Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Favorite Cookbooks: Asian Noodles

One of my 2019 resolutions is to go through the huge cookbook collection, and give away the books that I am not using. That process has had the happy side effect of surfacing well-loved books that have fallen into disuse.

I bought Nina Simonds' Asian Noodles cookbook so long ago that the where or why is lost in the mists of memory. Maybe we heard about it on NPR, or read about it in Gourmet magazine? No idea. But it's been a favorite for going on 20 years because every recipe I make from the book is easy and delicious. There are precious few books in my collection that can make that claim. Over the years, I've made a few alterations here and there as Asian markets become more common and authentic ingredients plentiful; for instance I no longer have to substitute scallion greens for garlic chives. But on the whole, it still brings me as much pleasure as it did in 1997.

The recipe for Saucy Garlic Pork Lo Mein is so well-loved that the page is stained and the ingredients list is barely legible. As with recipes of this type, the prep is the bulk of the work; the actual meal comes together in minutes. I reduced the amount of liquid, and added the cabbage and red pepper to boost the veg factor. It doesn't hurt that is makes it prettier, too.

Saucy Garlic Pork Lo Mein

1 pound pork loin, trimmed of fat and cut in strips

Garlic Marinade
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine or sake
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

10 dried Chinese black mushrooms, softened in hot water, drained, stems removed, and caps very thinly sliced
1/3 pound garlic chives, cleaned and ends trimmed
1/2 medium Savoy cabbage, rinsed and cut crosswise into strips
1 red pepper, cored and seeded, cut into thin strips
3 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 1/2 tablespoons rice wine or sake

1 3/4 cups chicken broth
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine or sake
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 pound flat noodles (Chinese noodles, if available, or substitute linguini), cooked until tender, rinsed under cold water, and drained.

1. Add the Garlic Marinade to the pork and toss lightly with your hands to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Remove and discard the stems from the black mushrooms (if using) and cut the caps into very thin shreds. Cut the garlic chives into 1-inch lengths.

3. Bring 3-quarts of water to a boil, add the noodles, and cook about 10 to 12 minutes, until near tender; drain in a colander, rinse with cold water to remove the starch, and drain again thoroughly with a colander.

4. In a large measuring cup with a spout, mix all of the sauce ingredients except the cornstarch. Put the cornstarch in a small bowl, then slowly add about 1/2 cup of the cold liquid, stirring until you have a slurry. Add more liquid as necessary until it's pourable. Add it to the measuring cup.

5. Heat a wok or large skillet, add 2 1/2 tablespoons of the oil, and heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the pork strips and stir-fry over medium-high heat until they separate and are no longer pink. Remove with a handled strainer or slotted spoon and drain. Wipe out the pan.

6. Reheat the pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, heat about 20 seconds, and add the ginger, garlic, cabbage, and red pepper strips and stir-fry until wilted. Add the garlic chives. Stir-fry over medium-high heat briefly, then add the rice wine or sake, and cook about 1 minute. Stir the sauce in the measuring cup, then then add to the pan and cook, stirring continuously to prevent lumps, until it thickens. Add the cooked noodles and pork and toss lightly. Transfer to a large dish and serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

New Year, New start

I left my full-time job last fall, and started a new gig that has me in the office twenty hours a week, Monday through Thursday. Going back to a part-time job brings the usual money woes, but the kids are already benefiting from the increased parental presence. The decreased office time has given me a hankering to dust off this site and reclaim my title as The World's Laziest Blogger.
My family has a number of challenges: I am a single parent, and both of my children are non-neurotypical. I struggle to find a balance between work and home. There's so much that I could write about, and yet, I never do. I've never found a way to write about my kids or my family life without feeling exploitative. Millions of other people do it all the time. Many have made book deals or become celebrities. It's just not in me.
That leaves two areas of enthusiasm and limited expertise: food, and music. The wretched Low Iodine Diet is a thing of the past - thank the Gods and Goddesses - so I'm free to ramble on about recipes, dinner parties, weeknight supper improvisations, canning, and my vintage cookbook collection. I've started a new site for my musical links and pontificating and will publish a link once it's tidy enough for visitors.
It would be awesome if I could manage to write every day, but that ain't happening. Once a week is probably more realistic. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Low Iodine - What are the "rules?"

