Category Archives: Side Dishes

Ratatouille

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The transition from fall to summer is my very favorite time of the year. I love the cool mornings and sunny (but not humid) days. It is the perfect time for making my favorite comfort food: Ratatouille. Like all good comfort foods, it is warm and filling and permeates your house with delicious smells as it cooks low and slow on the stove. And during this change of seasons, I love that I can still get great fresh garden vegetables and herbs to use in this recipe.

Ratatouille is not always the most visually appealing dish, but is bursting with flavor. It is full of hearty vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs Then cooked down on the stove until the flavors blend and meld into the most delicious vegetable stew. Eating healthy has never tasted better!

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This is Little A’s very favorite side dish. His face just lights up when he smells it as he comes into the house. All of the kids love it except for Little J (but she hardly counts as she turns her nose up to EVERY vegetable in this dish).

Ratatouille makes a perfect side dish to grilled or roasted meats. I love to serve it this time of year, when we still like to grill chicken, pork, or other things outside. Grilled meat is wonderful, but also begs for something juicy to eat with it. Ratatouille fits that bill perfectly. It is also great later in the winter with a roasted pork tenderloin, roast chicken, or beef roast.

This recipe makes a good-sized pot of ratatouille. You could always scale it back if you don’t want to make that much, but I love to have leftovers of this dish. It makes a perfect lunch all on its own the next day. Or as a sauce for pasta for an easy meal later in the week.

I never measure things when I make this recipe. It is very flexible based on your personal tastes. Below is a good approximation of the amounts that I use.

RECIPE:

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Ratatouille

½ cup olive oil
1 large eggplant, skin on, diced
2 onions, chopped
1 red/orange/yellow pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 zucchini and/or yellow squash, sliced and quartered
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
3 cups chopped tomatoes
½ tsp Tabasco sauce (adjust to taste)
3 Tbs chopped fresh basil*
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley*
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme*
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano*

Heat olive oil in a large saucepot. Add eggplant to the hot oil and cook until eggplant begins to soften. Add onions, red pepper and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, salt, pepper, and dried herbs; cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add chopped tomatoes and Tabasco sauce and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, until mixture is cooked down and thickened (30-40 minutes). Stir in fresh herbs during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary.

*Or substitute an additional 2-3 tsp dried Italian seasoning for the fresh herbs

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Blackened Cod with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

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Looking for something to serve with your Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw? This blackened cod is perfect. And quick and easy on a warm summer night when you don’t want to heat up your kitchen.

If you are making the coleslaw as well, there will probably be enough extra dressing from that recipe to use for drizzling onto the cooked fish. Recipe for Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw:

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I like to serve this meal with Cotija cheese. Cotija is a firm mild cheese with a texture similar to feta, but without the saltiness. It crumbles easily with your fingers.

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This recipe also makes great Fish Tacos.

RECIPE:

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Blackened Cod with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

4 cod fish fillets (you could also use halibut or snapper)
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp Ancho chili powder
1/8 tsp chipotle chili powder
2 Tbs oil

Creamy Cilantro Dressing (recipe below)
Cotija cheese, crumbled
1 can black beans, drained and mixed with 1 Tbs lime juice
Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw

Prepare Creamy Cilantro Dressing and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Remove fish from refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking. Mix dry spices in a small bowl. Pat fish fillets dry and rub spices onto both sides of fish fillets.

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place fish fillets in the hot skillet and sear until cooked through (do not crowd pan; cook in 2 batches if necessary). Depending on the thickness and variety of fish, it should take about 3 minutes per side. Check for doneness with a fork: fish should flake easily, but not fall apart. Remove from pan and let fish rest for 2-3 minutes.

Drizzle fish with some of the Creamy Cilantro Dressing and top with crumbled cotija cheese. Serve fish with coleslaw, black beans, and additional cilantro dressing.

Creamy Cilantro Dressing

½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 green onions
1 fresh jalapeno
¼ cup fresh cilantro
2 Tbs diced mild green chilies (about ½ of a 4 oz can)
2 Tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
½ – 1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (adjust to taste)
½ tsp kosher salt

Place all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for one hour before serving

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Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw

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A light and creamy summer salad perfect for serving with grilled or barbecued meats. Flavored with lime juice and fresh jalapenos, the dressing on this coleslaw is tangy and slightly spicy, not sweet like a traditional coleslaw.

And if you have some dressing left over, it is great as a sauce for grilled meat, or refrigerated and used later as a salad dressing.

