The Weekend In Food: Culinary Experiments, Momofuku Noodle Bar, and Death by Doughnut Plant

Oh, for the love of doughnuts! Wanna get one of these? Keep reading...

It’s been a busy weekend—working from home, running errands & catching up on some housework. I’m gearing up for an even busier week ahead, so I took a little time yesterday to prep some meals for the week…

It started as black bean soup...

I’ve never made black bean soup the same way twice. Basic semi-pureed black bean soup is a little boring to me, so I usually vary it with different vegetables & spices, leaning on chunky rather than smooth texture.  The only consistency of the mix-ins is that they depend entirely on what I have in the house. Yesterday, it was yellow bell pepper, shallots, chopped tomato, and a late edition of chopped zucchini (which is best added in the last 15 minutes of cooking since it can get mushy if cooked longer). I added unmeasured shakes, sprinkles and dashes of cumin, coriander, garlic powder, black pepper, smoked paprika and chipotle pepper, plus a whole dried chili for more heat.  The result is a smoky, hearty & nutrient packed hot mess of deliciousness.  Plus, it’s Boyfriend-approved.

For tips on cooking black beans, check out this post from EmmyCooks.  Check out her other posts, too – it’s a fantastic blog.

Gotta keep 'em separated...

While the soup was cooking, I made a few other things—roasted beets, jasmine rice, and roasted cauliflower.  I am nothing if not a multi-tasker.

For the rice…Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Measure out a cup of rice and put it in a casserole dish (ceramic or glass).  Add a tablespoon of oil or butter, plus 2 cups boiling water and a dash of salt.  If your baking dish comes with an oven-safe cover, awesome, but if not, cover the dish with aluminum foil. Place in the oven, set your timer for 45 minutes, and find something to do. When the timer goes off, you have a dish of perfectly cooked rice. Fluff with a fork and serve immediately, or allow it to cool before refrigerating in the same container. Mess-free!

For the cauliflower…If you saw my post on pasta recipes the other day, take another look at the Roasted Cauliflower Pasta recipe.  Cauliflower is one of those veggies that gets much better with company—it’s very friendly with parmesan and panko, a real treat when it’s battered and fried, and it’s really special when paired with something briny, like Spanish olives in this recipe.  First tossed in a hot pan with olive oil, butter and shallots, the cauliflower then roasts for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.  Next, we invite salt, red pepper flakes, crushes garlic cloves and the olives to the party, toss again, and continue roasting for another 8 minutes. The pan comes out of the oven, the cauliflower are browned and tender, and everyone is looking beautiful and shiny in the sizzling pan. This mixture is a great topper or mix-in with rice or pasta. I will definitely make this again.

Here’s a close-up:

Cauliflower and friends

So Saturday was Cooking Day. Today I got a few hours reprieve from work and made my first trip to Momofuku Noodle Bar with friends.  I’m not really caught up in the ramen trend, but I appreciate good noodles and I love pork buns. And I have been told Noodle Bar has some of the best pork buns in the city. Now, while I normally report on my own cooking exclusively, I feel it is my duty to share my experience of this inspiring and incredible meal, and to tell you that if you are a resident of this great city or just visiting for a day, a weekend or longer, YOU MUST EAT AT MOMOFUKU NOODLE BAR. Yes! It’s so important I have to put it in caps. Don’t believe me?  Get a look at some of the great stuff they’re serving…

That is a Spicy Chicken Ramen noodle bowl. And it’s what my boyfriend and our friends Nat and Mike ordered. I tried some, and it was incredible: the chicken is crispy-spicy-smoky-tender-awesome, the egg is perfectly poached, the bok choy is pickled and sweet, and the nori (seaweed) adds a whole other dimension—salty, a touch fishy, a little earthy. The noodles strike a perfect balance between tender and chewy, and the broth brings all the elements together into a cohesive, incredibly flavorful and beautiful soup.

But wait! Here’s what I had…

This is Kimchi Stew.  Under the bubbling red-orange I discovered delicious pulled pork and the most tender rice cakes I’ve ever had the pleasure to try.  No ramen here, but I didn’t miss it. I love kimchi, and were it not for the fact that it’s really stinky and time-consuming to make, I’d have it for dinner every day. And since I don’t, I welcome the opportunity to have the homemade stuff at restaurants whenever I can.

We also ordered pork buns (made with delicious fatty pork belly and a ridiculously amazing hoisin sauce), shrimp buns (equally awesome), and Nat and Mike ordered the winter special, ham buns (flavored with apple cider and cabbage). Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of these because we were too busy inhaling them.

I kicked off my meal with this ginger beer, which I’m determined to find and buy by the case:

You would think after such an incredible meal at Noodle Bar that we’d be done eating, but somehow the four of us managed to walk (very slowly at first) through the East Village and south to the Lower East Side. Destination: Doughnut Plant, a magical place I’ve been reading about for a couple years and purposely avoiding. I am not a Doughnut Person, mostly because the alternative to a warm, fresh doughnut is gross, dry, and thoroughly unsatisfactory. But when faced with high-quality fresh doughnuts, like the kind you can get at The Vanderbilt and Doughnut Plant, I can’t stop myself.

After waiting on a long but quickly-moving line, I ordered not one but two doughnuts: Coconut Creme, and Peanut Butter Jam.  I have no other word to describe these doughnuts than Perfect. Perfect with a capital P!  Perfect texture (crisp and sticky on the outside, light and chewy on the inside, Perfectly balanced (just sweet enough so that all the flavors shine through, and Perfectly fresh.  And because these doughnuts are so amazing and addictive, I am going to actively avoid them as long as humanly possible.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time! Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

Finally, I am full, after eating a pork bun, a shrimp bun, a bowl of kimchi stew, and two ginormous doughnuts. I’m skipping dinner and going back to work.

Have a great week!

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