Being on leave from work still, thanks to a tailbone injury that occurred during delivery (super fun), I’ve been using the ten free minutes I get here and there to explore a multitude of hobbies. On top of cooking and knitting, I’ve been writing (obviously not this blog, sorry), illustrating, and, as of this weekend, learning piano again on the barely-used keyboard I just bought, which now sits invitingly in our garage until I can sneak out and reverently plunk a few keys. Because why be really good at one thing when you can be okay at many?
Of course, I don’t actually get to devote that much time to any of my hobbies, with Phoebe dominating my days. She’s six months old now, a real person who smiles and laughs and cries for reasons other than being hungry or tired. She loves spending time outside, staring in wonder at passing butterflies, grabbing any leaves she can reach, and grasping at blades of grass with all of her fingers and toes. She loves the cats, grinning in the way that makes her little nose scrunch up and making an excited “kchhhh” sound whenever she catches sight of them. All animals at play make her laugh, and she loves interacting with dogs, her hands coming up around their sniffing snouts as if she can’t believe her eyes. Her favorite teether is a piece of celery (a fresh one every day, I’m not a monster), and she sometimes likes to eat mashed avocado, banana with nut butter, or homemade applesauce with puréed spinach. She can roll over, sit on her own, and stand assisted, little legs locked and a look of pure glee on her face. She now has one tooth. She’s a joy.
Our days are busy and not always relaxing, but we still have our quiet moments. When she falls asleep nursing before a nap, she often leaves her hand open: tiny, plump fingers like soft petals on a newly bloomed flower. I place my finger in her warm, open palm, and it closes, sedate and inevitable as a sea anemone.
Needless to say, I have had to alter my cooking style lately to involve dishes that take an hour or less to make. Anything more and we’re eating at 9pm, which is less than ideal. So we often have meals like this one, which don’t take much time at all and, bonus, don’t result in a ton of dirty dishes. It’s also super satisfying.
Jonji has dubbed this meal an “instant classic,” which is our way of saying it’s a winner and basically means I could make it every week and he wouldn’t get tired of it. But it also means it’s delicious, and one of those dishes that’s hard to eat just one bowl of. It’s a little spicy, with lots of flavor that’s enhanced by crunchy peanuts and spots of crunchy bok choy. I use dried ramen noodles here and it works really well—I wouldn’t splurge and get some fancy, fresh ramen noodles for this (save those for real ramen bowls).
Spicy Peanut Chicken Noodles with Bok Choy
serves 4 / adapted from Ali Slagle’s recipe, The New York Times Cooking
6 tbsp salted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
large strips of rind from half an orange
1/2 cup olive oil (or neutral oil)
1 1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
sesame oil, for cooking
1 lb ground chicken
12 oz ramen noodles
3–4 heads baby bok choy
2 tbsp soy sauce
handful of cilantro, chopped
sliced chili peppers (optional)
Heat a large 12-inch pan over medium-high heat. In a medium heatproof bowl, mix the red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and sesame oil, and set aside.
When the pan’s hot, add the olive oil and, once it starts to shimmer, add the peanuts and orange rind. Cook, stirring every now and then, until the peanuts are golden, roughly 3-5 minutes. Immediately pour into the red pepper flake mixture and stir. Set aside.
Wash and chop the bok choy into rough, bite-sized pieces, keeping the stems separate from the leaves. Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add a glug of sesame or olive oil and wait for the pan to fully heat, another couple of minutes. Add the stems and cook for a 3-6 minutes, until softened. Add the leaves and the 2 tbsp soy sauce and toss until the leaves are just wilted. Taste and add salt if needed. Drain excess water in the pan, if you’d like. Set aside.
Heat a medium pot of lightly salted water over high heat. Cook your ramen noodles according to the package instructions, then drain. Toss with a little sesame oil to avoid sticking.
Heat the same 12-inch pan that you used for the peanut oil over medium-high heat. Add a couple small glugs of sesame or olive oil and, once the pan is really hot (the oil should be shimmering), add the ground chicken and press into an even layer. Let cook for about 5 minutes on one side, then flip and let cook for another few minutes on the other. Break the ground chicken into small pieces and cook until lightly browned (add more oil if it’s sticking or not browning properly).
Discard the orange rind, then mix the bowl of spicy peanut oil into the ground chicken. Stir in the ramen noodles and coat everything thoroughly in the oil. Stir in the bok choy.
Serve hot, with cilantro and sliced chili peppers (if using) sprinkled on top. Enjoy!