I’m going away for the weekend and have about 1,000,000,000 things to get done before I leave: so wouldn’t you know that we lost power for the entire afternoon? Ah, NYSEG. Frustrating New Yorkers since 1852.
So, a quick one. It’s been hot: sticky hot, super humid, super hazy. Instant summer, coming on the heels of 50 degrees and raining. Down goes the space heater to the garage, up comes the fan. Exit braised meats and roasted root vegetables, enter crisp greens and cool noodle salads. Like this lovely number from David Lebovitz. I tweaked, of course, adding a bunch more vegetables, skipping the chicken, and frying the peanuts in oil (any excuse to hasten the seasoning of my new cast iron skillet!). I added about twice the liquid (perhaps because my peanuts were dry-roasted) and my sauce came out much darker, but with a fantastic flavor: peanuty, robust, spicy.
I like the idea of preparing a mini mise en place for the table and letting guests have at it. Casual and fun, yet a bit upscale from taco night. Perfect for lazy, hazy days of summer.
Adapted from Cold Noodles with Peanut Sauce by David Lebovitz
- 1 cup unsalted peanuts (preferably raw)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup hot black tea
- 1/4 cup oil, preferably peanut (I used grapeseed)
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 small jalapeno chile, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 scant tsp chile paste or chili oil (I used siracha)
- 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
- 3/4 tsp low-sodium soy sauce (if using regular, cut salt to 1/4 tsp)
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
- 3 tbsp packed cilantro sprigs with leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 lb wide noodles (I used whole wheat spaghetti, oh-so-authentic!)
- 1 bunch (about 24 leaves) ramp greens, thinly sliced (cabbage or bok choi is a good substitute)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
- 1 large cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out, and sliced
- 2 ribs celery, trimmed and sliced
- cilantro, cucumber and crushed raw peanuts for garnish
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil for the noodles. Cook according to the package directions (6 – 8 minutes for whole wheat spaghetti) until al dente. Drain and immediately toss under ice cold water to chill. Toss with a touch of oil and set aside (if it’s a hot night, set aside in the refrigerator to chill).
- Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 cup of oil in a heavy skillet until hot, but not smoking. Add the peanuts and, watching carefully, fry until they are a deep brown, the color of chocolate. Stir frequently to prevent burning (some peanuts may not darken fully; turn off the heat before the darkest ones burn). Alternatively you can toast the peanuts in a dry skillet or a 350 degrees F oven. Transfer the peanuts & oil to a heat-safe bowl and set aside to cool.
- Prepare the vegetables. Toss the ramp greens in the hot skillet for 20 – 30 seconds (no need to turn the heat back on unless it has completely cooled off) until just barely wilted. Transfer to a clean bowl.
- Add the (somewhat cooled) peanuts and oil to your blender or food processor. Add 1/2 cup of tea and process for a few minutes, or until the peanuts are mostly smooth. Turn off the machine, add the remaining ingredients, scrape down the sides, and process until smooth. Check the consistency and add additional tea until you get the consistency you want (I added a total of just under 3/4 cups). Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Add the pasta, vegetables (reserve some for garnish) and several tablespoons of peanut sauce to a large bowl. Toss with tongs to evenly coat with sauce. Alternatively, set out the sauce, vegetables, cilantro, peanuts and siracha in rice bowls and let people build their own, perfect bowl of noodles. I recommend serving in rather large bowls as the tossing gets a bit messy; deliciously messy!
- Cooked chicken or pork is an obvious addition, as is firm tofu. David has an intriguing method for poaching chicken breasts that I will have to try.
- The vegetable additionas are obviously adaptable to whatever is seasonal, crisp & crunchy. I can see just barely cooked zucchini, broccoli, raw bell pepper slivers, minced hot cherry peppers.
- We know I’m all about the booze, but I think rice wine would make a good substitute for the black tea. I also think a touch (a teaspoon or so) of rice wine vinegar would give it a little extra tang.
According to David, the peanut sauce can be stored refrigerated for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 2 months.