No Sweat

What kind of crazy person would recommend diving into a steamy bowl of lava-hot spicy soup in the middle of a heat wave? As temperatures flirt with the 100-degree mark in much of the country, one’s natural impulse might be to crawl into the freezer and eat all the ice cream while waiting for the blaze to subside. Instead, consider the human response to capsaicin, the “hot” component of all chilies and peppers which is actually considered an irritant in large doses. To combat that culinary chemical attack, we naturally begin to sweat, which in turn, actually cools the skin.

Suspend disbelief just long enough to embrace the burn, and your pain will likely turn to pleasure. That’s especially true if the hellbroth in question happens to bear the hallmarks of my favorite Thai soup, tom yum. Sometimes it shows up on menus as a romanized “Tom Yam,” which inspired me to pursue that concept more literally. Dropping the more typical addition of rice noodles in favor of spiralized yams, the sweet, sour, and spicy combination gains greater depth, and preparation is coincidentally simplified. Everything goes into one pot, cooks just to a boil, and dinner is served in an instant.

If you can’t stand the heat, literally, feel free to take down the spice level a notch by incorporating a splash of creamy, cooling coconut milk. Although “Tom Kha Yam Noodle Soup” doesn’t quite have the same ring, it definitely has an appetizing allure all its own.

Tom Yam Noodle Soup

1 Medium Yam, Peeled and Spiralized
3 – 4 Cups Mushroom or Vegetable Stock
1 Medium Shallot, Diced
1 Stalk Fresh Lemongrass, Bruised and Roughly Chopped
6 Makrut Lime Leaves, Bruised
1 Inch Fresh Galangal or Ginger, Sliced
1 Medium Roma Tomato, Diced
6 Ounces Medium-Firm Tofu, Cubed
6 Ounces Mixed Mushrooms, (Cremini, Shiitake, Trumpet, Oyster, and/or Straw Mushrooms) Sliced
2 Tablespoons Sambal Oelek
2 Teaspoons Braggs Liquid Aminos
1 1/2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro, Minced (Optional)

Start by spiralizing your peeled yam and placing it in a large stock pot over medium heat on the stove. Add in 3 cups of the stock to generously cover the vegetable noodles, along with the diced shallot.

Bundle up the bruised/chopped lemongrass, lime leaves, and galangal or ginger in a large tea strainer and toss the whole thing into the pot. This allows for a powerful flavor infusion with easy removal later, since these items are too fibrous to comfortably consume.

Add in the tofu, mushrooms, sambal oelek, braggs, and lime juice. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the yam noodles are fork-tender but well before they start falling apart. Divide between two big bowls, top with cilantro if desired, and dig in immediately, while piping hot!

Makes 2 Servings

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Spiraling Out of Control

Will It Noodle? Like the popular series inspired by one particular turbo-charged blender, challenging contenders to step up to the plate for possible processing, the answer is invariably an emphatic yes. Testing the limits of my trusty spiralizer has proven far more gratifying though, since these trials end with delicious strands of vegetables, rather than a pile of useless rubble. Zucchini tends to get all the fame and glory, shredding easily and blending seamlessly with any bold sauce, but there’s a wide range of unsung plant-based options, ripe for the noodling.

Scrounging through the fridge for a more reasonable dinner than greasy takeout or cold cereal, my intention was never to make something worth posting about, and yet the results were too beautiful to ignore. Spinning up an orange-fleshed spud instead of squash started out my bowl with a hearty, substantial base for a southwestern-inspired celebration of summer. What’s more important than the individual components, however, is the basic concept. There’s so much more than just green zucchini out there, perfect for spiralizing. Harder root vegetables can still be eaten raw, but depending on your preference, might be more enjoyable lightly steamed and softened. With that in mind, I would invite you to consider the following alternatives:

  • Sweet Potatoes/Yams
  • Beets
  • Daikon
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Broccoli Stems
  • Turnips
  • Jicama
  • Cucumbers

Don’t stop there. On the sweeter side of the menu, apples can turn into noodle just as easily, along with a full rainbow of more exotic fruits and vegetables. Once you’ve got a spiralizer, you have instant access to endless pasta replacements. Keep on whirling your way through the produce bin with abandon! There are just a few guidelines to determine the best bets for noodling:

  • Don’t use anything with a hollow or highly seeded core
  • Pieces should be at least 2 inches in diameter and 2 inches long to create full strands
  • Firmer, more solid-fleshed options will yield the best results

It feels silly to write out this formula as a full recipe; all quantities and ingredients are entirely adjustable. Not feeling corny? Lose the kernels. Prefer peas? Invite them to the party! In truth, I would have preferred pinto or black beans to fit the theme better, but chickpeas were the only canned legumes in the pantry at the time. Despite that shortcoming, I don’t think the end results particularly suffered. The most important takeaway here is that if you’re wondering, Will It Noodle?, there’s only one way to find out… And it’s almost always a delicious experiment.

Southwestern Sweet Potato Spiral Bowl

8 Ounces Spiralized Sweet Potato, Raw or Lightly Steamed
1/3 Cup Corn Kernels
1/2 Cup Chickpeas
1/2 Avocado, Sliced
1/3 Cup Cherry Tomatoes, Halved
1/4 Cup Salsa
1/2 Cup Shredded Lettuce
1/3 Cup Sliced Bell Peppers

Quick Chipotle Crema

3/4 Cup Raw Cashews
1/2 Cup Water
2 Tablespoons Lime juice
1 Chipotle Chile Canned in Adobo + 2 Tablespoons of the Adobo Sauce
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
2 Teaspoons Nutritional Yeast
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Begin by tossing all of the ingredients for the chipotle crema into your blender and cranking it up to high. Thoroughly puree until completely smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of the containing if needed. You will likely have more crema than needed for one portion, but trust me, you’ll wish there was even more leftover once you taste this stuff. In fact, feel free to double the quantities and save the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Spoon a generous dollop or two of the chipotle crema onto the spiralized sweet potato and toss to thoroughly coat the noodles. Place in a large bowl, and pile the remaining vegetables on top in an attractive pattern (avocado rose not required.) Dig in!

Makes 1 Serving

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