When life gives you lemons...
recipe: Stir-Fry Noodles with Bok Choy & Shiitake Mushrooms
Have you ever wondered about the phrase “when life gives you lemons”? Me, too. I’ve personally never met a real-life lemon that made me feel sad or frustrated at my situation. It’s one of my favorite ingredients. I rarely ever find myself without some on hand. Thick peels get added to my morning moka, and add a pectin boost during homemade jamming sessions. Freshly grated lemon perks up just about any baked good, candied bits go into panettone during the holidays…and during summer my hands-down ice of choice is lemon. It’s actually a close tie with cremolata, and if forced to choose, I’d get one of each. Life is too short to not eat both.
If you’re looking for an easy summer dessert this weekend, my lemon sherbet recipe is a must-make. I stocked up on lemons recently to make a batch. I love spooning a bit into my morning coffee, a breakfast affogato of sorts. Some other favorite lemon-centric recipes include my lemon olive cake, lemon ricotta cake, bay leaf pound cake, pasta e ceci, lemon-ginger skillet granola and lemon curd (the link takes you to my spring holidays e-book where the curd recipe is located, free for paid subscribers).
Before we get to the recipe for those stir-fried noodles pictured above, I wanted to mention a movie I’ve been meaning to share about for almost a year now. I saw Nine Days with Isabella last year on the 10th anniversary of Michael’s death. I hadn’t deliberately timed it that way but it turned out to be a very healing and powerful film to watch on what was an eternally life-changing day for our family. Watch the trailer, and then I highly suggest you find a streaming way to watch the film as it’s no longer in theaters.
So, onto these noodles. When I first made them, my original intent was to make this recipe from Woks of Life. I genuinely thought I had most of the ingredients in the pantry and fridge, only to find I actually didn’t have any scallions, cucumber or dark soy sauce. Never one to be thwarted by a lack of ingredients, I cobbled together my own version with what was available at home.
I’d just bought shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy from the farm stand, and they felt like perfect understudies for the cucumber. Scallions were a bit harder if I wanted to keep the fresh herb vibes, and while I could’ve subbed in some chives or even added shallot or a red onion, I opted for a perky bunch of cilantro that was in the fridge bin and doubled down on the amount of garlic in the original recipe.
The sauce is pretty similar to the original Woks of Life recipe, except I upped the amount of tamari and sugar to compensate for the lack of dark soy sauce. I didn’t have MSG but didn’t worry since the shiitake mushrooms would add that umami flavor (Woks of Life notes you can use mushroom powder, too).
The sauce is not cooked in the original Woks of Life recipe but since I was lacking some of the ingredients for it, I decided to give it a quick cook in the skillet once the veggies were done, in hopes of reducing it a bit and concentrating the flavors from the sauce I did pull together. If you want to skip the cooking part, you totally can and just toss it all together in a bowl. The residual heat from the cooked vegetable should be enough to melt the butter, which was also my addition to thicken the sauce and give it a little more body. The spaghetti I used is actually true to the original recipe, and Sarah at Woks of Life explains that spaghetti has a smoother texture and the perfect ingredient for their cold noodles.
I would normally sign off saying I hope the week has been a gentle one but, truthfully, it’s been an assault on humanity for us here in the U.S. So, what I’d like to offer is advice I’ve been trying to follow. Be gentle with yourself. Take the time and space you need to restore your energies throughout the day. Put down your phone at a designated time. You don’t have to watch the news 24/7. I am often guilty of these things myself, and can feel the toll it’s taking. Be well, and as always, remember to be kind. –xo, j.
The recipe related to this post is available for paid subscribers only. Join the hundreds of subscribers now for only $5/month or $30/year (that’s six months free!).