Thursday, May 25, 2006
Asian Noodles with Ponzu Sauce, Millennium style
Before I post the Asian Noodles dish recipe, I want to share how I came about making this dish. Recently, I bought 2 new cookbooks: The Millennium Cookbook and Artful Vegan from the Millennium restaurant by Eric Tucker and colleagues. These 2 cookbooks are not for beginner vegan cooks. The recipes are quite extensive and the ingredients used are very extraordinary. The restaurant itself is extraordinary, I heard, although I have never been there myself (planning to be there someday). I thought I already cook gourmet meals but compared to the way I cook, this restaurant really prepares super gourmet meals. The chefs are professionals in the vegan culinary world which I entered only on the edge of it, I think. I can’t imagine what my mother-in-law who lives in the midwest would say if she reads these cookbooks. She said that she enjoys my blogs but doesn’t know half of the ingredients I mentioned in my blogs. These cookbooks use all the ingredients I use and much more. I think vegan culinary world stands on itself as a vast world with no limit. Really, there is no limit of what you can do with fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts. A lot of people just don’t know what to do with them but these professionals do.
The ingredients they used that I have never heard of before are like honshimeji mushrooms, mizuna green, black quinoa, and rose geranium (hhmmm…where would I get this). I thought I know a lot about food and culinary world but actually I don’t compared to these professionals. They don’t just use carrots, potatoes, and cabbage like the day-to-day cook in an ordinary family kitchen. They also have an advantage to be at a great location, Northern California, and have a direct contact with local organic farmers who deliver variety of vegetables and fruits, fresh, all year long.
The way Millennium chefs combine fruits and vegetables in making a dish is also amazing. For example, like their salad called Ruby Grapefruit, Avocado and Pickled Red Onions with Baby Spinach and Grapefruit Mojo Dressing, wow, what a name and the picture looks very appealing in this book. Many cookbooks have appealing pictures but the recipes are terrible. However, reading the recipes, I think, I can count on them. The key is to use good quality organic fruits and vegetables to make the recipe right and to adjust the 4 or 5 basic flavors (saltiness, sweet, sour, spicyness, and maybe the 5th flavor: umami or savory) in the recipe to your liking. Everyone has a different degree of each flavor. Eric Tucker, the main Chef, invited his readers to make adjustments and I will do so.
I picked a pretty simple dish for the first time from these cookbooks. The other recipes are not this simple. I have to admit that I appreciate their creativity in combining the ingredients together. The restaurant has an evolving menu which means the dishes they serve are not always the same and they depend on seasonal produce delivered by local farmers (maybe few items in the menu are rotated). According to Eric, the chefs of Millennium conduct a ‘virtual cooking’ where they meet and discuss what they want to do with the vegetables and fruits they received. They have a riffing or jamming with the stuff they have in the kitchen to create the restaurant’s next day menu. It is sort of like musicians composing new songs together. How fun! As their cookbooks reader, I am enjoying reading their creations, singing a new song page after page (although I am not familiar with some of the notes). I didn’t see vegetarian shepherd pie or vegan sloppy joe or tofu pot pie in their cookbooks. I sang those songs before and it is time for me to sing new tunes.
(Adapted from The Millennium cookbook, my changes are in italics)
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh ginger
2 stalks fresh lemon grass, mostly white parts, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce
¼ cup dry sherry, dry white wine, or nonalcoholic wine
2 cups water
1/3 cup tamari soy sauce
½ cup brown rice syrup
In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Let cool and refrigerate in an airtight container.
Asian Noodles with Ponzu Sauce(Adapted from The Millennium cookbook, my changes are in italics)
¾ pound dried soba or udon noodles
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz. Fresh shiitake mushrooms or other mushrooms, sliced thin
1 head broccoli sliced into small flowerettes
1 red bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
7 oz. Baked teriyaki tofu (store bought)
Note: I use store bought baked tofu to be simple, the original recipe uses smoked tofu
enough ponzu sauce to cover the whole dish ( about 1 1 /2 to 2 cups)
drizzles of sesame oil (optional)2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
Cook the soba or udon noodles in salted water for about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and cool noodles.
In a large pan or wok, saute the garlic in oil for 30 seconds. Add the shiitakes, broccoli, bell pepper, and tofu. Saute an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ponzu sauce and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and toss the noodles with ponzu sauce and vegetables. Drizzle some sesame oil and sesame seeds before serving.