June 12, 2005

Search & Rescue

I'm coming to the conclusion that you can rescue almost anything with sambal oelek - as long as you like things spicy.

On the day that I wanted to make a noodle salad recipe I've been eyeing, there was nary an Asian eggplant to be seen. My favourite markets... even some less-than-favourite markets... were barren of anything other than big, glossy Italian globe eggplants, which are just the wrong texture for what I wanted. I searched, and searched, and gave up, crankily wondering about the sudden dearth. Yesterday, after a long and barely fruitful quest, I spied some somewhat limp-looking Japanese eggplants and decided that they were firm enough to use. I finally got down to brass-tacks and mixed up the dressing, boiled up the noodles and roasted the eggplant.

The dressing seemed a little rich, to me, so I scaled back the amount of toasted sesame oil by almost half, subbing out the missing liquid with a little rice wine vinegar. Sadly for me, the end result was still a little oily feeling, and not in the good, lip-smacking way. I concluded reluctantly that I had made some other error along the way, since the recipe's source was impeccable, but I really wasn't sure if I was going to be able to rescue the leftovers. The whole dish was a little under-developed flavour-wise, it seemed, although I could taste the strong sesame oil flavour and remain convinced that I did the right thing to reduce the amount.

We struggled through dinner, a little, with me being fairly unhappy with the salad, and depressed at how large the quantity was of something that I didn't particularly enjoy. It wasn't bad, it was just not quite want I wanted it to be.

Today, faced with an enormous bowl of leftovers in the fridge, I decided to see if I could pep it up a little. Sambal Oelek to the rescue! Well, I did add a little extra soy sauce, too - just to loosen the whole thing and let it act as a carrier to transport the thicker sambal throughout the noodles. I cautiously spooned up some spicier noodles, along with their accompanying vegetables, and tried it. Much improved!

It isn't number one on my hit parade - that still belongs to the spicy somen/soba recipe for fast, easy and delicious - but it certainly will be good for lunches for the next few days. I may julienne some more vegetables to go with - the eggplant is nice, but a few more crisp vegetables would add a pleasing crunch. There's already a small amount of raw carrot and blanched snap-peas, so I may just increase them. I'm thinking that some marinated shiitake mushrooms might be just the ticket, though, and add a small amount of protein to the overall dish.

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