Noodles have long been a part of Chinese cuisine. In fact, back in 2005, a bowl of 4,000 year old noodles was unearthed at an archeological site in northwest China. On birthdays and during Chinese New Year celebrations, Longevity Noodles are often served; the longer the noodle the better, and to be able to eat the noodle without cutting or biting ensures an even better, longer life. This Longevity Noodle recipe comes from Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, a chef and author of 11 Chinese cookbooks.
Tip: The fresh egg noodles are quickly cooked, then rinsed and drained. It’s important that the noodles are drained well, the drier the strands, the better they will absorb the sauce at the end.
Tip: Once you start stir-frying, the recipe comes together very quickly, literally in minutes. Have everything prepped and ready to go; even the sauce should be made in advance so that all you have to do is pour it in.
The Longevity Noodles can be enjoyed on their own or as part of a larger meal. They would be wonderful with grilled chicken, shrimp, or tofu. We enjoyed the dish as is, adding a squeeze of Sriracha and a dash of extra soy sauce at the table.
Wishing you a wonderful Year of the Monkey and best wishes for a long and healthy life!
2 quarts water
5 oz mung bean sprouts
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ lb fresh Chinese egg noodles
¼ low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
One ¼ inch thick slice of fresh ginger, lightly smashed
4 oz snow peas
6 canned water chestnuts, sliced ¼ inch thick
Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put bean sprouts in a strainer, lower into the boiling water and blanch for 10 seconds. Remove the strainer and rinse the sprouts in cold water; drain well.
Add salt to the water in the sauce and bring back to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Drain the noodles thoroughly in a colander and rinse them in cold water and drain. Rinse again, then drain, lifting them carefully to separate and dry the strands.
In a small bowl combine the chicken stock with the soy sauce and sesame oil to make the sauce.
Warm a large skillet or wok over high heat for 45 seconds. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the skillet. Stir in the ginger and cook for 10 seconds. Add the snow peas and stir-fry until bright green, about 1 minute. Add the water chestnuts and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry for 1 minute.
Stir the sauce, then add it to the skillet and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and stir-fry until they absorb the sauce, about 2 minutes. Transfer noodles to a platter and serve immediately with Sriracha and soy sauce for passing.
Add salt and bring the water back to the boil. Add noodles.
Cook noodles for 1 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove noodles from water. Drain and rinse under cool water. Drain. Rinse again, gently pulling noodles apart to separate strands. Drain throughly and allow to dry slightly.
Wednesday night is pasta night at White House Red Door; at the very least, that means 52 nights of pasta a year and, to be honest, I’m sure we exceed that, easily. The wonderful thing is that there are so many shapes, sizes, styles, and sauces that we could quickly go through a year without any repeats. Actually, having written that, I really should consider this a challenge. Note to self… New Year’s Resolution decided… a year’s worth of pasta.
Most Wednesday nights I use dry pasta, pairing with some seasonal veggie and sauce. Occasionally meat makes an appearance, but only in a supporting role. Favorites include:
Fresh pasta is a tremendous treat; a group effort saved for a quiet day when we can dedicate ourselves to the task. The rewards are well worth the effort and seem to lend themselves to cold, snowy days.
homemade butternut squash ravioli + sage + brown butter
One dish that turns up almost monthly is Lasagna Roll Ups. The perfect preset portions, incredible variety in terms of filling, and ease in getting this on the table make it one of my pasta night “go to” stand outs. The basic formula of ricotta, parmesan, salt and pepper remains constant, even standing alone if needed. However, when you have leftover or fresh veggies staring at you every time you open the fridge, throw them in the filling. Just about anything works- squash, zucchini, greens, peppers, mushrooms, onions are just a start.
This recipe is one to play with according to your taste. The quantities of sauce and cheese below are just guidelines. Love your lasagna gooey, saucy and cheesy? Done. Just add more sauce and cheese. Hate greens? No problem. Swap the greens for another vegetable you like. Missing the meat? Brown some sausage, ground beef, or add leftover chicken. It will be delicious. Trust yourself!
PS- If you have any roll ups left, they make excellent additions to a lunch box. Simply warm up in the microwave and immediately transfer to a thermos.
1 box lasagna noodles (15-18 noodles)
1 32oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce, 1 ½ cups reserved
2 cups ricotta
½ cup freshly grated parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella, ½ cup reserved
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 bunch greens… spinach, kale, swiss chard or combination
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare casserole dish by covering bottom with thin layer of marinara sauce.
Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles, 6 at a time, until flexible. When flexible, remove noodles with tongs and place on a cookie sheet lined with a clean dish towel. Top with another clean dish towel, and repeat with next batch of 6 noodles. Repeat until all the noodles are cooked.
Make the filling:
Saute chopped greens in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Remove from pan and finely chop. Set aside.
Combine ricotta, parmesan, and nutmeg. Stir in finely chopped greens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spread ricotta filling lengthwise down noodle (approximately 2 tablespoons per noodle). Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons marinara sauce over ricotta and top with 1-2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella.
