Sesame Noodles

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I can’t believe how many posts I’ve written that are basically completely done but were never posted.

Yesterday someone asked me for my sesame noodle recipe. I told her I would send the link to the post I wrote about it and then remembered I was going to put up a revised version but never did. I looked to see what I had written and there was a more or less finished post from January 2011 on this very subject. I think I wanted to test it one more time or get a picture or something, and then got distracted and never managed to get back to it.

Enough with that.

Here’s the revised version of the sesame noodle recipe.

This is definitely one of my top ten favorite recipes. Really good, really easy, really cheap. Great to make for a party or potluck because you can easily make a big batch, and also it travels well with minimal refrigeration, and is very filling, so I often make it and take with me on Scrap trips. It’s just a winner all the way around.

And if I ever manage to take a picture of it, I’ll add that. But for now, this is what I’ve got. Including the full January 2011 version of the post that I wrote and never posted. Because I hate to waste writing almost as much as I hate to waste food.


I called my friend Ann to check in last week. She said, “I’m looking at your blog right now.” I said, “Really?” I was trying to remember what I’d written lately, and if it was worth reading. She said, “I was looking for the sesame noodle recipe.”

I said, “Did you find it? It’s called Deb’s Sesame Noodles.” Then I remembered that I was working on a revision, and that I have it pretty much figured out.

I said, “Oh, but I have a new version, it’s better. It uses toasted sesame oil, and makes a more reasonable amount, the other one is huge.” I told her I’d put it together and send it to her later that day or the next.

She said, “Why don’t you put that up for everyone, instead of just sending it to me?”

Such a humanitarian! She’s always looking out for the greater good.

So here’s the revised sesame noodle recipe, adjusted to work with about 8 ounces of pasta (half a standard-sized package) and to use toasted sesame oil and extra tahini in place of the earlier recipe’s large amount of sesame oil. [Ed. correction 7/7/2012:   The recipe as given is enough for a full package of pasta; if you want 8 oz, cut the recipe in half.]


Deb’s Sesame Noodles Redux

1 to 2 gloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 Tbsp ginger root, grated
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3-4 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp canola oil

8 ounces linguine (or spaghetti)
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted lightly
2-3 green onions, sliced thin

Cook pasta.

Combine the first nine ingredients (up to the pasta) in a bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust vinegars, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic until you have the combination that appeals to you of tart, salty, sweet, sesame, and garlicky. (This is a very flexible recipe, basically you can adjust everything to taste.)

If the flavor seems too strong, you can add a few teaspoons of light vegetable oil to replace some of the original recipe’s 1 cup of sesame oil. It will dilute the flavors somewhat and make it stick to the noodles better than thinning with water.

Toss the hot, cooked pasta with the marinade and let sit, refrigerated, for at least four hours. (It’s best made a day ahead, so it can sit overnight and the marinade can soak all the way through the noodles.)

When ready to serve, sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and scallions over the top.

This may not be common knowledge so I’ll offer this little frugal tip: you can keep ginger root pretty much indefinitely in the freezer and grate on a microplane grater straight out of the freezer, no need to thaw. I wrap the unused portion in plastic wrap then put that in a second plastic bag so it will keep longer without starting to taste like the freezer.

(And yes, I know that ginger root is cheap, it’s just easier to make a recipe when you have all the ingredients on hand. I got into an extended discussion about this a number of years ago when I gave my tip for taking unused tomato paste out of the can and freezing tablespoon-sized dollops wrapped in waxed paper. The person I was talking to was like, “Okay, yeah, but tomato paste is like seventy-five cents. Do you really need to save seventy-five cents?” And had to think for a moment about whether I wanted to out myself and say, “Well yes, in fact I do need to save seventy-five cents.” In the end, I decided against it. Instead I talked about the principle of the whole thing and being wasteful — it’s just silly to buy food and throw it away when you don’t have to.)

Barkis is Willing

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The good thing about being self-employed is that I have a lot of flexibility; I can schedule things so that I can do what I want, when I want. The down side is that I always feel like I should be doing something else. When I’m working around the house, I feel like I should be working for pay, and when I’m doing paid work, I think of all the things that need to be done that I’m not doing right now because I’m stuck at my computer. The biggest casualty of this has been reading for pleasure. Unfortunately, there never seems to be any time when I think, “Gosh, I really should be reading a good book right now.”

