We went from wondering if another ice age was on its way to believing in global warming again this week. The unseasonably warm weather cried out for a cooler dinner, and gigantic chives and Asian mustard that went from salad size to mandatory cooking overnight made me think of some of our favorite pseudo-Asian meals. Tonight we’re having spicy peanut-sesame noodles with broccoli, coconut-crusted chicken, and a mess of mustard greens finished with hoisin sauce.
I first had peanut-sesame noodles a couple of decades ago at a Chinese restaurant in a country house outside Madison, Wisconsin. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if the place was licensed as a restaurant, but it got a big following quickly. The food was good, but the most fun was the owner’s enthusiastic teenage daughter, Sunshine. After we’d visited a few times, Sunshine told us that she was going to order for us that night, not from the menu but one of her favorite things that her mother made for the family. Out came the noodles. I was in love. These probably bear little resemblance to those, but I can make them with ingredients I have on hand.
Spicy Peanut-Sesame Noodles
This recipe will make more than enough noodles for a whole family of four (or more). I used whole-wheat spaghetti noodles, but you could use udon noodles or thick rice noodles too.
- 1/2 box whole-wheat spaghetti noodles
- 1/4 cup chicken broth (or veggie–also okay to use water, but then you’ll need to increase the other ingredients a bit)
- 1/3-1/2 cup good peanut butter
- 1 hot pepper (chile), diced finely–I used a red peter pepper I had in the freezer. Feel free to use more peppers if you like it spicier.
- 1 crushed garlic clove or several garlic chives, diced finely
- 2-3 dashes rice wine vinegar
- 6-7 dashes soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- optional: freshly grated ginger or pickled ginger, slivered
- 2-4 scallions or chives, sliced across the grain (both whites and tops)
- carrot, slivered or coarsely grated
- optional garnishes: cilantro, coarsely grated radish, snow peas, shelled edamame
Begin by prepping the sauce for the noodles. Heat the peanut butter and broth to get everything moving. I heat them in a one-cup pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and then use the measuring cup for mixing everything else. Add in the hot pepper, garlic, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.*
Now prepare the noodles according to package directions. Pour off the cooking liquid and while the noodles are still hot, add the sauce and stir well to combine. Stir in some of the scallions, carrots, and garnish and pile the rest artfully on top. Set the noodles aside or refrigerate. You’ll serve these noodles at room temperature or even cold.
Do you want to make this a vegetarian one-dish meal? Use the veggie broth, and toss in shelled edamame or stir-fried tofu. By the way, this sauce is an excellent appetizer dip for vegetables! When we take it to parties, people love that it’s not the same-old ranch or bleu cheese dip, and it’s a lot healthier for you.
I used two cups of florets, fresh from our garden, and tossed them in salted water in the wok. That’s all! Then I used them as additional garnish on the noodles.
Coconut-Crusted Spicy Chicken
- 1 chicken breast, about half a pound, cut into strips (half of the thickness of the breast, about 3/4-inch wide each)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2-4 tablespoons lime juice
- optional: 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (use if you only use 2 tablespoons of lime juice)
- 1 large jalapeno or other chile, diced fine (or more to taste)
- 1 egg, beaten You don’t need to double the egg if you double the recipe.
- 1/3 cup coconut
Start by making the marinade by mixing together your liquids and prepped jalapeno. Process everything with a stick blender or in a regular blender. It’s okay if some of the pepper remains unprocessed. If you do not have a blender, just chop the pepper even more and let it meld with the marinade for a little while..
Pour the brine/marinade over the chicken breast strips and let everything soak for several hours, turning regularly to make sure that the marinade reaches all parts. (If you’d like to let the chicken soak overnight in the mix, add 1/4 cup water to make a brine. Otherwise, the acid in the juice and vinegar will “cook” the chicken and make it tough.)
To have un-crusted chicken, pour off the marinade or brine and stir-fry the chicken in a little coconut oil. To crust the chicken, pour off the brine, dry the chicken well, and dip it first in the egg and then in the coconut. Place the chicken pieces on a greased cookie sheet and bake it in a 325 degree F oven for about 20 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through, until the chicken is golden brown on the outside (and, obviously, cooked through inside.)
I also served dinner with mustard greens in hoisin sauce (pictured in the upper right corner of the bowl). Simply prep a mess of greens (see photos above and below for what constituted a “mess of greens” tonight!) by stripping off the tough stems, chopping everything roughly, stir-frying quickly in sesame oil, and tossing in some hoisin sauce to finish wilting the greens. As hot as it’s been outside, the greens were really sharp.
*If you have a family member who’s a little leary of new things, reduce or leave out the toasted sesame oil altogether and add a bit more chicken broth and vegetable oil to thin the noodle dressing. Sesame oil has a distinctive (some say acquired) flavor.