Dear Ted Allen:

You are my favorite Iron Chef judge, and you were my favorite Queer Eye guy. I want to love your cookbook, but I’m still having some growing pains with it. It’s not that I don’t think the recipes are good; I just need more trial runs, or I need better glasses. Over the weekend I made the Sesame-Peanut Noodles and the Shrimp with a Sesame Dipping Sauce to go with them. See how nice and fancy my presentation was? You inspired me to get crafty.

The problem was the sesame-peanut sauce for the noodles. I misread your directions and used regular soy sauce, and it was so salty that I added more peanut butter to cut down on the strong flavor. This made the texture of the noodles rather chewy and very peanut buttery. Next time maybe I’ll actually read the recipe correctly and buy low-sodium soy sauce.

The shrimp were tasty, but cold by the time we ate them. And I literally put them on the plate last and we sat right down to eat. I am still learning kitchen tricks like warming the plates before serving, and I’ve decided that nothing gets cold faster than shrimp on a skewer. This might be worth a note in your next book for us novices, but I don’t blame you for this glitch. Nobody else thinks to tell me to do things in their cookbooks like warm the plates, either.

So I haven’t given up yet. I will try the short ribs again someday, and I will just work on changing whatever made that dish so greasy. I’m committed to making this relationship work if you are.

Sesame-Peanut Noodles (serves 4, I cut everything in half for 2)

Kosher salt
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup roasted peanuts
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
2 medium garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 English cucumber
1 lb soba noodles (I used spaghettini)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 scallions, green parts only, sliced 1/4″ thick on an angle

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Toast the sesame seeds on medium heat in a dry skillet. Stir frequently, until they become golden brown, about 5 minutes.

In a food processor, combine peanut butter, peanuts, soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, mirin, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Stir in half of the toasted sesame seeds.

Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lenthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and slice on the short angle (so the pieces look like crescent moons).

When the water boils, add the noodles and cook according to box directions. Drain and pour the noodles into a bowl. Add the peanut butter mixture, cilantro, and the pepper; mix. Sprinkle with scallions and cucumber pieces.

Shrimp with a Sesame Dipping Sauce (serves 4, but I made this amount for 2)

For the marinade and shrimp:
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons sake or dry sherry (I used sherry)
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
20 large shrimp (about 1-1 1/4 lbs). peeled and deveined, tails left on (I took my tails off)

For the sesame dipping sauce:
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 small garlic clove, grated

1. Soak 4 12″ skewers in water (I use a pitcher). The original recipe calls for 8 skewers and double-skewering, I did not do this.

2. 15 minutes before you’re ready to cook the shrimp, make the marinade. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and add the shrimp. Set aside for no longer than 20 minutes (Ted says any longer and the acid in the marinade will start to “cook” the shrimp).

3. Combine all the dipping sauce ingredients into a medium bowl. Divide dipping sauce among 4 small bowls (i did 2).

4. Skewer the shrimp by shoving the pointy end of a skewer through the fattest part of the shrimp and thread it down to the bottom of the skewer. Repeat until you have 5 shrimp on a skewer. If double skewering, take the 2nd skewer and thread it through the shrimp parallel to your first skewer.

5. Preheat a grill or grill pan (I used a grill pan). For the grill pan, I drizzled a thin stream of olive oil on. Grill the shrimp, turning once, “until they turn from translucent gray to an opague, pinky orange color and are lightly browned.” This takes about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Do not overcook! Shrimp get tough very easily.

6. Serve each skewer (or 2) with a bowl of dipping sauce.