recipe redux: chinese barbecued spareribs and sesame noodles

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

My sister-in-law requested this recipe for Patricia Yeo’s Sesame Noodles (from Food 52). We had it for dinner made with a home-made sesame dressing rather than with tahini sauce, and the taste was superior. For the Chinese barbecued spare rib recipe follow this link. So, Mimi, bon appétit.

Sesame Noodles (adapted from Patricia Yeo’s Sesame Noodles)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1-10 minutes depending on whether you are using fresh or dried noodles
Servings: 6 as a main dish, 8 to 10 as a side dish

For the sesame dressing:
3/4 cup white sesame seeds plus 1 tablespoon
7 tablespoons peanut oil (I used rice bran oil)
3 medium or 2 large shallots (I used one large onion)
1 large clove garlic, minced (I used 2 garlic cloves)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon hot chile paste
3/4 to 1 cup water (or less)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

For the noodles:
12 ounces dry spaghetti pasta (or fresh Chinese egg noodles, if available)
3 tablespoons peanut oil (I used rice bran oil)
1 cup blanched snow peas (I used asparagus in the photo. Green beans will do too)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced, optional
1 cup daikon radish, thinly sliced, optional
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (I used whole peanuts)
1 cup scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

Preparation

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the sesame seeds and toast, stirring,  until golden brown and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Put the toasted seeds in a blender. Save the skillet for the next step.

Cook’s Note: The original recipe says to toast the sesame seeds in a 350˚F oven for 10-15 minutes. I find the toasting them on the stove top is faster.

In the empty skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat. Sauté the shallots or onion and garlic until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add the shallots or onion, garlic, remaining 6 tablespoons peanut oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and chile paste to the sesame seeds in the blender. Blend on high speed just until a thick, rough paste forms, 2 to 3 minutes. Stop blending when most of the seeds have broken up and been puréed. After the paste forms, it will begin to get oily if you continue to purée it, as the seeds begin to give off their oil. Taste and adjust seasonings by adding more sugar, chile paste, and/or soy sauce.

Cook’s Note: The original recipe recommends putting up the puree in the refrigerator for a day, to give the flavors time to develop.  This is not necessary, however.

Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a rolling boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions. If using fresh Chinese egg noodles, gently fluff the noodles and add them to the water, stirring. Return the water to a boil and cook the noodles for just 10 to 30 seconds. Drain the noodles immediately and cool them under cold running water. Drain well. Put the cold noodles in a bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons oil.

To dress the drained cooled noodles, drain off any oil that has gathered on the top of the purée. Whisk about 3/4 cup water into the purée to thin it and to reach a creamy consistency; the sauce will lighten in color and emulsify. Add more water as needed. Add the chopped cilantro to the dressing.

Cook’s Note: Adding the chopped cilantro is optional at this point because it will be added as a garnish on top of the noodles at the end.

In a large bowl, toss the noodles with about half the dressing. Add the snow peas or asparagus, red pepper, and daikon, if using, and gently toss to combine (using a pair of silicone tipped tongs is recommended). Taste and add more dressing if desired. Put the noodles in a large serving bowl or on individual plates. Garnish with the cilantro leaves, chopped peanuts, and sliced scallions, or pass little bowls of the garnishes at the table.

when life gives you lemons, make spaghetti al limone

Meatless Fridays in Lent tend to be challenging, so I was pleased to find this recipe in this week’s e-mail from America’s Test Kitchen. Spaghetti al limone or spaghetti with lemons is light and delicately flavored with lemon juice and lemon zest. For a Friday night supper before going to Anna’s dance recital at NYU, this was so simple and easy to make.  I served it with steamed broccoli and a sprinkling of fresh oregano on top.

INGREDIENTS
Table salt
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus more for serving
1 medium shallot , minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely grated zest (about 1 lemon)
1/4 cup juice from 2-3 lemons
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves or oregano

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water; cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1 3⁄4 cups cooking water, drain pasta into colander, and set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1 1/2 cups of reserved pasta cooking water and cream into pot; bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat, return pasta, and stir until coated. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
3. Cover and let pasta stand 2 minutes, tossing frequently and adjusting consistency with remaining 1/4 cup reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling individual portions with extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

spaghetti with Isaan sausage

Yesterday, Andy brought home a huge Christmas hamper filled with imported foods from Italy. I saw the spaghetti and the bottle of Passata di Pomodoro and decided to make a spaghetti with Italian sausage. But rather than try to find what I know will be an inferior Italian sausage, I decided to put in spicy Isaan sausage. Also called herb sausage, this product comes from the Northeast and has a distinctive taste. It is made of pork and spices–I tasted chilies and lemongrass among them. I bought two, already cooked and curled up so cozy, at the Seri Market, Paradise Park in Bangkok.

Ingredients
2 Isaan sausages cut into rings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 x 24 1/2 oz. (720 ml) bottle Mutti Passata di Pomodoro (tomato sauce)
4 tablespoons fresh holy basil, chiffonaded
black pepper to taste
4 portions spaghetti
lightly salted water
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Put lightly salted water on to boil. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions until al dente.

Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add the onions and garlic and cook until fragrant and the onions are wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and sausage,  and cook until heated through, about 5-7 minutes. Add the black pepper to taste. Stir in the basil.

To serve, scoop cooked spaghetti into a bowl. Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese, about a handful. Then top with Parmesan to taste. Generously spoon sausage and tomato sauce on top. I liked it; the sausage had a strong herbal taste that complemented the tart flavor of the tomato sauce. The cheese was discreet.  I served it with a lettuce salad and a simple red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing.