Weeknight meals shouldn't be a chore, yet our busy lives juggling our day jobs, families and other daily life obligations, often lead to an easy excuse not to cook. With so many outlets today sharing quick, simple and healthy recipe ideas, why bother with fast food or picking up something sub par for yourself and your family? The satisfaction one gains when successfully serving a meal that was created in the home from scratch with the freshest ingredients cannot be replaced. Don't get me wrong, I love take out now and then as well, but extra bills, pounds and daily routines of a rushed dinner experience add up to no good. I keep a steady schedule of solid hours myself and I'm always on the go but I'll jump at the chance to cook when any opportunity allows. Believe me, if I could find the time then you can too. My advice for those out there that don't enjoy cooking because they don't know how and aren't comfortable... learn. It's the greatest gift you can give yourself and your family. I was craving Asian this week and whipped up something fresh and delicious in no time flat. I made a special trip to Whole Foods over my lunch hour to pick up a beautiful piece of cod and I had had everything that I needed for my meal already at home. The dinner...spicy peanut noodles and cod baked in a sweet soy glaze.
This was a meal that probably took about an hour give or take to complete (including prep time). I started with my cod. In a sauce pot on high, I boiled a mixture of low sodium soy sauce, brown sugar and honey. This mixture reduced down to a thick syrup in about 10 minutes. I brushed the two large fillets and placed it in the fridge for about 20 minutes. As my fish marinated, I prepared my noodles. I've made these noodles many times in the past, both for intimate meals as well as a crowd and they're always a hit. The best part is that they can be served hot or cold and I love when a dish has temperature flexibility, takes a lot of pressure off of ensuring it's served at the right moment. I used whole wheat spaghetti, although you could use soba or any other type of noodle you prefer. The other great thing about this dish is that you can diversify your veggies too. On this evening, I used one carrot, one red bell pepper, one hot cherry pepper and some scallions. Honestly, you could incorporate mushrooms, various pepper varieties, or any other crunchy veggie you favor, get creative and use ingredients you love. I start by chopping my vegetables thinly and setting them aside in a bowl. Next, I grab my food processor and start creating my peanut sauce. I used about 1/2-1 cup of natural crunchy peanut butter, few splashes of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce, drizzle of sesame oil, Sriracha, red pepper flakes. If you aren't familiar with Sriracha and you like spice, then you must make this purchase immediately. It is a Thai hot sauce commonly found in Asian restaurants. It's a bold and fiery red blend of chiles mixed into a spicy paste. It can be added to dishes while cooking meals and also used as a condiment afterward. It's one of my favorites and a "go to" when I'm eating anything Asian that needs a kick in the pants. Once I've got all of those items in my processor, I turn it up and pour in a steady and slow stream of about 1/2 cup of water until it's thinned out enough to become a sauce that has body and can coat a spoon, without becoming super watery. I set aside my sauce and boil my pasta. When the pasta is ready, I drain it while leaving just a bit of pasta water, then add my peanut sauce and mix in my veggies, leaving a handful or so of scallion to dress over top when I'm ready to plate. After a few tosses to fully incorporate everything, my spicy peanut noodles will rest peacefully on the stove while the cod bakes.
I turn my oven to 375 and set the timer for 15 minutes. When the timer rings, I check my fish and move it to the top rack for another 2-3 minutes. This time I turn the broiler on to brown the tops a bit. Even though the fish will only be under the broiler for a very short time, I watch eagerly through the oven glass to see the progress. I can see the tops getting darker and the rich glaze appears thicker, it's changing before my eyes. I pull the fish at 3 minutes (although you can pull it earlier if it's browning too quickly) and it looks and smells fantastic!
I plate a lovely piece of fillet and a side of noodles, adding some peanuts and chopped scallion on top. I like a few more drizzles of Sriracha sauce just because I love the heat and it looks so pretty, however you could omit this step. The fish was so flaky and light but packed with a punch of flavor from the sweetness of the soy and brown sugar baked into the top. The peanut noodles were served room temperature and paired so wonderfully with the fish. I like to play the game of what a meal like this would set me back if we had picked it up by way of take out. Although I love to be wined and dined and make sure to enjoy amazing restaurants on the weekends, sometimes during a hectic work week...it just tastes better at home.