Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Do-Little Dinners: Cold Asian Peanut Noodles

Last week one of my favorite magazines came in the mail with a recipe inside for cold peanut noodles, sparking an instant craving. Oh, the peanut noodle, how I love it so--warm, cold, or anything in between. Spicy or not so. Packed with vegetables or dotted with just a simple combo of scallions and cucumber. I'm not picky. There's not an Asian peanut noodle recipe I don't like.

Though I'm a huge Asian-food fan, I hadn't made peanut noodles in years; first there was Julia's peanut butter sensitivity, and when she was finally old enough to have outgrown that (at about 2-1/2 or 3 years), Genevieve was on table food too, but too young to have peanuts. We did without. But when I saw the recipe in the magazine, I decided I'd try Genevieve on it even though she's not yet two.

Asian peanut noodles are simple and foolproof. You can prepare the entire dish ahead of time, and refrigerate until dinner. It's full of nutrients, including super-healthy "good fat" from the peanut butter (best to use the scrumptious all-natural kind: no trans fats, nor any added sugar), and it's so savory and tasty--a true Do-Little Dinner superstar. And don't be put off by the idea of peanut butter with pasta and veggies, if the combo is foreign to you. The flavor is subtle. It's not like chowing down on a PB&J. Several ethnic cuisines, including Thai and north African, use peanuts alongside grains, vegetables, and other legumes on a regular basis, and with delectable results. It's not as strange as it sounds the first time you hear of it.

On Saturday afternoon I went about preparing the dish. Since I hadn't planned ahead, I didn't have several of the listed ingredients on hand, so I substituted here and there: lemon juice for orange (and extra honey to make up the sweetness); slivered onion for the scallion; a regular cucumber for the English variety. I also threw in some extra vegetables, and some cooked edamame for additional protein. In the end, it turned out great. Julia proclaimed it "fantastico!" and ate three helpings. Genevieve eschewed the spinach but gobbled the rest. And she didn't even get a mouth rash from the peanut butter, so we were all safe. And well fed.

Here's the recipe--mine, that is, with all its revisions and modifications. A note about the ingredients: when it comes to vegetables, I never measure, so the amounts below are approximate. If you like more edamame or less onion, adjust to your own taste. It's all good. Enjoy!

Cold Asian Peanut Noodles
6 servings

1/2 cup all-natural peanut butter (i.e. Smucker's Natural)
3 T. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed through a press
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 T. toasted-sesame oil (the dark stuff; available in the Asian section of your grocery store)
2 T. honey
1 T. grated fresh ginger OR 1 tsp. dried ginger (I used dried, but fresh is always tastier)
1/4 cup HOT water
1 lb. whole-wheat angel hair, spaghetti, or thin spaghetti, cooked al dente, drained, and rinsed with cool water
1/2 bag prewashed baby spinach leaves
2 scallions, thinly sliced OR 1/2 cup slivered white or red onion
1 medium or 1/2 large cucumber, peeled, sliced lengthwise, and cut into thin half-moons (purists would instruct you, to keep the noodle salad from getting too watery, to seed the cuke after slicing it lengthwise--gently scrape the seeds out with a teaspoon and discard--but I have found it not strictly necessary if you're in a hurry)
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup cooked shelled edamame (you can find it in the freezer section of the supermarket; it cooks in the microwave in 3 minutes)

Whisk the peanut butter, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, ginger, and hot water in a large bowl. Cook the pasta according to package directions, then drain and rinse. Add to bowl along with all the veggies and the edamame. Toss with clean hands or a large spoon. Gobble up joyously, preferably on the patio with fresh summer Bing cherries on the side.


Mnmom said...

Thanks! I absolutely LOVE peanut noodles just like you . . . warm, cold, doesn't matter, just bring em on! I know you are vegetarian usually but I have a Chicken Satay recipe that my kids love - they call it yellow chicken and we grill it on skewers which kids find too fun to resist. Yours might like it.

Ever eaten at Big Bowl in Edina? One of our family favorites. But with gas at $4 it might be a once-a-year treat from now on.

Shan said...

Yes, Big Bowl was one of Christopher's and my favorite places to go out to eat when we lived in Minneapolis. Mmmmm, love their veggie pad thai.... it's been YEARS!

p.s. we do eat chicken occasionally, i.e. once every few weeks... I'd love your recipe! but we don't have a grill. Can you broil it?

Anonymous said...

My usual review of the do-little dinner: YUM. I ate this for three straight dinners and lunch today - and loved every bite.