Monday, January 23, 2012
Andrea Chesman: Music and Noodles
When you live in a DIY world, music can be as much a part of your life as carpentry and dinner from food you raised yourself.
It was around my dinner table — I can’t remember the menu at this point — that a casual conversation about the dearth of venues for singer-songwriters morphed into the idea of starting a once-a-month coffeehouse series. Eighteen years later the Ripton Community Coffee House is still going strong.
There’s a dedicated volunteer crew that keeps the organization alive. I feed the performers and crew who come early for setup. I got that job because I live closest to the venue, not because I am a cookbook writer. The musicians expect dinner to be made by the executive director’s wife, and expectations are low.
My expectations are high, however, and I like to please. Still, the menu can be a problem. Inevitably, there is a vegetarian in the group. Vocalists want to eat lightly and never want cheese before they sing. Male instrumentalists eat hearty, the younger the heartier.
The dishes I choose must be ready by sound-check time for the crew but held up for the sound man and the performers, who will eat a bit later. The meal must be portable, because half will be served at the venue and half at my house, where the performers can relax.
Lately, my go-to meal is Chinese sesame noodles, accompanied by Sweet Spicy Thai Slaw. Sometimes, I’ll roast some tofu to add protein. The great thing about Sesame Noodles is that it can be adapted to what is in season and what is in the fridge. In this week’s version I swapped in a handful of chopped cilantro for the leek. Scallions can replace leeks; cilantro is always a good addition. During the gardening season, summer vegetables replace the carrots and daikon radish.
In a DIY world musicians should always eat free (see my favorite DIY blog, coldantlerfarm.blogspot.com) and recipes should be freely adapted.
Sesame Noodle Salad
Serves 4 to 6
An arsenal of Chinese condiments combines to make the spicy dressing for these noodles. Serve as soon as you combine the noodles and dressing. If you want to make this dish ahead, cook the noodles and toss with sesame oil, assemble the vegetables, and make the dressing. Refrigerate separately, and combine just before serving.
1 pound dried vermicelli
1 leek, very thinly sliced
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or more to taste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar, or to taste
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 to 2 teaspoons Chinese chili paste with garlic, or more to taste
2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
1 carrot, finely julienned
2 turnips or 6-inch piece daikon radish, peeled and finely julienned
1. Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water according to the package directions until tender but firm to the bite.
2. Place the leek in the colander. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Drain the noodles by pouring into the colander; the hot water will cook the leek. Rinse with cold water. Transfer the noodles and leek into a large bowl, and toss with 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil.
3. In a blender combine the garlic and ginger, and process until finely chopped. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil, tahini, water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, black vinegar, rice wine, 1 teaspoon chili paste, and sugar. Blend well. Dip a noodle into the sauce to taste for seasoning, and add more soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, or sugar, as needed.
4. Toss the noodles with the carrot and turnips. (If you can’t serve immediately, cover and refrigerate the noodle mixture. Hold the dressing at room temperature for up to 4 hours.) Just before serving add the dressing to the noodles, and toss well. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve immediately.
From Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman © 2010. All rights reserved.
Andrea Chesman is a food writer and gardener and the author of many cookbooks, including Recipes from the Root Cellar, Serving Up the Harvest, and Pickles and Relishes. A resident of Vermont, she has been a contributing editor for Vermont Life and Edible Green Mountains.