Sunday, September 27, 2009

Snappy Shrimp Dinner & Korean Soba Noodles

Weeknights are hard. Considering the fact my refrigerator is now too small to hold more than a few days' worth of food, planning meals a week in advance isn't so much an option any more. So, while that cuts down on food waste, it also means I find myself stopping at the grocery store on my way home from work quite a bit.

It's nice to have a few meals that are quick and easy to prepare, making the after-work grocery trek not such a big deal time-wise. This shrimp dish is one of those meals. It includes some of my favorite quick-cooking ingredients (most notably, shrimp), with a few things you see me combine all the time: peppers, tomatoes, onions, white wine, and lemon. I love a sauce with a nice, acidic bite ladled over simple white rice. A healthy heap of spinach rounds it out nutritionally.



2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, put though a press or minced
1/2 lb. raw peeled, deveined shrimp
1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 red chile pepper
1 can whole peeled tomatoes and all juices
handful fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 c. white wine
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
several big handfuls raw baby spinach leaves
cooked white or brown rice

STEP 1: Place the rice in a rice cooker or cook according to package directions. While it's cooking, heat olive oil in pan over medium heat and cook onions and peppers (including hot chile pepper) until tender. Add garlic and cook another minute.

STEP 2: Add lemon juice, wine, about 3/4 of the parsley, and tomatoes. Break up tomatoes with a wooden spoon and stir until well-mixed. Season with salt and pepper. Bring heat up to medium-high and cook, covered, for about 5 minutes.

STEP 3: Add spinach to the pan and stir. Recover and cook for about 2 minutes, until spinach is slightly wilted.

STEP 4: Add shrimp, stir, and recover, and cook until shrimp is pink and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings. Spoon shrimp and veggie sauce over rice. Top with remaining chopped parsley. Enjoy!

I got the idea for this easy noodle dish when browsing, an offshoot of Apartment Therapy, one of my favorite blogs. The original recipe (found here), was actually for Naengmyun, a Korean noodle dish served in cold broth. I thought the combination of pear, cucumber, and typically Asian flavors was interesting, and I thought it could be nicely adapted into a cold noodle dish - sans the broth, making it more portable as a workday lunch. I strayed from the original recipe, pumping it up with crisp green beans for a greater veggie-to-noodle ratio, but I tried to keep the spirit the same.



3 bundles buckwheat soba noodles
1.5 lbs fresh green beans, trimmed and halved
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1/4 c. soy sauce
3 T. toasted sesame oil
1 one-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced and cut into small pieces
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 T. Sriracha hot sauce
3-4 T. finely chopped green onions
1 ripe Bartlett pear, thinly sliced and cut into small pieces
handful cilantro, roughly chopped
1 fried egg (for serving), optional
thinly sliced cucumber, for serving, optional

STEP 1: Boil soba noodles and green beans together in a large pot of salted water. Drain.

STEP 2: Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Combine rice vinegar and next 6 ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Pour over noodles. Add pear and cilantro to pot and toss to combine. Thinly slice cucumber and place on top before serving. Just before serving, fry an egg and place it on top of the noodles. Serve and enjoy!

These noodles are so light and refreshing - perfect for a lunch that won't weigh you down or send you into a midday food coma when you should be pounding out headlines.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sick Day Soup(s) & The Rollover Elvis

Wow, it's been much too long, my friends!

I spent the August-to-September transition moving from my smallish apartment to my tinyish apartment (because, you see, it was just going to be little ol' me), and then my better half unexpectedly moved back from his stint in our nation's capital.

So it's me, Ross, and Sascha - and as they say, three's a crowd. And in our Boystown studio, three's verging on an unruly mob.

The good news? Well, yes, that we're happily reunited, but also - I now have a dining room! Behold:

OK, it's technically a "breakfast nook" (or as the previous tenant and my good friend Emily had it, a bedroom), but it is a room with a table that between one to four individuals can dine in - thus, a dining room. That was one thing my old place lacked that I always had a jones for. But now I can eat breakfast - or any meal I darn well please - in my sunny, yellow, Seventies-throwback dining room - er...nook.

The bad news is...well, there's no real bad news, although I'd love to return to the blog with some triumphant culinary masterpiece, and instead I have...a grilled cheese sandwich.

I call it: The Rollover Elvis.

It's a known fact that The King enjoyed fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches (a man of impeccable taste if ever there were one). And in a pinch the other night, I found myself with Swiss cheese, some gala apples, whole wheat Challah bread (found at Treasure Island - a treasure indeed) and some natural peanut butter. I was inspired by an amazing sandwich I had once at the excellent gastropub Hopleaf in Andersonville - it was cashew butter, sharp Irish cheddar, and some sort of fruit chutney (fig?) nestled between buttery, crisp-fried Challah bread.

I figured if Elvis were alive to shimmy anywhere near my kitchen, he'd gyrate in sheer horror at the bastardization of his deliciously gooey southern treat - so he's probably rolling over in his grave. Well, Elvis be damned - the sandwich was downright tasty! (Fit for a King?)

It took about 10 minutes to make, start to finish, and was surprisingly hearty. It's protein-packed, buttery, and it's a so-simple-it's-stupid meal solution for a quick dinner when you're just too tired to make anything.


2 slices whole wheat (or regular) Challah bread
2 thin slices Swiss cheese
several thin slices apple
natural peanut butter
pat of butter for the pan

Melt the butter over medium-low heat. Spread the peanut butter on one slice of bread. Lay the cheese on the other. Arrange the apple slices on top of the peanut butter and lay that piece of bread in the pan. Top with the cheese and other slice of bread. Fry until browned and crisp, then flip. Fry on other side until desired doneness. Slice in half and enjoy!

Because Nature must always laugh in the face of human bliss, Ross and I have spent this last week under the weather. I got a beast of a cold, then promptly passed it on to him, despite his best efforts to ward it off. Luckily, I'm one mean soup-making machine.

I made a veggies version for me, first, then a chicken version for him, later.


1 and 1/2 qts. vegetable stock
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
juice of one large lemon
2 T. olive oil
big handful baby spinach leaves
big handful egg noodles
2 eggs, whisked
salt and pepper
Sriracha sauce (optional)

Heat olive oil in large pot. Add onion and carrots and cook until beginning to soften. Add garlic (press through a garlic press or mince), and cook for about a minute. Add lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Cook for another minute. Add stock and bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the noodles. Cook for about 5 more minutes, then add the spinach. Cook for about 3 more minutes, then add the whisked eggs and stir quickly so they cook and scramble, like egg drop soup. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve and enjoy!


6 chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
3 T. olive oil
2 celery ribs, diced
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
2 T. white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
2 qt. chicken stock
fusilli pasta
dash Worchestershire sauce
poultry seasoning
all-purpose seasoning

In a large pot, heat olive oil. Saute carrot, celery and onion, seasoning with salt and pepper, until softened. Stir in vinegar and cook for a couple minutes. Add stock and chicken. Bring to a low boil. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through. Add the pasta about 8 minutes before you want to serve the soup. Reduce heat and simmer until ready to serve, tasting to adjust seasoning. Enjoy!

Here's hoping this long-overdue post finds you all healthy and happy. More soon...
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