Mariel here. As I’ve mentioned before, my mom never really fed us “normal” kid food growing up. We ate what she ate; there were no choices or alternate dinners; there was no request form or suggestion box. Sure, it meant there were many nights we’d spend dinner trying to hide the enemy du jour, but it also meant we were exposed to a wide variety of foods. At the ripe old age of three, I used to join my mom at the local sushi place and gobble down California Rolls. She remembers a shocked diner commenting, “If she’s already eating sushi, she’ll be trouble for whomever she ends up marrying.” Fact.
I still enjoy an array of different cuisines – sushi always tops the list – and it frustrates me to no end that my own son is starting to display that classic toddler pickiness. On Sunday night, my mom and I took him out to eat – unfortunately our usual spot was fully booked – so we walked down to a neighboring Asian place. A place I had taken him many times when he had just started eating solid foods. Sadly, this time, he wasn’t so eager to taste the Orient. “Ewwww” to Pork Gyoza. “Yuck” to Miso soup. And the fattening, fried, diet-breaking Sesame Chicken my mom so graciously ordered in the hopes he’d dig in, was deemed so repugnant he literally wouldn’t even touch it.
I left dinner scratching my head – and taking deep, cleansing breaths – and resolved to do better at home about not giving in to his culinary capriciousness. I also resolved to do a better job of departing from the usual Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Dr Praegers, pureed pouch merry-go-round I swore I’d never ride.
In a baby-step towards acceptance of my beloved Asian fare, I made him classic Sesame Noodles and miracle of miracles, he loved them. This is a recipe I gently adapted from Saveur and it really is one of the best non-restaurant renditions I’ve tasted. Plus it’s ready in about 20 minutes – including the time it takes to boil the noodles – so that’s another a plus, especially if you also cook while being screamed at by a hangry dining companion…toddler or otherwise.
Cold Sesame Noodles
Serves 2 to 3
Adapted from Saveur
½ lb whole wheat spaghetti, cooked al dente, according to package directions (soba noodles also work, but I find they have a slightly bitter after-taste that’s distracting) – $2.19
4 Tablespoons sesame oil, divided – stock
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce – stock
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar – stock
1 Tablespoon Tahini (aka sesame seed paste) – $3.99
1 Tablespoon peanut butter – stock
¾ Tablespoon honey – stock
1 teaspoon sesame seeds – stock
1 clove of garlic, minced or run through a garlic press – stock
1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, minced or run through a garlic press – $.19
1 scallion, thinly sliced – $1.89
Garnish with red pepper flakes, chopped peanuts or cilantro, if desired
Grand total assuming “well-stocked” kitchen: $8.26
Cost per serving: $2.75
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the noodles until al dente. Strain in a colander, then rinse with cold water. Strain again. Return the noodles to the pot and toss with 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil. Set aside.
2. In a glass bowl, whisk together 2 Tablespoons sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, Tahini, peanut butter, honey, sesame seeds, garlic, ginger.
3. Dress the noodles, tossing well to combine. Sprinkle with scallions and garnish, as desired. Serve cold or at room temp.