From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I have a wonderful recipe to share with you today. Participation in the SNAP challenge left me with a lot of material to read. Tucked among the books was a treasure called, Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed our Children. The book was written by the Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann Cooper who created the Vegetable Lo Mein that is the feature for this week's frugal Friday post. Make no doubt about it, this is a woman with a mission. Her goal is to replace the highly processed foods that are fed to children with more nourishing substitutes, one school lunch at a time. Her blog, which you can see, here, has some wonderful recipes that I hope you'll take a look at and try. I'll get you started with this fast, easy and very inexpensive noodle dish. It's as good for grown-ups as it is for kids, but before you can eat there's some learnin' to be done. Ready?
Rice and grain based foods are an integral part of Chinese diet and culture. The Mandarin word "fan" means both "rice" and "food" and in China you will often here the question, "Ni chi fan le ma?" The literal translation is, "Have you eaten rice(food) yet?" No matter where you go in China, a typical meal will have a grain based "fan" such as rice, noodles or buns, that is served with meat or vegetable dishes, called "cai". The cai is meant to add flavor and variety to the fan while not overpowering it. The meals of the poorest in China usually consist of simple grains that are eaten with salty pickles to add flavor. Even the simplest food in China can be quite good because the balance of fan and cai is maintained. Noodles are an important part of the Chinese diet.
That brings us to tonight's application of fan and cai. This is a foolproof dish as long as the vegetables and noodles are not overcooked. It is important to have all the elements for the lo mein set to go before you actually begin to cook. If you are watching pennies and using spaghetti instead of lo mein noodles, make sure to follow the directions on the box. They vary from brand to brand and you definitely don't want soggy noodles in this dish. Feel free to swap out vegetables to your personal taste but try to stick to the quantities suggested in the recipe. The sauce carries the dish. It is slightly sweet but not at all cloying. Strangely enough, I don't think the dish ages well. The garlic and ginger seem to grow stronger at the lo mein sits, so I cut the recipe in half when I make it for Bob and me. I do hope you'll try this recipe. Here is how the lo mein is made.
Vegetable Lo Mein...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of the Renegade Lunch Lady Chef Ann Cooper and her book Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
3/4 pound lo mein noodles or whole wheat spaghetti
Sesame oil (start with a small amount)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
4 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1/3 cup sliced scallions (green onions)
1 cup julienne carrot (2 large)
1 cup thinly sliced celery (1-2 stalks)
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (1 medium)
3/4 cup fresh bean sprouts
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1) Cook lo mein noodles in boiling salted water until al dente. Cool. Toss lightly with sesame oil to prevent sticking.
2) Combine hoisin and soy sauces in a small bowl and mix well.
3) In a wok or a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon canola oil and quickly sauté ginger, garlic and scallions until they release aroma, then add carrots, celery and red onions and briefly sauté before adding bean sprouts, about 2 minutes.
4)In a separate medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil and sauté noodles. When they are hot and look pan-fried or lightly browned, add them to ingredients in wok.g in large pan. Add soy-hoisin mixture and stir to coat. Sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve. Yield: 4 servings.
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