The low iodine diet for thyroid cancer treatment is extremely hard to stick with, all the more so because there is no consensus on how long to stay on it or what foods are forbidden/allowed. Iodine isn't one of the nutrients marked on food labels, and no list exists anywhere with actual numbers for common foods. THYCA's list isn't the same as the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and neither of those matches the NIH guidelines or the Mayo Clinic. Beans are a no-no. Beans are just fine. Soy is forbidden, but tofu is OK if your a vegetarian. Stay on it for 4 weeks pre-ablation or test. No, only 1-2 weeks is necessary for a good result.
The uncertainty is maddening, particularly because it is your health - and your life - hinging on accurate results. I don't want to be told that all fruits and vegetables are fine in any quantity, then get a false negative because I ate too many strawberries or too much broccoli.
I found and bookmarked this blog post a few years ago,  because it (and the comments) expressed much of what I was feeling about the experience of living with this cancer and coping with the diet. Treatment for thyroid cancer is isolating and frustrating. The lack of good information only adds to the frustration.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Low Iodine - Potato and Green Chile Stew

Cool weather will be upon us soon here in the mid-Atlantic, and vegetable soups of all kinds are perfect for a low-iodine diet. Try this tasty stew from noted author and vegetarian Deborah Madison if you want a little something different - use homemade chicken stock or water and leave out the sour cream. Go ahead and double this recipe, as it reheats very well.


  • 1 or 2 long green chiles or poblano chiles, roasted and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil or other vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup chicken stock (homemade with uniodized salt) or water
  • Sour cream to finish (leave out for low-iodine)
  • Chopped cilantro to finish


    1. Chop the chiles coarsely. Heat the oil in a wide pot; add the onion and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, garlic, and potatoes, followed by the chile along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and give a stir. Cook together of a few minutes, then add the water or stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.

    2. Cook and cover until the potatoes are completely softened, about 25 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. At this point you can mash the potatoes, or at least a few of them to give the dish a creamy sort of background, if desired.

    3. Pour into a bowl, and add the cilantro. (I also add a squeeze of lime)

    Tuesday, August 11, 2015

    Grilled Chicken With Herbs - from the 60 Minute Gourmet

    Pierre Franey's long-running New York Times column, The 60-Minute Gourmet, was a treasure. This simple grilled chicken, from a column published in August of 1981, has been one of my mainstays since cutting it from the newspaper. All these years later I have made only two changes. In the original recipe, the chicken is brushed with butter just before serving. I omit the butter in favor of a drizzle of good olive oil, and add a sprinkle of minced flat-leaf parsley for a little herbal brightness. This combination of flavors really works.

    Chicken breasts grilled with herbs

    4 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts, about 1 1/2 pounds or slightly more
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    Kosher salt to taste, if desired
    Freshly ground pepper to taste
    1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    2 Tablespoons olive oil (originally 1/4 cup hot melted butter) for serving
    Minced parsley for serving      
    1. Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to a desired degree of heat for grilling.
     2. Cut each chicken breast down the middle in half. Cut away and discard any extraneous membranes or cartilage.
     3. Put the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a flat dish and stir to blend. Add the garlic, coriander, pepper flakes and oregano. Stir to blend.
    4. Add the chicken pieces and turn them in the marinade. Cover with foil and set aside until ready to cook. (I marinate for about an hour, while making the rest of dinner.)
     5. Add the chicken pieces to the grill and cook three or four minutes on one side. Turn and cook two or three minutes on the other side. Continue cooking, turning often, for a total of about 10 minutes.
    Transfer the chicken to a warm serving dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with rice and a quickly cooked vegetable such as asparagus or corn on the cob.

    Sunday, August 2, 2015

    Cool Summer Soups

    A friend asked me to do a cooking demonstration at the Bloomingdale Farmer's Market this morning. What fun! I decided to do two cool summer soups: Cucumber with yogurt and herbs, and Peach Buttermilk. Both are easy-peasy, and take advantage of what is fresh and delicious at the market right now.

    Buttermilk Peach Soup

    2 ½ lb ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
    1 cup buttermilk (whole or low-fat, not fat-free)
    2 T. lemon juice, fresh
    1 T. Honey (or brown sugar)
    ⅛ t. ground cinnamon
    ¼ t. salt
    Fresh mint, or basil

    Peel the peaches with a sharp vegetable peeler over a large bowl, then chop coarsely. Save all the peach juice.

