Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cold Veggie Noodle Salad with Creamy Peanut Sauce

Although this recipe is extremely portable, I made it when I actually had time to prepare myself a lunch right before eating it. With a little time off from work over the 4th of July holiday, I took the time to treat myself. Part of that indulgence was grilling some ribs and ordering pizza, but I also took the time to make myself healthy and delicious lunches that felt like treats in themselves and loaded my body with enough nutrients to withstand the caloric onslaught to come. I love Asian-inspired noodle bowls partly for the wonderful palate of flavors they draw from but also because you can throw in almost any veggie, a particular asset when the farmers' market is overflowing. I used bell peppers, scallions, cucumbers, and carrots, eagerly gathering up little bits of a host of vegetables in my fridge, but I was most happy with my use of broccoli stems. They occasionally get made into slaws, but that delicious part of the plant all too often goes to waste when they merely need to have their tough outer peel removed. This garden bounty is accompanied by simple peanut sauce that strikes a masterful balance of richness, acidity, and spiciness, generously flavoring the fresh vegetables and nutty whole wheat noodles without burying them. Whether it's a leisurely day at home or you need to pack a meal-on-the-go, this meal will satisfy your needs in delicious and nutritious fashion.

Cold Veggie Noodle Salad with Creamy Peanut Sauce
adapted from The Kitchn
serves 1 to 2

3 ounces whole wheat linguine or Chinese wheat noodles, rice noodles, or udon noodles
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
3/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
4 ounces mixed vegetables, cut into matchsticks (carrots, bell peppers, scallions, cucumbers, broccoli stems, etc.)
2 tablespoons roughly chopped roasted salted peanuts, divided
Cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and Sriracha, for garnish

1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking broth before straining. Run the noodles under cold water and shake to remove excess liquid before returning them to the empty pot.

2. In another bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and 1 tablespoonshot cooking broth and whisk vigorously until mixed. (It will be quite thick.) Toss the peanut sauce with the noodles until coated. Stir in additional hot cooking broth — a few splashes at a time — until the dish is smooth and creamy. (You will probably not need all of the reserved broth.) Taste and season with red pepper, additional soy sauce, and rice vinegar if desired.

3. Fold in 2/3 of the veggies and half of the peanuts. Transfer noodles to serving dish and garnish with remaining veggies and peanuts. Garnish with cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and Sriracha, if desired. This can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

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