a spot of summer

better than a dozen roses any ol' day

A few years ago, my husband found a clump of thorny, wayward vines along the south side of our house. One trellis, a bit of twine, and a few years later, I have a wall of roses. Not to mention a seemingly endless supply of rose buds, petals, and hips to use in the kitchen.

With summer temps finally reaching into the 90s, I don’t want to stand in front of a burner for more than five minutes, ten tops. These pan fried noodles have been hitting the spot.

Hong Kong in my kitchen

Hong Kong style noodles

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Hong Kong noodles are the perfect combination of crispy/tender, and are usually made with a particular style of Chinese egg (+flour) noodle, if memory serves. A lifelong eschew-er of all things egg (and wheat free by necessity), I took a walk on the wild side and started making this dish with fresh rice noodles, which can be found in the refrigerated section of Asian grocery markets, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and probably your big box store of choice. They will look like ramen or spaghetti noodles, only fresh! – not dried. The package will say something along the lines of “boil water, add noodles, simmer for 1-2 minutes.” For this recipe, though, you’ll skip that step. If your skillet is hot and your vegetables are plenty, the heat and moisture will be more than enough to steam the inside and crisp the outside of your noodles. The vegetables listed below are what I most often have on hand, but really I just throw in two to three handfuls of whatever vegetables need to be used from the crisper, and whatever greens I have on hand. Mushrooms, red onion, and chard make for a great combination. Corn cut fresh off the cob and basil or shiso leaves would be nice too, I think. And feel free to add a protein – I was out of both tofu and tempeh the night I took this picture. When I do add it, I give it a quick sear and then remove it from the pan before adding the vegetables, to keep it from re-absorbing any liquid.

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1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips
1/4 onion, sliced into half moons
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 handful (~3 oz) fresh rice noodles
splash of toasted sesame oil
splash of tamari

season to taste with salt, pepper, more tamari, chili sauce

Bring a cast iron skillet to medium/high heat. Just before it starts smoking, add the bell pepper and onion. The vegetables should be losing enough liquid that you don’t need to add oil; if they start sticking to the pan, add a splash of water. As soon as the vegetables begin to caramelize, push them to the sides of the pan and add the rice noodles to the center. Add a few drops of sesame oil and tamari, and toss the noodles to coat. Spread the noodles into a layer in the center of the pan and allow to cook for two or three minutes, until crisp on the bottom. Turn the noodles over and continue to cook. Once they are crisped on both sides, add the spinach and toss everything in the pan until the greens are just starting to wilt. Turn off the heat and season to taste.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 5 minutes

My love affair with red torpedos // vodka sauce // raw not-vodka sauce

Today I’m feeling like a Talky McTalkerson and am dying to wax nostalgic about all of the things that make a vodka sauce so good, but I don’t have time (and you may not have the patience). So, I’m going to distill it down to just this:

alcohol + tomatoes + heat = a release of alcohol-soluble tomato goodness

It’s that simple! Any alcohol will do, preferably one that is as flavorless as possible (enter: vodka) so that as the tomatoes cook down, no trace of alcohol flavor remains. More often than not, I use a dry white wine.

red.torpedos.justpulledRed torpedos: they look like football-shaped shallots.

Have you ever grown the red Italian bunching onion called red torpedo? If not, grab a couple of seed packets, fill a pot with vegan compost-rich soil, and get on it! In my climate, I’m able to grow red torpedos year-round, and they proliferate equally well in pots and in the ground. They tolerate summer heat as long as they’re in partial shade, and they love a slight chill in the air. I have no idea where to buy them, but they grow so easily I’ve never bothered to look. Red torpedos can be used any time a recipe calls for red onion, and they can be paired with a bit of mild garlic to replace shallots. They are mild and sweet and taste great raw. They roast and caramelize well. Also, they’re pretty. In short, the perfect onion.

red.torpedosReady for the skillet (vodka sauce) or the blender (raw sauce).

If you have really amazing just-picked tomatoes with a flavor that knocks your socks off, then this recipe can easily be adapted into a (not vodka) raw tomato cream sauce. I make it both ways, mostly depending on how much time I have. If you’re good about mise en place, you can start either version of this sauce while you wait for your water to boil, and be done in time to dress your pasta.

crostini_pesto+vodka.saucePairs well with pesto.

Vodka sauce // raw tomato cream sauce

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If you don’t have any red torpedo onions, 1/4 a small red globe onion will do nicely.

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3 red torpedo onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 handfuls small/medium tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/4 Cup dry white wine
1/2 Cup raw cashew pieces
1/2 sweet bell pepper, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a skillet or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize – about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and wine and bring the pot to a simmer, stirring and smashing the tomatoes around in the pot as they cook down. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Add everything to a blender or food processor – if you’re including the sweet pepper, add it now. Puree until smooth, adding water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make this recipe raw: omit the olive oil, and blend everything straightaway.

Yield: 1 1/2 – 2 Cups

Prep time: 5 minutes raw, 15 minutes cooked