Weeknight Shorts: Quick Noodles

With summer on its way out and things picking back up with the kids in school and time being squeezed from every direction, it's really wonderful to have a great recipe or two in your arsenal when the weeknights start shrinking. How about something that combines some pantry staples with the nicest produce around? How about something that looks like this:

If you think you need to have some fancy ingredients in order to make lo mein, look no further than angel hair pasta (you could use spaghetti or linguine if you prefer a thicker noodle), some simple items from your pantry, and a pile of delicious, fresh vegetables. Suddenly, dinner is done in little more time than it takes to boil and drain your pasta! Now you can tweak the spice level in this dish easily by increasing or decreasing the chili paste. I know which way I tend to tweak, but it really is up to you!

Also, the vegetables listed in this recipe were just what I had on hand when I made it. Do you have snow peas? Try those. Love carrots? They'd be great in this! Not a fan of bean? Leave 'em out. Don't know what bok choy is? Well, you should probably seek it out sometime because it's amazing, but today doesn't have to be that day.

Now, if you are feeling rushed, this dish can easily be a meal in itself. However, if it's part of a menu for a gathering of friends and family, you might want to include spring rolls, eggs rolls, or maybe some phở. You can add meat to any of the dishes if desired, but the wonderful thing about many of these dishes is that they simply don't need it. To drink? I'd go with green tea and rice wine!

Sweet & Spicy Lo Mein

  • 1 lb. angel hair pasta
  • 3 T. dark soy sauce
  • 2 T. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. chili paste with garlic
  • 2 T. firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 2 T. sesame oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds, black or white or a mix
  • 1/2 c. thinly sliced zucchini
  • 1/2 c. green and yellow beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 c. chopped baby bok choy
  • 1 small red onion, cleaned and sliced into very thin wedges

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a stock pot. Add the pasta, and cook until al dente, 7-9 minutes (taste to be sure). Remove half a cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain the noodles.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, chili paste, brown sugar, peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, and ginger. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring frequently with a whisk until the sauce is smooth, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

While the pasta is draining, add the sesame seeds to a dry, nonstick frying pan. Toast over low heat, shaking the pan frequently, until the seeds just begin to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Add the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil and lightly stir-fry the zucchini, beans, boy choy, and red onions until crisp-tender. Toss the vegetables, pasta, and sauce together. If the sauce is a bit too thick, thin is as needed with the reserved pasta water. Serve warm, sprinkled with more sesame seeds, if desired.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes