Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Hot So Let's Get Pickled


Has it ever been this hot...ever?  Half of the country is melting away, and I am developing a seriously antagonistic relationship with my summer wardrobe.  How can you look cute when it's a gazillion degrees outside?

When it's this smeltering (that delightful combination of sweltering and melting), I tend to look for foods that help me feel cooler.  

I love all things pickled.  That bright and tangy splash of vinegar wakes up the senses and adds a ton of flavor to dishes without adding any fat.  I do a quick pickle on some red onions to add a bright note to tofu noodles for a super easy, non-cook meal that really satisfies!

Tofu Noodles with Pickled Onions, Cucumber, and Radish

Tofu noodles, which can be found in most Asian Markets, offer up a nice change to rice noodles or whole grain pasta.  Plus, you don't have to cook 'em!  Remember, tofu is a flavor sponge so allow the noodles to sit in a bit of the dressing while you chop!

Tofu noodles, 16 oz 
1 medium hot house cucumber
1 carrot, grated
5-6 radishes, sliced into matchsticks
Pickled Red Onion (recipe follows)
2 Tbl basil
2 Tbl cilantro
sesame seeds for sprinkling

2 Tbl olive oil
1 1/2 Tbl rice vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp sesame oil (really just a couple of drops)
1 Tbl honey
salt 'n pepper

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together vinegar, mustard, and honey.  Slowly whisk in olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, and add a couple of drops of sesame oil for a darker flavor (optional).

Place tofu noodles in a large bowl and dress with half of the vinaigrette.  Set aside.  While the noodles soak, chop your veggies and herbs.  Add them to the noodles and toss with the remaining vinaigrette.  Chill until ready to serve (can be made an hour in advance). Garnish with sesame seeds.

Pickled Red Onions

These bright and tart little guys are fabulous in the tofu noodle salad, and they can transform any chilled steamed veggie (think broccoli, green beans, or cauliflower) into a beautiful side salad.

1 medium red onion
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 whole star anise
1 1/2 Tbl pickling spice
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
2 dried red chiles
2 tsp salt
1 tsp honey

Slice onion in half, cutting through the hairy root end. Remove outside layer and discard.  Using a sharp knife, make thin slices toward the root end but not all to the root.  Once you have sliced the entire half, cut off root end.  What remains should be beautiful thin slices of onion. Set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil.  Add onion and simmer for five minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer to a glass bowl.  Allow to cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.

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