Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Aromatic Noodles with Asian inspired peanut sauce

I am on a Cilantro kick at the moment and I can't decide if that is because of Cinco De Mayo or what. So until my fascination with this great fresh tasting herb passes you may just have to learn a new appreciation for its versatility. This recipe was inspired by one from Gourmet magazine I wrote down ages ago and have been making my own variations ever since. It is quick and surprisingly simple despite what might look like a lot of ingredients. This is a perfect recipe if you are craving Thai food.

Aromatic Noodles
with an Asian inspired peanut sauce

12 oz. Soba noodles (whole wheat angel hair would work too)
2 c. broccoli florets
2 c. snow peas
2 c. sugar peas
2 whole green onions
2-4 garlic cloves finely chopped
½ c. bean sprouts
½ c. all natural creamy peanut butter
½ c. unsalted peanuts
¼ c. low sodium soy sauce
2 tbl rice wine vinegar
2 tbl fresh lime juice (about two small limes)
2 tbl organic raw sugar (brown sugar or agave syrup would also work)
Fresh ginger peeled and finely grated
Small bunch of fresh cilantro roughly chopped
Drizzle of toasted sesame oil (you could also use extra virgin olive oil)

1. Cook the noodles in a large pot of water according to the directions on the package. Drain and rinse with cool water.
2. While the noodles are cooking steam the broccoli florets until vivid green about 3 min. Then add the peas and continue to steam all the veggies for about 2 more min until peas are bright green and tender.
3. Toast the peanuts in a dry pan over a medium heat until they become fragrant, about 3 minutes. Pour them into a bowl and let cool.
4. The make the base for the sauce drizzle the pan with a small amount of toasted sesame oil and gently sauté the garlic, green onion, and ginger for just a few minutes until fragrant. Add the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, and peanut butter. Heat through stirring continuously; if it is too thick add a few tablespoons of hot water.
5. Right before serving toss the noodles with about ½ the peanut sauce and a small amount of the chopped cilantro. Top with steamed veggies, raw bean sprouts, and roasted peanuts (they can be whole or slightly chopped). Drizzle with remaining sauce and garnish with the remaining cilantro (to taste).

This is a really great dish as is but you can also add chilies to it for a little kick. Just add a seeded, chopped chili of whatever heat you like to the pan while sautéing the garlic in step 4. You could also used red pepper flakes for a quick addition. You could also make more sauce (or save any you have left over) for a few days in the fridge if you wanted to try it with chicken sate or on more noodles later in the week for a quick lunch.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Parmesan Zucchini Crisps

These are a quick but deeply satisfying snack. A great way to use all the zucchini from the garden. Or a perfect baked vegetable alternative to popcorn or potato chips.

2 medium Zucchini sliced thinly
¼ c. finely grated parmesan
¼ c. garlic and herb bread crumbs
2 tbl olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450°
1. Slice the zucchini and blot the extra moisture with paper towels
2. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat
3. Sprinkle with cheese, breadcrumbs, and any seasoning to taste
4. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray and place slices in a single layer
5. Bake 25-30 min or until golden brown and crispy

Serve warm from the oven and experiment with different flavors of breadcrumbs and herbs. Cajun spices are very yummy if you like a little spice.

To make your own breadcrumbs:
1. Lightly butter or drizzle bread with olive oil and season to taste
2. Turn oven to broil and move rack to highest position
3. Place bread in single layer on backing sheet and toast in oven for 3-5 min
4. Remove and flip continue to toast under the oven broiler until golden brown
5. When cool place toast in a blender or food processor and pulse until ground to your desired coarseness
* Some flavors to try: garlic and onion, Cajun, Italian herb, lime, salt and pepper.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Three great ways to use Cilantro

These recipes are for my best friend Carson. The flavors in these simple recipes remind me of her, with their bright clean flavors, beautiful colors and endless possibilities. All three recipes are perfect for spring and summer and can be made in advance, in large quantities for parties. Or just for you paired with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc on a Sunday afternoon.

Cilantro is a great herb and can be used to kick up a lot of classic recipes. Since I buy cilantro in large bunches I often have enough for several recipes. Here are a few I have played with lately, including my hand hacked guacamole.

Hand Hacked Guacamole

3 medium ripe avocadoes
1 medium onion chopped
1 small tomato (I like to use romanos)
Juice of one lime
1-2 serrano chiles
3 tbl chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic chopped
sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1. Cut the avocados in half, and remove the pits with a spoon, scoop out the green flesh into a medium bowl.
2. Using two forks and a cross “hacking” motion mash the avocadoes into large chunks.
3. Mix in the chopped onion, garlic, cilantro, and chilies. Do not include the seeds from the chilies and remember that chili peppers can vary greatly in their hotness. Add a little at a time until you reach the desired level of heat and then thoroughly wash your hands and the cutting surfaces. Do not touch your face or other sensitive areas for a few hours. 4. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
5. Add the chopped tomatoes just before serving.

Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation and browning of the avocado. Guacamole is all about what you like so feel free to get creative; I like to throw in a little fat free cottage cheese on occasion. I am also a fan of serving guac with celery and grilled pita points.

Cilantro Pesto Pasta

12 oz whole wheat pasta
2 c. fresh cilantro
½ c. pine nuts
½ half head of garlic
2 tbl white wine vinegar
drizzle olive oil *you could also use avocado oil
sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
*optional crushed red pepper

1. In a blender or food processor pulse the cilantro, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil and white wine vinegar until it forms a smooth paste.
2. Boil Pasta until firm and drain, toss with herb paste.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste, you can also season with crushed red pepper for a little spicy kick.

The flavors in this pasta sauce are strong and bright and pair best with fresh lightly steamed veggies. Serve this pasta with fresh tomatoes, a little steamed asparagus or rapini, grilled chicken or shrimp. This dish can also be served chilled as a pasta salad.

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

1 1/2c. Greek style yogurt
1 lemon zest and juice
½ small onion finely chopped
¾ c. chopped cilantro
3-4 chopped cloves garlic
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients, cover and refrigerate. Let the flavors blend for a few hours or over night. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

This can also be made with sour cream in place of the yogurt and lime instead of the lemon for a slightly more Latino taste. I have also used Cajun seasoning in place of the cayenne or just simple salt and pepper, all are great. I usually serve this alongside grilled shrimp or chicken. It is especially good in a pita pocket stuffed with chicken, tomatoes, and baby spinach.