Some recipes just make you think of summer. They're the ones that are nice and light, full of fresh colorful vegetables, and they would be perfect for bringing on a picnic. Right about now, I think that we all could use one of these recipes to help combat the winter weather blues. If it's not snowing where you are, then it's probably raining, and if it's not raining or snowing, then you're probably dealing with cold and biting wind. Hopefully, on Groundhog Day at the end of next week, Punxsutawny Phil will have good news for us and spring will be just around the corner. Until then, come in out of the cold, make yourself a fruity drink with a little umbrella, put on some Jimmy Buffett, and enjoy this summery Spicy Sesame Noodle salad.
I love to make this salad because it is easy and versatile and it lasts for several days in the refrigerator. I actually think that it tastes better the second day, when the flavors have really had a chance to blend. It can be served as a side salad or light lunch, or you can add sliced grilled chicken to it and make it a meal. It is also nice to be able to "mix and match" whichever fresh vegetable combination that you like (or need to use up!) because the dressing tastes great with them all. Season it to your taste, using a bit less chili oil for a lower level of spice. Here are just a few tips for these super simple sesame noodles:
- The noodles will keep for 3-4 days, tightly covered in the refrigerator. They are also delicious served cold.
- Hot chili oil can be found in the Asian foods section of most grocery stores and at specialty Asian markets. For a homemade substitute, simmer 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes in a combination of 1 cup canola or vegetable oil plus 2 tablespoons sesame oil over low heat for 5 minutes. Cool completely and then transfer to a bottle or container and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
- Other ingredients that can be added to the salad include, but are certainly not limited to: sliced grilled chicken, beef, or pork, cooked shrimp, baby corn, snow peas, julienned cucumbers, sliced mushrooms, and julienned yellow or green peppers. Try to use a colorful combination for presentation purposes.
- Instead of using the whole wheat spaghetti, try substituting egg noodles or soba noodles (Asian buckwheat noodles.)
Spicy Sesame Noodles
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon hot chili oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
12 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
Heat the peanut oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, sugar, chili oil, and salt; whisk to blend.
Bring a large pot of boiling salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the package directions until they are "al dente" or just tender, stirring occasionally. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain the water thoroughly and then transfer the noodles to the bowl containing the sauce. Add the sliced green onions, sugar snap peas, and julienned pepper and toss to coat the noodles. Let the mixture stand at room temperature until the noodles have absorbed the dressing, tossing occasionally, about 1 hour. Stir in the peanuts and basil and toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve at room temperature.