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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Veggie Lo Mein

Ready before you can say "fried rice":

It goes without saying that almost every college student has a special dependency on takeout. For most of us, the takeout of choice is Chinese. We grub up those saucy noodles or sweet and tangy rice at all hours and with little regard for decency. For me, there has always been something mystical about eating dumplings with a plastic fork right out of the container. It is quintessential college perfection as far as cuisine is concerned: tasty, accessible, cheap and perfect hot or cold. The only problem... the waiting! This recipe is ready in about 20 minutes.

Why haven't I put up a post about fried rice or General Tso's in four months? Well, to be honest, since moving home my takeout consumption has lessened greatly. But, more importantly, I hadn't convinced myself to buy a few essential ingredients just yet. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was destiny. Whatever it was I broke down yesterday.

This week mushrooms were on sale at the Giant. I love those hibachi style stir-fried mushrooms so I was itching to cook each and every one of them! A brief Internet search resulted in a recipe for "Stir-Fried Noodles with Eggplant and Basil" by Everyday Food. The photo looked great, ingredients were accessible and the reviews were positive. Although the original recipe used eggplant, mushrooms and zucchini were listed as delicious substitutes.

I was only missing one thing: sesame oil (toasted). So, after work I hopped down the street to get a bottle. I spotted the stuff immediately; cafe-au-lait colored and sporting a red label. But the site suggested "toasted" sesame and this was just the plain Jane original. I did find a bottle of "toasted" sesame oil but it was $7.99!? The plain version was only $2.99. Need I tell you which one went home with ME?

The minute I opened the bottle I was slightly regretful for not buying the fancier stuff. It smelled so toasty and so much like dozens of sushi dinner-dates I was immediatly seduced into paying whatever price next time. My advice: settle for the plain sesame oil if you're skeptical but, once you've tried it, dish out the green for the upgrade. You will only use a little at a time so it will last for a while. But, the flavor, even of a cheap brand, is really irreplaceable in Asian food so make sure you don't skip it! I nixed most of the zucchini and doubled up on mushrooms in the recipe because, well, the mushrooms were really, really good!

Note on Ingredients:

Lo mein noodles are great if you can find them. If not, linguine or fettuccine noodles are a handy substitute. I used cellophane noodles because I had some. I've only ever had them fried or in small quantities so I was a little grossed out when I pulled yards of it all limp and wormy looking from the pot. They were great cold the next day but I would still suggest the fettuccine or other Asian style noodles. Although I don't condone it, Ramen could work as well. I've doubled the sauce recipe so it makes a little more than you need for this but it was sooo good, and simple, I think you'll want some on hand to toss with your leftovers the next day.

NEVER: rinse mushrooms. Use a paper towel or damp cloth and wipe gently to remove dirt. The stems should pop right out.

Serves 2

4 ounces lo mein noodles (or linguine or Ramen)
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
2 cups sliced portabello mushrooms
3 scallions
1 clove fresh garlic (or 1/2 teaspoon pre-chopped)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves or 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

1. Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat. Cook your noodle of choice according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. In a small bowl mix your brown sugar, sesame oil and soy sauce. Set aside.
3. Wash and dry the zucchini. Split in half lengthwise (the halves will look like half moons) and then again. Cut crosswise and set aside.
4. Wipe the mushrooms with a damp towel to remove dirt. Discard the stems. Cut to preferred size either in slices or quarters. Remove the roots from your scallions and discard. Slice scallions thinly, reserving the whites.
5. Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium high. Be sure to let it preheat for a few minutes. You want it good and hot. When the pan is preheated add the oil (it shouldn't smoke but should be rippling on the surface of the pan).
6. Add the mushrooms and zucchini and cook 4 minutes, stirring until the veggies are slightly golden. Push the veggies to one side.
7. Add the garlic and scallion whites only. Toss for 30 seconds and then stir all the veggies together again. Add the noodles and, at the last minute, the sauce and the rest of the scallions. Heat through for another 30 seconds.
8. Serve immediatly with torn or chopped fresh basil and/or chili flakes.

Portabella Mushrooms on Foodista


  1. I didn't cook like this when I was in college. Great job for working on eating well and going to school.

  2. I could use a plate of that right now!If you won't mind I'd love to guide Foodista readers to this post.Just add the foodista widget to the end of this post and it's all set, Thanks!

  3. This is a great recipe and so many students could avoid the "freshman fifteen" by eating fresh food-great idea for a blog!!

  4. How nice to see some new faces around here! Thanks for stopping in!

  5. I am a big fan of mushrooms also, would have them everyday with dinner if I didn't think my husband would think that I am crazy. Recipe sounds and looks good will have to give a try. Thanks

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