Nurse Noodles

If you live in Washington, you know that the weather has been a wee bit soggy over the past few days. Although sorely needed, the constant rain cast a gray, dreary mood, giving no sane reason to venture outdoors.

At my house, the mood was furthered dampened by the arrival of a cold/flu setting up shop in the nasal passages of my beloved co-habitant. The cold-induced snoring made me feel like I was trapped in a cave with a monster truck.

Something had to give.

The damp conditions already had me craving for a bowl of noodles, Asian style, but now with a patient in the house, there was no stopping Nurse Noodles.

Soup is good food, you'll get no argument from me there. But noodles? They're magic.

There's something mood-altering about the salty-sweet pungency of hoisin sauce, married with soy sauce, rice wine and other Asian jarred condiments, enrobing a mound of hot noodles.

You can mix and match sauce ingredients and create your own winning house special sauce, and my only suggestion is this: A little salt, a little sweet (even a dash of sugar will do), a little heat and a little acid.

Last night's magic potion included: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, black bean-garlic sauce, rice wine, a squeeze of a lime, a smidge of sugar and chili sauce with garlic. I thinned the mixture out with a small amount of water. Nothing was measured, but I never used more than one or teaspoons worth of each item. Taste along the way!

As for veggies, anything is possible. Bell peppers are in season, as are hot ones, plus garlic, onions and zucchini. Bok choy, or any kind of choy for that matter, not only cooks quickly but adds crunch as well as folic acid and Vitamin C. Whatever you chose, you want it to be quick cooking, so big hunks of broccoli are out.

I like to top everything off with fresh herbs; right now, basil and mint are a-plenty in the garden, and I picked up a bunch of cilantro at the neighborhood Thai grocery to add to the garnish mix.

How to pull it all together given such loosey-goosey ingredient amounts? Here's one way:

Chop all veggies and aromatics (ginger, garlic, chilies, onions, etc) first.
Boil water for noodles.
Make sauce in a bowl and set aside.
When water comes to a boil, add noodles.
Heat skillet or wok and begin cooking veggies. Add sauce when veggies are softened, then reduce heat. When noodles are done, drain and rinse with cold water. (VERY IMPORTANT with Asian noodles, or else they'll become a gummy mess)
Drain well, then add to veggie mixture and toss to combine.
Serve up in bowls and top with herbs. Eat immediately.

See if that doesn't wash that cold right out of your hair.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 6, 2006; 12:25 PM ET Dinner Tonight
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