This week's recipe is an Asian-inspired appetizer or side-dish from Mark Bittman's latest, the Food Matters Cookbook (Simon & Schuster). Bittman is an oft-used resource for the BookPage staff; his French toast recipe is a sentimental favorite of our nonfiction editor, Kate Pritchard, who made it the morning she got engaged. Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt is also a fan: she deems his new book "a super source of 500 'less-meatarian' recipes that invite you to consider grains, veggies and legumes as the core of your daily meals" in her October column.

Crisp Noodle Cake with Stir-Fried Greens and Shrimp


Makes: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes

A noodle cake makes a fantastic side dish, snack, or base for a stir-fry, where it soaks up all of the savory juices. You don’t need much else to call this a meal, though a beer alongside wouldn’t hurt.

Ingredients

1 1?2 pounds bok choy, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), tatsoi, or other Asian green
Salt
8 ounces any rice, buckwheat (soba), or wheat noodle, preferably whole grain
3 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 fresh hot chile (like jalapeno or Thai), seeded and minced, or to taste
Black pepper
8 ounces shrimp, peeled (see page 22)
1?2 cup chopped scallions
1?2 cup chopped peanuts, optional

Instructions

1. Cut the leaves from the stems of the bok choy. Trim the stems and cut them into 1-inch pieces; cut the leaves into bite-size pieces or ribbons. Rinse everything well.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the noodles until tender but not mushy. Check them frequently: The time will vary from a minute or 2 for thin rice noodles, to 5 minutes for soba, or up to 12 minutes for wide brown rice noodles. Drain them and rinse with cold water. Toss the noodles with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil.

3. Put 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the noodles and press down a bit. Cook, pressing down occasionally, until brown and crisp on the bottom (adjust the heat so the noodles brown but do not burn). Carefully put a large dish over the skillet and flip it to turn out the cake. Add a little more oil to the pan, swirl it around, and gently slide the cake off the plate and back into the skillet, uncooked side down, all in one piece. Brown the other side, then slide it onto a platter. (At this point you can cut the cake into 4 wedges, or wait and roughly break it apart after topping.)

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add the ginger, garlic, and chile and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bok choy stems, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stems just lose their crunch, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the shrimp to the pan along with the bok choy leaves, scallions, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, and 1?2 cup water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates and the stems are very tender, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more soy sauce if necessary. Serve the stir-fry over the noodle cake, topped with peanuts if you like.

Crisp Noodle Cake with Stir-Fried Greens and Tofu.
Instead of the shrimp, cut 8 ounces extra-firm tofu into cubes and dry on paper towels.

Proceed with the recipe.

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Recipe reprinted from Mark Bittman's The Food Matters Cookbook (Simon & Schuster), copyright 2010, with permission from the publisher. All rights reserved.

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