Tightly roll up noodle jelly roll style and place seam side down in prepared casserole. (Depending on the casserole dish I use, my noodles usually end up being in 3×5 rows. It is important for the rolls to fit snugly against one another so that they don’t unfurl.) Repeat with remaining noodles.
Pour reserved 1 ½ cups of marinara over roll ups. Top with reserved ½ cup of shredded mozzarella. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.
Bake until heated through and bubbly, 30 minutes or so.
You know how each summer there is THE song of the summer, the one that puts smiles on faces, gets toes tapping, and windows rolled down while everyone sings along? Well, this summer I have THE herb of the summer growing in my garden… basil. The three or four small plants that went into the ground in late spring have grown into a mighty basil forest, extraordinarily tall and lush. We cannot keep up with it; despite our best efforts, that is an enormous amount of caprese salad to eat!
As the days grow shorter, I am only too aware of the cool weather that is sure to follow. Feeling a bit like the ant preparing for winter in Aesop’s The Grasshopper and the Ant, I’ve gone on a pesto making binge; not only preserving basil’s quintessential summer flavor at its best, but capturing a sunny moment in time. These green gems, pulled from the depths of the freezer, will bring warm memories to cold snowy nights sometime in the (not too distant) future.
Pesto is from the Italian word pestare which means to pound or crush. The English word for pestle shares the same Latin root. Traditionally, pesto is made by hand with a mortar and pestle, but in the quantities I’m dealing with the food processor is helping. No shame in that.
Some of the pesto is for enjoying now, but the majority is getting scooped into mini muffin tins, frozen, then transferred into storage containers for the freezer. The mini pesto “muffins” are just the right size to add to dishes all winter long.
And pesto isn’t just for pasta… here are some others ways to savor it.
• Potatoes- pesto and potatoes are a wonderful pair. Gently stir a spoonful of pesto into freshly boiled potatoes or mix a spoonful into mashed potatoes.
• Marinara Sauce- add pesto to your regular marinara sauce
• Dip- mix pesto into greek yogurt, crème fraiche, or sour cream for a dip
• Pizza- use pesto instead of pizza sauce on your next homemade pizza
• Sandwiches- spread pesto on your favorite crusty sandwich bread, top with sliced chicken and roasted red peppers
Those are just some of my suggestions. I’d love to hear from you… what are your favorite ways to use pesto?
This summer, we had a phenomenal family trip to London and Ireland.
While we explored the British Museum, Hyde Park, the Churchill War Rooms and the Tower of London, observed the Changing of the Horse Guard and took a spin on the London Eye, my thoughts were never too far from food. In fact, we kicked our trip off with a tour of Borough Market (I highly recommend Context Travel).
Celebrating and tasting your way through artisanal British and Irish cheeses at Neal’s Yard Dairy is a wonderful beginning to any day. Meeting and sharing ideas with farmers, spice vendors, and even a tea importer helped us connect to London in a very real way. Continuing the unofficial theme of local foods, we planned our dinners at restaurants that embrace a farm to table philosophy, locally sourcing their products based on seasonal availability. We enjoyed delicious meals at St. John, The Harwood Arms, and Tom’s Kitchen. An absolute standout at Tom’s Kitchen was the “Homemade Ricotta [with] balsamic glaze, dried herbs, grilled sourdough.” Oh. My. Goodness. This ricotta was so incredibly luscious, smooth, and creamy- yet light and airy, that only the fear of public humiliation kept me from stealing the entire dish, huddling in a remote corner, and licking the bowl clean.
Since our return home, that ricotta has been on my mind. We have a fairly wide selection of ricotta cheese at the grocery store, but it seems unfair to compare them to what I had in London. Even the best that I can get here is good, but not Tom’s Kitchen Homemade Ricotta good. What to do? The kitchen gods spoke. Challenged accepted. I learned to make my own.
It turns out, homemade ricotta is not hard to make. In 30 minutes you can be sitting down with your own bowl of lusciousness, ready to devour, spoon in hand. Even better, you control the ingredients. No fillers, thickeners, or stabilizers needed, just four simple ingredients- milk, cream, white vinegar and salt. It’s a bit like a science experiment, so if you have kids they are going to love this. But please don’t let “science experiment” intimidate you. My nine year old is now making the ricotta on a weekly basis.
The final texture depends on how long you leave the ricotta to drain. Ten minutes yields warm, soft curds perfect for enjoying by the spoonful; twenty minutes yields still soft but slightly more spreadable ricotta, while thirty minutes or more will leave you with a firmer, drier, ricotta that holds it shape. Between 10-20 minutes of draining is my favorite for spreading on grilled bread- savory with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of fresh herbs and a pinch of salt, or sweet with a drizzle of honey and topping of sliced berries. The ricotta that sits longer is perfect to dollop on warm pasta or pizza, either before or after it comes out of the oven.
PS- What about the whey? From 4 cups of milk/cream you will have about 1 cup of ricotta and 3 cups of whey. That is a lot of whey. Before you toss it down the drain you could…
• Replace the water with whey in pizza or bread dough recipes
• Add the whey to soups and stews
• Feed it to your chickens, pigs, etc.
