You know that head of lettuce that’s been waiting for you in the crisper drawer since last week? The one with the wilty outer leaves that’s not quite fresh enough to make a salad that won’t depress the hell out of you? You know that quarter-bag of baby spinach that didn’t fit in the pan when you sautéed a bunch a couple nights ago? Do you ever end the week with just a handful of sugar snap peas that didn’t make it into lunch boxes?
This dish is for those sad, neglected, forgotten green things. It’s a variation on one of the recipes in my new book; it’s vegan and gluten free, and delicious. Nothing earth-shattering, just comforting and homey, easy. You can make it in about fifteen minutes from ingredients you probably already have—and please use your imagination when it comes to the vegetables involved. Leftover steamed (or raw) asaparagus, frozen peas or corn from last summer, radicchio, sweet peppers, sliced radishes or jicama—it’s all good.
Rice Stick Noodles with Forgotten Greens
Serves 2 generously (or 2 plus an eight-year-old kid)
7 ounces rice stick noodles (the kind that are about 1/4 inch wide
2 cloves garlic
2 coins ginger
1 head romaine lettuce
Handful of sugar snap peas
2 tablespoons tamari, or to taste
2 tablespoons shaoxing cooking wine (see Notes)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Handful of spinach leaves
Red chile flakes to taste
2 to 4 hot fresh or frozen chiles
A few drops toasted sesame oil
Put the noodles in a heatproof bowl or baking dish and cover with very hot water. Let soak for about 10 minutes, until soft but not mushy. Drain in a colander and rinse under running water, separating any noodles that are stuck together.
While the noodles are soaking, thinly slice the garlic and ginger and roughly chop the romaine and sugar snap peas. In a small bowl, combine the tamari and shaoxing. In a large sauté pan, toast the sesame seeds over medium-high heat until fragrant and scrape them onto a plate.
Return the sauté pan to medium-high heat and add the oil. When it shimmers, add the garlic and ginger and sauté for about 1 1/2 minutes, until softened and starting to brown. Add the romaine and sugar snaps and cook, tossing, for about 2 minutes, until the romaine is wilted and the sugar snaps are bright green. Add the drained noodles, the spinach, the tamari mixture (rinse out the bowl with a splash of water and add it, too), and the red chile flakes. Cook, tossing with tongs, until the noodles are just tender and most of the excess liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Taste and add more tamari if needed, then transfer to serving bowls or plates. Snip the fresh or frozen chiles over each portion (see Notes), sprinkle with sesame oil and the sesame seeds, and serve.
Notes: I like to keep a jar of peeled slicedginger covered in some sort of strong alcohol (dry sherry or vermouth is best) in the refrigerator. It keeps almost forever, and you can use the coins like fresh. You can use some of the alcohol they’re in instead of shaoxing, if you’d like; dilute it with a little water if it’s very potent.
I also always have a zip-top bag of assorted hot chiles in the freezer. Because I’m usually cooking not just for myself but a young child, I can’t just go adding them to the pan willy nilly. Lately I’ve been using kitchen scissors to just snip still-frozen Thai chilesonto my portion—it’s easier to just rinse off the scissors and toss the stems than it is to contaminate a cutting board, knife, and—god forbid—my hands. Hence the strange instruction above, to “snip” your chiles.