Udon Noodle Salad

I’m heading to New York next week for three days of eating before we fly to Southeast Asia. When soliciting suggestions on where to eat, my friend Caroline recommended Budakkan and said she loved the chilled udon noodles with peanut sauce. Then she forwarded me the recipe. Then I made it. It was good.

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But seriously, it was really good. I have no idea if this recipe comes close to the dish served at Budakkan – having never been there – but it doesn’t really matter when it’s this good. I’ll be making this again soon since Eric and I ate it like we’d never see food again.

As for New York, I have a short (ok, long) list of restaurants in mind. I want to eat at some classics – a Jewish deli, maybe Shake Shack – and some not-so-classic restaurants – Budakkan, perhaps? If you know of a must-try, leave it in the comments.

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Udon Noodle Salad

Adapted from Caroline’s recipe, which came from her sister, which came from who-knows where. I made a couple modifications – a bit more vinegar and Sriacha – so I wrote the recipe as I made it.

For Peanut Sauce:
2 teaspoons peanut oil
5 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 cup water
2 tablespoons light soy sauce (I used Bragg Liquid Aminos)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2/3 cup chunky peanut butter (preferably a nice, natural peanut butter that is not loaded with sugar)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (not the fake stuff made with corn syrup)
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 teaspoons Sriacha

to Serve:
10 oz udon noodles
1 cucumber, halved across, sliced into matchsticks
2 cups bean sprouts
1 orange  or red pepper sliced into matchsticks
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
several lime wedges

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In small saucepan, saute garlic and ginger in peanut oil over medium-low heat. Add the water, soy sauce, and coriander, and bring to a boil. Add peanut butter and turn heat to low. Whisk together until combined, then mix in the maple syrup, vinegar, and chile sauce. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

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Meanwhile, prepare Udon noodles according to package instructions and then set aside. Combine noodles, sliced vegetables and sauce, with fresh squeezed fresh lime juice and chopped cilantro.

Heirloom Caprese Salad

I love Sundays. Sunday mornings, that is. After 4pm, I usually start feeling those hints of depression… that gloomy feeling knowing that Monday morning – work – is coming closer and closer by the minute.

Sunday morning, on the other hand, is so wonderful. I can’t describe why, but it feels completely different than Saturday mornings. Perhaps this weekend, Sunday was different because I didn’t have that pounding wine headache from Friday night’s dinner extravaganza (which, this past weekend, included a secret underground dinner event in an uber trendy loft in the South Loop). Perhaps it was the long run that felt so refreshing. Perhaps it was the sun shining and crowds of people gathered at the lakefront to see Chicago’s Annual Air and Water Show.

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Whatever the case, I made my way to our quaint little market in Wicker Park and picked up a slew of goodies that have provided enough material to post on this blog for a week! Fresh sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, cranberry beans (yes!), three different kinds of eggplant, basil, and garlic… the few blocks home felt like a mile with such heavy bags hanging off my arms.

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If you know me, you know I love spring produce like asparagus, ramps, and garlic scapes. Even more so than spring, however, I look forward to tomato season… also known as summer. Tomatoes are one of those foods that you must eat in season. And, more and more, I believe heirloom tomatoes are the only way to go. Forget those hybrid, mealy, flavorless varieties you find in the grocery store. You haven’t had a tomato until you’ve had an heirloom tomato.

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Heirloom Caprese Salad

This recipe was very much inspired – er, practically stolen – from Love and Olive Oil.

2 heirloom tomatoes, different varieties
1 ball fresh mozzarella
~10 fresh basil leaves, or more if preferred

1/4 cup good olive oil
3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1/2 clove raw garlic
1 small squirt of mustard
1 small squirt/drizzle of agave nectar or honey
salt and pepper

Slice the tomatoes into rounds and cut the mozzarella into rounds approximately the same thickness. Layer tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. To make the vinaigrette, combine olive oil, vinegar, leftover basil leaves, salt and pepper, garlic, mustard, and agave nectar in a food processor. Pulse until oil is emulsified. Drizzle over salad.

You’ll likely have some dressing leftover; enjoy it on an arugula salad or any other greens.