Sunday, May 31, 2009

A New Summer Favorite

I think about food all the time, but it seems I am especially laser-focused on what I want to cook and eat when nursing Sam to sleep in the evenings. As he drifts into a milk-induced slumber, I mentally peruse the contents of the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets, putting together dishes and meals according to what I find. A recent hunt and gather of this kind revealed the makings for Thai Shrimp Burgers (or so I thought) and some kind of rice noodle salad. The shrimp burgers were pre-made and purchased at our favorite grocery store, so that was done, but I needed assistance pulling off the kind of salad I craved and had ingredients for. After Sam drifted off, I googled "thai rice noodle salad" and found the following recipe (originally published in the January 2003 issue of Bon Appétit) on So good. I tampered with it only slightly, replacing the called-for linguine with rice noodles, and adding cucumbers and lots of Thai basil and mint. I love a little extra spice, so I upped the amount of chili-garlic sauce, too. This was an unfortunate decision on my part. The dish was far from ruined, but the heat was, let's just say, distracting the first night. The leftovers, on the other hand, were perfectly spiced. That said, you decide how far you want to go with the chili sauce.

Thai Noodle Salad
by Jennifer Martin, Portland, OR

12 ounces linguine (I used a whole package of rice vermicelli instead)
4 tablespoons oriental sesame oil (I drizzled the cooked noodles with roughly 2 tablespoons of dark sesame oil and cooked the sauce in a little peanut oil.)
8 green onions, chopped (I only used 4 green onions, which is all I had. More would be better.)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
2 cups mung bean sprouts (Didn't have these on hand so my salad went sprout-less. I did throw in a good amount of shredded Thai basil and mint and seeded sliced cucumber, though. I highly recommend the addition of fresh herbs, but I always do.)
1 cup finely shredded carrots

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. (If you are using rice vermicelli, follow the directions on the package.) Drain. Transfer pasta/vermicelli to large bowl; add 3 tablespoons sesame oil (or less) and toss to coat.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 6 green onions, garlic, and ginger; sauté until onions soften, about 2 minutes. Add honey, peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, and chili-garlic sauce; whisk to blend. Simmer sauce 1 minute. Cool to room temperature. Pour over pasta and toss to coat. Add sprouts and carrots (or in my case, cucumbers, mint, basil, and carrots); mix well. Transfer to platter; sprinkle with remaining green onions.

We grilled the shrimp burgers and dressed them with Sriracha mayonnaise, more mint, more Thai basil, and lettuce. The burgers would have been a lot better if they were actually the Thai version we requested at the store rather than the Cajun version that ended up in our basket - and on our buns, garnished with wholly inappropriate condiments. The salad saved our overly spiced, globally confused dinner from being a total failure and I have a new favorite summer salad. Just in time.

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