RECIPE:

Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw 1

Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw

3-4 cups shredded cabbage
4 green onions, sliced
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Dressing:
½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 green onions
1 fresh jalapeno
¼ cup fresh cilantro
2 Tbs diced mild green chilies (about ½ of a 4 oz can)
2 Tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
½ – 1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (adjust to taste)
½ tsp kosher salt

Prepare dressing: Place all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Place cabbage, green onions, and chopped cilantro in a large bowl. Add the dressing a little at a time, stirring until cabbage is coated, but not drowning in dressing.** Refrigerate coleslaw for about one hour before serving.

**Any extra dressing can be served as a sauce for grilled meat, or refrigerated and used later as a salad dressing.

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How to Roast Pumpkins and Winter Squash

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Winter squash is a wonderfully versatile vegetable, but can be intimidating if you are unfamiliar with cooking it.

To use winter squash in recipes, roasting is a great way to get tender squash with deep flavor without the excess water that comes from boiling.

A few of the varieties of winter squash that you can choose from (pictured):

  • pumpkins (smaller will be less stringy)
  • butternut squash
  • acorn squash
  • delicata squash

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  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Wash the outside of the squash to remove any dirt. Dry.

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  • Cut squash in half using a large sharp knife. If your butternut squash is really large, or you do not have a large knife, you can cut the butternut squash in half crosswise first (right at the point where the neck begins) and then in half lengthwise. The narrower neck of a butternut squash does not have any seeds, just the rounder base.
  • Remove seeds and stringy pulp from inside the squash. Save those seeds for roasting! They are the best part of the squash (Yes-you can roast squash seeds too, not just pumpkin seeds).

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  • Place squash cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush inside of squash halves with olive oil.

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  • Turn squash over, cut side down, on the baking sheet.

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  • Bake at 425°F for about 30 minutes, depending on the size of your squash or pumpkin. Check softness by turning squash over and piercing with a fork. The squash flesh should be soft, but not mushy.

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  • Cool 10-15 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Scoop flesh out of shell. Puree or dice for use in recipes. Squash is easily frozen in Ziploc freezer bags. Freeze in 1 cup portions (be sure to label your bags with how much of what kind of squash you put in them).

Recipes using roasted squash/pumpkins:

Squash Equivalents:

  • 1 pound peeled squash = 1 cup cooked, pureed
  • 2-1/2 pounds whole squash = about 2-3/4 to 3 cups pureed
  • 1 large (15 to 20 pounds) pumpkin = about 5 quarts (20 cups) of cooked, pureed pumpkin
  • 1 large butternut squash or 1 medium sugar/pie pumpkin = about 2-3 cups pureed

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Szechuan Beans

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Szechuan Beans are one of my favorite dishes at Chinese restaurants. Often at restaurants, they are made with Chinese long beans. When I make them at home, I use the skinny French filet beans.

These beans are slightly spicy, flavored with Szechuan peppercorns, a good dose of garlic, ginger and chili paste. Szechuan peppercorns are actually less spicy than regular black pepper or chili peppers. They have a slightly lemony taste and leave your tongue with an interesting tingly, slightly numb sensation.

Szechuan Peppercorns

Szechuan Peppercorns

I buy whole Szechuan peppercorns from Penzeys. If I am grinding a large quantity of the peppercorns, I use a mini electric coffee grinder. For times when I only need a small amount of ground peppercorn, I have a separate peppermill (the wooden kind you turn by hand) that I keep full of these peppercorns. Don’t use your regular black peppercorn mill to grind the Szechuan peppercorns and then refill with the black ones. As straight Szechuan peppercorns can leave your tongue feeling numb, your kids might not appreciate that sensation when they are expecting regular pepper.

I like to include a small amount of ground pork when I make these beans, but you could leave that out for a vegetarian dish.

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RECIPE:

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Szechuan Beans

1 Tbs oil
¼ lb ground pork
4 green onions, chopped
1 Tbs minced garlic
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp ground chili paste (use more for spicier beans)
1 tsp honey
½ tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
1 lb Chinese long beans or French filet beans, ends trimmed

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground pork, green onions, garlic and ginger. Cook until pork is cooked through.

Add soy sauce, chili paste, honey and ground peppercorns to skillet. Stir to mix, then add green beans to skillet. Cook for 2 minutes. Add 3 Tbs water to the skillet and cover with a lid. Cook beans for about 3 minutes, or until beans are not quite done.

Remove lid and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and beans are crisp-tender. Do not overcook beans. Serve immediately.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Gratin

Squash Gratin

I love butternut squash in the winter. Squash are great, inexpensive vegetables that can be cooked many different ways, both sweet and savory. If you want to pay a little more, you can also buy them pre-peeled and diced. But then you don’t get any of those great seeds for Roasting.

This gratin is a savory side dish that is really flavorful and goes great with roast chicken or beef.

