It was a few years ago when I realized that I never seemed to have the right ingredients on hand for recipes like this. They can be hard to find and over priced in your average grocery store. I make it a habit now to go once a year to a Chinese supermarket and stock up on all the sauces, noodles, oils and pastes I can carry. So when I came across a tasty looking sesame-peanut recipe I was ready to play and make it my own. It was few months ago that I tried this dish for the first time and since then I’ve made it three times. It’s the sort of meal you can serve any time of the year and it’s definitely on my current [mental] list of go-to dinners. So what do I want to say about this noodle salad? It goes quickly. Who knew that peanuts went so well with so many contrasting ingredients? Ginger, lime, rice wine, soy sauce, tahini – they all come together to make a nutty-tangy sort of sweet and salty perfection. This is simple kitchen chemistry at its best. Since the sauce is a little decadent –the yummy peanut butter and tahini sauce are to blame - I like to play around with hearty power vegetables like kale and broccoli and bright refreshing ones like cucumber and red onion. The color combo ain’t to bad either, the greens and purples make a pretty palette.
This is a feel good, comfort food dish and since it makes really good leftovers, you might find that you’re feeling good the next day or two. Its quite filling so I serve it in a small bowl, oh and I eat it with chopsticks – so it feels a little like take out, but healthier.
Chilled Sesame-Ginger Peanut Noodle Salad PRINT RECIPE
[Prep: 25 minutes / Cooking: 5 minutes / TOTAL: 30 minutes]
[Serves 4 small dinner sized portions]
[This recipe was inspired by Andrew Zimmerman’s version as seen in Food and Wine.]
This noodle salad recipe is super easy and there’s literally no cooking involved. Start out with the veggies. The broccoli should be washed and cut into bite sized pieces, the cucumber peeled, de-seeded and cut into little half moon slices. Likewise with the red onion, it should be peeled and slivered – here you could use scallions instead if you like. The kale should be washed and de-stemmed – just slice the leaf along the stem nearly to the top on each side. The stem can be tough and bitter, especially if uncooked. I should point out here that the kale doesn’t have to be purple – it just creates a nice color contrast with the rest of the greens, any other leafy green can be substituted. Put all of the veggies in a large bowl – large enough to accommodate the noodles that will be mixed in at the end. These last three steps should be done over the large bowl: squeeze the ½ lime, press the peeled garlic clove and grate the peeled ginger with a zester/micro grater. Mix all the ingredients together. The acidity in the lime will help to break down the tougher veggies a little – think of it as a marinade.
There are many types of noodles that will work for this dish. I had half a packet of soba noodles in my pantry, but you could even use linguine – though I would break the pasta in half before boiling. I was happy to only have half a packet because I wanted this to be more of a noodle salad than noodle heavy dish. Fill your pot with 8 cups of water, cover and turn the heat on high. It should take about 5 minutes to come to a boil. [You should have enough time to prepare the sauce while waiting for the water to heat up – see the directions below]. Once it’s boiling, add the soba noodles and leave uncovered. Wait for the water to come back to a boil and then add 1 cup cold water and wait for the water to boil one last time. [These directions are specifically for those using soba noodles]. Before straining the noodles in a colander over the sink, reserve about a 1/3 cup of the noodle water.
Now onto the sauce. I use a small bullet blender for the next step but a mini food processor will also work. As for the peanut butter I tried to find one with no sugar and low salt, but all I could find was a low sugar and salt variety – because of this I used 1 tablespoon of sugar and no extra salt. Add the peanut oil, peanut butter, tahini paste, sugar, mirin, rice vinegar and soy sauce to the blender and mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated. The consistency should be thick - it will be thinned out with the reserved noodle water later.
All that’s really left to do is mix everything together. First toss the noodles with the veggies, add the sesame seeds and red pepper flakes and then alternate incorporating the Sesame-Ginger Peanut sauce and the reserved water a little at a time. Mix well each time. Everything should be coated well with the sauce. If you have time to wait to eat, put the noodle salad in the fridge for about 15 minutes so it gets chilled. If not, eat it warm tonight and then cold tomorrow!
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