Wow - what a crazy two weeks! Things have been going haywire, and I hope it settles down so I can get some serious eating done!
I have been remiss in my blogging duties. I have missed Is My Blog Burning 22, Weekend Cookbook Challenge #2, and SHF #16. However, I did get to participate in Blog By Mail 4. My secret food buddy was Maya of The Town Tart who lives in Venice, CA. Head on over to her blog and check out the trials and tribulations of her kitchen remodel. I have serious oven envy now. Six ovens. Some people have all the luck!! I am still waiting on my package from my secret food buddy, but I still have high hopes that it will be here soon!
I have been tagged for two meme also. One from my buddy Sarah at Cooking with the Headhunter (10 Random Facts About Yourself) and one from Kit at Mango and Ginger (Top 10 Favorite Foods). The Random Fact meme is giving me fits, mostly because my whole life is random and the ten favorite food meme - don’t even get me started! How the heck can I narrow it down to ten?! Maybe ten categories? You know - like Sweet, Salty etc…that might give me a fighting chance.
So foodwise – our household has been put on quick meal notice because of my crazy work schedule. When I get home from work, the food has to be on the table in 45 minutes or less. On the way home Wednesday night, I stopped and performed my mid-week perusal of the local produce section. This week’s foray yielded a head of bok-choy for $1.00. With my well stocked pantry, I came up with Mom’s Lo Mein. The hubby said it was more like Chinese Spaghetti, since I used dried linguini for the pasta.
Chinese Spaghetti (as this dish will now be known) is one of those dishes you can create as long as you understand the basic principles of the type of food you are attempting to make. Of course, I am not lucky enough to have a high BTU burner in my kitchen, so this isn’t really like Lo Mein but considering that I ended up with six servings for about $1.50 each, my checking account and my tummy were happy!
I always carry the following in my kitchen:
- Dried Pasta of various types
- Soy sauce
- Black Bean and Garlic Sauce
- Vietnamese Chili Sauce
- Ginger (frozen)
- Fake Crab (frozen)
Here is the procedure in a loosely described fashion.
Get your mise en place together first. Chop the onion, garlic and ginger and place together. Cut the carrots into matchsticks if you have time, if not, just cut into uniform pieces so it all cooks evenly. Same with the mushrooms. Bok-choy - well there is a special case. I usually cut off the green parts and slice them into shreds, then dice the lower white portion. Keep the two parts separate, you’ll see why later. If your bok-choy is a little limp - and we all have known how terrible it is to have a limp bok-choy in our life at one time or another – you can soak it in some nice ice water to perk it up. Have nappa cabbage? Use that. I once even used romaine lettuce in a stir fry. It wasn’t bad - but I don’t know if I would do it again. If I could have found it on sale, I would have grabbed a bag of the broccoli slaw stuff. That would have been perfect noodle fodder! I ended up with about 8 cups of veggies all told, including the bok-choy, which is going to shrink down a lot. The more veggies the better!
Do the same with your meats. If you are using raw meats, slice them as you would for stir fry. I also had a little bit of shrimp left over from a party I had thrown the previous weekend (that’s the topic of another post, once I reconstruct my memory). You could also throw in leftover chicken or pork. Just add the already cooked meats last in the process so they are just warmed through. I had about a pound of shrimp and fake crab.
Once all your veggies and meats are prepped, now you get to make “the sauce”. For one pound of pasta, I did one cup of sauce. It kinda went like this: 1/2 cup of broth, ¼ - 1/3 cup of soy sauce, and black bean sauce and chili sauce so that everything equals one cup. You may be saying to yourself: Isn’t this going to be too salty? The answer is no. The noodles are bland, the veggies are bland, and they need all the salt they can get to taste good. Especially the noodles - they are a neutral starch. Don’t have black bean and garlic sauce? Use hoisin or oyster. Don’t have any of the above? Just use soy sauce. Trust me, it’s gonna be ok.
Put your water on to boil for the pasta. I did not salt the water. Actually, you can do that before you start your slicin’ and dicein’. (I told you, this is a freeform recipe thingy.) Any pasta will do as long as it has some heft to it. Spaghetti, fettuccini, linguini - if you have wide rice noodles you probably could use those. Cook them until done, drain, set aside.
Now you get to stir fry your fixins’. If you are using raw meat, do that first. Add a tablespoon of oil to the wok, a little of your onion, garlic and ginger to the oil. Stir fry the meat until done. Remove and set aside. Next, the veggies. They need to be added so that the ones that require more cooking go in first. Add a little more oil to the wok, then the rest of the onion, garlic and ginger. Then the carrots, cook a couple of minutes, then the bok-choy stems, cook a couple of minutes, then the mushrooms, repeat the cooking procedure. You should have a big mélange of veggies all cooked about the same amount now. Add the bok-choy leaves. Toss until the leaves are wilted.
Add the noodles. They may have congealed into a big mass of starch, but it’s ok. They will separate. Dump your sauce over top of the noodles and toss. The noodles should come apart. Well, they did when I did it. (If it bothers you, you could always rinse them in cold water when you drain them to prevent sticking.) Toss the noodles and veggies around until the noodles have absorbed a good amount of the sauce. Now add in the meat, either left over or freshly cooked. Toss. I added a little black pepper at this point and the last of a bottle of Chinese sesame oil. Pour your crazy noodle dish into a large bowl and serve. I pulled out some chopstick and some fun bowls to put everything in.
Like everything of this nature, it’s even better the next day. Annie even took some in her lunch, the true hallmark of a well cooked dish.
Half the fun of cooking is the challenge of making something tasty on short notice. You can’t be afraid to try something off the wall. Trust me - my family will let me know when I make something inedible. Think of this as jazz cooking - taking what is available and creating some new harmonies with a little syncopated rhythm. Jazz not to your liking? Try a little Salsa. Got some canned sardines around? They work great in noodle dishes. Despite what your mom said, play with your food. You’ll enjoy it more!