RECIPE:

Squash Gratin

Roasted Butternut Squash Gratin

2 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp chicken bouillon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbs Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a 2-quart baking dish, combine squash cubes, garlic, onion, olive oil and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, cream, bouillon and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Stir into roasted squash. Combine panko bread crumbs and 2 Tbs Parmesan. Sprinkle over squash. Bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until bubbly. If topping is not browned, broil for 1-2 minutes before serving.

 

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Roasted Garlic Rosemary Beets

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Beets are a controversial vegetable in our house. Until recently we were split pretty evenly between beet lovers and beet haters. This recipe, however, has made some converts to the beet-loving camp. There are still 2 hold-outs, but that may be due more to stubbornness than actual taste preferences. One child hardly put enough in her mouth to actually taste it before declaring it gross.

Beets are one vegetable that grew really well in my garden this year. I had to fight the deer for the beet greens, but even without their tops, the beets grew undisturbed by the menagerie of wildlife in my backyard these days. I love how prominent the stripes are in the raw beets!

Roasted fresh beets are a whole different animal than those sweet canned things. Add some garlic and rosemary and I think they are divine.

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The cooked beets, unfortunately, don’t look as brilliantly beautiful as the raw ones, but they sure taste great!

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RECIPE:

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Roasted Garlic Rosemary Beets
——————-(from Guilty Kitchen)

3 large beets, peeled
2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 Tbs olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut beets into wedges (each beet should make 8 wedges). In a large bowl, stir together beet wedges, minced rosemary, sliced garlic and olive oil. Grind in some fresh salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Place in a shallow baking dish and cover with foil. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until beets are tender. Remove from oven and let stand for a few minutes before serving. Taste; add additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

 

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Grilled Greek Chicken

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The weather here has turned from dreary, cold and rainy to beautiful, sunny and warm. So I am putting away the soup recipes for a couple of weeks, and firing up the grill. This chicken is marinated in a dressing made from lemon juice, olive oil and Greek spices (including fresh oregano-which is still hanging on in my garden!). The tomato cucumber salad is a nice accompaniment to the grilled chicken, providing a tangy balance to the chicken.

When I prepare chicken or other meat to grill, I always make double and freeze half in a separate Ziploc bag for a quick meal another day. You can either cook all of it and freeze the extra cooked chicken (either whole or diced) to add to future recipes, or freeze the extra raw chicken in the marinade, and then thaw and grill it another day.

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After making the marinade, I put a small amount (about 1/4 cup) in a separate Ziploc bag and marinated some fresh asparagus, and then grilled it alongside the chicken. I put the asparagus on the grill at the same time as I turned the chicken over, and they were done at about the same time. Zucchini/summer squash would be another great vege to marinate and grill.

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We ate the grilled chicken and asparagus with this Greek tomato and cucumber salad topped with feta cheese. Most of my garden is done for the year, but I do still have some green tomatoes slowly ripening on my kitchen counter. A couple of nice red ones made for a great fresh end-of-summer salad. You can find the recipe for the salad HERE.

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RECIPE:

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Grilled Greek Chicken
———–(adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen)

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Marinade:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup  lemon juice
1 tsp fresh lemon zest**
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
1 tsp Greek seasoning (or additional oregano)
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp black pepper**

Place chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over chicken. Marinate in refrigerator 6-8 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30-45 minutes before cooking.

Preheat grill to medium-hot and grill chicken 15-18 minutes, or until well browned and firm but not hard to the touch. Actual cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken, the heat of your grill and the temperature outside, so don’t overcook.

**or omit lemon zest and black pepper and substitute 1 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning

FOR GRILLED GREEK ASPARAGUS (OR OTHER VEGETABLE):

1 lb fresh asparagus (or zucchini/summer squash or other vege of choice)
1/4 cup marinade from above recipe

Place asparagus or sliced vegetable into a Ziploc bag. Add marinade (be sure to place marinade in vegetable bag before adding it to the chicken bag). Let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (longer is fine too). Grill for 5-6 minutes, or until crisp-tender.

 

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Grilled Chicken with Mint Chutney and Indian Spiced Cauliflower

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Most of my garden is finished now: just a few lingering tomatoes and herbs. And mint. Lots and lots of mint. Mint is an indestructible herb; plant it once, and it will be with you for life. Like it or not. Thanks to this mint chutney recipe, I really like the mint in my garden.

There are actually both mint and cilantro in this chutney, but the mint is definitely the star player here. Chutneys are an Indian condiment that are usually a combination of both sweet and spicy elements, and often preserved with vinegar. This chutney does not have a strong sweet component, as it uses mint and cilantro as the base instead of fruit, but it does have a slightly sour tang from lemon juice. The heat comes from onion and hot peppers. I make it pretty spicy, but you can tone it down by using less hot pepper.

