Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Key Limes
This has to be one of my favorite noodle dishes.  I first had it at Spice Market when the restaurant opened in 2004 where I was seated at the Chef's VIP seat and Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten recommended it.  I love the combination of spiciness, sourness, sweetness and herbs in the noodles.  It is then topped with blanched vegetables, including carrots, broccoli, parsnips and red bell peppers, which provide added crunchiness and flavor.  I've made it many times over the years and have always had much success.  It is so simple.  First we make a lime syrup.  (I have yet to try the dish using key limes, which are pictured in photo above). Then an herb paste is made with sautéed garlic, fresh basil, fresh mint and toasted sesame seeds. Vegetables for the topping are blanched and softened slightly.  Finally, the rice noodles are cooked briefly in boiling water to soften.  When done, the noodles are mixed with the lime syrup and herb paste and topped with the vegetables.  Then, a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds is added as a garnish.  This dish is so good that I like to eat any leftovers cold straight from the fridge.  The recipe is adapted from the Chef's cookbook, Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges.  Although I don't have any photos of the dish, neither does the book!

Spice Market New York
1 1/2 cups grape seed oil
1/2 cup garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
About 1/2 pound assorted vegetables: carrots, parsnips, broccoli, and red bell peppers, peeled and julienned
1 pound 1/4-inch-wide dried rice noodles, softened in hot water and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter

To make lime syrup:  combine the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Set aside.

To make basil mint paste:
Put 3 tablespoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic turns golden, about 10 minutes; set aside.

Fill a large bowl with water and ice and set aside.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the basil and mint leaves. As soon as the water returns to a boil, drain the leaves and transfer to the ice water.  When cold, drain again and squeeze dry. Purée in a blender with the sesame seeds, garlic, salt, and 1 cup of the oil. (This herb paste will keep, refrigerated, for 2 days.)

To make the vegetables:
Heat the remaining oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the vegetables and some salt and cook, tossing, just until brightly colored. Keep warm.

To make the noodles:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles until tender, about one minute. Drain and transfer to a large skillet set over high heat with the butter and lime syrup.  Toss noodles until they are mixed well and creamy.  Then drizzle liberally with the basil-mint paste, top with the vegetables, garnish with the sesame seeds, and serve.

Makes 4 servings

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