Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Peanut Sesame Noodles

Over the last year or so I've come across a number of recipes for sesame noodles. These recipes have long enticed me with their fresh vegetables, ease of preparation and their slightly spicy, slightly sweet but always peanut-y (thanks to a good dose of peanut butter) dressing. Have I mentioned how much I like peanut butter before? No? Well, I do. As Mr. Gump would say, I like it a lot.

(No, seriously. I really like peanut butter. So much that I rarely keep a jar of the stuff in the house because I will inevitably eat it (by the spoonful) in a matter of a couple of days. So much that Spring is my favorite time of year-- primarily because it means that Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs are back on sale at the grocery store. Do I need to say more? I thought not.)

So finally this week I decided to just give one of the many recipes out there a try. I decided to go with Smitten Kitchen's recipe because....well, honestly, there wasn't much of a rationale. I happened to be pursuing her site this weekend and came upon it for the umpteenth time and decided to go for it.

The recipe and subsequent dish met all my expectations-- lots of fresh veggies, easy to make, and definitely peanut-y. I liked it, but I didn't love it. In some ways, it was almost TOO peanut-y. I liked the first few bites a lot....but then it just got old. It was too one note. Perhaps it would make a better side dish than an entree. Or maybe adding some protein (some chicken, for example) might help balance the flavors a little bit.Or maybe dialing down the peanut butter would help it out a bit.

Did I just say that?

Peanut Sesame Noodles
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (or less....)
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1 TBL fresh ground ginger (you could also substitute fresh chopped ginger here)
2 TBL rice vinegar
1 1/2 TBL sesame oil
1 TBL honey
1 teaspoon garlic chili paste
3/4 lb dried soba noodles (linguine or spaghetti will work if you can't find soba)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
3 TBL sesame seeds, toasted

1. Make the dressing by whisking first eight ingredients (through chili paste) in a bowl. You can also throw it all in a blender if you want. Set aside.
2. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse well under cold water (it prevents the pasta from sticking together).
3. Add pasta, scallions, bell peppers, cucumber to dressing. Toss to combine. Top with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Menu Monday

Here's what is on tap for this week:

Monday: Peanut sesame noodles (from Smitten Kitchen)
Tuesday: Unclear (depends on whether my trip to Pittsburgh--which looked like it was going to be postponed as a result of the government shutdown-- is back on or not)
Wednesday: Spinach and mushroom quesadillas
Thursday: Deconstructed pear, cherry, and goat cheese salad

Here's hoping this week is a little less nuts than the last one!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Mussels Edition

I didn't eat a lot of shellfish growing up. Shrimp and the occasional lobster tail (I don't eat crab), but never clams or mussels. The couple of times I was exposed to these types of bivalves I found them chewy and not terribly appetizing so I decided that I did not like them. Then a few years ago I had moules frites (that's steamed mussels and french fries to the uninitiated) with friends and found myself liking them. But it wasn't until I tried the steamed mussels at The Liberty Tavern (which, you may recall, is one of my favorite Arlington restaurants) that I understood just how good mussels could be. Steamed in a broth made of smoked tomatoes, fennel pollen, and basil, these mussels are tender and smoky with a little heat that is impossible not to like. We pretty much have to order them whenever we go there.

Despite this growing affection for steamed mussels, I had never attempted to make them at home...until today. With the weather starting to get warmer, it just seemed like the right time to do it. I decided to start with a classic version--mussels cooked in a white wine broth, and who better to turn for a tried and true recipe than my BFF, the Barefoot Countessa.

Ina's recipe proved just how easy it is to make delicious steamed mussels at home. The result was an delicious and surprisingly elegant Sunday Dinner. The perfect way to mark the end of a hectic week.

Mussels with White Wine
Adapted slightly from Ina Garten

2-3 lbs mussels
1/3 cup flour
2 TBL unsalted butter
2 TBL olive oil
5 shallots, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes
1 TBL fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup white wine
pinch of saffron
pinch of red pepper flakes (I'd probably add more next time-- you can too, if you like heat)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
Lots of crusty bread for serving

1. To clean the mussels, mix flour and 2 quarts of water together in a large bowl. Add mussels and soak for 30 minutes. Drain the mussels and remove the "beard' from each with your fingers. If they are dirty, scrub the mussels under running water. Be sure to discard any mussels whose shells aren't tightly shut.
2. While the mussels are soaking, chop the shallots, garlic, herbs, and tomatoes.
3. In a large stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, saffron, parsley, red pepper, thyme, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
4. Add the mussels and stir well. Cover and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes until all the mussels are open. During the cooking process, give the pot (with the lid on) a shake every so often to make sure the mussels on the bottom of the pot don't burn. When done, pour the mussels and broth into a large bowl and serve with lots of crusty bread (to sop up the sauce). Be sure to discard any mussels that do not open.

