Friday, October 1, 2010

In the past at group get-togethers or parties, I was the designated dessert maker. After all, it was my professional job, so people expected it. No problem.

But when asked to bring a savory dish, I ponder a bit more. ‘What do I feel like making? What produce is in season? What ingredients do I have on hand? Will they like it?’

So, yesterday I created a simple Asian-inspired salad for a potluck luncheon of about 20 women involved in a group called American Women of Istanbul. (This group has been a lifesaver for me as a newcomer to this country and trying to figure my way around the city.)

I’ve seen and made different variations of this Asian Broccoli-Carrot Salad. Back in the states, I used the pre-shredded mixes of broccoli slaw as a shortcut for the salad and a package of ramen noodles to make the vinaigrette.

At my local grocery store here, instant ramen noodles cost $2.27 USD per package. Yikes! Back home, you often find them at the ridiculous low price of 10 for $2.00. In college, I slurped up the sodium-packed ramen noodles because they were cheap. Heck, I still enjoy a package of the instant noodles jazzed up with freshly diced scallions, Sriracha hot sauce and a raw egg swirled into the broth. Of course, my favorite adult version of ramen noodles, garnished with pork belly and a poached egg, is at Momofuko in New York City.
In April, we enjoyed a bowl of ramen at Momofuko in NYC.
With my salad below, I made my own vinaigrette with ingredients I had on hand such as freshly grated ginger, granulated garlic powder and Chinese five-spice powder. The soy sauce provided plenty of sodium so no salt was really needed.

Sesame seeds are easy to find. These nutty gems are used in cookies, breads and different types of Turkish candies such as halva. To toast the sesame seeds, I prefer to use a hot sauté pan and quickly toss them for a few minutes. However, I put a pan of the seeds in the oven while I chopped the vegetables thinking it would take longer to toast. Wrong. I burned the whole tray. So, for me, sautéing them is the quickest way.

This recipe is easy to make and can be cut in half to feed a normal family of 4 people or so. Leftovers still taste great, but the noodles lose their crunchiness, so garnish with them as needed.

What pantry ingredients inspired your latest meal?

Asian Broccoli-Carrot Salad
2          lbs.       broccoli florets, blanched
4-6       ea.        whole carrots, cut into 1” julienne strips
4          ea.        green onions, tops only, diced
¼         c.         sesame seeds, toasted
½         c.         blanched almond pieces
TT                    crushed instant Asian noodles
4          T.         soy sauce
4          T.         honey
2          oz.       canola oil
2          oz.       sesame oil
3          oz.       apple cider vinegar
1          tsp.      freshly grated ginger
½         tsp.      Chinese five-spice powder
Dash                granulated garlic powder
TT                    ground black pepper

1. Fill a large pot with 1 ½ inches of water. Put on lid and bring to a boil. Drop in broccoli florets, top with lid and steam until they are “al-dente.”
2. Immediately, drain the hot water off the broccoli and run cold water over the broccoli to stop the cooking process. Alternatively, use a large bowl of ice water to blanch the broccoli and cool it.
3. Peel and cut the carrots. I used a special julienne peeler I had bought at Williams-Sonoma. Also, you can use a food processor to shred the carrots as a faster method.
4. Dice the green onions.
5. To toast the sesame seeds, put a sauté pan on a medium-high burner and get it hot. Add the seeds and quickly toss the seeds every 30 seconds or so. The seeds quickly will turn various shades of golden brown in about 5 minutes. Immediately, pour seeds out of the hot pan into a glass bowl to cool.
Toasting sesame seeds
6. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients. Taste the vinaigrette on a piece of broccoli and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
7. Reserve tossing the vegetables and sesame seeds with the dressing until you are ready to serve it.
8. Lastly, garnish the salad with the almonds and crushed instant noodles.

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