We're back from a lovely week away, visiting my parents and getting to see most of my mom's side of the family (sorry Renny & Eva), including Anya, who has been hiding away in Beijing for months on end. She's a little over a year old, and absolutely adorable. It was infinitely neat seeing her and Abby interact a little, and again as much sad to think they won't see each other again for quite a while.
We remembered our Grandmother in our stories and our thoughts and had a huge dinner of peking duck and champagne in her honor. In fact, we spent most of the week eating and drinking great things. Which is nothing new - visiting my folks and eating with my family is a food-wise reminder that there's nothing better or easier than taking simple, great ingredients and not screwing with them too much.
The one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the quantity and the quality of the local cheeses around Northampton. Combine this with the three incredible bakeries in town (bread focused bakeries, no less) and you're pretty much set. Look at these guys - my favorite, the white rinded one in the middle, is a goat's milk cheese they get at their local farmer's market. Come on.
It makes me want to quit my job, get some land and some goats, and start supplying Western New York with something even half that good.
Just so this post isn't completely made up of fromage-related daydreaming, here's a quick recipe - Noodle and Veggie Wraps with Peanut Dressing.
For us, the peanut butter-based dressing has definitely reached the status of a comfort food. It's easy, it's always good, we always have the ingredients and we have some happy memories associated with it. It's like a friend that's always there. A delicious, edible friend, made of items in the pantry.
Our first experience with it was at Mary Chung's, a Chinese place in Central Square, in Cambridge, MA. We had the Dun Dun Noodles a LOT when we lived out there. Simple dish: noodles, bean sprouts and thinly-sliced cold chicken, with a thin, spicy peanutty dressing. I mean spicy. There would practically be tears rolling down your face, and you'd be begging Mary for more.
This one is significantly less spicy (hence, kid-friendly), but there's nothing stopping you from taking it wherever it is you'd like it to go. The dressing is simple and I never measure it, so:
- A couple of heaping spoons of peanut butter (make it chunky) into a bowl. Add a little hot water, and whisk it up.
- Add a good pour of soy sauce and stir it up - it should taste good already. Add more water or soy sauce if it's too thick or not salty enough.
- At this point, I add other things depending on what we have and where the dressing is going - almost always some a lime juice or rice vinegar. For the heat - chili flakes or sriracha is all you need, and add as much as you need. Sometimes, minced garlic or scallions, cilantro, brown sugar or honey. Often, I'll have to go back and add some more peanut butter to balance it back out. Again, hot water is great to thin it out and not change the flavor much.
If you haven't already finished eating the dressing with a spoon...or your fingers, you can make the wrap. It had some boiled and cooled udon noodles, shredded lettuce, shredded carrots, and slivered radishes all piled up in a steamed flour tortilla (#1 use for our microwave). Spoon in some dressing, wrap it up, and you're set.
I'm out on the front porch right now and the bugs are attacking the laptop screen, so it's time to go. Speaking of quitting my job above, I've already done that once this month, and my new one starts tomorrow. Like the first day of school, all over again. Need to go make sure my pencils are sharp.
One last treat from the week away. Older than me: