For years, decades in fact, I have been saying that if I ever was inspired to write The Great American Novel I would title it The Comfort of Noodles. More likely it would be a collection of short stories since I can’t even seem to write a blog post more than every two months.
You may be asking, why not the title The Comfort of Chocolate? Chocolate does have a very special place in my heart but I think noodles are part of the soul. To me, and many others around our great big world, there is just something comforting, warming, and calming about noodles.
So far this winter has lived up to being the cold and dreary season it was predicted to be. We’re only mid-way through January and I already can’t wait to be outside digging in rain soaked, sun drenched soil. You can smell the earthy life in that fertile dirt.
Our homegrown Meyer lemons, now inside for the winter, have all matured to a bright rich golden hue and are going into the Lemon Pepper Truffles. A last reminder of this past summer, they soon will be just a memory.
Now I’m urging the sweet fragrant blossoms on my tiny eight year old Calamondin orange to bear fruit again for me. The blood orange tree has scale that I’m actively battling and the key lime, a stunted version of a formerly five-foot tree, is holding steady still recovering from last winter’s nasty scale attack.
Our potted herbs—thyme, oregano, parsley— are on the back porch wintering over with the strawberries. I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed that my rosemary makes it through this winter. We had a beautiful hearty rosemary shrub that withered in the brutally harsh winter of 2013/2014 and, after five years of bountiful rosemary harvest, I had to start anew this past spring. The new plant seems to be faring well enough so far that we are still using our own backyard grown rosemary for the Rosy Goat Truffles.
So yesterday, feeling under the weather myself, while looking out at the cloud shadowed now brown patch of yard that had provided such a summer bounty, my thoughts turn to noodles. Once I crave noodles, it seems nothing will satisfy me.
Cheese is my other constant guilty pleasure but that did nothing for me. Even chocolate, a delicious Triple Vanilla Truffle followed by a Nut Caramel, didn't help. Then I thought of having some peanut butter, which is another food it seems I cannot live without.
If I were stranded on an island and only allowed five foods to eat I’m pretty sure I could not live without cheese, noodles, peanut butter, fresh peaches, and spinach. I think I would crave these five to the point of obsession that would drive me insane if I could never eat them ever again. Limes and fresh cherries would be extremely difficult for me to give up but I think I could live without them if necessary.
The odd thing about my list is that, with the exception of cheese, I do not eat noodles, peanut butter, peaches, or spinach daily or even weekly. I hadn't had peanut butter in months but it’s always in the house, just in case. I only eat peaches in the summer when they are in season. There is nothing in the world that tastes so sweet and satisfying to me as a fresh, perfectly ripe juicy locally grown peach. Now I want one badly but I’ll have to wait until at least July, sigh.
Realizing that I had peanut butter and a package of dried Thai rice noodles that had been sitting in the pantry for probably too long, I decided I needed cold sesame noodles. Perhaps not the first noodle dish one would think of in the dead of winter but it hit all my cravings for comfort. I like a bowl of chicken noodle soup or a plate piled with spaghetti as much as anyone else but I had the makings for neither in house and I wasn't feeling up to venturing out for them.
- 4 Tbs Korean hot pepper paste, available at Asian markets
- 1 Tbs toasted sesame oil
- 1 Tbs hot sesame oil
- 1 Tbs minced garlic
- 1.5 Tbs rice wine vinegar
- 1.5 Tbs soy sauce
- 1 Tbs honey
Zap it all in the microwave for 30 seconds to help easily incorporate the ingredients into a smooth thick sauce. It's an easy delicious hot sauce that can go on top of almost anything you want to add some spicy Asian sass to. We make ours extra spicy by adding hot sesame oil instead of 2 Tbs of toasted sesame oil.
We had a good amount of Gochujang sauce left over and since many of the same ingredients go into cold sesame noodles, I used the Gochujang as my spicy base for my noodles.
To approximately a tablespoon of Gochujang sauce I added two tablespoons of peanut butter and roughly two tablespoons of the remainder of the sesame paste I recalled having in the fridge for making tahini and hummus.
It was too thick so I added some peanut oil, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, chopped ginger from the root I keep in the freezer, and soy sauce until the consistency and the taste pleased me. I tossed it into the cooked rice noodles and topped with some fresh cilantro from the fridge that I was looking for an excuse to use up before it wilted away.
Granted I didn't have the right kind of noodles, no crunchy peanuts to top the dish or fresh scallions. The combination of peanut and sesame with a touch of heat coating the soft noodles made me happy, my soul and my tummy were at last satisfied and comforted against the dreariness of January. It’s like a warm embrace from an old friend.
It helps to have a pantry decently stocked with what I’ll call the necessities: a good and varied selection of oils, vinegars, herbs, seasonings, and base ingredients like eggs, milk, peanut butter and noodles. Always have some type of noodle or the ingredients to make your own fresh from scratch. Noodles can be turned into a wonderful comforting meal when the unexpected urge to make yourself something hits even if you think you have ‘nothing’ in your pantry.
The internet of course is a great tool too, especially when I’m looking for a recipe idea to help use up ingredients or suggestions for what to make with what I already have. But now I’m now out of noodles so I’ll have to get some more.
Ps: Our favorite place for excellent spices is Savory Spice Shop started by a husband & wife based in Denver, CO. A good friend told me about them and I sought them out while on a work trip to Denver a few years ago. I fell in love with the store and the quality of their products as soon as I walked in the door. We use spices and herbs from Savory for both our home cooking and in our chocolates.
Have a food that comforts you or a food you can’t live without? Please like, comment, and share this post!