It’s time for another month with the Cottage Cooking Club, a project led by Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness. Andrea’s merry band of bloggers are collectively cooking all the recipes in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, River Cottage Veg, an inspiring vegetarian cookbook with a wide variety of recipes to suit many different tastes.
I was a bit of light-weight for the Cottage Cooking Club this month. It was by design, so I’m not apologizing. I’m just setting expectations properly. May has been a busy month of travel and surprise birthday parties and visiting with family and friends. It was all good, even great. May hasn’t been a month of much in the way of home cooking. Mostly meals eaten out or at someone else’s house. I’m not complaining. Sometimes that’s a welcome change.
The one recipe I set my sights on from River Cottage Veg was the Herby, peanutty, noodly salad from the “Hearty Salads” chapter. This simple noodle dish made with super-thin rice noodles and tossed with a multitude of green ingredients is served at room temperature. When I made it, the hot weather hadn’t descended but now that we’ve had a string of days in the high 80s, this would be a perfect dish to revisit.
Rice vermicelli is a no-cook noodle. Directions on the package indicated a soak in boiling hot water that’s poured over the dry noodles. Amazingly, you have soft pliable noodles ten minutes later.
The noodles are tossed with a bright and zesty dressing with an Asian flair. Lime zest, finely chopped hot pepper, and some garlic gave it some zing.
The noodles are topped with roasted peanuts, sliced cucumber, scallions, snow peas and green herbs. I used cilantro along with fresh mint from my herb garden. I didn’t have fresh basil so left it out. There was so much flavor in the toppings, it wasn’t missed.
The mix of chewy noodles, crunchy vegetables and verdant flavorful herbs really hit the spot. I will remember this one for sultry hot summer evenings for a light dinner requiring a minimum of actual cooking.
My only complaint with the recipe is that the dressing didn’t make nearly enough for my taste. The noodles, while tasty, were a little bit dry. We had some leftovers, so I made a second batch of dressing and added that which did the trick. When I make this the next time, I will triple, or maybe even quadruple, the dressing and add more.
I invite you to check out the other recipes that the Cottage Cooking Club sampled this month. You can check out their reviews here.
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is a bit of Asian fusion, sort of. Dorie says she was first served this dish, Shrimp and Cellophane Noodles, by her friend Hélène Samuel as part of a dinner of orange food. Interesting… I’ve been wondering which part of the dish is considered orange. The coral of the cooked shrimp or the red of the tomato puree. I’m not sure.
Ingredients for this dish spawned a trip to HMart, a gigantic nearby Korean supermarket with a usually large selection of Asian ingredients. Though they have more choices of kimchis and marinated meats for Korean BBQ than I’ve seen anywhere else, their inventory usually includes what’s needed for most Asian cuisines. For some reason, this trip, I was surprised that there was only one choice for tree ear mushrooms and one choice for cellophane noodles. On the bright side, half of the back wall of the store is a fresh fish counter, so I could pick up shrimp and make it a one-stop shop.
To be fair, this recipe should have been named Shrimp, MUSHROOM, and Cellophane Noodles. The dried tree ear mushrooms, once rehydrated, were the main ingredient. I couldn’t believe how much the mushrooms, well, mushroomed. The little one ounce pack grew to fill a medium sized bowl with gigantic tree ears. I debated using only half of the mushrooms, once shredded, but ended up using it all.
Also, I didn’t understand why the rehydrated noodles were doused in sesame oil and then, shortly before assembling the dish, cooked ever so briefly in the pot of water which simply washed the oil off. I added more sesame oil afterwards, but I wasn’t sure about the purpose this step. Anyone have a clue?
Asian ingredients with tomato puree sounded like we were in for a bit of fusion cooking. Unfortunately, the end result was weird. I mentioned the large amount of mushrooms. The dish offered varied textures with the firm shrimp, the slippery noodles, and the dominant shredded mushrooms. I didn’t expect it to taste Italian from tomatoes alone, however, the tomatoes seemed to flatten out the taste completely. There wasn’t any hint of the Asian flavors, even though there was ample sesame oil, five-spice powder, and garlic in there. To Howard, it tasted very sweet, though we couldn’t figure out if that was from the miniscule amount of sugar or the warm spices in the five-spice powder. The consensus at our table was that this dish didn’t quite work.