Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homage to Annette Grant's sesame noodles (and skordalia)

On Tuesday mornings I attend Michelle Gillett's writing workshop.  I've been "enrolled" off and on for a few years, and always enjoy the challenge and conviviality of our meetings.  When I got home this afternoon I had a message from Robin Ban (owner of Seeds on Railroad Street), asking for "that incredible sesame noodle recipe."  She needed it for a pot luck party tonight.  I emailed it to her right away, and feel confident that it was a hit with whatever group was having the party.

Several years ago my friend Rena had a pot luck picnic at the end of August.  I heaped my plate with a reasonable selection of the goodies on the table, and while everything was tasty, one dish distinguished itself with its bold flavor:  Sesame Noodles.  I found out that Annette Grant brought them.  I didn't know her but that didn't stop me from introducing myself and begging for the recipe.  The friends with whom I was sitting then demanded that I share it with them when I received it.  And thus was born the network of those who bring this dish to pot lucks, make it for company at home, and generally thank Annette for providing the recipe.  For these noodles are always a big hit.  Easy to make, full of flavor, and endlessly adaptable to added ingredients (chicken, shrimp, peas, etc).

Since that picnic, we've become good friends.  I've learned that she's not just a great cook but a very generous one.  In August, when I told her I was hosting a meet 'n greet for Dan Bosley, running for sheriff, she offered to help me prepare the food.  It was at the height of the summer produce season so I felt everything I served should be locally grown.  Annette prepared skordalia, a Greek appetizer of potatoes and garlic, using vegetables from her garden.  This skordalia packs a wallop.  It's perfect for people who savor BIG flavors.

So thank you Annette for two excellent recipes.

Annette Grant's Sesame Noodles

1 lb. vermicelli
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
at least half as much grated fresh ginger by volume as garlic
2 T sesame oil, golden roasted Chinese style
1/2 c light sesame oil or other neutral salad oil
1/4 c light and mild brewed rice vinegar
1/2 c soy sauce (not Tamari)
1 T Chinese hot oil or chile oil
1 T white sugar
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 handful cilantro, chopped

A day in advance (NB:  Annette calls for making this the day before.  I've found making it the day of works just fine, but don't tell her that.)
Combine the two sesame oils in a sauce pan. Saute the garlic and ginger in the two oils until soft. Do not allow to become crisp and brown.
Add the vinegar, soy sauce, hot oil and sugar and boil for a few seconds. Remove from heat.
Cook the vermicelli al dente and then rinse very thoroughly with cold water and drain.
Mix the noodles with sauce and toss.Toss the noodles occasionally so that they all get a chance to marinate in the sauce. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Before serving
Bring noodles to room temperature.
Add chopped cilantro and sliced scallions and toss.

 P.S.  I usually use more ginger than she calls for.

Me, Annette, Maureen Howard

This is a great dish to bring if you're invited for Thanksgiving dinner and want to bring something tasty.

Annette Grant's Skordalia

SKORDALIA (Greek potato and garlic spread)
2 russet potatoes (about 1 lb), scrubbed
Kosher salt, as needed, plus 1 T and 1 t
8 medium cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c whole blanched almonds
2 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c water
5  T freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 T white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by 2 inches and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let cool slightly.

Rub the skins off the potatoes and discard them. Coarsely chop the potatoes and puree them through a food mill or ricer into a medium bowl.

Meanwhile, on a cutting board, lightly sprinkle the garlic with a generous pinch of the salt and smash it into a fine paste with the side of a cook's knife.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, almonds, and oil and puree into a paste. Mix the oil mixture into the potatoes until incorporated; then mix in the 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon salt, water, lemon juice, and vinegar and season with pepper, to taste. Serve.


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