Peanut Noodles

1 pound spaghetti or Chinese egg noodles
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, plus more for garnish
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Asian chili paste or to taste (optional)
2 tablespoons light or dark light brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (may use natural peanut butter)
2 to 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (optional)
6 to 10 tablespoons hot water
Salt, as needed
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Cucumber slices
Carrot sticks
Red, orange or yellow bell pepper slices
Fresh cilantro or mint leaves

Cook the pasta according to package directions, and drain it well. If a cold dish is desired, rinse the pasta under cold running water to cool, and drain again.

Meanwhile, in a small pot over medium-low heat, heat the peanut oil. Add the scallions, ginger, garlic and, if desired, chili paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the brown sugar, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar if desired and 6 tablespoons hot water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture smooths out.

Remove from the heat. If necessary, add additional hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve the desired consistency. Taste and add more soy sauce or salt, as needed.

Return the hot or cold noodles to the pot in which they were cooked, add the sesame oil and toss to coat. Add as much of the peanut sauce as desired and toss again to coat. Transfer to a serving bowl or individual plates and sprinkle with additional scallions, sesame seeds, cucumber, carrot, bell pepper and cilantro or mint. (May cover and refrigerate up to several hours.)

Note: You can toss raw, julienne carrots and bell peppers or steamed snow peas and broccoli with the noodles and peanut sauce. Leftover sauce can be refrigerated and served with cooked rice and raw or cooked vegetables.

Smoked Trout Rillettes

1/2 pound smoked salmon or trout, skin and bones removed
2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Finely grated zest of a lemon
2 tablespoons minced chives or parsley
About 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish, or to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste
Pickled mustard seeds or trout caviar (optional)

Break up the trout salmon and place in bowl, along with the sour cream, butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and chives. Use a heavy fork to mash everything together. You want a rough spread, not a smooth pate. Add more butter if the rillettes look dry.

Add salt, pepper and horseradish to taste.

Cover the rillettes with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for an hour or so before serving. Spoon over some pickled mustard seeds or caviar when you serve.

Once made, pack the rillettes tightly into jars; try to get as many air pockets out as you can. Once packed, melt some butter over the top of the rillettes, cover and store in the fridge. It will keep for at least a week this way, and up to 2 weeks if you keep resealing the butter cap between each use. You can also freeze the finished rillettes for several months.

La Jiao Jiang (Hot Chili Sauce)

1 pound hot red chili peppers (Fresno, red jalapeño, cayenne, Thai, etc., or a mix of all of them)
1 red bell pepper (to tame heat, if needed)
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Cut hot chili peppers into smallish chunks, including green caps (but not stems).

Chop in a food processor to a chunky paste. Taste to determine heat. If it is too hot, add bell pepper a chunk at a time to lower the heat level. Continue to process to your desired heat level and consistency.

Mix in the vinegar and salt.

Put in a glass pint jar, attach top loosely, and let sit for a day at room temperature to develop the flavor.

Seal tightly and refrigerate up to several weeks.

Chinese Tea Eggs

12 large eggs

Marinade
4 tablespoons light soy sauce or soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce or soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
1 star anise
1 small cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 black tea bags or 2 tablespoons black tea leaves
2 1/2 cups water

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a small pot. Cook over medium heat until bringing to a boil. Turn to medium-low heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from your stove and let cool completely. Once done, remove and discard the tea bags.

To boil the eggs, heat a pot of water (enough to cover all the eggs) over high heat until boiling. Turn to low heat. Carefully place the eggs in the pot using a ladle, to prevent the eggs from cracking.

Boil 5 minutes for soft-boiled eggs, 7 minutes for medium eggs, or 10 minutes for hard-boiled eggs.

While cooking the eggs, prepare an ice bath by combining ice and tap water in a big bowl.

Once the eggs are cooked, immediately transfer them to the ice bath to cool for 2 to 3 minutes. If you don’t have ice on hand, simply run cool tap water over the eggs for a couple minutes until they cool down.

Gently crack the eggs using the back of a spoon. You want to make sure the egg shells are cracked enough so the marinade will reach the interior, without cracking the eggs apart (especially if you made soft boiled eggs). If you’re in a hurry, you can also peel the eggs and marinate them peeled. The eggs will be ready in 12 hours this way.

Transfer the eggs to a quart-size ziplock bag, then carefully pour in the marinade along with the dry ingredients. Marinate overnight for peeled eggs, or 24 hours for cracked “marble” eggs. You can store the eggs in the marinade for 4 to 5 days in the fridge.

Peel the eggs and enjoy them cold or at room temperature!

Recipe Note: the recipe uses a quart-size ziplock bag to marinate the eggs, so you won’t need as much marinating liquid. Double the amount of marinade if you’re planning to marinate the eggs in a container