When most people think of Florida, Disney World, Miami Beach and the Everglades are sure to come to mind. Having lived here for more than ten years, I’ve discovered many lesser known, naturally beautiful places hidden within this big state. Rainbow River is one of them. Located in Central Florida, it is a natural fresh water spring, with year-round water temperature of 75 F (22 C), which is a very refreshing and welcome temperature in the middle of summer. Filtered through the earth, crystal clear, and turquoise in colour, the water is absolutely irresistible, and diving in will remain one of the fondest memories from this summer for me. The banks are woodsy and picturesque, with Spanish moss hanging from the trees. We visited the river a few weeks back for a very quiet and relaxing few days.
This time we stayed in a cabin at a small, rustic campground where Rainbow river meets Withlacoochee River. Our cabin was great, complete with an all-wood interior, a porch lined with rocking chairs, and, most importantly, a full kitchen.
For breakfast, we ate a whole lot of this musli.
One of the favourite dishes I made for dinner was these amazingly flavorful mung bean (or cellophane) noodles with crispy vegetables. I adapted the idea from one of my (and everyone else’s!) favorite cookbooks at the moment, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.
Our cabin faced the tropical forest and we hardly saw any people at the campgrounds.
There was a boardwalk leading from the cabin to the river, right through the forest. It looked magical when lit up at night. The mornings and evenings were especially quiet, the kind of silence you miss when living in the city. Now back home, back to work, and back to school.
Cellophane Noodles with Crispy Vegetables
for the sauce
juice of 4 limes
2 tablespoons minced ginger
3 tablespoons peanut or other nut oil
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
2 teaspoons seedless tamarind paste – optional
1 teaspoon tamari
1 teaspoon sea salt
to make the sauce
Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
for the noodles
about 8 oz mung beans vermicelli or other clear noodles
1 handful green beans – ends trimmed and strings removed (if present)
1 handful sugar snaps or snow peas – strings removed
1 cup shelled frozen edamame
1 cup fresh or frozen shelled green peas
2 tablespoons grapeseed or sunflower oil
3 garlic cloves – crushed with knife
1 red chili – seeded and chopped
3 green onions – thinly sliced
1 cup basil leaves, plus more for garnish
handful mint leaves – chopped
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes – halved or quartered
about 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds – optional
to prepare the noodles and vegetables
1. Soak the noodles in a large bowl of hot water for 5 minutes. Drain over a colander and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Blanch the green beans for 4 minutes, remove from the water with a slotted spoon and run under very cold water or submerge into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process.
3. Throw the sugar snaps, edamame and peas into the boiling water next and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain over a colander and immediately transfer into an ice-water bath or rinse with very cold water. Once cool, drain and pat dry with kitchen or paper towels.
4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic and saute until it turns golden, remove from the heat. Add the sauce and noodles, stir gently to combine.
5. Add the chili, green onions, all the blanched vegetables, basil, mint and cherry tomatoes. Return the pan to the heat for a few seconds, stirring, just to warm everything through. Taste and adjust salt if needed.
6. Divide between bowls, garnish with sesame seeds and remaining basil leaves.
Note: You can adjust your vegetables to what is available at the moment or what you have on hand. If frozen peas or edamame is the only choice, the dish will still be delicious. Same with herbs – cilantro, parsley or dill in addition to or instead of basil and mint would work great as well.