Now that the weather is finally warming up, I thought I’d share one of our family’s staple summer dinners– cold Asian noodle salad. It’s tangy, refreshing, a little bit spicy, and the perfect dinner for eating outside in the evenings– perhaps with a cold beer or glass of white wine. Best of all, it comes together in a snap, with ingredients straight out of the pantry. (or if they’re not in your pantry, they should be!)
Let me be upfront with you– this is not a pretty dish. It’s beige and sloppy-looking and won’t win any beauty contests. It won’t amaze your tastebuds with new and exciting flavors, either. But on the plus side, it’s reasonably healthy, quick and easy to make, and is basically the epitome of comfort food for a wintry evening. Also, it’s delicious, so you should make it.
While I’m sure the combination of beans, bacon, and cabbage has been around for a while, I somehow didn’t “discover” it until recently, when I was googling dinner ideas and came across a recipe in the Washington Post. I’ve adapted it to drastically increase the cabbage (and thus my perception of its healthiness), but aside from that it’s good as-is. The smokiness of the bacon combines with the creaminess of the beans to give it a really hearty flavor, and the cabbage just kind of melts into the dish, adding bulk but not hitting you in the face with cabbage-y flavor or odor. With plenty of black pepper and parmesan cheese, I’ve eaten this repeatedly this past winter, and regret nothing.
I know it’s traditional to serve vodka sauce with penne, but all I had in the house was farfalle, so I went with that. But the sauce is really the star here, and always will be– spicy, creamy, rich but with bright tomato flavor, it’s a perfect comfort food. Plus, it’s made with pantry staples (the original recipe called for shallots and fresh tomatoes, but I think the modified one is just as tasty) and is quick and easy enough for a weeknight dinner!
Now that it’s winter I’ve been seeing a lot of squash in the market– butternut, acorn, kabocha, and delicata, not to mention other kinds I’ve never tried before. But one thing that all of my go-to recipes have had in common is that they’re kind of heavy-tasting– chock-full of warming spices and comforting, rich flavors. That all changed when I saw this recipe at Smitten Kitchen.
Her original recipe uses acorn squash and fresh chile, but having neither of those I improvised and am so glad that I did. Using delicata squash allows you to eat the skin of the squash along with the flesh, and Sriracha handily takes the place of fresh chile pepper. When served up in tacos with black beans, avocado, and feta cheese, this squash makes for a quick and easy weeknight meal that’s light, fresh-tasting, and greater than the sum of its parts.