Chinese dinner | Spinach and tofu soup | Cold Chinese Noodles | Blurb
Posted Sep 02 2010 8:53am
We spent about five weeks in July and August visiting our "real" home in Madison, Wisconsin, and my posts from July and August about traveling, doing upkeep on our house and garden, and spending time catching up with friends — usually while enjoying food — are continuing into September. I still have some territory to cover, but got sidetracked by an unexpected, all-consuming project that I'll mention later. Anyway, no diary about our summer would be complete without a story about the special dinner cooked for us by one of my husband's graduate students. To be accurate, I'd have to say, "former graduate student," because Katrina successfully defended her dissertation this week and is now a PhD.
To call the meal a "dinner," is like calling a Bengal tiger a "kitty." It was more like a banquet. Every dish was gorgeous and delicious. Katrina is an accomplished cook and gracious hostess. I had forgotten my camera, but we live only a few minutes from Katrina, and my husband went home to get it. I'm so glad he did.
Here she is preparing the spinach soup with tofu. Like all good cooks, she carefully tastes and seasons her creations. She spooned some soup into a bowl and tasted it before deciding it was perfect.
Below, you can see the amazing, colorful variety of dishes Katrina prepared.
Zucchini with peppers
Noodles with garlic and nori
Asparagus and peppers
Our hostess and one of her happy guests.
I'm including recipes for two of the dishes. One has appeared on the blog before , but it's such a favorite of ours I've decided to reprise it here. The other recipe is for the soup. It is a very light and simple soup, but very delicious — perfect as the first course of a complex meal. It only takes minutes to prepare.
Katrina's cold Chinese noodles
8 ounces spaghetti (I used Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta but Katrina used whole wheat spaghetti.)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or brown rice vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon red chili sauce (sambal oelek)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 inch fresh ginger root, cut fine (about 1 tablespoon)
1 large clove garlic, minced very fine
few grinds black pepper
1 sheet seasoned or plain toasted nori, cut with scissors into small rectangles
chopped cilantro, optional
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions al dente. When cooked, drain and rinse under cold running water to cool quickly. Drain noodles again and place in a bowl.
Add the oil and toss to coat the noodles.
Add vinegar, tamari, chili, garlic, ginger, sugar and pepper, and mix well.
Just before serving, add the nori. Mix some in and transfer the noodles to a serving bowl. Arrange the remaining nori over the top of the noodles.
Optional: Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
Makes four servings as a side dish.
Spinach soup with ginger and tofu
2 tablespoons finely minced or grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons oil, as you prefer
6 cups water
12 to 14 ounces soft tofu, cubed
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
5 ounces fresh baby spinach, washed
salt and fresh ground pepper
Sauté the garlic in the oil for a minute or two in a four quart pot. I grated my ginger on a microplane grater so it was very fine.
Add the water and the tofu and bring to a boil. Boil the tofu for several minutes.
Turn the heat to simmer and add the tamari.
Stir in the spinach to wilt.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. I ground both pink salt and mixed peppercorns. A few grinds was all it took to bring out the flavor.
Some variations: Sauté minced garlic with the ginger. Add grated or match stick carrots with the tofu. Add sliced scallions just before serving. Use low-sodium vegetable stock instead of water. Make miso broth to use instead of water.
Blurb I mentioned an intense project I worked on this past week that kept me from blogging or even reading blogs. Actually it kept me from sleeping and eating regularly, too. My son attended a conference this summer that was partially sponsored by Blurb, an online Web site where you can make your own photo books. They gave each participant coupons worth a substantial amount of money to put toward making a personal book, and to give away, and my son gave one to me. He pulled his baby blog into a fantastic photo album chronicling the first two years of his daughter's life, and suggested I use my blog to make a cookbook. Well, that was in July, and we were in Wisconsin enjoying the summer. Plus, I didn't have my computer with my photo-editing software, or my original photos. The photos on the blog have all been made too small to print well. So, I just blew off the coupon. Then, four days before the coupon expired, I suddenly realized I wanted to make the book, and went slightly berserk, laying it out and finding and processing the photos. I was up until 2 a.m. several nights in a row, trying to complete a task that seemed impossible. I thought the deadline, September 1, was Tuesday, and having finished the book by 8 p.m., I frantically tried to send in my book before midnight, but the upload kept getting interrupted. I tried everything I could think of, to no avail. Then I learned that September 1 was actually Wednesday, and I went to bed, exhausted. The next day, the actual September 1, after fruitless exchanges with the Blurb tech people, at my son's suggestion I re-installed the Blurb software and the book finally went through. Now I'm waiting to see what it looks like, and how many typos didn't get caught! I've already revised it in case I want to order a few for gifts. If it looks good, I may add a few more recipes that I didn't have time to add before, or which need new photos. Most of my older photos are pretty embarrassing.
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