Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cellophane Noodle Salad with Grilled Red Drum

After a really unpleasantly hot and humid weekend full of nasty thunderstorms, Monday started out to be a carbon copy, but turned out to be a pretty decent day and cool enough to sit outside. Finally! And I was able to move a late afternoon meeting up by an hour so that I could get home to enjoy the nice weather that developed during the day.

Note to self: I am under strict orders from my wife to give her credit for the following dinner.

During the morning and early afternoon, it was pretty humid and it looked like the day was going to be a rehash of the weekend: soupy air and threat of thunderstorms. And the morning is when we discuss what we want for dinner. Given the weather, we were looking for something light and Ann had Asian on the brain and specifically mentioned cellophane noodles (the credit, folks, is all hers). I wanted grilled fish, so I put the two together.

After we picked the kids up from school at 5:00, I started prepping dinner, making a quick cellophane noodle salad (yum woon sen), the dressing for the salad, and prepping a side of red drum.

Standard Thai Salad Dressing

Dressings in Thailand are very simple and although I make mine from slightly different ingredients than they would in Thailand, the end result is almost identical. The dressing above is a mix of lime juice, sambal oelek, fish sauce, minced garlic, and agave nectar. I use sambal so that I don't have to crush the chiles in a mortar and I use agave nectar so that it goes directly into solution without a lot of stirring. A basic recipe idea is:

    juice of 3 limes
    3 tablespoons agave nectar (to taste)*
    3 tablespoons fish sauce
    2 tablespoons sambal oelek*
    2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix well. Adjust seasonings to your taste. Makes enough for a large salad.

*or your favorite sweetener/your favorite heat

Cellophane Noodle Salad without Fish and Dressing
Cellophane noodles, aka glass noodles, bean thread, woon sen, among other names, is a noodle made from various kinds of starch, most typically mung bean. They have a slippery-crunchy quality that makes them perfect for cold salads (although they are often stir-fried, see pad woon sen). They come in small bundles, each of which is typically enough for a single serving. Cover the bundles with boiling water and let stand for 5-10 minutes, then drain the noodles, and spread them out to cool off. When cool, chop into manageable lengths with a knife (or some people use scissors).

Mix with your favorite crunchy raw vegetables and herbs and toss with dressing. Add a protein if you like. My salad above has noodles, orange peppers, red peppers, carrots, cilantro leaves, and Thai basil leaves, green onions, lots of each. I love sliced red onion in this salad too, but didn't have any. No worries, it's just a salad!

After prepping all this, we went outside and enjoyed a glass of wine while the noodles were chilling and the grill was heating. I congratulated my wife on her brilliant choice of dinner.

Asprinio d'Aversa, our new Favorite Summertime Sipper
The wine that we opened is our new favorite summer sipper, a sparkling Asprinio from the town of Aversa, near Naples in Campania. We just love this lightly creamy wine: it feels more like beer in the mouth than sparking wine and it is a touch cloudy. The nose to me is of yeast, beer, apple cider, pear cider (perry), and apple sauce. The flavor on the palate reminds me of similar things but with really nice and refreshing acidity. It kind of reminds me of Mauzac a bit and some of the Blanquettes de Limoux that I have tasted, only a lot better than any Mauzac that I have ever had. This particular bottling from Grotta del Sole is also famous for being made from grapes from vines that are trained to grow up poplar trees. It's a pretty cool sight to see.

Dinner! All Ann's Idea!
When we were good and relaxed and the grill nice and hot, I put two big slabs of drum skin side down on the grill and closed it up, checking every few minutes until each piece had just turned opaque. I scraped the fish off the skin into the salad and tossed it all with dressing, all the while complimenting my beautiful wife on her wonderful dinner idea.

Dead Soldiers at Dusk
I am so glad that Ann had this idea for dinner tonight. She deserves all the credit.

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