Warm Soba Noodle Salad with Grilled Shrimp

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Because I plan my meals for the week ahead of time and buy groceries as I need them, the available ingredients in my kitchen can vary greatly from week to week. Of course, there are certain items that I always have on hand — either because they’re staples that come together into a quick meal when I haven’t planned ahead or because they’re things that I use all the time. Pasta, lemons, goat cheese. Canned tomatoes. Black beans. Gin.

Lately, an increasing number of Asian ingredients have secured a dedicated spot in my cabinet. Especially seasoned rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Both of these are easy to find in most grocery stores and add a ton of flavor to all sorts of foods. They make it super easy to prepare quick Asian-inspired dishes like Edamame Salad and these Soba Noodles with Grilled Shrimp.

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These noodles are my idea of the perfect summertime meal. They’re fast and easy to make and require minimal effort. They also make great leftovers and don’t even need to be heated up – I think I actually liked them even more the next day, after the flavors had a chance to meld. Unlike other similar dishes that have a tendency to be flat, the combination of rice wine vinegar and lime juice gives these noodles have a nice acidity and a bright flavor that plays really well off the earthy buckwheat noodles and nutty sesame oil. Watery vegetables keep the whole dish light and fresh. Topped with a few grilled shrimp (another ingredient that I’m always sure to keep in my freezer), this salad makes a great light meal for a hot summer night.

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Mussels with Saffron Tomato Sauce

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Ignore the mussels in these pictures for a minute. They were good, but what I really want to talk about here is the saffron tomato sauce that they’re smothered in. Oh my goodness. With a luxurious, velvety texture that clings lightly to each strand of pasta, and a complex flavor that’s a tiny bit sweet, a little exotic, and has a faintly spicy note that’s familiar but at the same time hard to place (hint: it’s vanilla!), this sauce is the stuff dreams are made of.
The sauce goes great with mussels, and I’m sure it would be delicious with shrimp or chicken too, but you could just give me a ladle full on top of a big bowl of plain pasta and I’d be a happy camper. Honestly, I’d probably be happy even without the pasta – this sauce is so good that I’ll happily eat it by the spoon full.

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I like to use San Marzano tomatoes, which are naturally lower in acidity and have a sweeter flavor than other canned tomatoes, in this sauce. Some brands can be expensive, but there are a few brands that aren’t bad at all. I like Bella Terra Organic San Marzano Tomatoes, which are about $3 per can. Since the rest of the ingredients in this sauce are cheap (I stock up on cheap saffron at Trader Joe’s whenever I’m visiting a place where there is one), I still make out better than buying a jar of “good” sauce. If you can’t find San Marzanos or want a cheaper option any can of whole peeled plum tomatoes will do.

Milk and butter add a layer of richness and help give the sauce its amazing texture. Full fat or skim milk will work, but you can also use almond milk or even coconut milk if that’s what you have around. I actually used Silk Simply Coconut in the sauce shown here and was very happy with the way it turned out (I had a coupon for a free half gallon of the milk, which is delicious!)


mussels in saffron tomato sauce

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Mussels with Saffron Tomato Sauce—>

Kimchee Hot Dogs with Edamame and Corn Salad

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Earlier this spring, I saw hot dogs topped with kimchee on the Marx Foods blog. I immediately emailed the link to Shawn to let him know that we’d be making them… soon! They made it onto our table a few days later, and have since become one of my favorite ways to enjoy hot dogs.

The question always persists though: What should we have with them? Fries or chips are an obvious answer, but neither are exactly healthy. And it can be tricky to get vegetables to seem “right” with picnic foods like burgers or hot dogs. An edamame salad seemed like it might work well with these Asian-style hot dogs, so I set out to make one (without much of a plan). I was thrilled with how it came out!

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The salad took all of 5 minutes to make and was brimming with flavor – I actually opted to have more salad instead of a second hot dog because I couldn’t get enough of it! The salad has a ginger and sesame vinaigrette, but the flavor isn’t overpoweringly Asian… I can see it going well with all sorts of summertime foods. My favorite things about this edamame and corn salad though is that since I almost always have edamame and corn in the freezer, I can have it pretty much whenever I want. Just thaw the vegetables quickly under some running water — it only takes a few minutes.

If you aren’t familiar with kimchee, it’s a spicy Korean condiment made from fermented cabbage and chili paste. It’s delicious in seafood stews, with rice, and on top of hot dogs. IKimchee comes refrigerated, but it can be a little tricky to find in regular grocery stores. If you have an Asian market near you though, it should be easy to find — and cheap! The 16 ounce jar pictured above costs us around $3. You can also check out David Lebovitz’s recipe and try making your own. (If the thought of fermented cabbage weirds you out, just think of it as a cousin to the more familiar sauerkraut.)

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Shaved Asparagus Salad with Bacon & Havarti

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This simple shaved asparagus salad is one of my favorite meals lately – I’ve been making it about once a week and I never seem to get tired of it!

The first time I made this dish, I had actually planned to use the ingredients in a croque madame inspired asparagus tart. However, looking at the delicate spring asparagus, it seemed like a shame to subject them to the long roasting time required by that recipe. I had seen shaved asparagus salads before and figured that I’d give that a try instead. I’m so glad that I did! Shaving the asparagus into thin ribbons and cooking it just long enough to make it tender is the perfect way to highlight asparagus at the peak of its season. Combined with salty bacon, buttery cheese, and a quick vinaigrette makes this some of the best asparagus you’ve ever tasted.