Friday recipe: blame the sauce

No matter what you eat, no matter how good or bad your dining habits are, there’s an unspoken law that food on a plate should not move unless pushed around with a fork. But National Public Radio science writer Robert Krulwich serves up a very movable feast, in which the main course – squid, which, with head removed, is emphatically dead – practically dances off the plate. (Watch the cool video!)

If I'm going to eat you, be still.

Why? Blame the sauce. As Krulwich explains, the salt in the applied soy sauce caused the squid’s muscles to fire. “Because this squid was just killed, its muscle cells were still intact and operational. A live squid moves its tentacles by sending an electrical command from its brain to its muscles,” he says. “The commands say ‘contract’ or ‘relax.’ But since this animal lost its head, its brain can’t send signals. Salt acts as a substitute.”

I’m not sure I could have sunk teeth in that squid, but all this sounds like a pretty nifty trick to whip out at my next dinner party. In the meantime, here are two recipes with delicious sauces that will get you – but, thankfully, not the food on your plate – moving.

Spring rolls with vinegar dipping sauce
For the summer rolls:

  • 2 ounces Vietnamese or Thai rice noodles
  • 6 rice paper rounds
  • 1/4 cup, or 12 fresh Thai basil leaves (or regular basil leaves), rinsed and dried
  • 6 medium shrimp, cooked and halved, or 3/4 cup cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup or 12 whole large fresh mint leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 3 red-leaf lettuce leaves, leaves, spines removed, leaving 6 halves
  • Vinegar dipping sauce (recipe below)

Bring water to a boil and cook rice noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse and cool (makes about 2 cups).

Line up ingredients in small bowls before beginning to make rolls. Fill a large bowl or saucepan with very warm water. Place a rice paper round in the hot water. Soak for between 30 seconds and 1 minute, or until rice round is pliable and pattern on the round is barely visible. Remove and place on a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel.

Place 2 basil leaves on the inner edge of the rice round, about 1-inch from the edge and leaving about 1-inch on each side. Top with approximately 1/4 cup cooked rice noodles. Place 2 shrimp halves or a portion of the chicken on top. Top with about 2 tablespoons carrots, then 2 leaves of mint. Fold 1 piece of lettuce leaf and place on top of pile. Bring the edge over filling and tuck underneath. As you continue to roll, fold in the sides. Finish rolling, repeat with the other rolls, and reserve under a damp cloth or paper towel. When ready to serve, slice in half and serve, cut ends up, with dipping sauce.

Vinegar dipping sauce

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons warm water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili sauce (I recommend Sriracha)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded carrot
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced

Dissolve sugar in warm water, combine with other ingredients, and chill until ready to use.


Lentil spaghetti sauce

  • 1 tablespoon broth or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 cup uncooked red lentils
  • 2 cups water or beef broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 5 1/2-ounce can tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

In a large saucepan, cook onion and garlic in oil for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Add lentils and water (or broth). Cover and cook on low heat until lentils are tender (20-35 minutes). Add tomato paste, 3/4 cup water and seasonings. Cover and cook until lentils are soft and mushy (about 10-15 minutes). Serve over cooked spaghetti. If desired, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

Leave a Reply