“C” Is For Cold Capellini
Despite the respectable effort of window displays everywhere and pretty little fashion magazines who would like us to believe that the next season is upon us and seduce us into stocking up on goose-down parkas or snuggy scarfs, the truth is that the chances of heatwaves is right around the corner on any given Wednesday, and will last well into October for the freakier parts of the world at least. This is a confession coming from a dark corner inside a pre-season shopaholic who, almost every year, excitedly opens a box full of winter goodies sometime in September while sweating profusely in her tank-tops and couldn’t stop the idea of downing a bowl of something really cold… ANYTHING cold.
One might say that cold noodle is hardly an innovative breakthrough to be introduced anywhere. But if I may, it is the Japanese who is the mastermind of injecting FUN into EATING it, and those who have had cold soba or somen would know that I’m referring to a brilliant technique called the DIP’N SLURP. Do not underestimate the simple idea of dipping and slurping. Beside the obvious bonus of adding some much-needed-playfulness into what really is a deconstructed good-old-BORING-cold-noodle-salad, it wasn’t until I made it that I realized the true genius of such an idea lies else where. This seemingly-gimmiky arrangement actually serves a purpose in allowing the two component – the dips and the dipped – to remain at two different temperatures. As in Japanese somen (a thin hair-like noodle) is often served still submerged in iced water while the dip and garnishes are at room temperature. Which then of course also let the noodle retain its ideal texture without soaking up excess liquid and becomes soggy.
Of course there is nothing wrong with writing a post featuring just the good-old Japanese soba or somen. But frankly, I’m quite tired of hearing myself say, “these can be purchased from major Asian supermarket or online… blah blah blah”, AS IF ANYONE is really going to find that motivating. So I put together something that requires NO trip to Chinatown or towns-of-any-sort, and just stuff that can be easily purchased from ANY groceries, a classic Italian staple with a bit of Japanese flair. By the way I am SO doing this out of the consideration for everyone’s convenience and NOT for my own personal unwillingness to step outside my apartment. Really.
As far as a semi-compromise goes, it has OUTDID itself for this is the MOST refreshing, satisfying, heat-flash-reducing cold noodle I’ve had in many summers combined. So good as in I-wish-I-could-order-this-from-an-Italian-restaurant GOOD, and believe me I have high standards for what constitute an Italian Restaurant. The cold capellini yields a chewier texture than hot, and the chilled tomato sauce enhances the tangy-ness of the tomato with a hint of added spiciness. It would throw me into a struggle for the hot-OR-cold even after the winter has actually arrived. And you should totally make it before it does.
Tomato Sauce: (for 4 servings)
- 5 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 480 g of canned peeled tomatoes (2 cans)
- 3 cloves of grated garlic
- 1/4 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- approx 3 tsp of salt
- 2 ~ 3 tsp of tabasco sauce
Flavored Oil: (for 2 servings)
- 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of grated garlic
- 1 tsp of thyme leaves
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 1/8 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp of chopped basils
Capellini: (for 2 servings)
- 250 g of capellini or angel hair (1/2 package)
- 1 tbsp of the flavored oil (from above)
- Parmigiano cheese
- Some chopped basils
Puree the canned tomatoes in a blender until there’s no visible lumps. Heat up 5 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pot and saute the grated garlic until fragrant but NOT BROWNED. Add in the pureed tomatoes, salt and black pepper and simmer until reduced by 1/3 (you will have 2/3 of the original volume left). You might want to partially lid the pot because tomato sauce tends to splatter even on simmer.
During which I could prepare the flavored oil. I like it simple with just garlic and thyme, but if somebody feels strongly about other fresh herbs – go ahead by all means. In a small sauce pot, combine the extra virgin olive oil with thyme leaves. Set it over medium heat until the thyme starts to pop. Then add the grated garlic, salt and peppers, and whatever herbs of your choice, stir until fragrant. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool (the chopped basil is for later).
Once the sauce is reduced by 1/3, turn off the heat, add the tabasco sauce and stir to combine. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide the tomato sauce into 2 or 4 separate containers (I just combine my serving with my hubby’s because that’s one dish less to wash), and refrigerate until completely chilled. At least 5 hours or overnight. The tomato sauce can be prepared days ahead.
Bring a large pot of water with a big pinch of salt to boil and cook the capellini. Right when it’s al dente, remove it from the cooking water and shock it in iced water or rinse under cold water until completely cold. Make sure to drain the excess water REALLY REALLY well. NO drippy drips of any kind. Toss the capellini with 1 tbsp of the flavored oil to avoid sticking, then arrange it on a plate and grate Parmigiano cheese all over. Take the tomato sauce out of the fridge and add the rest of the flavored oil and chopped basil on top with a couple turns of freshly ground black pepper.
Serve it while it’s cold.