Mint chutney is a great accompaniment to grilled chicken, or more traditional Indian foods, like Samosa, tandoori chicken,  or Naan.

I used THIS RECIPE for the grilled chicken, which is called “Spicy Grilled Chicken”, but really isn’t all that spicy. It has a little bit of mint in the marinade, so it pairs really well with the chutney. The Roasted Indian Spiced Cauliflower was also great eaten with the mint chutney.

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RECIPES:

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Mint Cilantro Chutney

1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 of a small onion
1/2 – 1 fresh hot chili pepper (remove seeds if desired)
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp fresh ground ginger
3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground cumin (or 1 tsp whole cumin seeds)

Using a blender, food processor, or mortar & pestle, blend all ingredients until finely chopped. Add water 1 Tbs at a time (usually about 2-3 Tbs total) until chutney is desired consistency.

Serve with Grilled Chicken or roasted vegetables, or more traditional Indian foods, like Samosa, tandoori chicken, or Naan.

Makes about 1 cup chutney

Roasted Indian Spiced Cauliflower
———————-(adapted from Sassy Radish)

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a Ziploc bag, mix spices with the olive oil and lemon juice. Add cauliflower to bag. Mix well and allow the dressing to coat cauliflower evenly. Spread the cauliflower in a roasting dish (line with foil for easy cleanup) and bake for 20-30 minutes.

While cauliflower is cooking, prepare mint chutney or yogurt dip, and chill until serving time.

When cauliflower is crisp-tender, remove it from the oven, and serve immediately with chutney or yogurt dip on the side.

Yogurt Dip

1 cup plain yogurt (for a thicker dip, use Greek yogurt or strain yogurt in cheesecloth lined colander)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill, or 1 tsp dried dill
1 Tbsp minced fresh mint (or use cilantro without the dill and mint)
½ tsp cumin (optional)
½ tsp salt

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

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Chinese Vegetable Lo Mein

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For Book Group this month we read Wild Swans, by Jung Chang, which chronicles the lives of a family of 3 generations of women in modern day China, It is an amazing look at the history of modern China and the rise of Communism under Mao Zedong. As I was hosting this month, I made this Chinese Vegetable Lo Mein, Chinese Almond Cookies and Homemade Fortune Cookies (I will share these recipes later).

This Lo Mein recipe is adaptable to a wide variety of vegetables and can be made with or without chicken (or other cooked meat). I served it cold, but it can also be served hot. When I am making this for a main dish, I usually serve it hot with both chicken and vegetables. When serving it as a side dish, I usually make it with just vegetables and serve it cold.

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This time I used broccoli, asparagus, sliced carrots, red pepper, snow pea pods and green onions. I like to slightly blanch the broccoli and asparagus by placing them in a large colander and pouring the hot cooked noodles and water over the broccoli and asparagus in the colander. Then rinse immediately with cold water to cool the noodles and vegetables. The other vegetables I leave raw and stir into the cold noodles with the sauce.

When I am serving it hot, I like to lightly sauté all of the vegetables until crisp-tender and then add the sauce and noodles to the skillet.

I prefer to use Chinese noodles, usually labeled Chow Mein or Lo Mein, but I have also used regular packaged linguine or spaghetti.

RECIPE:

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Chinese Vegetable (and/or Chicken) Lo Mein

1 lb dried Chinese lo mein or chow mein noodles (or use packaged linguine)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1-2 cups cooked, chopped chicken (optional)
1-2 cups chopped raw vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, thin sliced carrots, snow peas, green beans, sliced mushrooms, green onions)

Sauce:
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup soy sauce
3 Tbs Hoisin sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs honey
½ Tbs cornstarch
½ tsp chili paste (or more to taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger

FOR COLD NOODLES:Combine sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until sauce begins to boil. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken. Cool slightly while noodles cook.

Chop vegetables. If using, place broccoli, asparagus and/or green beans in the bottom of a large colander. Cook noodles according to package directions. Pour cooked noodles and water into the colander with the vegetables (to lightly blanch these vegetables). Rinse with cold water until cool; drain well. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Stir 1 Tbs sesame oil into noodles and vegetables. Add remaining raw chopped vegetables and cooked chicken. Stir sauce into noodles. Refrigerate until cold. Serve cold.

FOR HOT NOODLES:Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and stir 1 Tbs sesame oil into noodles. Set aside.

In the pot that you cooked the noodles, heat 1 Tbs vegetable oil. Lightly sauté chopped vegetables until barely crisp-tender. Add cooked chicken and heat through. Stir together sauce ingredients and pour over chicken and vegetables in the skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add noodles to pot and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

 

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