Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Use Your Noodles!

I live to serve my little vegetarian.
And I'm getting good at it.
You won't even miss the meat here.

I had assorted vegetables in the fridge.
I had linguini in the pantry (artisanal at that).
And I had the makings of a highly flavorful sauce.

For the noodles:
Cook linguini according to package directions.
You want al dente.
And save some of the pasta water.

For the sauce:
2 tsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch cube fresh ginger, minced and juiced
(I run mine through a garlic press, scraping the pulp into the pan.)
1 shallot, minced
3 TB sriracha suace
1/4 cup Tamari sauce
1 TB rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 TB mirin
1 TB cornstarch 
 1 cup vegetable stock
In a small saucepan, heat sesame oil over medium heat.
Add in garlic, ginger, and scallion
and cook, stirring for about a minute.
Add in sriracha, Tamari, vinegar, sugar, and mirin.
Dissolve cornstarch in a little of the stock
and pour into the pan.
Cook, stirring, until thickened,
then gradually stir in the rest of the stock.
Heat through and let thicken.

For the vegetables:
The vegetables here are up to you.
I happened to have broccoli, zucchini, and snow peas,
so that's what I used.
 You could go with carrots, bok choy, celery, squash,
to name a few.

Cut broccoli into florets and cube zucchini.
Trim snow peas.
In a medium skillet over medium high heat,
 heat about 2 TB sesame oil.
Add in the broccoli and cook, stirring,
about 2 minutes.
Add in zucchini and snow peas
and cook another minute, stirring.
Salt to taste.

For the assembly:
Add the linguine (with a little of the pasta water)
to the vegetables.
Pour in the sauce and heat through.
Serve with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

Now, about that pasta.

 I’ve made my own pasta for years.  I don’t like boxed pasta.  It tastes like the box – like cardboard.  It’s amazing how four simple ingredients – flour, water, eggs, and salt – can somehow combine at home and then at a factory and produce two entirely different results.  That said, let me introduce you artisanal pastas.  I used the imported artisan Italian pasta from Fresh Market.  It is vastly superior to domestic, factory-processed pasta.  This pasta is not made by individual artisans by hand, but it is made in small batches in a semi-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients.  In the manufacturing process, the pasta is extruded through bronze dies, as opposed to the modern, faster, and cheaper method of using slick Teflon plates. Bronze die-cut pasta produces a pasta with a more textured, rougher finish, making the pasta superior at gripping the sauce. The pasta is also very slowly dried, again resulting in a coarser surface to which the sauce can better adhere. All this gives the pasta a more complex flavor.   One is able to cook the imported pasta to that perfect degree of toothy tenderness – al dente.  In addition, the pasta swells considerably, meaning it will go farther, pound for pound, than domestic, American-made pasta.  Plus, there’s the flavor!

When you cook pasta, if you’ve been straining it into a colander and letting the pasta water go down the drain, then you’ve been doing it wrong.  Stop immediately!  Save that liquid gold.  By liquid gold, I mean the pasta water.  Do not drain the water into the sink.  Save that starchy, salty, cloudy liquid.  When you cook your pasta, stop just short of al dente.  Add a bit of the pasta liquid to the sauce in which you’ll be finishing off your pasta and it will combine luxuriously to create a silky, smooth emulsification.  The starch in the water allows the pasta to absorb the sauce as it finishes cooking, infusing the pasta with flavor.  It’s a beautiful marriage between the noodles and sauce - a sauce that your pasta will eat up.

This was delightful.
Got a thumbs up from my little vegetarian,
so Rosie is happy.

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