Chinese Peanut-Sauce Cold Noodles


Difficulty: Very Easy
Clean-up: Light
Active Time: 15 min
Total Time: 15 min.  Can also be prepared beforehand and chilled.

It’s nearly summer, and the weather is really hot today!  I wanted to share a recipe that involves minimal stove time.  This is my simplified take on a popular Chinese dish.  I usually stock all of these ingredients in my pantry (aside from the cucumbers), so this is also a good go-to when I have nothing left in my fridge!  I can’t vouch for the nutritional value, but it does taste good and hit the spot.

Ingredients:

  • Equal parts garlic and ginger, minced (about 1 clove of garlic and 1 slice of ginger)
  • Equal parts peanut butter and Hoisin sauce (about 1-2 Tbs. each)
  • A dash of sesame oil
  • ½ tsp of Asian chile sauce
  • Vinegar to taste (2-3 splashes)
  • 2-4 servings of noodles. Chinese Shan Dong style noodles work well for this, but spaghetti also is just fine.  See cooking tip below.
  • Optional garnish: cucumber, finely sliced or shredded

Directions:

  1. Boil noodles according to package directions.  See cooking tip below to save energy and reduce stove time.
  2. While noodles are boiling, mince garlic and ginger.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together garlic, ginger, and all other ingredients, to taste.
  4. Drain noodles when done.  Mix sauce into noodles 1 spoonful at a time, until noodles are lightly coated.  Extra sauce can be chilled and saved.
  5. This dish can be eaten right away or chilled.  Serve with cold cucumbers as a garnish or side dish.

Cooking Tips:

  • Raw garlic packs a much stronger taste than cooked garlic.  A medium-sized clove can flavor a pound of pasta very adequately.  If you plan to use less than a pound of pasta, choose a smaller clove.
  • If you do not have Hoisin sauce in your kitchen, you can also substitute soy sauce and lots of sugar for a similar taste.
  • To estimate the quantity of noodles to cook for a meal, my mother taught me that 1 fistful of dried noodles is approximately 1 serving.  After counting out fistfuls for the number of people I’m serving, I often throw in an extra fistful or two, for good measure, in case anyone is a big eater.
  • I learned a great tip from Great Depression Cooking with Clara to save energy and reduce stove time on a hot day when making noodles or pasta.  Simply bring the water to a boil and then add the noodles or pasta.  Cover the pot and turn the stove off.  Let noodles steep in the water for the amount of time on the package and taste to see if they are done.  Stir noodles to loosen them if they appear stuck to one another.  Drain and serve!

Season:

  • According to the CUESA Seasonality Chart, cucumbers are in season April to November.  I like to prepare this dish in the summer, as it is great for hot weather because it can be eaten chilled and it also does not require much active time in front of a stove.

Chinese Stir-fried Baby Bok Choy


Difficulty: Easy
Clean-up: Light
Active Time: 30 min
Total Time: 30 min

Here’s another easy and nutritious dish.  The worst part of this recipe is washing the bok choy, as it often needs several rinses to get rid of all the dirt. I used to find chopping the vegetable a real pain, until my mother-in-law showed me a quick and easy way to get the job done. I love to eat this vegetable but only buy it when I know I have time to cook it within a day or two, as it does not keep very well. When shopping for bok choy, I look at the stems for freshness (they should look juicy, not discolored or cracked) and also check out the leaves to see if they look green, healthy, and mostly whole.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 bunches of baby bok choy
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 Tbs. oil
  • Oyster sauce (optional)

Directions:

  1. Wash bok choy thoroughly.  Cut into similarly-sized pieces.  See cooking tip below for my mother-in-law’s easy way to do this.
  2. Pour oil into wok and heat on high until oil begins to smoke.
  3. Drop garlic into the oil. The high heat of the oil will deep fry the garlic and release a strong garlic flavor that will permeate the vegetables.
  4. Immediately add bok choy and stir-fry until vegetables begin to cook (1-2 min). Add a splash of water if needed, if no water is coming out of the vegetables themselves. Cover wok with lid and simmer on medium heat.
  5. When vegetables start to become translucent but are not yet fully cooked (5-7 min), turn off the stove.  The vegetables will cook the rest of the way on their own.
  6. I sometimes like this dish with just the garlic flavor.  However, I often also add some oyster sauce to taste, about 1-2 Tbs, or 3-4 shakes of the oyster sauce bottle.

Cooking Tips:

  • My mother-in-law taught me a quick way to cut bok choy, mustard greens, and similarly-shaped small vegetables.  Using a paring knife, slice the vegetable length-wise from the bottom, through the stem.  Cut into quarters or sixths, depending on the thickness of the vegetable.  This saves the use of a chopping board and makes delightfully neat pieces.
  • I always had trouble with soggy over-cooked vegetables, until my good friend Carol taught me this little tip: always turn the heat off a wee bit early, before the vegetable is completely cooked.  Because the heat inside the vegetables will keep them cooking, by the time the dish makes it from the stove to the table the vegetables will be just right.

Season: