The 21st night of September, the Autumn equinox and the Mid-Autumn Festival, I split a rich, flaky mooncake with my partner. It’s officially fall this week, but it doesn’t feel like it yet.
In Los Angeles, it’s hot. And there are still tons of beautiful eggplant and tomatoes at the farmers’ market, including teeny, sweet sungolds. I recently halved a pint and let them sit in a little salt until they softened and ran with pale, syrupy juice, to make Eric Kim’s cold noodles with tomatoes for dinner.
I love this dish. It’s fast, hydrating and delicious, perfect for when you’re hot and tired and even your clothes feel boggy. The mustardy, vinegary dressing will taste quite strong when you first mix it, but after you add some cold water to mellow it out, it becomes a kind of no-cook broth to season noodles and sliced radishes. Eric suggests using somyeon, a very thin wheat noodle, but I made it with an inky spaghetti because that’s what I had.
One important note: Don’t skip the last step of adding crushed ice! A tough blender turns cubes into a soft, powdery snow in seconds, and you don’t even have to wash it after. The dish is closely related to Korean naengmyeon, and my favorite part is those first few life-affirming bites, when all the tiny, fragile ice crystals are still in the process of disappearing, melting away almost before they reach your tongue.
If you’re looking for more cooling dishes, try Ruth Reichl’s basic recipe for a chilled eggplant salad. The eggplant is marinated simply in fish sauce and lime juice, with chiles, garlic and herbs. (Sub in a vegetarian fish sauce — more on that below!) I like to make extra now, when the eggplant is so good, and keep it in the fridge to snack on, or to add to a bowl of rice with washed lettuce leaves and lots of herbs. You can roast the eggplant or broil it, if you don’t want to bother standing over the stove.
My kitchen counter is also full of corn, the silks clinging to everything. I don’t mind, and I’m not waiting for a chill in the air to make Sarah Jampel’s spicy corn and coconut soup. It’s comforting on its own, but I do like it with all of the toppings she suggests: chile oil, peanuts and cashews, fried shallots (along with a drizzle of the oil you fried the shallots in!) and some torn herbs.
And before corn disappears from the market, I want to make Vallery Lomas’s corn fritters and have them with a side of mint chutney. Darun Kwak, the Veggie’s product manager, makes her Korean corn cheese with canned corn year round, but right now it’s magic with a heap of raw, milky kernels cut right off the cob. So sweet, you can forget the sugar.
One More Thing!
There are so many vegan and vegetarian varieties of fish sauce out there right now, each trying to approximate the deep, yawning saltiness of the fishy version, and each reaching varying depths of umami and brine in different, resourceful ways.
If you’ve yet to try any, check out the cookbook author Andrea Nguyen’s notes on varieties, which I found so helpful, as well as her tips for making your own approximation using pineapple juice, and other stuff, too.