Jessica Fechtor was a young grad student with a bright limitless future. She had a husband and together they talked about starting a family. Then one day as she was running on a treadmill at a gym in New York she suffered a brain aneurism. This left her with no sense of smell and no sight in her left eye, and very weak, yet she was alive. She had brain surgery to stop the bleeding that was going on in her brain and slowly started the recovery process. As soon as she was able to stand she started cooking as a sort of therapy as she mourned her old life and embraced her new one.
I browsed through her recipes and read snippets of her book, Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home, which pulled me into her story quickly, and decided to try the Sesame Noodles. I find that I rarely follow these recipes exactly, perhaps I have an aversion to conformity. I did not have scallions; in fact, I rarely see those oniony things in the grocery store. So I used good old yellow onions. I added frozen peas because I wanted this to be more of a main dish. My family’s reaction was mixed. Overall the noodles were good, but needed a dash of soy sauce as you ate them. I liked the frozen pea addition, some children did not. The toasted sesame seeds did not seem to add to the flavor and just ended up getting stuck in everyone’s teeth. I think the sesame oil gives enough of the toasted flavor and so I wouldn’t use sesame seeds next time (although I do need to find a use for the giant container of sesame seeds that I bought). The addition of chicken would have been wonderful, but I didn’t happen to have any on hand. The noodles had a very light sweet taste and the consensus was that yes I should make them again sans sesame seeds.
Julia’s Sesame Noodles
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 pound dry angel hair pasta or spaghetti
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Crushed red pepper
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet on the stovetop, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until the seeds are fragrant and take on a bit of color. Set aside
Place the garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar into a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Removed from heat and set aside.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add the pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, transfer to a large bowl, immediately pour in the sauce, and toss. Let the noodles cool to room temperature. Gently mix in the toasted sesame seeds, the scallions, a pinch or two of crushed red pepper, and whatever else you’d like to add just before serving. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
SERVES 4 to 6