Hello, neglected blog. See, what happened was I was super busy training for (and then running) a marathon (which was amazing, changed my life, etc.) except I thought I’d have all this free time when I was done and turns out there’s still a lot to do with, you know, the rest of my life.
And, also, I can’t eat everything in sight and not gain weight when I’m not running 40 miles a week, it turns out. So I started Weight Watchers this week, which has had the fringe benefit of getting me back on the general meal-planning horse. There were a lot of roast chicken or scrambled egg dinners in the post-marathon weeks. And the other benefit is that I dusted off one of my favorite cookbooks of all time and rediscovered one of my favorite “diet” meals. Cold Spicy Sesame Noodles. Which, you know, I have made a billion variations of, usually with peanut butter, and they hardly ever turn out as well as I imagine they will. But this version turns out better than any of the peanut butter versions but without peanut butter or even tahini. And it’s only 6 Weight Watchers Points per serving. (7 if you add cooked shrimp.) Don’t ask, just try them. Even my picky four year old, who normally won’t eat any pasta, not even mac and cheese (not even from a box!), loved these.
First, though, you have to make yourself some Chinese Five-Flavor oil, which seems like a pain but it keeps forever in the fridge and is great to have on hand. You can saute up leftover brown rice in it and scramble in an egg. It’s great for sauteing shrimp or pork, too, or cooking any green- I use it all the time to brush on asparagus before roasting.
Chinese Five-Flavor Oil
(adapted from Sally Schneider)
8 slices of ginger
1 tbsp green peppercorns
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Smash the scallions and ginger a bit and then cut them into big pieces. Set aside with the peppercorns. (I just use green peppercorns because I always forget to look for Szechwan peppercorns at the Asian market.) Heat the sesame and peanut oil over moderate heat. Add pepper flakes a few at a time- once they begin to sizzle put them all in and cook for just a few more seconds before removing from heat. Stir in scallions, ginger and peppercorns. Set aside, covered, for an hour or overnight. Strain oil into a jar and store in your fridge.
Cold Spicy Sesame Noodles
(also from Sally Schneider)
8 ounces fresh Chinese (egg*) noodles
1 tablespoon Chinese five-flavor oil
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar**
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup cilantro
2 tablespoon roasted peanuts, chopped
Boil a big pot of water, salt well. Cook the noodles for 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain and run cold water over them until completely cool and then drain well.
Combine next five ingredients (oil through salt) in a bowl. Add noodles, scallions and cilantro and toss well. Chill for an hour before serving or up to 2 days. Sprinkle with peanuts before serving, and top with shrimp or leftover roast chicken for a main course meal. Serves four.
*Sally Schneider also says you can use egg linguine but I disagree. If you have an Asian market near you, you can get fresh Chinese egg noodles as long as it’s not a Korean market. The first time I made these I was living near Koreatown and they thought I was crazy because apparently noodles in Korea never, ever have egg. So find them at a Chinese market- I am partial to 99 Ranch, and not just because their website features a video set to Willie Nelson singing “What A Wonderful World”- or more of a general Asian market, is my tip.
**Do not question it. Just do it.