sesame noodles, take-out style

Chinese barbecued spare ribs with string beans in ginger and garlic on a bed of sesame noodles

I borrowed The Essential New York Times Cook Book (2010) from the NYPL. While it doesn’t claim to be the bible of cook books, it is comprehensive and has lots of interesting recipes, like this one. I like it because Amanda Hesser, who compiled this collection, also includes serving suggestions. Since the guys wanted a carb blowout for dinner, that is, Chinese barbecued spare ribs, I decided to try Hesser’s suggestion and serve them with sesame noodles. This is an interesting noodle dish, similar to Japanese somen because it’s served cold.  It’s been hours since dinner and the apartment is still redolent of hoisin sauce and sesame oil!

Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles (The Essential NYTimes Cookbook)
I could not find lo mein noodles uptown so I made do with linguine. I will try spaghettini next time. Linguine were too starchy and tended to be gummy when cold. I cooked them for six minutes, one minute over the recommended time. I needed to cook them less, then chill them right away in ice water to stop the cooking. I ran the coldest water from the tap over them. Another thing, if you don’t have rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar will do. And I made the cucumber and peanuts optional. Read my serving suggestion below.

1 pound lo mein egg noodles (1/8 inch thick) frozen or fresh (can substitute linguine but try spaghettini)
2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil, plus more for a splash
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar (can use balsamic vinegar)
2 tablespoons sesame paste or tahini
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste or to taste (available in the supermarket Asian section)
1/2 cucumber peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 2 inch long sticks, optional
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts, optional

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes. They should be al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again, and toss with a “splash of sesame oil.”

Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic, and chile-garlic paste in a medium bowl.

Pour half the sauce over the noodles and toss. Add more sauce as desired. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the cucumber and peanuts. I recommend serving it with chopped scallion, cilantro, and the skinniest slivers of ginger–the trinity of Chinese cooking. Like revenge, this is a dish best eaten cold.

Cook’s Note: Don’t be shy! Use all the sauce. Believe me, it’s worth it.

crunchy vegetable slaw

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I didn’t like the green bean casserole recipe I tried in the Carb Conscious Vegetarian cookbook. Why blanche the green beans to set the bright green color then bake the heck out of it for 50 minutes until the poor things are mushy and olive drab? Sam, my nurse practitioner at Columbia Health, recommended the books of Robin Robertson because I told him I like to cook and eat healthy meals. I also love to try out new cookbooks. This recipe is one I adapted from  Carb Conscious. I liked it. It was slightly pungent because of the raw broccoli and cabbage, and I loved the sweet crisp taste of the bell pepper in it. The dressing was bland so I dressed it up with some red pepper flakes, and it was slightly sour, so I added a little stevia.

Crunchy vegetable slaw

2 cups peeled, shredded broccoli stems (about 3 medium stems)
2 cups shredded red cabbage (about 1/4 of a large head)
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into thin slivers
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (or flat leaf parsley)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (or lemon juice), (juice of 1 large lime)
red pepper flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste (celery salt in the original recipe)
1/2 packet of stevia, about 1/4 teaspoon, optional

Shred the broccoli stems in a food processor.

In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cabbage, pepper, and cilantro. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lime juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and stevia, if using.  Pour olive oil mixture over the broccoli mixture. Toss. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serves 4

Per serving: 169 calories, 14g fat, 3g protein, 9g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 0mg cholesterol, 123mg sodium.

cookbook review: Real Food Real Easy

I’ve been taking a couple days off from cooking because I cut my finger. (It also makes it hard to touch type!) But then I borrowed this book from the NYPL Real Food Real Easy (2010) by George Stella. It’s got low carb  recipes in it and each recipe has a “handful” of ingredients (no more than nine, actually) and an uncomplicated method–3 or 4 steps. So in the next few weeks until the book is due, I’ll be sampling recipes. Here are some interesting ones:

Table of Contents

Starters and Snacks–cabbage wrapped pot stickers sound like a winner, so does tempura asparagus

Breakfast and Brunch–how about blue coconut parfaits?

Lunchtime Favorites–I think  southwestern chicken salad in avocado bowls sounded delicious

Poultry–I want to try all of the chicken recipes, especially spinach and feta chicken breast roulades

Meats–Szechuan beef and broccoli, oh my!

Seafood–salmon with a creamy dill sauce!

Slow Cooker Cookery–ground sirloin chili wonder how hot it really is… But I’ll never know. No slow cooker!

Vegetables and Sides–spaghetti squash with ricotta blush sauce. YUM.

Wholesome Whole Grains and Legumes–quinoa pilaf!

Desserts–flourless fudge brownies? I’m dreaming…

cookbook review: Cooking Light, Eat Smart Guide: 200-Calorie

I borrowed this book from the NYPL (2011, Oxmoor House) to try the low fat-low carb recipes. All of the recipes have nutrition information and all of them are 200 calories or below per serving. What I liked about it was how simple and uncomplicated the recipes were so that the cook need never feel that eating healthy is too much of a pain. Recipes that are quick and easy are helpfully marked. Don’t just look at the calories; also check the portion size, especially if the calories seem too good to be true! For example, one dulce de leche tartlet is 180 calories–it’s a tiny, tiny thing made from a mini phyllo shell. Can you seriously eat just one and not do irreparable damage to your diet?

The table of contents is quirky, with the soups coming just before the desserts.

Appetizers, Snacks & Beverages
Entrées
Salads
Soups
Desserts

In any case, I like to adjust recipes to taste so I seldom follow them exactly. I call it, getting inspiration!  And since I like to go low salt as well, I prefer to substitute my own homemade broths and stocks for canned. The chicken-vegetable-barley soup I made last week was inspired by this cookbook. I am also inspired to bake a lemon pudding cake. But that’s for another posting!

Review: America’s Test Kitchen: Light and Healthy 2011

  Everything from appetizers to desserts–lightened up, as promised, by the cooks at America’s Test Kitchen. I wanted to sample a recipe from each chapter but ended up sampling most of them. The recipes were “light” if you define  light as low in fat, carbs,  and calories, as most of us do.”Healthy” though, was debatable. I was really concerned by the high sodium content of some dishes, particularly those that called for canned soup. I was under the impression that healthy meant “less processed the better.”

To sum up here are what I thought were the Cons

  • Wordy; lengthy explanations of their process but  not enough pictures of each recipe
  • Good: nutrition information told me how much fat, carbs, and calories were in each dish and its variation so I could become more aware of healthy eating habits.
  • Bad/unhealthy: high salt content of some recipes, e.g. Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup with Beef

And now, the Pros

  • Helpful: “Notes from the Test Kitchen,” e.g.  forming a press-in tart crust
  • No-brainer: “Notes from the Test Kitchen,” how to prevent wooden skewers from burning–cover them with foil! Now, why didn’t I think of that?
  • Best Test Kitchen Makeover: Chicken and Dumplings p.49
  • Awesome: “Notes from the Test Kitchen” on testing meat for doneness (table, p. 91)

Though I was disappointed in the amount of salt in a supposedly “healthy” cookbook, there were more pros than cons. America’s Test Kitchen recipes have been thoroughly tested and I haven’t been disappointed yet. This cookbook gets my thumbs up!