Saturday, June 5, 2010

Green Stuff

Our first CSA box, which we picked up on Tuesday, was chock full of green stuff. It looks like I’ve been hunting in the Emerald City and bagged my legal limit. Not only was there lots and lots of lettuce and a giant bunch of spinach (giant!), but also good bundle if cilantro and a nice bunch of asparagus. There were also radishes with their leaves and rhubarb, which are each partly to mostly green, so they count, too.

So, I’ve been eating green salads with various dressings at nearly every meal, and, since I have a bunch of new dressing recipes to try, I doubt I’ll get tired of salad any time soon. The spinach, asparagus, radishes and rhubarb will all find good homes, but I needed a recipe to really feature the cilantro. It seems that people either love the stuff and explore Southeast Asian and Mexican cuisine so they can eat more of it, or hate it and declare that it tastes like soap. I’m firmly in the former group, and if my soap tasted like cilantro, I would eat it.

I decided on a relish/sauce that is mostly cilantro (I used the whole bunch that we received) that I mixed into sautéed green onions and Asian rice stick noodles and topped with chopped peanuts. To the chopped up cilantro, I added lime juice and zest, garlic, ginger, a chile pepper, a little salt, and fish sauce. If you’re not familiar with fish sauce, it’s a kind of funky, super flavorful sauce that you can find in just about any supermarket these days. To me, it’s what makes Thai food taste like Thai food and a little goes a long way. You could probably leave it out of this dish if you don’t like it or if you want to make it strictly vegetarian. I would recommend adding soy sauce instead, just to replace some of the savory-ness, but it won’t be quite the same.

The cilantro “sauce” stays raw, but what would otherwise be harsh flavors are mellowed a bit when tossed with the hot noodles and cooked green onions. You could probably use any noodles you like here, but the rice stick noodles I happened to have on hand were particularly nice. It was fun as well as tasty to slurp up, even though I’m pretty chopstick challenged. I would have liked it to be a little spicier, so I think next time I make it I’ll leave the seeds and ribs in the chile pepper. You can spice yours up to your desire and at your own risk.

Noodles with Cilantro, Green Onions and Peanuts

1 small garlic clove
¾ teaspoon salt, divided
2 cups cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 tablespoon ginger, grated or minced
zest of 1 lime
1 small chile pepper, seeds and ribs removed if desired, minced
½ teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
8 ounces rice stick noodles, or other noodles as you prefer
1 bunch green onions
1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
½ cup chopped peanuts

1. Finely chop the garlic. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt on the garlic. Chop the salt with the garlic a few times. Press and scrape the garlic and salt together with a knife until a coarse paste is formed.

2. Coarsely chop the cilantro. Place the garlic paste, ginger, lime zest and chile pepper on top of the chopped cilantro. Chop everything together until the cilantro is finely minced. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Stir in the fish sauce and lime juice. Set aside while preparing the remaining ingredients.

3. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain.

4. Cut the green onions in half (or quarters if they are large) and slice diagonally into long, thin pieces.

5. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet or pot (I used the noodle-cooking pot to save on dish-washing) over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Sauté about 5 minutes or until tender and beginning to brown.

6. Add the cooked noodles and the cilantro mixture and toss together. Remove from heat and place in a serving bowl if desired. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top.

Makes 3 main dish or perhaps 6 side dish servings.

Other recipes like this one: Peanutty Noodles, Cilantro Cream Dipping Sauce

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