I try to make up for this on vacations by scheduling trips with extensive, crazily inconvenient travel: I take the bus when I could get a ride; I schedule connections with really long layovers; I make one trip and then schedule a side trip to somewhere else. (Last year I took the train from Washington, DC to Princeton, NJ for lunch.) Because then I get to sit and read and not feel like I should be doing something else.

I recently got back from a trip that involved hours and hours of basically every form of transportation — car, plane, light rail, train, bicycle, ferry, city bus, subway, inter-city bus. I wasn’t sure what I was going to feel like reading (I’m old school, I don’t have an e-reader, I have to decide what I might want to have with me ahead of time) so I took three things that I had on my shelf that I had never read and that seemed like would give me a range of options: A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

On the plane out, I started Gilead, which won a Pulitzer and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and which many people had told me they liked. I got about a third of the way through before calling it. It was not hitting the spot. I switched to David Copperfield.

David Copperfield is awesome.

David Copperfield is 900 pages long.

I got through about 500 pages of it on the trip and I’m really going to try to make it to the end in a reasonable time frame. It was written in serial form, designed to be read one chapter each month, so if I can just keep things moving at that pace maybe I’ll be okay.

To that end, I took the bus to Chapel Hill on Friday instead of driving for my lunch meeting.

I’m at the part where (spoiler alert!) Barkis dies and little Em’ly runs off with Steerforth.

I love Barkis.

Barkis is the carrier who drives young Davy to Yarmouth when he is sent away to school by his cruel stepfather. As they ride out of town, his nurse Peggotty intercepts the cart so she can say goodbye to Davy and to give him some cakes to eat on the trip. Davy shares the cakes with Mr. Barkis:

I offered him a cake as a mark of attention, which he ate at one gulp, exactly like an elephant, and which made no more impression on his big face than it would have done on an elephant’s.

Barkis is a man of few words but he’s mightily impressed by the cake.

‘Did she make ’em, now?” said Mr Barkis, always leaning forward, in his slouching way, on the footboard of the cart with an arm on each knee.

‘Peggotty, do you mean, sir?’

‘Ah!’ said Mr Barkis. ‘Her.’

‘Yes. She makes all our pastry, and does all our cooking.’

‘Do she though?’ said Mr Barkis.

He made his mouth as if to whistle, but he didn’t whistle. He sat looking at the horse’s ears, as if he saw something new there; and sat so, for a considerable time.

One cake is enough for Mr Barkis to know a good thing when he sees it. But he wants to make sure he understands the situation properly.

‘No sweethearts, I b’lieve?’

‘Sweetmeats did you say, Mr. Barkis?’ For I thought he wanted something else to eat, and had pointedly alluded to that description of refreshment.

‘Hearts,’ said Mr. Barkis. ‘Sweet hearts; no person walks with her!’

‘With Peggotty?’

‘Ah!’ he said. ‘Her.’

‘Oh, no. She never had a sweetheart.’

‘Didn’t she, though!’ said Mr. Barkis.

Again he made up his mouth to whistle, and again he didn’t whistle, but sat looking at the horse’s ears.

And Barkis wants to confirm what he thought he had heard earlier.

‘So she makes,’ said Mr. Barkis, after a long interval of reflection, ‘all the apple parsties, and doos all the cooking, do she?’

I replied that such was the fact.

He then makes his offer:

‘Well. I’ll tell you what,’ said Mr. Barkis. ‘P’raps you might be writin’ to her?’

‘I shall certainly write to her,’ I rejoined.

‘Ah!’ he said, slowly turning his eyes towards me. ‘Well! If you was writin’ to her, p’raps you’d recollect to say that Barkis was willin’; would you?’

‘That Barkis is willing,’ I repeated, innocently. ‘Is that all the message?’

‘Ye-es,’ he said, considering. ‘Ye-es. Barkis is willin’.’

‘But you will be at Blunderstone again tomorrow, Mr. Barkis,’ I said, faltering a little at the idea of my being far away from it then, and could give your own message so much better.’

As he repudiated this suggestion, however, with a jerk of his head, and once more confirmed his previous request by saying, with profound gravity, ‘Barkis is willin’. That’s the message,’ I readily undertook its transmission. While I was waiting for the coach in the hotel at Yarmouth that very afternoon, I procured a sheet of paper and an inkstand, and wrote a note to Peggotty, which ran thus: ‘My dear Peggotty. I have come here safe. Barkis is willing. My love to mama. Yours affectionately. P.S. He says he particularly wants you to know – BARKIS IS WILLING.’

