Friends, we’re back with episode two of the Orphan Food Challenge! Once again, Monika and Jenni came through with a trio of fantastic ingredients fully ripe for a gustatory makeover.
I may have squee-ed out loud when I saw these lovely items. Ramen is an ur-food for so many of us: the flavor memories run deep. I used to know someone who would break up the noodle brick and eat the shards without cooking them, claiming they tasted like potato chips. Okay: it was me. I used to do that. What?! Don’t judge. They’re delicious.
The cheese had a mild, nutty flavor with very little sharpness and good meltability. And that vinegar? Don’t get me started. It took every amount of impulse control I have (not much, see previous paragraph about raw ramen noodles) to abstain from drinking it straight. So unctuous and syrup-y!
Here’s what happened:
The cheese joined a few waxy potatoes, some chopped asparagus, a good dash of smoked paprika and a half dozen eggs in a Spanish tortilla. I plopped some cilantro mojo on top because I seem to be doing that with everything these days.
I riffed on a Thai noodle salad with peanut sauce for the ramen noodles. Peanut butter, soy, sriracha, rice wine vinegar, and a smidge of water create a completely unauthentic dressing for the bouncy noodles. I served this on top of lightly dressed baby spinach leaves, because it felt weird not to have a serving of vegetables in something I called a salad.
In what I hoped would be a complete triumph, I made a tiny (vegan!) chocolate cake with a shiny chocolate-balsamic glaze. The technique for vegan baking (vinegar + baking soda to achieve the rise) has lately intrigued me, and this cake baked nicely. However, when transferring this tiny cake into its tiny box, I crushed the edge. Dilemma: (A) present the ugly cake anyway or (B) eat it all myself and try to create a prettier one? I chose (A) this time. No promises for the future, though.
And here’s the bonus:
What I tell you now isn’t pretty, but since you already know about my raw-ramen-eating past, I feel like we’re in a relationship and ready to be honest with one another. Do this: take the seasoning packet from the ramen. Add it to a container of sour cream. Don’t use a separate bowl, just stir it right into the cheapest sour cream you can find. Presto: the most delicious potato chip dip on the planet. Extra delicious if you happen to be hung over, not that I would know anything about that.
Full disclosure: I didn’t photograph this and I certainly didn’t share this. Sorry, J&M!
Ear candy: I listened to the new Aimee Mann album, Mental Illness, while cooking. Y’all, this is a painfully beautiful set of songs. I’ve been mulling on the nature of cravings, caprice, and gratitude lately; these songs made me think of these things in different ways, which is precisely what we should demand from art. I implore you to listen to them all, but “Patient Zero” struck me particularly:
Life is grand / And wouldn’t you like to have it go as planned?
I’m ready for a new challenge! Who’s in?