Catching Up

Once again I have to apologize for the utter lack of posting this week. It was rough one, y'all. Between a crazy amount of work and the chaotic uncertainty that came with agonizing over and then preparing for a government shutdown (which thankfully did not end up happening), I came home each day physically and emotionally spent. I've spent the better part of this weekend trying to catch up from all that while still getting things done and having a little fun in the process.

Yesterday Jason and I swung by the home site after a few errands and lunch at Dogfish Head Ale House-- progress continues! Then Jason decided he would teach me to learn how to drive stick in the parking lot of a middle school down the road. My first lesson was not very successful. I think I managed to stall out 4 times in a row. And this was in a relatively flat and open parking lot! Perhaps we'll try again soon.

This morning we walked to Clarendon and had breakfast at Northside Social which was definitely a nice way to start the day. I've also treated myself to a little online retail therapy thanks to a JCrew gift card and the Friends and Family sale at Ann Taylor Loft. I plan to spend the rest of the day relaxing--reading Tina Fey's new book Bossypants (which I bought to read on my Kindle yesterday), perhaps baking some bread, and enjoying my latest obsession--grapefruit spritzers (half pink grapefruit juice and half seltzer water).

Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be rested and ready to face another work week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Menu Monday

Here is what we've got going on this week:

Monday: leftover chicken tikka masala
Tuesday: Lemon and goat cheese pasta and mixed green salad

Wednesday: leftover pasta
Thursday: Book club (rescheduled from last week)-- I'll be bringing my toasted coconut shortbread cookies

Friday: TBD (Jason's planning to cook)

Hope you have a good week!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Chicken Tikka Masala Edition

It's been awhile since I flexed my Sunday Dinner muscles and made something new and interesting to close out the weekend. So today I decided to get back into the game with a recipe for chicken tikka masala. The recipe comes from Tasty Kitchen-- a website run by Pioneer Woman that is equal parts blog and cooking community. Basically anyone can join and upload recipes and pictures that others can view, download, cook and rate. This marks my first non-Pioneer Woman recipe from Tasty Kitchen and I have to say I was pretty pleased. The recipe was pretty simple and definitely delicious. The only thing I'd change is the amount of spice-- we thought it could have benefited from a little more heat. Otherwise we'll definitely be eating this again soon.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted slightly from Tasty Kitchen

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground corriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup plain yogurt
5 TBL vegetable oil, divided
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBL plus 2 teaspoon fresh ginger (either fresh ground or grated)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/2-1 whole jalapeno, diced
2 TBL tomato paste
1 TBL garam masala
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Rice (for serving)
Naan (for serving)--optional

1. Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
2. In another bowl mix yogurt, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 TBL ground/grated ginger, and 2 TBL vegetable oil. Set aside.
3. In a large/deep skillet or dutch oven, heat remaining vegetable oil. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until it starts to brown. Add remaining garlic, ginger, jalapeno, tomato paste, and garam masala. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, loosely covered, for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Place chicken on a broiler pan (or aluminum foil covered baking sheet). Brush both sides of chicken in yogurt mixture (discard leftover mixture). Broil chicken for about 13 minutes or until done, flipping halfway through. Let stand for 5 minutes and then cut into bite size pieces.
5. Add cream to sauce, stir, and return to simmer. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. Add cilantro and chicken pieces and stir. Check for seasonings. Serve over rice with naan or other flatbread.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

First Look at Our House

Jason and I drove by the home site today to check on things. And things are indeed happening!

Here is a first look at what will one day soon be our house. With all of the construction we couldn't get a head on shot...our house will be the one next to the end unit which is closest to the foreground (if that makes sense). And you can see the backs of the other houses on our block (the first of five that are going up as part of the development.)

Needless to say we were very excited to see that the process has indeed started!!!