Experimental Cooking, Pts I and II

Posted by Cila Warncke

I love peanut butter with a greedy, by-the-spoonful-out-of-the-jar passion, so when I spotted Lazy Day Peanut Noodle Salad on my favourite recipe site, 101cookbooks.com I got kind of over-excited.

Being in Merida rather than San Francisco meant a few substitutions. Out went soba noodles, asparagus, tofu, sesame oil, rice vinegar and garlic and in came wholemeal spaghetti, red pepper, chile poblano, fresh spinach, fresh coriander, mushrooms, carrots, sunflower seeds, lime and olive oil. (Only the peanut butter, peanuts, spring onion and chili flakes made the recipe leap unscathed.)

Chile poblano

Chile poblano

I made the dressing using lime juice in place of rice wine vinegar, with plenty of red chili flakes, of course. Everything else was pretty much as you’d expect. Chopped all the veg, chucked the spaghetti on to boil, then added first the carrots, then a couple minutes later the pepper and chile poblano (roughly the size of an ordinary green pepper but with a mild chili kick), then a minute after that the spring onion and spinach. Couple more minutes on the boil, drained and tipped into a big bowl where I tossed it with the peanut dressing then chucked handfuls of sunflower seeds, salted peanuts and coriander in.

It didn’t come out looking anywhere near as elegant as the original version, and to my taste it should have been a bit more peanutty (the lime really cut the peanut-butteriness, so I might experiment with something else next time) but we scoffed the lot so thumbs up.

Jicama

Jicama

I’m on a bit of a local ingredient kick and bought jicama the other day. It’s a big, ugly lump of a root and I had to Google it to find out what the hell you’re supposed to do with it. Eat it raw, apparently. I have my doubts about eating raw anything you could use as a defensive weapon in the case of burglary but when in Rome… so I had a crack. The flavour is decent enough: slightly sweet in a rooty, parsnip-y kind of way. Unfortunately it bears plenty of textural resemblance to raw parsnip as well, which I can’t cope with. I stuck it in the fridge and waited for inspiration.

Roasting, frying and steaming all crossed my mind, but the oven here is a weird little creature I don’t understand and I instinctively felt jicama would be fry-resistant. Finally I decided to steam and mash it. Whacked it into the steamer and pootled off to check my email. Ten minutes later the rigid fruit was unscathed. Twenty more minutes and it was still raw carrot consistency. I refilled the steamer. Ten more, no joy. Boil it, perhaps? Just past 10PM, after half an hour at a brisk boil it dawned on me why Mexicans eat the damn stuff raw. It WON’T cook. Christ only knows what kind of super-cellulose it’s made of, but they should use it in fortifications. Bored of boiling, and hungry, I decided to stir-fry it with red onion, red pepper, spring onion, tomatillos (which, apart from making me think ‘fried green tomatoes’ every time I chuck them in the pan, are sublime) garlic and a tin of tuna. Plus the usual lashings of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chili flakes, salt and freshly ground pepper. I drizzled the lot with fresh lime juice and ate it with corn tortillas. It was good, but more involved than I’d bargained for. If I’m going to fuck around in the kitchen for over an hour I want more to show for it than stir fry.

Tomatillos

Tomatillos

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