3 ½ cups whole milk (NOT Ultra High–Temperature (UHT) pasteurized)
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup white vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
Line a sieve with cheesecloth and place in a bowl. Set aside.
Combine milk and heavy cream in a saucepan. Gently warm the milk mixture over medium heat until it reaches 180°. Remove from heat.
Add the white vinegar and salt, stirring gently once or twice to distribute evenly. Leave the milk mixture undisturbed for 10 minutes while the curds and whey form.
After 10 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the curds to the cheesecloth lined sieve. Once the larger curds have been placed in the sieve, carefully pour the remaining curds/whey into the sieve. Let drain for at least 10 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. The longer the ricotta drains, the firmer it will be.
Transfer to storage container and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
Enjoy as you would any ricotta, savory or sweet… in lasagna, ziti, cannoli, atop grilled bread, or just by the spoonful from the bowl!
I love vegetables, especially those I can cook quickly and simply. Shopping with the seasons in mind makes it easy to enjoy their flavors in their truest form… you don’t have to do much to a perfectly ripe, in season tomato, or green beans, or [insert your favorite vegetable of choice].
Our town is home to a small organic farm and we are fortunate enough to belong to its CSA (Community Supported Agriculture); in the cold dark months of winter we pre-pay our local farm for a season’s worth of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Here in our part of the world that means I pick up our weekly share beginning in June and go through October. Each pick up day is a little like Christmas morning… what is in my share this week? How much am I going to get? Since June, this season has brought greens of all sorts, lettuces, scallions, scapes, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, kohlrabi, onions, garlic, beets, fennel, beans, herbs, and berries. With every pick up comes the happy challenge of how to use each of these gifts before next week’s share demands my attention and refrigerator space.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side. Because of the seasonality, the downside is that “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Words I’ve often said to my kids and lately, find myself repeating weekly as I pick up an every growing ration of zucchini. It’s the nature of the beast and we are in prime zucchini season. I’m sure you are seeing loads of zucchini too… in your CSA, at the farmer’s market, and at the supermarket.
Despite all my veggie love, zucchini is one that I could do without. It’s my personal kryptonite. I’m not sure why this is… I don’t recall any traumatic childhood dinner table incidents involving zucchini. Maybe it’s because it looks so much like a cucumber- and I love cucumber, so that I’m always disappointed by the false pretense, a poser. Maybe it’s the tendency to quickly turn to mush if left a minute too long on the stove, in a soup, or on the grill. In any case, I must accept that we are at peak zucchini season. Each passing week larger and larger quantities are appearing in my share, stretching my creativity, pushing me out of my zucchini comfort zone. Rising to the challenge, I’ve found a few ways to prepare this green monster so that I actually enjoy eating it. Zucchini season won’t last forever, by the time I’m ready to wave the white flag, or dishtowel in this case, it’s time will be done, replaced by one of my favorites- tomatoes. In the meanwhile, enjoy these easy and delicious takes on zucchini.
The Zucchini Fritters make excellent appetizers, sides, and stand on their own for lunch (or breakfast- eaten straight from the fridge!). You’ll find plenty of uses for the accompanying Tzatziki Sauce recipe. In addition to serving it with the fritters, I use it as a topping for meat- think lamb burgers and seafood, especially shrimp; use it as a dip for veggies or pita chips; spread it on naan, add the protein of your choice and some crunchy lettuce to build a delicious wrap. The Zucchini Carpaccio recipes are incredibly versatile, and take about 5 minutes to get on the table. I’ve given measurements, but please improvise according to your taste. There is no right or wrong! If you love lemon, use more lemon! Don’t like goat cheese and thyme? Use feta and oregano! Play with your food.
Please feel free to share your favorite ways of preparing zucchini. I’m always on the hunt for more tasty ideas.
2 ½ cups coarsely grated zucchini (from about 3 medium)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ cup (or more) all purpose flour
½ cup crumbled feta
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ cup chopped green onion
1 ½ Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)
Toss zucchini in ½ teaspoon salt in a colander, place in the sink allowing the zucchini to “sweat.” Let stand for 5 minutes. Press out excess liquid; transfer zucchini to a dry bowl.
Mix in egg, yolk, ½ cup flour, cheese and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix in parsley, onions, and dill. If batter is very wet, add more flour by the spoonful.
Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle* over medium high heat. Working in batches, drop batter by rounded tablespoons onto skillet. Cook fritters until golden, about 5 minutes per side.
Serve with tzatziki sauce or plain greek yogurt.
*Because seasoned cast iron is non-stick I didn’t need to use oil. If you are using a regular skillet, you will have to fry the patties in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of corn oil, adding more olive and corn oil as needed.
**Can be made 1 day ahead. Place on baking sheet, cover, and chill. Rewarm uncovered in 350° oven for 12 minutes.
This sauce is a delicious multitasker. Serve it as a dip for vegetables, pita chips or wedges, grilled lamb, and the zucchini fritters.
8 oz full fat greek yogurt
½ a hot house cucumber, cut lengthwise, seeded, quartered, and finely diced
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
Serve immediately, or let it sit in the fridge to really let the flavors come together.
Zucchini Carpaccio with Parmesan, Pine Nuts, and Basil