    Add the peaches to a blender jar. Add buttermilk, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, and salt. Put the top tightly on the blender jar, and set the blender to its highest setting. Process for about 3-4 minutes, or until it looks smooth. Taste and add more honey or salt if necessary. Add up to 1 cup water if the soup seems too thick. Pour into a clean pitcher with a lid, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

    Chill six soup bowls. To serve, stack mint or basil leaves, roll into a cigar shape, then cut into thin ribbons with a sharp knife. Pour the cold soup into the chilled bowls, and garnish with the mint.

    Chilled Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Herbs

    4 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
    2 shallots, peeled and quartered
    2 cloves garlic, peeled
    1 cup plain yogurt
    ¼ - ½ cup good quality olive oil
    ⅓ cup loosely packed dill, plus 1 T. for garnishing
    ¼ cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
    2 Tablespoons loosely packed tarragon leaves
    2 T. sherry vinegar
    1 t. salt
    ¼ t. white pepper

    Add half of the cucumbers to a blender jar with half of the yogurt, half of the olive oil, 1 garlic clove, 1 shallot, and half of the herbs. Blend at high speed for 3-4 minutes, or until very smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Add the remainder of the cucumbers, yogurt, olive oil, shallot, garlic, and herbs to the blender jar, and process at high speed until smooth. Pour into bowl. Whisk in the sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper. Taste and correct the seasonings. Pour into a clean pitcher and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

    Chill six soup bowls. To serve, mince once tablespoon of fresh dill. Pour the cold soup into the chilled bowls, and garnish with the dill.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2015

    Low Iodine: Pasta!

    One of the few bright spots of the low iodine diet is that it permits pasta within certain parameters. Fresh pasta with abundant egg yolks is, of course, off limits. Dried pasta containing nothing but semolina & durum flour is just fine, and makes a perfect backdrop for all sorts of fantastic flavors.

    If you have the good fortune to be on the low-iodine diet during the summer, then get yourself to the local farmer's market for some field-grown tomatoes and fresh basil. A mix of tomato varieties like Purple Cherokee, Lemon Boy, Green Zebra and cherry tomatoes like Sungold make a vibrant-looking and -tasting dish. Cook up some orrichiette and toss it with this easy no-cook tomato sauce:

    Italian Salsa Cruda

    2 lb. ripe field grown tomatoes, cored and diced (about 4 cups) - do not seed the tomatoes!
    1/2 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
    2 T. Red wine vinegar
    1/3 cup roughly chopped basil
    1 T. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
    2 cloves minced fresh garlic
    1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper; more to taste
    1 lb. dried orrichiette, rigatoni, or other short ridged pasta that will hold the sauce.

    Kosher salt for the finished dish. Adding salt to the sauce early will draw the moisture from the tomatoes and adversely affect the texture.

    Combine all ingredients except salt in a large bowl and let stand for up to three hours to let the flavors combine. Taste and add more pepper if desired. Toss with cooked pasta. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.


    Another summer favorite pasta is this herbed, lemony, garlicky pasta salad recipe by Joanne Weir, originally published in Fine Cooking magazine years ago. Perfectly low-iodine friendly and flavorful, this salad needs nothing more than a chilled glass of white wine to accompany it.

    Herbed Farfalle with Grilled Chicken

    Kosher salt
    12 oz. dried farfalle pasta
    10 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
    2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb. total)
    Freshly ground black pepper
    7 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tsp. ground cumin
    1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
    1 cup packed fresh cilantro sprigs
    1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn
    1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves, torn
    1 cup packed fresh arugula (tough stems removed)
    6 lemon wedges

    In a large pot, bring 6 qt. water and 2 Tbs. salt to a boil. Add the farfalle and cook until al dente, 10 to 12 min. Drain the pasta and toss it immediately with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Let the pasta cool completely in the refrigerator.

    Heat a cast-iron ridged grill pan or an outdoor grill. Brush the chicken breasts with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Grill the chicken breasts until golden on one side, 4 to 5 min. Turn the breasts, season with salt and pepper, and continue to grill until golden and cooked through, another 6 to 8 min. Let the chicken cool and then cut it on the diagonal into thin strips. Set aside.

    In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 8 Tbs. olive oil with the lemon juice, garlic, and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the farfalle, sliced chicken, parsley, cilantro, basil, mint, and arugula and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Put the salad into a serving bowl and serve immediately, garnished with the lemon wedges.