June 30, 2016

Dear friends,

Everyone makes cold peanut noodles now but no one makes spicy cold soba noodles with basil-mint pesto. That’s because Nina Simonds and I just dreamed it up. Nina came up with the idea in her book, “Asian Noodles,” and I customized it to what I had in my cupboards.

The noodles are a home run for spicy-food lovers. Thin, slippery buckwheat noodles are bathed in a highly seasoned, medium-hot pesto sauce that clings to the pasta. It’s the kind of dish that would look unremarkable on a potluck buffet table, but be gone by the time you fetched the dish to take home.

I served the noodles with grilled steak Sunday. The recipe was a hail Mary after I discovered we had no potatoes, no rice and no vegetables on hand. I paged through Simonds’ noodle book and lifted the recipe for the pesto because my basil plants are beginning to produce excess leaves, and lord knows I have plenty of mint out back.

Simonds tosses the noodles with chicken and a vinaigrette, but I like the noodles with the just the pesto, which I changed to make more sauce-like. Specifically, I added some of the Vietnamese Lime and Chili Sauce I always have on hand. I use the sauce on salads, in stir fries and as a dipping sauce.
I’ve shared the recipe several times but include it again for those who missed it. It keeps for ages in the refrigerator.

If you don’t have the time or ingredients to make the Vietnamese sauce, substitute one-fourth cup lime juice mixed with one-fourth cup soy sauce.

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SPICY COLD SOBA NOODLES
6 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp. Szechuan chili oil
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
Vietnamese Lime and Chili Sauce (recipe follows) or 1/4 cup soy sauce mixed with 1/4 cup lime juice
10 oz. (3 bundles) soba noodles

Drop the garlic cloves one at a time through the feed tube of a food processor with the motor running. When chopped fine, remove lid and add basil, mint, chili oil and sesame oil. Pulse to chop leaves. Drizzle Vietnamese sauce or the soy-lime juice mixture through the feed tube with the motor running, using just enough liquid to produce a loose slurry. Set aside.

Cook soba noodles in boiling water for 2 to 4 minutes, or until noodles are tender but not mushy. Drain well and transfer to a boil. Scrape pesto into bowl with noodles and toss to coat evenly. Chill. Toss before serving. Makes about 6 servings.
VIETNAMESE LIME AND CHILI SAUCE
10 cloves garlic, finely minced
Grated zest of 2 1/2 limes
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. lime juice
5 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
3 tbsp. Plus 1 tsp. nam pla (Vietnamese fish sauce)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. Soy sauce
7 1/2 tbsp. Sugar
5 fresh small red chilies or 1 or 2 jalapenos (or to taste), seeded and minced, or 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups papaya or mango nectar or unsweetened pineapple juice

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar. Keeps for weeks in the refrigerator.

TIDBITS

• You know those semi-awful drinks made with protein powder? Until now I’ve added the protein to fat-free milk and blended it with lots of ice to make a “milkshake.” Sometimes I glam it up with cocoa powder. Pretty good (and good for you), but not half as good as turning the milk-protein mixture into ice cream. Zowie.

The protein powder gives the ice cream a creamy texture and rich flavor, and a cup of it can really fill you up. Currently I use Pure Protein powder, which has 26 grams protein, 2 grams of sugar and 160 calories per scoop. Add a cup of skim milk, freeze it in an ice cream machine, and you have an outrageous, guilt-free snack.

• My computer hates me again, so please resend your email. My mail program refused to forward any mail to me for roughly the last two weeks, so if you sent an email during that time, could you please resend it? I don’t get a ton of emails to my newsletter, so every one is precious. On another matter, why don’t you write more??

THE MAILBAG

From Tracey:
Hi Jane. Thinking of your upcoming knee surgery. Hope it goes well and that recuperation is as speedy and comfortable as possible!

Dear Tracey: Thank you so much. I’m having a knee replacement at the end of August. I need recipes for meals I can make in a toaster in the living room while reclining in a tilt-back chair.

I’m not about to let a bum knee derail my summer plans, though. Before I’m sidelined, Tony and I will hitch up our camper for a month-long trip to Vail, Colo., Idaho’s hot springs, and Yellowstone National Park. I will see everything from the window of our pickup while Tony hikes, kayaks and zip lines. I hope to do some campfire cooking, too, so I’ll keep you posted.

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