The 10-minute Asian pasta salad

Last week I promised to post the easiest cold Asian pasta salad I make, which goes really well with Chicken Satay. Then the storm set in and I posted warm dishes instead. Now our regular sunny winter is back and it’s time to keep my promise because making sold salad no longer seems ridiculous in this weather.

This pasta salad is really the quickest you can imagine. In the time it takes to cook the pasta (which is usually around 10 minutes, hence the headline), you prepare everything else and it’s done. You can use regular spaghetti – number 3 works well – or you can use egg noodles. Both will come out equally well. You can add any additional vegetables you want. I make it plain because the kids love it that way, but this is a really good base for whatever you want to add.

QUICK ASIAN PASTA SALAD

Quick Asian Pasta Salad

Quick Asian Pasta Salad

Ingredients

500 g (1 lb) spaghetti (#3) or egg noodles (Note: The egg noodles usually come in 400 g packages, so just use the same quantities of dressing – it won’t be a problem)

Dressing

3 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons vinegar or rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

a few drops of sesame oil

1 teaspoon mirin (optional)

Optional vegetables (use all or any if desired)

3 green onion chopped

1 small red pepper sliced and halved

½ small red onions thinly sliced

½ cup cooked corn kernels

1 medium carrot julienned or very thinly sliced

1 stick celery thinly sliced

How to do it

1. Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the package (do not overcook). Drain and rinse with cold water until the noodles reach room temperature.

2. While the pasta is cooking, mix all the dressing ingredients till combined.

3. Toss the dressing through the pasta and add the vegetables if desired.

Serves about 6.

The throw-it-all-in-a-pot minestrone

Back to the weather! I’ve been asked to post a soup recipe. Makes sense, doesn’t it? For this kind of super-cold winter weather, there really is nothing like soup. If you are feeling really energetic, do try making ribollita, one of the heartiest, insides-warming soups you will every make.

But not everyone has the time or ingredients to whip up ribollita, so I am going to share with you my “whatever’s in the fridge” minestrone soup. The basic recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens recipe book, but I have taken it in all sorts of directions and I very rarely make it the same way twice. The basic broth with the onions, tomato, zucchini and cabbage, and the additional spaghetti bits get built on top of with whatever veggies you have in your fridge. Have fun with it and add whatever you love.

Stay warm!

BASIC MINESTRONE

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves crushed garlic

1 medium onion, chopped

3 medium carrots diced

3 sticks of celery diced

1 large red or sweet pepper diced – optional

½ teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

2 liters broth (chicken or vegetarian)

1 medium zucchini diced

4-5 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped or one can 400 g  (14 oz) of crushed tomatoes

2 cups finely shredded cabbage

About a cup of spaghetti broken into small pieces

1 400 g (14 oz) can red beans, rinsed and drained (not baked beans) – optional

1 cup green beans cut into small pieces (frozen is good)

How to do it

1. In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the onions, carrots, celery, peppers and garlic until just soft.

2. Add the tomatoes, herbs, sugar, broth and green beans and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Add the zucchini, cabbage, red beans and spaghetti and bring to the boil again. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the spaghetti is tender.

A Nasty Weather Spice Cake

As Israel is hit with some of the worst winter weather we’ve seen in decades, so many of us are stuck at home (and happily so when you see what’s happening out there.) What could be better than using this time to bake a really yummy spice cake that fills the house with the perfect smells of winter?

I love spice cakes, and it’s one of those tastes that takes me back to my childhood. It took me a while, but I finally found a really fool-proof recipe that’s simple and tastes wonderful. I top it off with the most delicious brown butter frosting, which I really have to resist eating before I spread it on the cake. It’s a really perfect cake/frosting combination and I can’t think of any other frosting that would work this well with this cake.

Bake this before your kids get home from school, and treat them to a really yummy mid-week dessert treat without having to overwork yourself.

Spice Cake with Browned Butter Frosting

Spice Cake with Browned Butter Frosting

SPICE CAKE

Ingredients

½ cup softened butter

2 eggs

2 cups  flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves (optional)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 ½ cups sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

How to do it

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla in a mixer well combined. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating until well combined.

3. In a separate bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and spices. Add the dry mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the egg mixture, beating on low speed until just combined.

4. Line two 20 cm round (8 inches) cake pans or one 28 cm (11 inch) springform pan with baking paper and spray with non-stick spray. Pour the batter into the pan(s) and bake for 30 to 35 minutes for the round pans, or 35 to 40 minutes for springform, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool the cake completely before frosting it.

BROWN BUTTER FROSTING

The taste of the browned butter is just amazing. Make sure you get the butter to a nice brown color – don’t be afraid, it’s very hard to mess this one up. 

This recipe is for the two-layered cake. Halve it for the springform-sized cake.

Ingredients

¾ cup softened butter

6 cups (600g)  powdered sugar

About 4 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

How to do it

1. Heat butter in a small saucepan over low heat until melted and continue heating until butter turns golden brown – once you see specks of dark brown appearing at the bottom of the saucepan, remove from heat.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons of milk, and the vanilla. Add the browned butter (try to avoid pouring in all of the brown bits at the bottom, but don’t stress if it all goes in). Beat with an electric mixer on low speed or by hand, until combined. If the mixture is too hard, add a little more milk until you reach a spreading consistency. (Tip: When adding additional liquid to frosting, make sure to add it very slowly – a few drops at a time and mix it it well before adding more. Frosting can very quickly go from hard to too runny.)

Sometimes you just don’t want to work too hard, so there’s Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay

You know those weeks that are endless and tiring and you just don’t have the energy to work too hard in the kitchen but you have to feed your families? Sure you do and I have them too, so I love the recipes that allow you to throw together a delicious meal that doesn’t take too long to cook but makes everyone happy.

Here’s a quick and easy way to make Chicken Satay skewers. The sauce is simple, cooking takes minutes and the most labor intensive part is threading the chicken onto the skewers. Every now and again I haul this one out of the recipe archive and it never fails. Make sure you don’t overcook the skewers though…

They can be cooked in the oven or on the BBQ so it’s good for winter and summer as well.

I serve this with a super quick and easy Asian pasta salad.

CHICKEN SATAY

Ingredients

4 boned and skinned chicken breasts (2 doubles) cut into strips about 2 cm or less than an inch wide.

3 cloves garlic crushed

All those beautiful spices chopped and ready

All those beautiful spices chopped and ready

1 teaspoon chopped coriander

½ teaspoon curry powder

¼ teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon fresh chopped ginger

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Juice of half a lemon or lime

4 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

1 cup coconut milk

How to do it

1. Soak wooden skewers in water for about 5 minutes. Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers – no more than two per skewer. Set aside.

Skewered chicken

Skewered chicken

2. Mix together all the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Allow to sauce to cook down a little.

3. Spoon about two thirds of the sauce over the skewers, turning the skewers to make sure all the sides are coated. Allow the the skewers to sit for about half an hour. (Tip: You can cover the tips of the skewers in foil so they don’t burn – if you have the energy!)

4. Pre-heat your oven grill. Cover a baking tray with foil and spray it with non-stick spray or lightly oil it.  Place one layer of skewers on the baking tray and place the tray on the highest rack in the oven. Grill for no longer than 4-5 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining skewers if you didn’t get them all in the oven in the first batch.

5. Reheat the remaining sauce and serve with the skewers.

Serves about 4-5.