2.21.2009

choosing your battles

Some things just aren't worth fighting over. And some things just are.

Take, for example, that 80% off, last-in-stock, just-my-size dress. I'll arm wrestle you for it. And if I'm feeling particularly scrappy, I'll settle for nothing less than an all out tug of war over that last buttery sliver of almond tart.

My youngest sister, Anna, also chooses her battles wisely. What sets her on the warpath is sesame noodles.

sesame noodles from above

Just a quiet mention of this unassuming dish sparks a wild gleam in her eyes. Though typically genteel, Anna will fight you to the death for the last slippery, noodly slurp. The woman is steadfast and true: Even when a newly topped-off serving bowl cradles silky tangles galore, she stands guard, an unflappable sentinel. Anna is one of the more even-tempered adolescents you will meet, but woe to the one who gets between this girl and her noodles.

A few days back, Anna was in the mood for "comfort food," but not just any old thing. She wanted something starchy, salty, and smooth. "Sesame noodles!" she proclaimed. I knew just what to do: call my friend Julia who, with one twirly forkful, single handedly squelched my loathing for sesame noodles. For years, I turned up my nose at the gloppy, peanut buttery mess that turns up at many a sorry potluck. Julia's noodles sing a different tune. Light and smooth, these sesame noodles slide lithely down the throat. They are blessedly free of peanut butter, and thus anything but pasty. Eat them plain, hot out of the pot or chilled, tossed with tofu, or topped with grilled chicken. If you are a sesame noodle skeptic, this is the recipe for you. I would offer you a taste of ours, but then we would both have to contend with Anna. It's probably safer for everyone involved if you just whip up your own batch.

sesame noodles_ a portion

Sesame Noodles
from Julia Hoffman

6 garlic cloves, minced
3 T. sugar
6 T. rice vinegar
6 T. soy sauce
2 T. sesame oil

16 oz. of pasta; I use angel hair, Julia prefers linguine.

3 T. toasted sesame seeds (you can toast the seeds in a 350 degree oven while putting together the sauce)
1/2 c. chopped scallions

Place the first five ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Pour the sauce over the boiled and drained pasta, add the sesame seeds and chopped scallions, and mix thoroughly.

28 comments:

gaga said...

So simple, yet so delicious. I love sesame noodles.

Jess said...

Thanks for the note, gaga. It sounds like you and my sister, Anna, would get along!

Mrs Ergül said...

sesame oil just brightens up everything! brilliant!

Jess said...

Agreed, Mrs Ergül! Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

yum yum yum! this is defiantly on my 'make it tomorrow' list!

Jess said...

Enjoy!

Jessie said...

Looks and sounds delicious! Perfect for this time of year: filling but fresh.

Jo said...

Oh wow, simple and absolutely delicious.

robbingpeter said...

I will be copying this into my notebook for a try soon. I love pasta and I love simple treatments of pasta. And recently I have become obsessed with sesame oil - so this seems perfect!

Ashley Nicole. said...

I've never heard of sesame noodles before, but it sounds pretty nifty.

Jess said...

Hi, Jessie - You said it! Thanks for stopping by.

Jo - Simple and delicious, indeed. A winning combination, if you ask me!

You're right, robbingpeter - sesame oil is certainly worthy of at least some minor obsessing. Enjoy the noodles!

Hello, Ashley Nicole. These sesame noodles are pretty nifty, if I do say so myself.

Anonymous said...

Just made it and it turned out AMAZING. Thanks!

Jess said...

Thanks for reporting back, Anonymous. I'm happy to hear that the recipe turned out well.

Judy Cheske said...

I tried many sesame noodle recipes and yours came out just right - really tasty and easy to prepare - thanks! I adopted this and posted it on my blog with a few minor modifications. I love your writing and your blog.

Jess said...

Hi, Judy, and welcome! The sesame noodles on your blog look beautiful, and I'm honored to have inspired them. Thank you for your very kinds words about Sweet Amandine. It means more than you know.

Laura said...

Hello! I made these last night and mine didn't look like yours at all. My noodles were really sticky. I boiled the sauce like you said, cooked and drained the noodles and immediately poured the sauce after that. They still tasted good, but didn't look as pretty as yours. What could have gone wrong?

Jess said...

Oh no, Laura, I'm so sorry to hear that this recipe did not turn out well for you. Let's try to figure out what went wrong.

The sauce itself was not sticky, was it? (It should be quite liquidy.) Or were the noodles themselves sticky, before you added the sauce? My first suggestion would be to pour the sauce over the drained noodles immediately, so that they do not have a chance to stick together. But you did that.

Were the noodles, by any chance, already sticking to each other when you dumped them from the pot? If so, be sure that you are boiling your noodles in a large enough pot so that they have room to squiggle around in there. And give them a few stirs while they are cooking. Otherwise, the noodles could actually fuse together in the boiling water.

Aside from these suggestions, I'm not really sure what to tell you. This is my first bad report on these noodles. I'm hoping it was just a fluke, and that you will have success with this recipe in the future. Keep me posted, okay?

Laura said...

Will do, we're definitely trying this again. Maybe I didn't stir them enough because we did pour the sauce over them as soon as we drained them, but I didn't notice if they were sticky already. They very well could have been! Thanks for the quick reply!

Jess said...

I'm glad to hear you are not discouraged, Laura. I hope they turn out beautifully the next time around. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

Crystal said...

This recipe is exactly what I was looking for. One of my grandmothers used to make a sesame noodle recipe that I"m trying to recreate. It didn't have peanut butter (bleck) so this recipe sounds about right. I just wanted to ask what kind of sesame oil you use--is it toasted sesame oil?

Jess said...

Hi, Crystal. I use Spectrum Naturals brand sesame oil. I let the toasted sesame seeds take care of the "toasty" flavor in the dish. But I bet toasted sesame oil would be delicious. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes.

Anonymous said...

can i substitute regular vinegar for the rice vinegar?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was just wondering, when you say "T." as a measurement do you mean Tablespoons? Sorry if that was a dumb question, just making sure.

Jess said...

Anonymous 1 - Ack! I'm just now seeing your question after more than a year! Please forgive me. I always try to answer recipe questions as they come in, but yours slipped through the cracks somehow. On the off chance that you will check back, and for anyone else who might be interested: When you say "regular" vinegar, what kind do you have in mind? Each vinegar (white vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar) has its own distinct flavor, and will bring that flavor to this recipe. If you don't have rice vinegar on hand, I would say to go with the mildest vinegar you can find.

If anyone out there has tried an alternative to the rice vinegar, what did you use, and how did you like it?

Anonymous 2 - Not a dumb question at all! Yes, "T." stands for tablespoon.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't finished the sauce, rinse the noodles quickly in cold water. It prevents them from fusing together while they're hot.

betsy said...

Jess, I've made many different versions of sesame noodles (some with peanut butter and some without!) and these were fantastic! I did make a few revisions -- I used half ginger/half garlic in the sauce, and added in thinly sliced cabbage, julienned pork (leftovers) and cilantro to the noodles. Yum! Next time I might toss in some grated carrot, sliced cukes or snow peas. And there will definitely be a next time because this recipe got two thumbs up from the fam. Thank you! And Happy New Year!

Elizabeth Mars said...

Hi Jess I just posted this wonderful recipe on my blog. Hope you don't mind. I usually use it to dress soba noodles... just because I really love soba noodles

Anonymous said...

Just made this dish. It tastes amazing! Just a tip: you can add orange juice to the sauce and it combines a nice sweet and slightly sour flavour.