Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fireside Dining......Street Noodles

At this time of year, deep winter, James and I like to dine fireside. With the cold air and dark setting in early, meals by the hearth bring added pleasure to dinner.
Roasts, stews, soups, ragu's, and other warm and hearty dishes are prepared in our kitchen when the temperatures drop. Winter cooking is different than summer cooking due to choice of available fresh ingredients and that the meals we cook often require stocks. Stocks are a big part of meals this time of year. Summer cooking is more reliant on what our vegetable garden provides.

There are times in January and February that we need a step back from winter meals. So comes the time to prepare something that speaks more of summer dining. James might shovel a path out to the Weber and grill a butterflied leg of lamb and vegetables, rotisserie a chicken, or throw some ribs on the hot coals. A picnic meal, by the fireplace is a favoritedeparture from winter fare around mid-February.
Tonight, in keeping with our summer menu in winter we will make a 'street noodle' dish called DanDan Noodles. I am not sure why this feels like a summer dish to me , but it always does. We serve it in bowls. On the side we usually have a refreshing cold salad of cucumbers in a light vinaigrette or a simple arugula salad. Sometimes we serve grilled chicken with it, but tonight James will saute a chicken breast and serve that cut into thin slices over the top of the noodles.

DanDan Noodles
noodles in a spicy or not so spicy peanut sauce
This recipe has been adapted over the years in our kitchen, from a recipe that we first read in John Thorne's, The Outlaw Cook.

1 pound of Chinese noodles ( dry spaghetti can be used)
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger minced
4 tablespoons soy sauce ( preferably low sodium)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1-2 teaspoons cayenne hot sauce ( depending on your heat index)
1/4 teaspoon chili powder or paste(optional)
*1/2 cup chicken broth /low sodium ( a vegetable broth can be substituted)
*additional broth may be needed

In a food processor add the peanut butter, then with the machine running add the garlic and ginger. Then add sesame oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, peanut oil, hot sauce, and chili powder ( a bit a chili paste works as well). I prefer not to add additional hot sauce at this
point, but it can be put out as a condiment for those who like additional heat. Blend this all together, then add the broth a little at a time until the mixture is saucy and smooth.

In the meantime, cook the noodles. Check package for cooking time, it will vary depending on the noodle used. Fresh Chinese noodles cook more quickly than dry spaghetti. Once the water is boiling add salt. Cook noodles and drain.( Note: If you use a dry pasta save some of the pasta water before draining). Transfer the drained, cooked noodles into a large warm bowl and pour in some of the DanDan peanut sauce, toss to coat. ( if needed: a little of the saved pasta water can be added, or some additional broth to make it silkier).

I like to serve this in individual bowls. Add a portion of the sauce coated noodles to the bowl and top with a little more of the sauce. If you like, sprinkle on some chopped green onions or some chopped peppers & chilis and don't forget to put out the hot sauce for those who like it spicy!


This dish can be prepared in a slightly different manner. Once the noodles are cooked, and this is especially true for fresh Chinese noodles, drain them and rinse them in cool water. Shake off as much water as possible before adding the sauce.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Bluebirds arrived yesterday. Today the first snow of the winter and the Bluebirds bring winter color to the garden. It has been quite magical watching them fly around all morning in the blowing and falling snow, stopping at times to dine on rose hips .

We noticed that there was an unusual amount of bird activity outside our windows. A flock of bluebirds had arrived and they were checking out the bluebird boxes. Along with the bluebirds came a whirlwind of goldfinches.

And then, the pair of cardinals showed up together, as they are known to do.......they are very sweet to watch. The red of the male is incredible and the color of the females beak is intense, a gorgeous red-orange. Pure color against the white snow.

The fan of color in the wings of the male Cardinal would make for a good art school project in mixing color; where each primary color, red for example, is first mixed with white to create a spectrum of tints, then mixed with it's compliment ( in the case of red it would be green), to create a range of shades.
So so much for the art lesson, Mr. Cardinal is off to the neighboring apple tree where he might find some shelter from the first snow of the winter (2012), here in our New Hampshire garden.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January Morning New Hampshire...First in the Nation Primary....

Morning light from our window.

A January morning in New Hampshire marked by the fact that there isn't any snow on the ground yet and that today is Primary Day. New Hampshire takes great pride in hosting the first in the nation primary.

The sunrise this morning over our field to the mountains beyond was soft and radiant. Here between me an the distant mountains is our garden still in darkness where morning has not yet reached.

The sun is still low casting long shadows. James and I decided to take a walk into town, our town Hancock, New Hampshire, for a cup of coffee and a New York Times. This field, which in the summer is full of Dorset and Shropshire sheep, laid quiet and sun drenched as we walked past.
Hard to image this as January in the glow of this morning sun. The smell of the earth , dirt, grass and dried leaves, is in the air. Did I mention that is no snow on the ground?

The center of town is held by The Hancock Inn, a lovely old New England Inn. In the mood for a country weekend, this would be a perfect place to stay. For us locals, we go to it's tavern for a chicken pot pie or James' favorite trio; Caesar Salad, Cheeseburger and Martini!
The Hancock Inn has been in continuous operation since 1789 providing hungry travelers with food and weary travelers with rooms.

Our walk follows the sun and continues down Main Street. All of the buildings on Main Street are listed on the national Register of Historic Places so a walk here takes one back to the 18th Century.
The far end of Main Street is still mostly in shadow . Here morning arrives with light on the chimneys of the houses and the steeple of the Meeting House. In the steeple of the meeting house there is a Paul Revere bell that stills rings on the hour.

Hancock Meeting House, Vestry and Post Office now in full light after our
morning coffee at Fiddleheads Cafe back at the center of town.
The polls will be open soon and we understand that there will be snow on Thursday.
Time to walk home and return to our studios.