Spring I: Fresh Noodles and Pea Shoots with Butter

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spring farmer's markets are full of young new vegetables and greens that are only available for a few weeks. FC is pleased to present a series of spring market recipes that will appear from now til the end of March.

This mix of fresh noodles, pea shoots,and butter is very quick and easy to eat. My market has these green tinged 'vegetable' wheat noodles that are supposed to be extra healthy, but any fresh wheat or egg noodles will work.

For one person: Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, chop a big handful of pea shoots into 1 inch pieces and melt 1 tbs butter in a serving bowl. You can use less butter if you want, but if you end up using olive oil for this recipe I don't want to hear about it. Add 100g fresh noodles, and wait until water comes back to a boil. Add the pea shoots to the water, and wait just until water starts boiling again. Drain well, shaking off the water, and pour into the bowl with melted butter. Stir up to coat noodles and pea shoots with butter. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Roasted Winter Tomatoes with Penne and Feta

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winter tomatoes don't really satisfy in salads and sandwiches but cooking them brings out their best. Tomatoes are very handy for quick meals like the always great Fried Eggs and Tomatoes (the pre-China version on my blog looks hilarious to me now, but the recipe still works.) Another way to get flavour out of stiff winter tomatoes is to roast them.

Cut two tomatoes into wedges and place on baking sheet or foil. Drizzle with 1 tbs olive oil. Bake in medium (350F) oven, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until softened and starting to blacken.

Boil 3/4 cup dry penne in a lot of salted water until tender, then toss with tomatoes, 1 tbs feta (dice if using very solid cheese), and 1 tbs bacon bits if desired. (I am using leftover ma la bacon; spicy works really well with these tomatoes!) Serves one.

Ma La Bacon and Apple Compote

Bacon is one of the easiest things to make and eat in the morning, especially if you cook it in the oven in two stages - par cooked in advance and then finished off crispy the next day. I've been experimenting a lot with ma la seasoned bacon lately. Ma la (麻辣) is a characteristic flavour of Sichuan cuisine - Ma means numbing, from Sichuan pepper and La is heat from ground red pepper. Adding all the seasoning during the par cooking was easiest but the ma didn't really come through. The best version had hot pepper added during par cooking and Sichuan pepper during the final stage cooking.

Ma La Bacon: Separate half a pound thick slices of bacon and sprinkle with 1 tbs coarse red pepper powder. (Korean kochu jang would work great.) Wrap in foil or place in covered container and cook slowly until the fat is mostly melted, about 20 minutes in a medium (325-350 degree F) oven. It is okay if the slices overlap. You can pour off some of the fat at this stage if you are going to finish it within a day; if you are going to store the half-cooked bacon longer keep it submerged in fat. Shortly before serving lay bacon slices flat on foil or a ridged pan, sprinkle with 1 tsp Sichuan pepper, and heat in a hot oven (400-425 deg f) for 10 minutes until crisp and fragrant. If you are serving a bacon and egg brunch this is enough for two; if you are making crepes as shown and provide another filling it will serve four.

Apple Compote: Peel and chop two large or three medium apples, and bring to a boil with 2 tbs apple juice or apple vinegar over medium heat in a covered saucepan. Add 1 tsp cinnamon if desired. Turn heat down and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for sugar - I never add any, but some like it very sweet. Makes 1 1/2 cups and keeps 1 week in the fridge.