Peggotty laughs off the proposal when it is first made, but accepts after Davy’s mother dies and she is left without a station. She and Barkis live happily together for many years, and it turns out that Mr. Barkis has more money than anyone would have imagined, but he refuses to let on to it. He keeps it hidden in a box under the bed, and is always sure to tell everyone how hardscrabble his life is. He becomes more and more attached to the box as he nears the end of his life, but still won’t admit that it contains anything of value:

He was lying with his head and shoulders out of bed, in an uncomfortable attitude, half resting on the box which had cost him so much pain and trouble. I learned, that, when he was past creeping out of bed to open it, and past assuring himself of its safety by means of the divining rod I had seen him use, he had required to have it placed on the chair at the bed-side, where he had ever since embraced it, night and day. His arm lay on it now. Time and the world were slipping from beneath him, but the box was there; and the last words he had uttered were (in an explanatory tone) ‘Old clothes!’

At the time of Barkis’ death, David has finished school and is working in London in the legal profession, and is able to help settle the estate.

I may claim the merit of having originated the suggestion that the will should be looked for in the box. After some search, it was found in the box, at the bottom of a horse’s nose-bag; wherein (besides hay) there was discovered an old gold watch, with chain and seals, which Mr. Barkis had worn on his wedding-day, and which had never been seen before or since; a silver tobacco-stopper, in the form of a leg; an imitation lemon, full of minute cups and saucers, which I have some idea Mr. Barkis must have purchased to present to me when I was a child, and afterwards found himself unable to part with; eighty-seven guineas and a half, in guineas and half-guineas; two hundred and ten pounds, in perfectly clean Bank notes; certain receipts for Bank of England stock; an old horseshoe, a bad shilling, a piece of camphor, and an oyster-shell. From the circumstance of the latter article having been much polished, and displaying prismatic colours on the inside, I conclude that Mr. Barkis had some general ideas about pearls, which never resolved themselves into anything definite.

For years and years, Mr. Barkis had carried this box, on all his journeys, every day. That it might the better escape notice, he had invented a fiction that it belonged to ‘Mr. Blackboy’, and was ‘to be left with Barkis till called for’; a fable he had elaborately written on the lid, in characters now scarcely legible.

He had hoarded, all these years, I found, to good purpose. His property in money amounted to nearly three thousand pounds. Of this he bequeathed the interest of one thousand to Mr. Peggotty for his life; on his decease, the principal to be equally divided between Peggotty, little Emily, and me, or the survivor or survivors of us, share and share alike. All the rest he died possessed of, he bequeathed to Peggotty; whom he left residuary legatee, and sole executrix of that his last will and testament.

I love everything about this.

I love that Barkis proposed to Peggotty after eating one of her cakes. I love that he proposed by sending a cryptic message with an eight-year-old boy who had no idea what he was talking about. I love that he patiently waited for a response, and after receiving none, sent a second message with David, who still had no idea what he was talking about, the next time he drove him. He actually has to coach David in the follow-up trip on how to proceed:

‘Well!’ he resumed at length. ‘Says you, “Peggotty! Barkis is waitin’ for a answer.” Says she, perhaps, “Answer to what?” Says you, “To what I told you.” “What is that?” says she. “Barkis is willin’,” says you.’

This extremely artful suggestion Mr. Barkis accompanied with a nudge of his elbow that gave me quite a stitch in my side. After that, he slouched over his horse in his usual manner; and made no other reference to the subject except, half an hour afterwards, taking a piece of chalk from his pocket, and writing up, inside the tilt of the cart, ‘Clara Peggotty’ – apparently as a private memorandum.

It reminds me of the hint hint nudge nudge wink wink sketch in Monty Python. Ah! Say no more!

I love that Barkis keeps his stash in a horse’s nose bag, complete with hay. I love that he created an elaborate story to explain the box and why he has it with him at all times. I love the list of items he carried around in the box. (It reminded me of another of my favorite lists, from Ali the Persian). I love that he was wealthy but pretended he wasn’t.

I love it.

And it seems to me that the moral of the story is … you never know what a good cake might get you.

