Sesame Noodles

November 13, 2009

Simsim! (Open Sesame!)
~Ali Baba, One Thousand and One Arabian Nights

A sprightly small app, a light side, or midnight fare—even savored as the sun is rising. Then, they could be bowls of noodles delicately chopsticked while seated lotus style amongst warm sheets with skin bathed in afterglows…or at least one disappointing dish which should leave sooner rather than later and be shortly forgotten. So much depends on company and chemistry.

Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is a flowering plant native to sub-Saharan Africa which is cultivated for its multicolored, oleaginous seeds which grow in pods. The pods eagerly burst open when they reach maturity. Sesame seeds have been revered for centuries and their uses in the kitchen are legion, almost lacking in regional and cultural boundaries.

While the prep is simple and open to rendition, there are layered flavors of thin egg noodles in a piquancy of peanuts, biracial sesames, vinegar and chiles. You can toss in ways as suit your passion(s) and palate(s).

COLD SESAME NOODLES

1 lb thin rice noodles (vermicelli shaped)
6 T sesame oil

1/4 C peanut oil
8 green onions, discarding greens, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 plump and fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 t sambal oelek (chili paste)
1 t dried red chile pepper flakes
1 T honey
1 T light brown sugar
3/4 C creamy peanut butter
4 T rice wine vinegar
6 T soy sauce
1/4 C chicken stock, already heated

1 T white sesame seeds, toasted
1 T black sesame seads, toasted
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into matchstick juillenne
Fresh cilantro leaves, stemmed and coarsely chopped

Cook the noodles in a large, heavy pot of boiling unsalted water until barely tender and still firm. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water until cool to halt the cooking process. Drain the noodles again and transfer to a wide bowl. Toss with the sesame oil, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a small saucepan, heat the peanut oil over medium low. Add the green onions, ginger, garlic, and chili paste. Cook and stir for a minute until soft and fragrant. Whisk in the chile flakes, honey, brown sugar, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, and stock until the sugar is dissolved and the peanut butter has smoothed out. Toss the noodles with the peanut sauce and sesame seeds until well coated. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Garnish with the cucumbers and cilantro.

A tandoor is a cylindrical clay pot used in south Asian cuisine, notably (but not limited to) northern India and Pakistan, in which food is cooked over hot charcoal or wooden fire at high temperatures. The earthen oven is commonly sunk neck deep in the ground. Strictly speaking, Tandoori simply describes a dish cooked in a tandoor, which can include meats, fish, poultry or breads…but, in western parlance the term has seemed to have been enlarged to include a spice mix, which varies from kitchen to kitchen. Not having a true tandoor at hand—which would no doubt violate numerous building codes—this is the closest we can get.

SEARED YELLOWTAIL TUNA TANDOORI

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
2 T tandoori spices*
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 (4 oz) yellowtail tuna filets, fat and skin trimmed away
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1/2 C rice wine vinegar
1 T honey
1/2 t mirin
1 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 C cilantro leaves
2 C watercress
1/2 C arugula

Lemon zest

In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, honey, mirin, salt and pepper. In a steady, narrow stream, slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly. Set aside.

In a bowl, place olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of the tandoori, salt and pepper. Rub the top of each filet with the smashed garlic, season with salt, pepper and the rest of the tandoori on both sides. Then dip the filets in the bowl, coating both sides evenly. Reserve the remaining flavored oil for sauce.

Place a heavy skillet over medium to medium high heat, and sear the tuna filets gently, approximately 2 minutes on each side. When done, the tuna should be rare in the middle but not cold. (Alternatively, the tuna could be grilled over a charcoal or wood fire prepared to medium high heat to loosely imitate a tandoor.)

Toss greens with vinaigrette, arrange tuna over, and then drizzle reserved sauce over the top. Grate a touch of lemon zest over each filet before serving.

*Tandoori Spices

2 T coriander seeds
2 T cumin seeds
1 T cardamom seeds

3 T sweet paprika
2 T turmeric
2 T sea salt
1 T freshly ground black pepper
1 T ground ginger
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t cayenne pepper

Strew the coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds in a dry heavy skillet over medium heat and roast for a few minutes until essences are released. Place in a spice or coffee grinder and reduce to a powder. Then, place in a bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix well. Stores well tightly covered in a cool, dry place.