Back in the '80s, self-professed "pasta addict" Robin Robertson was looking to create a satisfying non-Italian dish. The Newport News, Va., food writer hit on a recipe that calls for two key ingredients: udon noodles and baby bok choy. The firm Japanese noodles take to a coating of sesame paste-based sauce; the bok choy is a mild cabbage that takes kindly to stir-frying.
The recipe still figures in Robertson's repertoire, even with 15 vegetarian cookbooks behind her. "It's healthy without tasting healthy," she says. This is a one-dish meal, but Robertson says it could be served with a light cucumber salad and crunchy carrots.
- 12 ounces dried udon noodles (may substitute fresh whole-wheat linguiine)
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 cup tahini (see TIP, below)
- 3 tablespoons tamari or light soy sauce
- 1/4 cup water or low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, for garnish
- 2 heads (3/4 pound to 1 pound) baby bok choy
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 scallions, minced (white and light green parts)
- 1 teaspoon finely minced ginger root
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or just until tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and toss to coat. Set aside.
While the noodles are cooking, combine the tahini, tamari, water or vegetable broth and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet for a few minutes and set aside.
Trim the stem ends of the baby bok choy and separate the ribs. Wash thoroughly and pat dry. Cut the ribs and leaves crosswise into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices. Set aside.
Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the bok choy, scallions and ginger and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until the bok choy has wilted. Add the tahini mixture and noodles and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil. Divide among individual plates and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
NOTE: Tahini is a thick paste made from ground sesame seeds and sometimes olive oil, commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. It is available on the international aisle of most grocery stores and is a source of calcium and healthful fat. Peanut butter and toasted sesame paste (available in Asian markets) are more strongly flavored than tahini and might not be mild enough to use in this recipe.
Adapted from "Quick-Fix Vegetarian," by Robin Robertson (Andrews McMeel, 2007).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
Email questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.