Monday, April 27, 2009

Food For Steamy Weather

90 degrees yesterday?  Seriously, Mother Nature?  This is how you address my pleas for warm weather?  Be careful what you wish for, I suppose.

But when steamy weather hits, I always turn to Asian cuisine, and this time was no different.  I pulled my trusty Hot Sour Salty Sweet off the shelf and started to flip through, trying to cobble together a dish based on what I had in the apartment:  gorgeous oyster mushrooms from the farmers market, cellophane noodles, cilantro, half a napa cabbage and a ton of limes.  

There was of course no one recipe that fit the contents of my pantry, so I ended up merging two different recipes for Thai noodle salad, and I must say the result fit the bill perfectly.  Light, refreshing, and it required few heat-producing activities.

Thai Noodle Salad
Adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Yields 4 servings

1 pound oyster mushrooms
3 ounces cellophane noodles (these are sometimes called mung bean noodles)
bottom half of 1 napa cabbage (you may use the top half, but I prefer the crunchier texture of the bottom here)
2 scallions, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, chopped
dried, fresh or pickled chile peppers to taste
2 tablespoons peanut, safflower or other tasteless oil
4 tablespoons fish sauce
5 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Put on a large pot of water to boil.  

Brush any dirt or grime off of the mushrooms, and separate the individual caps.  Heat a cash iron skillet over high heat.  Toss mushrooms lightly in oil, and when pan is hot put mushrooms on to cook.  Turn them occasionally as they cook, and remove from heat when they are lightly browned, tender and moist in the middle.

When water has come to a boil, drop in cellophane noodles and allow to cook until tender, approximately 2 minutes.  When they are ready, drain them in a fine mesh colander and run them under cold water to cool.

Julienne napa cabbage and add to the noodles, along with sliced scallions, cooked mushrooms and chopped cilantro.

In a bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, whisk together fish sauce, lime juice and sugar.

Heat oil over medium-high heat, then add chiles and garlic.  I took this opportunity to use the pickled peppers that I canned last summer, and used three half-inch pieces.  I would use about a half of a dried chile or one fresh chile if those were my options.  

Tilt the pan such that the contents collect at the low point and are essentially deep frying.  Continue to cook until garlic becomes golden.  When cooked, pour oil and contents into the lime juice and fish sauce mixture.  Whisk, and adjust to taste.  Depending on the limes and fish sauce that you are using, you may need to adjust the balance of acid and sweet.

Pour the dressing over the noodle mixture and toss with your hands.  Allow to marinate for about twenty minutes, then serve.


Terry B said...

Seriously, 90º?!? Here in Chicago, we had mid-80s and then mid-40s on the same day. It's hard to know what to wear, let alone what to eat. But this noodle salad sounds perfect for the task. Delicious!

Laura [What I Like] said...

That is the craziest weather I've ever heard of! Only in Chicago...

wambalus said...

I have been having a craving for napa cabbage - I was envisioning a cole slaw with a miso dressing and chopped dry roasted almonds.

Laura [What I Like] said...

Oh no...peanuts sounds like a much better option in a slaw like that!

TmJL said...

That looks delicious! I'll have to try it. I'm sorry about the 90degree weather! We got mid seventies last week and I thought that was bad!

Cindy said...

This is one of my favorite cookbooks ever! And a fine coffee table book as well--the photographs are exquisite, and I've spent many evenings on the couch reading about the family's travels through southeast Asia.

I keep a jar of their table sauce in the fridge and put it on all sort of leftovers as well as serve it with Thai dinners. Those flavors often leave me with the same question you had about the French Elle--why so much brighter, complex, and wonderful than ours?

Laura [What I Like] said...

I's all just so vibrant isn't it? But then perhaps it would become less vibrant if we were to eat it all the never knows.

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