Sunday, June 8, 2008

Desperate Enough for Ramen


It's just so shocking to have hot weather all of a sudden. I just commented to my little red-haired vegan that it was only two weeks ago that it wasn't warm enough to clean out the car.

In light of the high 80s temps, we've had to turn on the AC since our apartment is a little sweat box that remains 88F well past 11pm. (88 at 11 = no sleep for me) So in light of our new spike in energy consumption, I will do almost anything to keep my kitchen cool. As noted in the last post, my lovely grill is the main solution to that. Today, however, I wanted noodles and, while it would be easy enough to boil water on the grill's side-burner, I wanted to use another low-energy solution. I apologize that I can't remember the name of this gimmick, but it's a tall, clear plastic tube that supposedly allows you to cook pasta by just pouring boiling water into it.

You may be skeptical, and for good reason: it doesn't really work. You stick your dried pasta in the tube, fill it with boiling water and close it with a cheap plastic lid. Then, some magic is supposed to happen to 'cook' the pasta. Essentially, you're just sticking pasta in hot water and waiting until it gets soft enough to chew. Sounds simple enough. However, the texture of the end product is less than ideal. This thing was on a shelf in the basement for a reason. Though perhaps achieving al dente in the middle, the noodles are generally mushy on the outside giving a weird chewy texture to the whole thing.

Today I was desperate. I had left-over grilled peppers and onions, two big cubes of dried/baked tofu and I had a hankering for noodles. I bought some Chinese-style curly noodles at the store the other day. These look like the cheaper, fattier ramen you buy for a few cents per case, but they're not fried and they're a little thinner. So I broke them up into pieces and stuck them in pasta tube with boiling water. 7 minutes later, I had al dente/mushy ramen. Insult was added to injury when I opened the fridge to discover that we were out of soy sauce.

WHAT? How the &#@! could we be out of soy sauce?

After several harsh words to myself and anyone within a 4 mile radius, I realized that improvising ramen without soy sauce was going to be painful. Luckily, I remembered that our old Singaporean flat-mate, Dot, used to add curry powder to her ramen for a cheap and tasty snack. So I cobbled together a mixture of generic curry powder, salt, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and a big dash of seasoned rice vinegar and tossed it with the noodles.

It was ok. Not great.

The lack of soy sauce, while annoying in light of the already impaired noodles, was a major obstacle for the tofu. To say that tofu is bland is like saying Scooter Libby is 'morally flexible' (for any right-wingers out there, it's an understatement). Baked tofu is like a concentrated form of bland, if you can wrap your mind around that. So I made another little batch of the same noodle seasoning for the tofu and tossed it in. This I took to the grill with my left-over peppers and onions.

Sad Curry Dressing
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp garlic (minced)
1 tsp ginger (minced or 1/2 tsp powder)
black pepper to taste
salt to taste

Method:

1. Today I used a nice cast-iron wok. I stuck it on the grill and closed the lid while it was heating up to make sure it got hot (about 350F).
2. I added a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the hot wok and added the tofu. I let this cook, grill covered for 5 minutes or so, the stirred and let it cook another 5 minutes.
3. I then tossed in the peppers and onions and let this all cook for another 5 minutes.
4. I added all this to the cooked noodles and served it with roasted cashews.

This goes to show any people who've eaten my cooking, and who've like it, that sometimes things don't work. I just usually don't serve the failures to company.

Well I wouldn't serve it to company I like, anyway.

Scooter can have it.

On second thought, no. No he can't. It's still too good for him.

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