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.