I’m out of sorts this holiday season. I feel pushed to be efficient and cross to-dos off of my list, yet I’d much rather take a long walk in the hills with Matthew and Jack, or beeline it for the kitchen for a cherished mother-daughter cooking project — Chocolate Cream Puffs with Mascarpone Filling, anyone?
So, I’m compromising. I’m getting things done at my own pace, I’m spending as much time in the kitchen with my Bug as I can and I’m mostly cooking comforting, easy-to-prepare dishes to take the edge off.
Take Melissa Clark’s Spicy Pan-Fried Noodles, for example. This dish is the perfect weeknight dinner — pantry staples augmented by the kind of fresh vegetables you likely already have on hand (scallions, spinach). And, it lends itself to improvisation.
Pick your favorite seasonal vegetable — broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower and peppers are a sight to behold at the Farmers Market — or take two steps to the freezer for frozen edamame. Seared, almost caramelized sliced mushrooms, make a tasty addition, too.
If you opt for a member of the broccoli family, fire up a pot of salted, boiling water and prep your ice bath. You want those florets to be tender-crunchy before you toss them into your saute pan. A few minutes in the rollicking water does the trick. Let them sit in the icy water until you’re ready to use them. Drain them first, of course, before adding them to the saute pan.
Melissa scrambles a few eggs into the mixture for creamy richness. The eggs are a definite keeper; next time, I’m also adding seared slices of extra-firm tofu for additional protein.
The sauce is straightforward and savory — soy sauce, rice wine (or sherry vinegar), ginger and sesame oil. You can dial the heat way up or down, depending on how much Sriracha you use. Delicate flower that I am, I use a fraction of what the recipe calls for. Matthew and The Bug squirt hot sauce into their bowls until their eyes water.
Off the heat before serving, squeeze some fresh lime juice into the pan and give the noodles a vigorous toss. Sprinkle chopped salty peanuts and some delicate, fresh cilantro leaves on top of each plate before you dig in.
Yes, it’s a satisfying meal, but since it’s a cinch to make and clean up, I have plenty of energy to sit in front of my trusty laptop and hit buy on all those gifts on my list.
Here again is the link to Melissa’s recipe in The New York Times. Follow it to the letter or improvise. Either way, I know this will become one of your winter go-to dishes.
I’m going to sign off here for a bit, so here’s wishing you and yours a healthy and happy holiday!