italy, go nuts. They kind of invented the stuff.



quinoa crust quiche

Quinoa Crust Quiche

I love quiche—or at least, the idea of it. I order it when I go out and it usually delivers my requirements: buttery crust, eggy goodness, cheesy decadence. But when I’m honest, I know that most of those buttery crusts that I’m paying other people to fill came straight out of a package. Meanwhile, I have a perfectly fine, infinitely healthier alternative on hand. That big old package of quinoa calls my name. And one of the best ways to use it up is with a quinoa crust quiche.

quinoa crust quiche

Jump to recipe.

Why, you may ask, do I happen to have said gigantic quinoa package? Well, I’m not trying to be mean, but quinoa tastes weird. I always detect this odd, sort of dusty undertaste. I know it’s not this package either, or that it’s old, or any other explanation. Nonetheless, its nutritional perks are impressive. Protein-rich, fiber-rich, chockful of vitamins and minerals—read all about quinoa’s specific health benefits here, and check out Jennifer’s terrific blog while you’re at it. Also in its favor, quinoa morphs easily as a substitute for all kinds of grains, particularly those that are already fragmented into small pieces like cracked wheat and couscous.

As a pie crust substitute, it’s super easy and SO much healthier that it’s worth a try. Just be forewarned: You are not making something that will taste like a pie crust. A quinoa-crust quiche does not flake with buttery goodness. Rather, it sits on the plate as a hearty earthy base for all the eggy-cheesy-veggie goodness you want to throw in it. These items I had on hand just begged to be added to a tasty quinoa crust quiche.

quinoa crust quiche likes veggies

(I just realized I’m writing as if I’m Kathy Najimy’s character in The Fisher King. Is she the one responsible for that thing where we add a y to the end of basically every single word? If so, huzzah to you, Kathy.)

So with the quinoa crust, you gotta remember that weird quinoa flavor that you want to camo just a tad. That means that, at the very least, you need to cook the quinoa with salt (or the no-salt sub of your choice), preferably in broth rather than water. Once all the water’s cooked in—and do make sure the quinoa’s not wet at all—and the quinoa’s cooled, add an egg. But you can add even more flavor by sauteeing and adding an onion, or lots of chopped herbs, including scallions, and—most decadent of all—a big old handful of your favorite grated cheese.

Now, simply place the mixture into a pie pan that you’ve sprayed with no-stick, or oiled, or buttered; up to you. I like to take a piece of wax paper and use that to press the quinoa into shape…

quinoa crust quiche: use parchment paper to press evenly

…keeping it even on the bottom of the pan and nicely rising on the sides.

quinoa crust quiche, the crust ready to pre-bake Then bake, and voila. Your quinoa crust is about to become a quinoa crust quiche. I used this recipe from Clean Eating as my jumping off point. When I originally posted this recipe, I had broccoli, kale, and a bunch of mushrooms on hand and quite happy to jump into the pan.

quinoa crust quiche gets filled with a mix of vegetables

This week, I did a Skype cooking session with a pal, and we both realized we could pretty much use any vegetable-ish substance. For me, that was leeks standing in for the onions, dandelion greens, kale, and asparagus; for the last, I followed the advice of a couple of vintage cookbooks and peeled the stems, making the asparagus a lot more palatable. The first go-round, I placed the veggie mix directly into the crust….

quinoa crust quiche, ready for the milk cheese mixture

…then topped with an egg and cheese mix…

quinoa crust quiche gets a layer of egg and cheese filling

…and  then more cheese. (This is actually kind of a modest amount, but I have some in the crust and also some feta mixed into the eggs. Go as wild as you like.) By the way, the speckles are from the mustard I used.

Quinoa crust quiche before going into the oven.

Here’s that one finished:

Yesterday, I separated the eggs, whipping the whites to soft peaks. I mixed the yolks and cheese with the cooked veggies, then folded in the whites. Then pour it into the crust. I actually prefer this one, so have amended the recipe below to include it.

quinoa quiche

There you have it. You’ve used up some of that sad wallflower quinoa (to use my buddy Jenny Englander’s term), and you’ve got a healthy meal you can pack up for a road trip or nosh on at your desk. Some cherry tomatoes sparkled up both the visual and flavor palates. Enjoy with your own seasonal variations throughout the year.

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Quinoa Crust Quiche: The Recipe

Spaghetti Squash with Arugula, Walnuts, and Cherry Tomatoes

So the other night I saw a recipe for a pizza with arugula pesto and butternut squash and walnuts. And you can read all about why I didn’t make that in the post Recipe Improv: How to Let a Recipe Inspire and not Enslave You. That’s how you can find out about this dandy spaghetti squash arugula dish to come.

Here’s how I made it. First off, spaghetti squash always seems like a great idea—until I cook it. Truthfully, those delicate, angel hair-like strands tend to end up kinda soggy. They definitely don’t absorb sauce the way pasta does.

My way of dealing with this is to cut the squash down the center vertically. Next, I remove all the seeds and then oil and salt the sides. Finally, I place them flat side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. I roast them at 375º for about 45 minutes.

Astute readers will note, “Hey! That squash is cut horizontally AND vertically.” Yep. I decided to follow this advice when I cooked half the squash the other night. The point was to get longer strands, and…well, it wasn’t worth the hassle to me, but I include the link in case you want to try it and have better luck. On this night, I halved the already halved squash and baked as noted above.

spaghetti squash arugula, step one: roast and shred squash

But as you can see, even pulling the fork through the strands gave me kinda clumpy “noodles.” I had to go into my Zen “this will take a couple of minutes” mode, and play with the noodles with my hands a little to separate them. Then a little more salt to draw out the water, and back into a higher degree oven (400º) to dry them out a little.

spaghetti squash arugula, step two: separate strands

The rest was easy. I had some garlic oil I had made a night earlier by gently simmering very thinly sliced garlic in olive oil for about 10 minutes. Steve had picked up some beautiful arugula that I absolutely did not want to crush into a pesto. (Also, I felt way too lazy to deal with cleaning the food processor.) Fresh cherry tomatoes, roasted walnuts, Parmesan, fresh pepper: really, this couldn’t have been easier. And thus, arugula butternut squash pizza became spaghetti squash arugula.

Spaghetti Squash Arugula, the finished version