But does eating less meat have to be a sacrifice? Absolutely not! I've been cooking a lot of vegetarian dishes just because they're easy, delicious, work well as leftovers, and as long as your not trying to match the calorie per dollar density of fast food, cheap.
This recipe is a savory miso sauce covering udon noodles and caramelized onions with spinach and sesame seeds. It has a rich sweet and sour flavor and the sauce has a rich consistency.
So what does it take?
1/2 to 1 lb udon noodles (substitute fettuccine if not available)
1 cup sliced onions (preferably red)
1-2 cups spinach
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp black sesame seeds (optional)
2 cloves minced or chopped garlic
2 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil (substitute vegetable oil if unavailable)
2 tbsp miso
1/4 cup mirin (sweet cooking sake)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
The first step is to cook the noodles, while that is cooking, mix the sauce and caramelize the onions. Once the onions are caramelized, we add the garlic and ginger then the sauce, finally the spinach and noodles. After the spinach wilts we'll add the lemon juice and sesame seeds. This is all quick and easy when well timed.
Step 1: Cook the Udon Noodles
I recommend getting a strainer or colander ready and making sure your noodle spoon is out. Digging dirty utensils out of the dishwasher and washing them while something is on the burner is no fun.
Fill up your pot with water and set the burner on high. Add some salt, only enough to boil and help with texture, the miso will add all the salt we need to the recipe.
Once the water boils and we add our Udon noodles, turn the heat down, cover and let boil while we stir up some miso sauce.
Step 2: Mix Miso Sauce
Rice vinegar and Mirin are also special items. You can substitute rice vinegar with either cider vinegar with a pinch of sugar or with a 3 to 1 mixture of white vinegar and water. Mirin is sweet cooking sake (rice wine). Essentially, it's Japan's answer to cooking wine. The only acceptable substitute seems to be a 3 to 1 mixture of sake and sugar.
For this step we'll need
1 small mixing bowl
2 tbsp miso
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup water
Add everything in the mixing bowl and stir till thoroughly mixed, don't worry if some pieces of miso don't completely dissolve, we'll take care of that in the pan.
You are probably better off using a whisk or spoon, the chop stick stirring method I used in the photos was slower than necessary.
Step 3: Clean Spinach and Slice Onions
Step 4: Drain the Noodles
I usually run about a 1/4 cup of cold water over the noodles after draining and then strain again. If you are using a colander, you can just run cold water over the noodles after they've drained. This is supposed to keep them from getting mushy, it seems to work.
Once the noodles are off the heat and out of the water, set them aside and begin cooking the onions.
Step 5: Caramelize Onions
a 3qt frying or sauce pan
1 tbsp sesame oil
Heat up the oil in the pan and add the onions, cook them until they are caramelized. If you are using white or yellow onions, this is just until they are about to begin carbonizing.
Step 6: Add Garlic, Ginger and Sauce
2 cloves of chopped garlic
2 tbsp of ginger
mixed miso sauce
As soon as the onions are caramelized, add the garlic and ginger and stir well. I use chopped or minced garlic from a jar. It's much easier to deal with than chopping some fresh cloves and I don't mind sacrificing that much quality for the convenience. The same goes for the ginger. I've heard that ginger powder is a perfectly acceptable substitute for most dishes, but I prefer the pureed ginger in a tube from the produce section of the grocery store. It's more expensive than fresh ginger, but it's much easier to deal with than grating fresh ginger and mixes better than powdered ginger.
Optionally, if you like a spicier version of this dish, then add a touch of vegetable curry paste. I use close to 1/4 tsp.
After everything is thoroughly mixed, pour in the miso sauce that we mixed earlier. Make sure that everything is mixed well. If there are any pieces of miso that didn't get mixed into the sauce enough, now would be a good time to break them up.
On a medium heat, let everything come to a bubble. The sauce should be thickened nicely. Now we are ready for the spinach.
Step 7: Add Spinach and Udon Noodles
Step 8: Add Lemon Juice and Sesame Seeds
After everything is properly distributed, it's done. Serve hot. I can't really give an account of how this does as leftovers since there are never any leftovers when I make this.