And that Charles Dickens was a good writer.

In case we didn’t know that already.

My New Friends

Friday, June 1, 2012

My Chicken Friends

My Chicken Friends

A couple of months ago I was talking to my friend Ann, she said she’d been talking to our friend Sara about chickens. Sara works at The Scrap Exchange, and does a bunch of different things — she’s a potter and teaches pottery and grows vegetables and makes art and just has a generally interesting life.

Ann said that Sara said she had had chickens before but her boyfriend had gotten rid of them, and she’d like to have them again but keeping chickens was too much for one person. (She’d recently gotten rid of the boyfriend, so that had opened things up.) Ann told her that she knew I was always in the market for fresh eggs and that she was pretty sure I would be willing to help, and that she would help too. We could have a little chicken share thing.

A co-op chicken coop as it were.

When I lived in New Jersey after graduating from college, I was able to get the best, freshest eggs from the farm down the road (Mrs. Winant’s farm) where my housemate would take her dog to play. They had a little shed where they would put the eggs out and you would leave a dollar and take a dozen eggs. It was such a dream, the eggs were divine.

I can get eggs at the farmer’s market here, but there are a bunch of problems — they often sell out early, they are $4.50 a dozen, and they don’t taste that much better to me than the Latta’s Egg Ranch eggs I get at Whole Foods for $2.29 a dozen. So I’ve generally resigned myself to eating Latta’s eggs, except under special circumstances when I might make a trip to get fresh eggs from one of my friends with chickens.

After the city council legalized chickens within city limits (a contentious battle that I will save the telling of for another day), I did think about starting to keep chickens, but it seemed like it would be a lot of work for way more eggs than I could handle. A better option seemed to be finding someone who might be interested in bartering eggs for … something. But I hadn’t done anything about that either.

So the prospect of sharing chickens with Sara and Ann was really exciting. Sara had the expertise and land, she already had gone through the permitting process, and she said she could build a chicken coop out of scrap wood and other materials she’d salvaged. Ann and I said we’d help out with whatever she needed.

It turned out that pretty much all of the help we’ve provided so far has been to look at the pictures Sara has sent and say, “Wow! That looks great! Way to go!”

Sara built a rockin’ coop from salvaged materials, including two old windows that I gave her that I had been intending to take to The Scrap Exchange for probably two years (sometimes procrastination works in your favor). She built nesting boxes, a roost, an outside run. She painted the coop to match her house.

Salvaged Materials Chicken Coop

Scrap Chicken Coop

It’s really awesome.

So then we had to get chickens. Sara said I could be in charge of that.

I quickly realized that I know NOTHING about chickens.

I tried to do a little research. I talked to a friend who has chickens. I got some books from the library.

My friend with chickens told me they get theirs mail-order from the hatchery. I was like What? You order chickens in the mail?

Who knew?

But I wasn’t sure if we wanted to do that. You can’t just drop the little fuzzballs into your backyard. What do you do with them until they’re big enough to go outside? My friend Lorri grew up on a farm and she said her grandma would keep them in a box in the kitchen with a light over it to keep them warm. She said it wasn’t a big deal.

Okay, so that was an option but I wasn’t totally sold on it. The minimum order is twenty-five so we’d have to go in on an order with our friend, I wasn’t sure how long it would take, etc. It seemed like it might get complicated.

I looked on craigslist and there were a few possibilities but nothing really jumped out at me.

Then Ann said she was at The Rock Shop and they had chicks there. Apparently The Rock Shop has become The Rock and Chick Shop.

We told Sara, she went and checked it out and said that seemed like a good option but she was going to wait a bit until they were a little bigger. But then she got impatient and went and got them.

baby chickens

chick chick chick

They look like little alien dinosaur babies to me. I said this is the awkward adolescent phase, all gangly arms and legs and pimples.

I left town a few days after she got them, and I was crazy busy in the days leading up to when I left. Today we finally managed to get over there to see them.

Chicken Baby

Our Chicken Baby

They’re so cute!

I brought them some worms from my worm bin. They hopped around and snacked on the worms. Ann tried to pick them up and cuddle them but they were not so into that. (It actually reminded me of this scene from Bugs Bunny … I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him… )

I’m looking forward to spending time with them over the next few months, and I’m very much looking forward to getting some EGGS.